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Kansas City bishop boots the Girl Scouts, highlighting the biggest debate facing Catholics in the 21st Century

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann created a ripple when he decided to transition Kansas City parishes away from hosting Girl Scout troops on Monday, instead opting for a Christian-based scouting organization following concerns that the Girl Scouts have ties to Planned Parenthood and celebrate controversial figures such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem.

The move is far from shocking and comes during an era of tension between popular Scouting organizations and religious institutions that back their troops on the local level.

— Replacing Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts has become something of a pipe dream for some conservative Christians. The Boy Scouts faced similar backlashes after easing restrictions on gay members. While the bishop of Bismarck, North Dakota, decided to drop the Boy Scouts, along with about 20 parishes throughout the country, the vast majority of Catholic parishes stuck by their affiliations.

— Because each bishop gets to decide for their own diocese, we’re seeing a situation where Scouting is welcome in some Catholic communities, but not others. In some ways, it’s similar to how states-rights proponents argue that local governments know the needs of their region better than the feds. This creates a noticeable inconsistency in a Church that is known for its general uniformity.

— Ultimately, the move seems to have less to do with taking down the Scouts as much as it’s a case of bishops ‘washing their hands’ of potential conflicts. There have always been spin-offs to Scouting, but they can’t really compete in popularity. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are simply part of the American fabric. Catholic leaders who drop Scouting troops are likely under no illusion that they’re making a noticeable dent in membership. Most Catholic parents will probably just take their kids to a nearby troop.

—The Scouting debate sums up one of the biggest questions facing Catholics in the 21st Century: When society begins to change and do things that Catholics disagree with, do we retreat into our own communities? Or do we stay and engage?