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.

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