Girl Scout cookies are the highlight of spring for many people, but the Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis disagrees. As reported by the New York Times, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson is “advising church members to think twice about [Girl Scout] membership and even about buying their cookies.”
The controversial statement came in a letter, dated February 18, 2016, from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and is also in a statement on the archdiocese’s website.
“Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values.”
The “troubling pattern of behavior” by the Girl Scouts that meets with the Archbishop’s disapproval appears to be “continued promotion of contraception and abortion rights,” and “sex education and advocacy for ‘reproductive rights’.” Also “incompatible” with the values of the archdiocese are organizations to which the Girl Scouts donate money raised from cookie sales, including Amnesty International and OxFam.
In order to replace the Girl Scouts (although not necessarily their cookies), the Archbishop announced two measures aimed to fill the gap left should Catholic Girl Scouts leave the organization.
“He instructed pastors to discuss alternatives for the Girl Scout troops that meet on parish property. He also disbanded the archdiocese’s Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts, which sponsored Catholic programs for the scouts, and formed a new entity called the Catholic Committee for Girls Formation that will include alternative youth leadership programs.”
According to Good Housekeeping, there are already organizations that aim to replicate the Girl Scouts, but with solidly Christian values.
“Alternatives to Girl Scouts include American Heritage Girls and Little Flower Girls Club — both were founded with the intention of placing the scouting experience within a Christian context. Girls are still able to participate in many similar activities while also learning about their faith as a core element of the program.”
There are over three million Girl Scouts in the U.S., part of the 10 million Girl Scouts across the globe. The chapter covering St. Louis is Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. The chapter’s chief executive, Bonnie Barczykowski, emailed a statement to the New York Times, saying “the chapter did not address issues of human sexuality or reproductive issues ‘as these matters are best discussed within the family.’ ”
Barczykowski added that the chapter had a 100-year history of cooperation with the archdiocese, but the Archbishop’s claims “misrepresent how Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri serves girls in our community.”
Girl Scout cookies are big business, and while they presumably have no particular aversion to Thin Mints or Do-si-dos, the archdiocese “highlighted the cookies because it said a percentage of local sales could go to the national parent organization, the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.”
According to Reader’s Digest, around 200 millions boxes of Girl Scout cookies are sold each year. At $4 a box, that’s a lot of money for a product that’s only sold for a few weeks per year.
Girl Scout cookies have been making money for the Scouts, teaching girls how to run a business and educating them on financial management for almost 100 years. According to Reader’s Digest, “fifty-nine percent of women in the U.S. Senate and 60 percent of women in the House of Representatives are Girl Scouts alumnae.”
That measure of success might not be all down to lessons learned from selling Girl Scout cookies, but it is very possible. Scouting teaches cooperation, empathy, and teamwork, as well as allowing girls to form lasting friendships.
By the way, you’re right, there really are fewer Thin Mints and Tagalongs in each box, it’s not just your imagination.
[Image via Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock]