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US bishops scrutinize girl scouts.

U.S. Catholic bishops are reviewing the church's long-standing ties to the Girl Scouts of the USA after complaints that some of that venerable organization's programs might contradict church teachings on contraception and abortion.

The inquiry by the Catholic bishops has been ongoing for two years and was prompted by reports, circulated on the Internet and by some social conservatives, that the Girl Scouts of the USA has ties to Planned Parenthood or, for example, endorses material on sexuality that the church would not approve.

Girl Scout leaders have denied the claims, but the bishops decided to continue their inquiry. In a March 28 letter to his fellow bishops, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, wrote that "important questions still remain and need to be examined."

Rhoades, bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., praised "the good service that so many of our Catholic Girl Scout Troops have provided and continue to provide at the local level," but he asked bishops to pass along concerns and reports they have heard about the Girl Scouts of the USA, which marks its centenary this year.

For years, conservatives have said the Girl Scouts of the USA supports Planned Parenthood, and have also objected to its membership in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. That association, which has 145 member organizations, has advocated for emergency contraception for women in developing countries.

Last year, a Colorado troop prompted complaints when it accepted a 7-year-old transgender child who was born a boy but was being raised as a girl. Others are upset that the Girl Scouts have materials that provide links to groups like the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam, some of which support family planning and contraception.

Girl Scouts of the USA leaders say they have no partnership with Planned Parenthood and that the organization does not take positions on sexuality, birth control and abortion.

But some bishops and priests have complained about the organization or banned Girls Scouts from church property. About 500,000 of the 2.3 million Girl Scouts in the U.S. are Catholic.

Church officials involved with the investigation say the Girl Scouts have made some changes in their materials and both sides say they think some complaints are overblown and that the relationship will remain intact. Anna Maria Chavez, the Girl Scouts CEO since November, told Catholic News Service in late April that she and other Girl Scouts leaders have been meeting with church officials in Washington and around the country to resolve any concerns.

--David Gibson,

Religion News Service

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Author:Gibson, David
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 25, 2012
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