The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 2, 2001 Issue
Bishop Banks' Corner

Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Robert J. Banks

Spirit's fruits similar to Scouting

Scouting teaches ecumenism, leadership, contributing to society

By Bishop Robert Banks

Let me admit from the beginning that I am writing this column with a bias. That bias began about 60 years ago when I joined Troop 77 of the Boy Scouts of America in Winthrop, Mass.

I was 12 years old at the time, and joining the Boy Scouts opened up a new world for me. Most importantly, I was allowed to be out at night by myself, even past nine o'clock. But I also learned a pack of new things, some of which I use even now, like tying a square knot. I also learned how to light a fire without matches, and I understand today that could help to keep me from being voted off an island.

Scouting was my first contact with ecumenism, though I didn't know it. The troop, as best as I can remember, was sponsored by the local Methodist church. In any case, it was not a Catholic troop, so all prayers and references to religion were of the non-denominational variety. What came through clearly was Scouting's support for religion.

That was also true in regard to morality. My recollection is that Scouting was the only place outside of church and family where, as a youngster, I was told how I should act. When I look at the Scout Law now, it reminds me somewhat of St. Paul's listing of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. A Scout is supposed to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

It was also as a Boy Scout that I first tasted leadership, when I was appointed the leader of the Panther patrol. That also led to my first experience of the agony of defeat as I led my patrol on an overnight camping expedition. I knew we were in trouble when a warden told me late at night that we were camped on a military firing range and would have to move before they started firing at dawn. Then the worst thunderstorm in recorded history flooded the campsite. The next morning, my patrol deserted me for the safety of their homes.

World War II prevented me from proving myself after that disaster, since our troop leader was drafted and the troop disbanded. But I still have favorable memories of my experience as a Scout. For that reason, I was glad to encourage our parishes to sponsor Scout troops when I came to Green Bay. I also agreed to join the Board of the Bay-Lakes Council, even though I knew that my schedule would prevent me from attending many of the meetings.

From my brief two years in the Scouts, I learned enough to admire any boy who could work through the Scout program and become an Eagle Scout. Just this past week, I sent letters of congratulations to three young men who would become Eagle Scouts at the next Court of Honor. I think it is one of the highest awards a young man can attain.

Scouting is not just fun and games, learning to tie knots and light fires. It is about learning serious skills and making a contribution to the local community. The Scout Oath and Law are all about building character and encouraging commitment to values. The proof that Scouting works can be seen in the graduates of the Scout movement who so often are solid members of our communities.

Because I consider the Scout movement to be a wonderful complement to our Church's ministry to youth, I make sure that I am present at the annual dinner to honor those who are leaders in the Scout troops sponsored by our parishes. It is my hope that some day we can arrange a celebration at the Cathedral, where I can present to those Scouts who have won them the religious emblems approved for Catholic Scouts.

A few years ago, when the issue of the Boy Scouts' requirements for membership was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, I was glad that our Bishops' Conference had its attorney provide the Court with an amicus curiae brief in support of the Scouts' position.

You therefore will not be surprised to know that I was disappointed by the decision of the Fox Cities United Way to target the Boy Scouts for defunding.

While I was tempted to argue with the decision, I don't think a public controversy about this issue will be helpful to the community. Now that the decision has been made, it is better if we simply determine to make sure the Fox Cities Scouts get all the funding they need and we also support the other social agencies of the area through the United Way.

I was very pleased by the statement recently issued by the Bay-Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts in which they thanked the United Way for their past support and offered to work with the United Way on future projects that would benefit the Fox Cities area. That kind of community spirit is typical of the Scout movement.

Despite the restraint shown by the Bay-Lakes Council, the fact of the matter is that the Fox Valley community will be less united in the way it supports the social agencies it values.

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