KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – The Archdiocese of Kansas City severed its relationship with Girl Scouts USA in more than 20 Kansas counties, opting to align itself with a faith-based group that it says better represents the Catholic lifestyle.
The archdiocese announced this week that after 100 years of partnering with the Girl Scouts, it will instead align itself with American Heritage Girls, whose mission is “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”
Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said in a statement that Girl Scouts USA promotes “programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture” and is “no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.”
The Archdiocese of Kansas City’s main issues with Girl Scouts has to do with the group’s alleged ties to Planned Parenthood and their promotion of role models such as feminists Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, who “not only do not reflect our Catholic worldview but stand in stark opposition to what we believe,” Naumann said.
Kansas City Deacon Dana Nearmyer said the archdiocese has no malice against Girl Scouts but would rather promote Jesus Christ instead of being edgy.
“They have worked hard on being culturally relevant,” he said of the Girl Scouts.
“They are secular and we are sacred,” Nearmyer said, adding that the archdiocese hopes many troop leaders will also make the transition to American Heritage Girls, also called AHG.
Although its announcement made immediate waves, the Kansas City Archdiocese said it will give the 21 counties and 106 parishes in its jurisdiction seven years to make the transition.
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson made the same decision last year, urging priests in his parishes to severe their ties with Girl Scouts and switch their loyalty to AHG.
“We are very excited about this opportunity to join the Archdiocese of Kansas City and to help more girls figure out what girlhood is all about,” AHG Executive Director and Founder Patti Garibay said.
Garibay founded the Christ-centered organization 22 years ago. The group’s membership has doubled since archdioceses have announced support for AHG, and more than 17,000 volunteers are ready and anxious to handle the expansion.
Those not excited about the Kansas City Archdiocese’s announcement include Barb Dorris, managing director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
“They’ve taken action with the Girl Scouts but let a criminal run the whole diocese, it’s out of balance,” she said in reference to former Kansas City Diocese Bishop Robert Finn, who was found guilty in 2012 of failing to report suspected child abuse.
Dorris, a former Catholic school teacher, says she became involved with SNAP after she caught a priest molesting a child in 1991.
“We have 25,000 members worldwide and we’re growing. The good news is they found us, the bad news is there are always more victims,” Dorris said.
Deacon Nearmyer acknowledged the irony but promised that the archdiocese strives to be as transparent as possible.
“We understand all of the hurt that’s out there and we’re dreadfully ashamed and sorry for the sins of the past,” he said, adding that any and all sexual deviance is reported to the proper authorities.
In his statement released Monday, Archbishop Naumann said the decision to cut ties with Girl Scouts was not an easy one. He also thanked the group.
“I want to express my appreciation for the many extraordinary Girl Scout leaders of the archdiocese who have served so many so well,” he said. “We look forward to having as many of them as are willing join us in leadership roles as we take this new step into the formation of our girls. I will always be grateful for their exceptional service.”
Naumann also said, “Our greatest responsibility as a church is to the children and young people in our care. We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.”
Girl Scouts fired back in a statement of its own, saying it “established a positive relationship with the highest leadership of the Catholic Church to benefit and support Catholic Girl Scouts throughout the country.”
“Unfortunately, some have chosen to perpetuate misinformation that the Catholic Church leadership has acknowledged to be false,” the group said. “Girl Scouts is always willing to work with any and every person or organization in order to fulfill our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”