Bishop Banks' Corner|
|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
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
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'
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
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.