Monthly Archives: March 2016

British Catholic Scouts’ Pilgrimage to Rome, 1925

Boy Scouts for Rome

This article originally appeared on p. 12 of The Tablet on September 5, 1925. I have modernized some of the punctuation.

I can’t recall where I originally found the included photograph, which appears to record the event.


Amid scenes of enthusiasm the contingent of 756 British Boy Scouts who go to take part in the International Pilgrimage to Rome, left Victoria Station on Saturday evening. For half an hour before the departure of the special train at 8 o’clock the platform was packed, many Catholics coming from long distances to wish the Scout pilgrims and their leaders God-speed on their memorable journey. The occasion and its significance led to many touching scenes, and not a few were deeply affected as the train moved out with its load of cheerful Catholic boys on their way to Rome.

Earlier in the evening the Scouts assembled in the Choir School grounds of Westminster Cathedral, where large numbers of clergy and laity came to greet them. They gave an enthusiastic reception to the Cardinal Archbishop when His Eminence appeared, accompanied by the Italian Ambassador, the Marquis della Torretta, and Sir Robert Baden-Powell (Chief Scout) with a guard of honour composed of Scouts representative of all parts of the Kingdom. A special flag made for the pilgrims and inscribed “British Empire Catholic Boy Scouts. Be Prepared. Rome, 1925,” and a Union Jack, carried by two Scouts of the “Cardinal’s Own” troop (8th Westminster), were blessed by His Eminence, assisted by Father Joseph Collings.

Archbishop of Westminster Francis Cardinal Bourne (with Lord Baden-Powell to his left) blessing the flags

Archbishop of Westminster Francis Cardinal Bourne (with Lord Baden-Powell to his left) blessing the flags

The clergy present included Mgr. Canon Howlett, Admr. of Westminster Cathedral, Mgri. Canon Jackman and Coote (Private Secretaries to the Cardinal), Father Bradley, C.SS.R. (who escorted the contingent from Edmonton), Fathers O’Brien England, Wood, Dove, McKenna, and G. Craven. The Catholic Association, which is directing the pilgrimage, was represented by Father Ernest Hanifin (Chairman), Mr. H. Wallack, organizing secretary, Mr. W. A. Stuart, hon. secretary, and by many members of the Committee.

The pilgrimage was divided into eight groups. The names of the commanders and chaplains, and the total strength of each group, are as follows:

  • Group A — Leader: Thomas McQuillan; Chaplain, Rev. P. M. Butler, C.SS.R. (94).
  • Group B — Leader: Rev. G. Tindall, M.A.; Chaplain, Rev. G. Brunner (96).
  • Group C — Leader: W. K. Buckley; Chaplains, Rev. T. A. Reardon and Rev. Thomas Eastham, S.J. (96)
  • Group D — Leader: Rev. J. Higham; Chaplain, Rev. Dom Parker, O.S.B. (96).
  • Group E — Leader: Rev. J. P. Haslip; Chaplain, Rev. J. M. Tucker, O.S.M. (94).
  • Group F — Leader: Rev. E. C. Messenger, Ph.D.; Chaplain, Rev. G. W. H. Webb (84).
  • Group G — Leader: G. E. Wheeler; Chaplain, Rev. J. Blundell (96).
  • Group H — Leader: Rev. C. Westlake (87).

Father James Mahoney, Ph.D., of Deptford, who travelled as the representative of the Catholic Association, and Father Joseph Collings, are also acting as Chaplains. The pilgrimage is under the command of Mr. F. F. Corballis, Chief Scout’s Commissioner, with Lieut.-Colonel J. L. Sleeman, C.M.G., as Assistant Commissioner; and the other officers include Mr. M. G. Dunlop (Cardinal’s Own Troop), with Dr. R. Power, F.R.C.S., M.D., and Captain Mullins, M.D., R.A.M.C., medical officers.

His lordship Bishop Butt accompanies the party as spiritual director.


The Cardinal Archbishop, in addressing the Scouts, said: “I want in the first place to congratulate you all most heartily on the wonderful journey on which you are about to set forth. There are hundreds and thousands who would willingly make the journey that you are going to undertake — many of them much older than yourselves — who would willingly have made this journey, who probably will never make it. It is only to a very few that it is given in boyhood to make the journey which I suppose appeals to the Catholic heart more than any other. To every one of you Rome has been a sacred name; a sacred name because it contains the shrines of those who at the cost of their lives built up in the early days of Christianity that world-wide organization known as the Catholic Church to which you all belong; a sacred name because Rome is also the dwelling place of him wham we are taught to regard as the most sacred person upon This earth, him in whom are verified the words of our Divine Master, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’

“To every Catholic, to every Catholic boy, the name of Rome means something which is deep down in his very heart, something that he loves and cherishes with all his being. You are asked to make a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage such as our forefathers in days long ago made whenever they had the opportunity, to see him in whom Peter lives again, to see him in whom the Catholic Church finds her centre. Well, my dear boys, there are two things that you must bear in mind. You go, remember, in a spirit of faith, in a spirit of prayer. You go in a spirit of faith for the reasons that I have already rehearsed before you; you go to proclaim your faith in the teaching authority of God’s Catholic Church. You go, too, in the spirit of prayer; because you are going to gain the great jubilee pardon, but only in a spirit of penance, in a spirit of penitence, at those sacred shrines in Rome, begging God’s forgiveness for all transgressions in the past, and seeking His charity and protection for your whole future lives. That is the spirit in which you will set forth and must never forget. You go not only as individuals, but in the far higher capacity of representatives. Large as you numbers are, you are only a handful of those whom you represent, and you go carrying with you in the spirit of prayer the intentions of all your fellow Scouts all over the United Kingdom, and of all of those who made your going possible — your parents who gave their consent, and those friends who have provided for the journey. Be brave and courageous under the inevitable fatigue and discomfort of so long a journey.

“It is a special satisfaction to me to have present beside me, first, His Excellency the Italian Ambassador, whose beautiful country you are about to visit, a country united by so many ties to our own land. You will be a new link binding England to Italy and Italy to England. And then I can hardly say how glad I am to have beside me the Chief Scout. I was saying to him only a moment ago that it is given to few men, as it has been given to him, to see the full realization of a magnificent vision. All over the world there are now Boy Scouts, united — though they may be divided by languages and by religious faith — in the pursuit of certain great ideals which he has set before them, ideals which will do, as he desires them to do, an immense work, to bring together all the nations of the earth in mutual peace and understanding. It is, as yoa know, to his genius and foresight and wonderful power of organization that the world owes the Boy Scouts. So, from my heart, I bid you all God-speed, a pleasant and happy journey, and a safe return. May God bless you all.”


Sir Robert Baden-Powell then addressed the Scouts. He said: “I do thank His Eminence most cordially for his kindness in taking the trouble to receive us all here and to give us these inspiring words. Now, you fellows, I only wish I was going with you; but, as my doctor says, I am too much of a crock. You are going off to have a really good time, seeing a foreign land, and meeting your brother Scouts. It will be just like any jamboree in one way, but, as His Eminence said, you must look on this with another eye. It is not a mere scouting ‘hike,’ but a pilgrimage. You are going with a far better idea than meeting other boys; you are going for what will be the greatest event in the life of any of you — the great privilege of going to Rome and seeing with your own eyes, and being seen by, the Holy Father. That is a privilege which a very large number of Scouts would wish to have with you. You certainly have to think that over; and when you say your prayers just think of what His Eminence has told you of the serious side of it. You will meet 10,000 other Catholic Scouts from different countries, and they will look to you as coming from the home of scouting to teach them what is the true method of scouting and what true Scouts are. They will watch in every way all that you do, how you dress, how you behave, how far you carry out your good turns, how far you are cheerful, and they will do accordingly. So you have a big responsibility upon you; because you have got to keep up the good name of the British Scouts among all those who come from other parts. Be brothers to them, help them; but above all I want you to do one great thing, and that is by your behaviour and conduct to show to the heads of your Church there in Rome that as Scouts you have not two masters, but that your only master is God and your Church. Your scoutmasters are merely your elder brothers, showing you how better to do your duty as good Catholics. I want you to remember that and to obey the discipline of your Church. Remember this is the great day of your lives. It is the spirit that counts, and what you do in the right spirit. I want you to remember that, now and while you are abroad. Try and make the most of these coming days in the right spirit; and come back from Rome better men for having been there.” The Chief Scout concluded by asking God’s blessing on his hearers.

After tea, the Scout pilgrims formed up and marched round by Ambrosden Avenue, Francis Street, and Vauxhall Bridge Road to Victoria. Their departure was witnessed from the balcony of Archbishop’s House by the Cardinal, and as each troop passed His Eminence its flag was dipped. It was intended that, on the return from Rome, the party should spend three days in camp at Chamarande, but advice has been received from Paris that the camp arrangements at Chamarande (which is thirty miles from Paris, and is conducted by Père Sevin, the Chief Scout of France) have had to be cancelled. It is hoped, therefore, to keep the Scout-pilgrims in Rome three days extra, leaving Rome on the evening of September 10, and following out the original itinerary back to London direct.

A telegram from Rome announces the safe arrival of the Scouts on Tuesday morning.

Catholic Scouting, “World Scouting,” and the Church

Catholic Scouting, “World Scouting,” and the Church: A response to Dr. Eduard Vallory

World Scouting: Educating for Global CitizenshipOccasionally when one is searching the Internet for a specific purpose, an unexpected result will turn up. That is exactly what happened to me yesterday; as I was searching for a specific document (the 2003 decree of recognition of the UIGSE-FSE) I came across the doctoral dissertation (“Global Citizenship Education”) of Eduard Vallory. Dr. Vallory is the author of the book World Scouting: Educating for Global Citizenship, a book that is alternately edifying (such as when the history of the scouting movement is recounted) and enraging (such as when the author refers to non-mainstream scouting associations as “fake scouts” without ever defining the term* — the Scouts of Europe seem to be singled out for particular opprobrium).

It would not be fair to say that Dr. Vallory doubles down on the Scouts of Europe (UIGSE-FSE) in his dissertation, but only because that work preceded his book by about four years. We are told, for example [p.147]:

Back in 1977, the Vatican approved the Catholic Scouting Charter drawn up by the International Catholic Conference of Scouting, thus giving official approval to an organization that accepts the authority of World Scouting above any other. Later on, however, the Vatican discovered that Scouts d’Europe was an aesthetically similar organization but did not accept any authority other than the Catholic Church, as established in its Statutes

I am not so sure there was a nefarious plot by the Holy See to find a scouting association that was more amenable to Church control than the ICCS! Equally disturbing is the idea that the ICCS (which was once known as the International Catholic Scouters Conference) accepts the authority of “World Scouting” (that is, WOSM/WAGGGS) over that of the Catholic Church. In what way does such an organization have a claim to the title “Catholic”? If one’s highest authority is something other than the Church Christ founded, then one isn’t Catholic at all, but something else entirely. But (in charity to the ICCS) perhaps Dr. Vallory is reading something into the ICCS Statutes that isn’t there.

Various articles in the Statutes reveal that its actions are an instrument of the Church [p. 148]

The UIGSE-FSE is an international private association of the faithful of pontifical right, with juridical personality, according to canons 298-311 and 321-329 of the Code of Canon Law. We read in c. 298:

§1. In the Church there are associations distinct from institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life; in these associations the Christian faithful, whether clerics, lay persons, or clerics and lay persons together, strive in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life, to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works of the apostolate such as initiatives of evangelization, works of piety or charity, and those which animate the temporal order with a Christian spirit.

In other words, any private association of the faithful is “an instrument of the Church.” Ironically, this is the same status that has been accorded to the ICCS! So perhaps the UIGSE-FSE is simply more open and honest about its purpose.

The Statutes also establish that ‘chiefs’ must belong to the Church, an obligation that does not exist in Catholic World Scouting associations:
1.2.13. The youth’s full religious development requires that their chiefs should belong to the same Church or Community as theirs, should profess the same doctrine, should take part in the same liturgical and sacramental life. [p. 148]

Dr. Vallory has misread the Statutes of the UIGSE-FSE here; it is not the case that chiefs (leaders) must belong to the Catholic Church, only that they belong to the same Church or ecclesial community of the youth that they serve. (Fr. Sevin, in one of his “Scout Meditations on the Gospel,” explains the reason for this.) In other words, it is a requirement that groups not be mixed confessionally except perhaps in some exceptional circumstances; a Catholic group should have Catholic leaders, an Orthodox group Orthodox leaders, and a Protestant group Protestant leaders. This is clear from the previous statute:

1.2.12. In a country where several Christian confessions exist, scout or guides units belonging to the various Churches or Communities may cohabit within a same association, each group welcoming the young people belonging to the same Church or Community, according to the norms of the Rules.

(One can read the full text of the Statutes in English here.)

If we analyse the Statutes of Scouts d’Europe, we can see that it is actually a movement designed to be a tool for the Catholic Church’s action as an organization and that it has simply taken the elements of Scouting that it has considered useful and discarded those that it does not require. It has adopted the name, appearance, elements of the method, and even part of the text of the Promise and the Law of World Scouting (on the basis that Scouting is a programme that can be freely adapted), and interpreted the writings and positions of Robert Baden-Powell as it has seen fit. [p. 148]

Fr. Sevin with some of his chiefs

Fr. Sevin with some of his chiefs

Actually, the version of the Promise (with one minor addition) and the Law used by the UIGSE-FSE come not from WOSM/WAGGS, but from the work of Fr. Jacques Sevin, SJ, whose initial labors preceded the formation of WOSM and indeed that of its predecessor organization, the Boy Scouts International Bureau (BSIB). Second, many mainstream scouting associations have modernized and moved away from the work of Lord Baden-Powell, and are still members of WOSM/WAGGGS in good standing, rendering any claim of exclusivity on B-P’s work (including the Promise and the Law) by “World Scouting” rather tenuous. For example, the version of the Scout Law used by The Scout Association (TSA) in the United Kingdom reads as follows:

  1. A Scout is to be trusted.
  2. A Scout is loyal.
  3. A Scout is friendly and considerate.
  4. A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts.
  5. A Scout has courage in all difficulties.
  6. A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.
  7. A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.

The Scout Law as established by Lord Baden-Powell (Cf. the 1911 version of Scouting for Boys) has ten articles, not seven; gone are references to service (article 3), courtesy (article 5), friendship toward animals (article 6), obedience (article 7), and cleanliness (article 10). The original fourth article, “A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other scout, no matter to what social class the other belongs,” seems to have been split into two articles, “A Scout is friendly and considerate,” and “A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts”; while the last article, “A Scout has self-respect and respect for others,” appears to be new, but possibly based on the original fifth article, “A Scout is courteous.”

Compare the above with the version of the Law used by the member associations of the UIGSE-FSE (N.B. a particular member association might use slightly different wording):

  1. A scout’s honour is to be trusted.
  2. A scout is loyal to his country, his parents, his leaders and to those who depend on him.
  3. A scout is made to serve and save his neighbour.
  4. A scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other scout.
  5. A scout is courteous and chivalrous.
  6. A scout sees in nature the work of God: he likes plants and animals.
  7. A scout obeys willingly and does not half do things.
  8. A scout controls himself: he smiles and sings even under difficulties.
  9. A scout is thrifty and takes care of his own possessions and those of others’.
  10. A scout is pure in his thoughts, his words and his acts.

One can see that this version of the Law has a more explicit link with the work of Lord Baden-Powell than the one in use by the mainstream UK scouting association. Of course, as can be seen in the link given above, other mainstream scouting associations also use a version of the Law that has only a sketchy relationship with B-P’s version.

Similarly, some mainstream scouting associations have made the “duty to God” portion of the Promise optional, or have done away with it entirely. For example, in Great Britain there is an “alternative” version of the Promise for atheists and humanists that reads,

On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to uphold our Scout values, to do my duty to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law.

(As an aside, British republicans — that is, those who are opposed to monarchy — do not have an “alternative” form of the Promise; “duty to the Queen” is more important than “duty to God”!)

And Guides in the UK no longer have even the option to promise to do their duty to God:

I promise that I will do my best: To be true to myself and develop my beliefs, To serve the Queen and my community, To help other people and To keep the Guide Law.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Baden-Powell, and Cardinal Bourne of Westminster

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Baden-Powell, and Cardinal Bourne of Westminster

It is worth pointing out here that the constitutions of WOSM and WAGGGS both make reference to “duty to God” being part of the Promise (allowing that one is free to interpret “God” in any way), and that Baden-Powell himself had a dim view of atheists (see, for example, the discussion on religion in Rovering to Success). It is difficult to see how the above promises are based on that established by B-P:

On my honour I promise that I will do my best:

  1. To do my duty to God and the King.
  2. To help other people at all times.
  3. To obey the Scout Law.

Compare this version with the version used by the UIGSE-FSE:

On my honour, and with God’s grace, I promise to do my best to serve God, the Church, my country, and Europe; to aid my neighbor in all circumstances; and to observe the scout law.

In short, the UIGSE-FSE is hardly alone in “interpet[ing] the writings and positions of Robert Baden-Powell as it has seen fit” (although it might well be alone in admitting that it is doing so!); furthermore, the Scouts of Europe have preserved the patrimony of Lord Baden-Powell while mainstream scouting associations are rejecting it.

Besides failing to heed the premise of unity in diversity, a crucial aspect of World Scouting, and despite using its image, Scouts d’Europe fails to meet three basic requirements of the Scout Movement: being open to all, organizational independence, and the universal dimension. [p. 149]

We can ask here whether these three principles are actually “requirements” of the scouting movement. They may be “requirements” of mainstream, WOSM/WAGGGS scouting, but as Lord Baden-Powell pointed out in the July, 1921 issue of The Scouter, scouting is “a movement, not an organisation”:

A SCOUT officer came to me the other day with a scheme for organising the Movement on a better footing than heretofore. It involved a certain amount of expense in offices, whole-time secretaries, etc. But there was a plan to meet this with an adequate contribution of funds from Local Associations.

An integral part of the idea was the formation of a fully representative committee by general election to manage the whole organisation ; the advantage was that it could eliminate the present sporadic and uneven arrangement of Local Associations running their shows on different lines of their own. In this more centralised and ordered system a far more accurate record could be kept of the development, a more regular standard of efficiency among the Troops could be set up, and a better general supervision maintained.

He was going on to describe further advantages of the scheme when I felt bound to save him the trouble, and I burst in on him with the remark, “My dear chap! But you have not got the hang of Scouting. For one thing the Movement extends considerably beyond the United Kingdom. Your elected committee would have to represent all parts of the Empire. How could election supply the expert heads required for the different departments at Headquarters? Local Associations would enjoy subscribing funds to run the office — I don’t think. These are some of the minor material objections. But there is another and far greater consideration that upsets the whole caboodle. WE ARE A MOVEMENT, NOT AN ORGANISATION.

Do the above paragraphs not describe some mainstream national scouting associations, and perhaps even “World Scouting” itself? That is, the very existence of an organization purporting to represent the scout movement to the whole world is incongruous with the idea of scouting as a movement.

Let’s examine these “requirements” in a bit more detail. In the early years of the scout movement, there were a number of Catholic scouting associations formed: in France, the Scouts de France (1920), by Fr. Jacques Sevin; in Belgium, the Association of Baden-Powell Belgian Boy and Sea Scouts (1912) by Jean Corbisier; and in Italy, the Italian Catholic Scout Association (1916) by Count Mario di Carpegna. These associations were founded by and for Catholics, so in that sense were not “open to all”; and having preceded the formation of the Boy Scouts International Bureau (BISB) in 1921 they were not “universal.” Yet we don’t hesitate to call them scouting associations; Baden-Powell even lent his name to one of them. So “being open to all” and “the universal dimension,” at least, are not requirements of the scout movement per se, but rather requirements of the organization that perceives itself as the sole authority on what scouting is and isn’t. As far as the requirement of “organizational independence” is concerned, it is difficult to see how something — that is, the scouting movement — that isn’t an organization can have an organizational requirement!

Last — and I will close with this thought — it is difficult to see how the principle of being open to all can be harmonized with an exclusive to the name of “scouting.” Yet that is exactly what WOSM/WAGGGS claims, and what Dr. Vallory reiterates with rhetorical flourish [World Scouting, pp. 92-3]:

The term “scout” therefore was legally allowed to be used by fake scouting against the principles of openness, tolerance and dialog of the scout movement.

*However, Dr. Vallory defines a similar term, “false scouting” in his dissertation, and I think it likely that he uses “fake scouts” and “fake scouting” to mean the same thing. Ironically, Dr. Vallory notes [p. 156] that László Nagy (who would later become Secretary General of WOSM), in his 1967 “Report on World Scouting,” categorized non-WOSM/WAGGGS scouting associations as “nonrecognized,” “dissident,” and “exiled and refugee,” but without giving reasons for it.

Federation of North-American Explorers: Our Standing in the Church

As a comment on recent post on a scouting news site shows, there is some confusion about the standing of the Federation of North-American Explorers (FNE) in the Catholic Church.

Trail for [sic] Life, Troops of St George, and The Federation of North American Explorers lack approval and the support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This is technically true, but only as far as it goes. The Federation of North-American Explorers has only existed in the United States since 2011, and it does not have the “approval and support” of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). However, as a member association of the International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe – Federation of European Scouting (UIGSE-FSE), it has the approval and support of the Holy See. Specifically, the UIGSE-FSE is an international association of the faithful of pontifical right under the Pontifical Council for the Laity, a status that was granted first in 2003 (the decree of recognition can be found in Italian here) for a period of five years (ad experimentum), then permanently in 2008.

In short, the UIGSE-FSE and its member associations (of which FNE is — a very small! — one) enjoy a standing in the Church that other scouting associations, whether traditional or mainstream, Catholic or secular, do not.

Second — and this is an important point as well — the Federation of North-American Explorers should not be lumped in, so to speak, with other associations such as Trail Life USA and the Troops of St. George. The former has a Christian, but not specifically Catholic, identity; while the latter states that it is not a scouting association, and its program is not based on the work of Lord Baden-Powell (in fact, as a “father-son” program it more closely approximates family camping than anything else).

Here are some articles that might help you choose a youth association for your family: