An email I plan to send:
When we moved here this summer, my boys went to several troops to see what the area offered. My husband and I strongly suggested that they select Troop XYZ, in part because it was the troop associated with our church. It was our hope that our Catholic religious practices would be understood, accepted, and accommodated by the adult leaders. We are just ordinary Catholics, trying hard to follow the precepts of the Church and raise our children in accordance with her laws.
I was very disappointed to learn that a backpacking trip was scheduled over a three-day holiday weekend. While I understand the desire to utilize a long weekend for an extended trip, I would have preferred that the itinerary include Sunday Mass.
This past summer, Fritz attended Philmont and loved backpacking in the mountains. While that trip does, generally, preclude Sunday Mass attendance, the Bishop of New Mexico offers a special dispensation for Philmont hikers, allowing them to attend Mass before or after the trek. Fritz was made aware that this was a rare exception. While dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation may be requested from the pastor in order to attend occasional Scout trips, my husband and I, over the course of years of Scouting, have decided that such dispensations are confusing to youth. They are also confusing to adult Catholics and are especially confusing to non-Catholics who come to believe that Catholics are not obliged to attend Sunday Mass every week. Our personal family rule is that we will only intentionally miss Mass for high-adventure camps, and that any other weekend plans must include Mass attendance. Other families may choose differently, but this is our family rule.
Last night, Fritz was asked by Mr. X why he was not attending the backpacking trip. Fritz explained that he would like to but could not miss Mass. Mr. X told him that Mass attendance was not necessary and that the prayer service you would have was sufficient. Fritz persisted and said that a Catholic must attend Mass. Mr. X argued that he and most of the troop were Catholic and were going on the trip. While I am sure he meant that the troop would not have planned a camping weekend that was not morally acceptable to Catholics, his argument seems to be that if everybody is doing it, it must be right. While some religions may operate in this manner, the Catholic Church does not.
While my family can quietly accept that our boys will not be able to attend some camping trips, I am very upset that an adult leader would seek to dissuade my son from his religious convictions, most especially in a BSA Troop which is considered a ministry of Anonymous Catholic Church. I expect that my children will have to defend their faith to their peers and possibly to some adults. But I should not have to worry that the adults of any Boy Scout Troop, where a Scout is always reverent, will try to convince my boys that Mass attendance or any other obligation is unnecessary. If Mr. X were not Catholic, it would be easy to explain that he simply does not understand Catholicism. Since he and many other adults are Catholic, I, as a parent, have to choose how I explain our choices to the boys. Are we wrong, or is Mr. X?
I would like you to address this situation with all your adult leaders. No boy should have to defend his religious obligations to adult leaders. If any adult is confused about a boy using religion as an excuse for non-participation, he or she should speak to the parents. I am sure that most parents, like us, would be happy to explain our decision making process.