Denver’s Catholic archbishop won’t allow transgender Boy Scouts in church troops

Catholic churches in Denver will not cut their ties with local Boy Scouts troops, but church-affiliated troops must follow church teachings.
5 min. read
Boy Scouts in Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree of 2005. (U.S. Navy)

Boy Scouts in Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree of 2005. (U.S. Navy)

Catholic churches in Denver will not cut their ties with local Boy Scouts troops following Boy Scouts of America's recent decisions to admit transgender scouts and gay leaders.

However, Archbishop Samuel Aquila has said that all church-affiliated units in the Denver area must abide by "natural law, and therefore with Catholic teaching."

In short, Aquila will not allow troops to maintain their affiliation with the church -- including use of its facilities -- unless they continue to turn away transgender children and gay adults. The new Boy Scouts policies allow the church to do this, as church-affiliated units are exempted from the new rules on LGBT youth and adults.

The archbishop's announcement comes about three months after BSA announced that it would allow transgender boys to join the organization, ending a previous policy that only accepted children whose birth certificates marked them as male. The BSA began allowing gay leaders to express their identities publicly in 2015.

Aquila, who leads the Archdiocese of Denver, wrote recently that he was "dismayed" by the changes, believing them to violate the Scout Oath's promises of "duty to God" and a "morally straight" life.

Aquila considered ordering an end to relationships between local Catholic churches and Boy Scout troops, but decided that doing so "would make a winner out of the secular culture and its agenda, and losers out of the Boy Scouts and the Church."

Archbishop Samuel Aquila in 2014. (Aleteia/Flickr/CC)

Instead, the decisions on Catholic-Boy Scouts relationships will fall to the pastors whose individual churches sponsor troops, Aquila wrote.

However, Aquila also has established "requirements" for church-affiliated troops. All leaders and scouts in those units, he wrote, must refrain from "approving, promoting or engaging" in conduct that goes against "Catholic doctrine or morals."

Earlier in his announcement, Aquila wrote that Catholicism forbids same-sex relationships and the act of "enabling and/or encouraging gender dysphoria."

Aquila also left open the possibility of a total split with BSA.

"While I fear that the Boy Scouts may make another decision that will necessitate disaffiliation, I am not going to move in that direction at this time," he wrote.

The reactions:

John Cabeza, CEO of the Denver Area Council of BSA, released this statement to Denverite:

"The Denver Area Council, Boy Scouts of America deeply appreciates our religious partners and are heartened by their commitment to Scouting. We understand, and fully expect, our religious chartered organizations will continue to make decisions based on religious beliefs.

If a religious organization declines to accept an application based on their religious beliefs, we ask that they please notify the council. The BSA works with families interested in Scouting to find local units that best fit their children."

Spokeswoman Nicole Cosme said that no units had been affected by the archbishop's decision.

We also spoke to Rex Fuller, spokesman for the GLBT Community Center of Colorado. He had a mixed assessment of the archbishop's position.

"Obviously, we want to promote all aspects of society to be as accepting and welcoming as possible," he said. "It’s positive that they’re saying they’re not going to try to challenge the Boy Scouts over the Boy Scouts' policies, but it’s unfortunate that they still have very restrictive and not-accepting policies inside the church.

"I think that there are certainly lots of gay and lesbian and transgender Catholics in the world that wish they were more accepting. But progress is slow. I think this is a small step, at least, in the right direction."

Ultimately, he said, the Catholic stance on LGBT life is "going to go all the way to Rome." Pope Francis has said that Christians should apologize to LGBT people and that priests should not turn away transgender people, but he also has warned against the "ideological colonization" of new beliefs about gender. He has warned that we are "living at a time when humankind as the image of God is being annihilated."

Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, released this statement by email: "The Boy Scouts of America is an organization that offers young people the opportunity to build character and to become responsible and active members of their community. Members of the LGBTQ community — especially young people — should not be left out of these experiences, which have the potential to have tremendous impacts on their future."


The decision to accept transgender boys stems from the case of Joe Maldonado, age 9, who had been barred from a New Jersey Cub Scouts organization because he was born a girl.

He was admitted following the establishment of the new policy.

“I had a lot of fun,” he told The New York Times afterward. “I had a permanent smile on my face. I felt like I belonged there.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Jones of Catholic News Agency has compiled a list of other jurisdictions' reactions to the new BSA policies. The Archdiocese of St. Louis described the policies as part of a "troubling pattern," and that it was evaluating the change. The Archdiocese of New Orleans said it would not disaffiliate with BSA.

In 2015, a North Dakota diocese cut ties with local Boy Scouts troops, forcing troops to find new sponsors and space.

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