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).

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