Girl Scout cookie season is one of our favorite times of the year—and we know we’re not alone.
The organization raised more than $350,000 from roughly 500 guests to support its leadership development programs. The $93,000 raised from individuals who publicly pledged cash donations—an amount then matched by the Berges Family Foundation—was more than double the $42,000 raised last year.
On top of that, GSEM has received a higher number of requests from out-of-state residents to purchase cookies.
“This morning, in fact, we received calls from several local businesses offering to host cookie booths in their lobbies,” GSEM CEO Bonnie Barczykowski told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an emailed statement. “And we’ve heard numerous stories of girls running out of particular flavors—as a result, we’ve put in a reorder to ensure Girl Scout cookies for everyone.”
So why the sudden uptick in sales?
It might have something to do with the Feb. 18 letter St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson wrote to the “priests, scout leaders and faithful of the archdiocese."
In the letter, Carlson asked parishes in the area to seek alternatives to Girl Scouts. While Girl Scouts is a secular organization, many troops use churches, including Catholic churches, as their meeting places. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4,000 Girl Scouts meet in Catholic churches in the St. Louis region.
He isn’t forcing the Girl Scout troops that use Catholic churches out (yet), but he immediately disbanded the Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts and formed the Catholic Committee for Girls Formation.
His reasoning? Via the Feb. 18 letter:
“Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior, and it is clear to me that, as they move in the ways of the world, it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values. We must stop and ask ourselves—is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional and personal well-being of Catholic girls?”
In the same letter, he laid out his concerns. One of which is that Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) contributes money to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), an organization that promotes “contraception and ‘abortion rights’ on behalf of its girl members.”
Carlson pointed to GSUSA’s use of role models who conflict with “Catholic values,” including feminist activists Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, and its partnerships with organizations that also conflict with those values, like Amnesty International, The Coalition for Adolescent Girls and Oxfam, as another reason to worry.
GSUSA’s position on inclusivity also is a major concern for Carlson. Most notably, it’s inclusion of transgender and homosexual girls and women.
You may remember when the Girl Scouts refused a $100,000 donation because it came with the stipulation that it would not be used to benefit transgender girls. Instead, the organization started a crowdfunding campaign that trumpeted the organization as one #ForEVERYGirl with the goal of raising the $100,000 it rejected. The result? It raised more than $330,000 for the cause. This is not something the Archdiocese of St. Louis views positively.
Carlson also took issue with the Girl Scouts’ promotion of LGBT rights on social media, like its posts celebrating the same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court.
— Girl Scouts (@girlscouts) December 24, 2015
Unlike with the Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic churches where meetings are held have no control over who the Girl Scout troop leaders are—and as such, Carlson is concerned over who is teaching and forming the girls.
Following Carlson’s letter, the archdiocese released a Scouting Q&A on its website that delved deeper into its concerns. One of the main questions asked is, “Can I still buy Girl Scout Cookies?” (We get it. Thin Mints are always on our minds, too.)
“Each person must act in accord with their conscience,” the page reads. “It is also our duty to form our consciences and learn the issues.”
One of the issues at play here is the licensing fee attached to each box of cookies. According to the archdiocese, only about 10 to 20 percent of the revenue remains with the troops selling the cookies.
This is not the case, according to GSEM. In response to the concerns raised by Carlson, GSEM put “The Truth of the Matter” on its site. It states that 100 percent of the cookie proceeds stay within the local council.
On this page, GSEM reiterates its commitment to creating courageous, confident girls of character; its pride in being an inclusive organization; and its lack of relationship with Planned Parenthood.
Barczykowski conveyed her disappointment with Carlson’s letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“[GSEM] has enjoyed a history of cooperation with the Archdiocese of St. Louis for almost 100 years,” she said. “Although we are a secular organization, we greatly value our long-standing partnerships with religious organizations across many faiths.”
It’s a curious—and divisive—move on Carlson’s part. Pope Francis has promoted progressive stances on Catholic teachings, and what Carlson is calling for is regressive. In a time when the Catholic Church and Pope Francis are working to bring people back to the church, this pushes away many people with positive ties to the church (albeit for secular reasons).
Girl Scouts is an organization with the goal of creating stronger, more confident women. It gets girls involved with their communities. It helps girls build important life skills. Severing ties with an organization that could shine a positive light on the Catholic Church doesn’t seem like the smartest move.
“Is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?” Carlson asked.
Ask any past or present Girl Scout to recite the Girl Scout Promise, something said at every meeting, and decide the answer to Carlson’s question for yourself.
As a former Girl Scout, I’ll recite it for you here:
“On my honor, I will try: to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.”