Catholic group vows to comply with Boy Scouts' new policy of allowing girls to join

(Reuters/David Manning/Files)An Eagle Scout patch is pictured in Orlando, Florida in this May 30, 2012 file photograph.

National Catholic Committee on Scouting has said that it will comply with the new membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to allow girls to join its ranks.

On Wednesday, the BSA announced that starting next year, girls will be allowed to enroll in Cub Scouts and eventually earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.

That same day, National Catholic Committee on Scouting issued a statement saying it will "accept and work" with the BSA's new membership policy.

"We were informed this morning," said an Oct. 11 statement by George Sparks, the national chairman of the group, and the committee's national chaplain, Fr. Kevin Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

"Once we have had more time to review the policy and a chance to consult our national membership, we will be able to comment further about how this new policy will reflect changes in the makeup of Catholic-chartered units," they added.

The BSA, which has lost a third of its members since 2000, stated that allowing girls was in response to the needs of families, not related to its declining membership. Its current membership stands at 2.3 million, which is less than half of the 5 million that it reached in the 1970s.

"We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children," Boy Scouts Chief Executive Michael Surbaugh said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Starting next year, girls will be allowed to join the 7 to 10-year-old Cub Scouts. The BSA noted that the small, community-level "dens" will be single-gender, but larger "packs," which are comprised of dens, will decide whether to include dens of each gender or not.

Crux reported that leaders of the Girl Scouts expressed disappointment when the BSA consulted with its 270 councils on whether to accept girls.

Girl Scouts of the USA's president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, told her Boy Scouts' counterpart, Randall Stephenson, that the Boy Scouts should focus on recruiting "the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts."

In August, a top Girl Scout official alleged that the BSA was running a campaign to recruit girls in an effort to increase its declining membership.

Following the announcement from the BSA, the Girl Scouts issued a statement affirming its commitment to provide an "all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment" for its members, but it did not mention the Boy Scouts or its move to include girls.

"Girl Scouts remains committed to and believes strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a necessary safe space for girls to learn and thrive," the organization said.

Sing Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, that the latest decision continued a "reinvention" of the Boy Scout that his group does not support.

In 2013, the BSA allowed openly gay members to join its ranks, and in January, it also decided to allow transgender boys to be admitted to the organization.

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