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Church drops troop after decision to allow gay scouts

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:50 a.m. CDT

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BERWYN – A Berwyn priest has made the decision not to renew a charter with a group of local boy scouts due to the national organization’s decision to admit openly gay scouts.

Berwyn Boy Scout Troop 60 was told by its sponsor, St. Odillo Church, in June that it would not renew its charter this year, because of the national organization’s decision.

However, the scout troop said they accept the decision, and the scouts have found another church to sponsor them, moved on and hold no bad feelings to St. Odillo’s, their home for almost 70 years, according to members.

Scoutmaster Bob Little said the end actually began in March when the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted to admit boys up to the age of 18, regardless of their sexual orientation, into the national Scouting program.

At that time, Little said, St. Odillo Pastor Anthony Brankin implied there might be a problem with the national scouting organization’s decision on allowing openly gay scouts, as it didn’t fit the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

In June, the Rev. Brankin notified the troop’s leaders the church would not renew its charter in December 2013. Rankin fully explained his position in a church bulletin.

“I have chartered Boy Scout troops my whole life as a priest,” Brankin stated. “It always seemed a fine and courageous organization. However, in order to placate their enemies they have alienated their friends; and they have declared that avowed homosexuality is no longer a bar to membership. What this ultimately means is that Boy Scouts are teaching in our church that homosexuality is neither a personal problem nor a moral issue. And that we do not believe.”

Scout Mikey Vital, 16, has been in scouting for 11 years, all of them spent under the St. Odillo sponsorship. The split is unfortunate, he said.

“I would have liked to stay at St. Odillo. We’ve been there all these years,” Vital said.

Scout Marco Torres, 14, said he was “not too happy with the decision.”

“I went to school there all eight years,” Torres said, adding the decision to not renew the charter felt narrow-minded.

But, Vital came to the defense of Pastor Brankin and his decision.

“It’s their religious doctrine,” he said. “You have to accept it.”

Asked if he had any feedback from the parish at large regarding his decision not to renew the charter, Brankin said he hadn’t heard a word of protest.

Brankin’s stand may on the surface seem to fly in the face of the attitude expressed by the recently appointed Pope Francis regarding gays. In September, Francis told reporters the Catholic Church should be more welcoming and less obsessed with issues like gay marriage, contraception and abortion.

But Brankin said the Pope’s comments may have been misinterpreted, as far as acceptance goes.

“He quoted the catechism of the Church; treat them with respect,” Brankin said. “He basically said if a person confesses, it’s all forgiven. That’s what Catholics do.”

Not all Catholic parishes with Boy Scout charters have taken such a strong stand, such a St. Leonard’s Church in Berwyn, or St. Louise de Marillac in La Grange Park, Little said.

“I understand Pastor Brankin’s position,” Little said. “He seems to be taking a harder stand. It is what it is.”

The troop found a new home last month at Trinity Community Church, 7022 Riverside Drive. Two weeks ago, a ceremony was held where the troop was blessed.

“This was a good fit,” Little said. “There isn’t any benefit to us getting bitter. One door closes, another door opens.”

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