Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

This morning’s Bismarck Tribune had a front page story about the Catholic bishop of Bismarck announcing that he would no longer allow Catholic churches in his diocese to sponsor Boy Scout troops. He said in the story that the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow gay Scout leaders “prompted him to decide that the diocese, its parishes and schools would end their relationship” with the Boy Scout troops, effective immediately.

Bismarck Bishop David Kagan has done a mean, spiteful thing. The Boy Scouts said that chartered organizations sponsoring Boy Scout troops can use their religious beliefs on sexuality to select leaders. In other words, they do not have to allow troops they sponsor to select gay Scoutmasters. That makes sense. Certainly the Boy Scout organization I know would not require anyone to violate his or her religious beliefs. If sponsoring organizations, like the Catholic Church, teach that homosexuality is wrong, then they should not have to violate that principle. And the Boy Scouts agreed with that, and said so.

Organizations which sponsor Boy Scout troops, one of which sponsored my Boy Scout troop when I was growing up, generally include churches, civic groups like the American Legion,  and schools, which provide some financial help, meeting space and leadership to the volunteer Boy Scout organizations. In North Dakota, Catholic and Lutheran Churches have been leaders in  sponsoring Scout troops.

In my hometown of Hettinger, when I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, we had two Scout troops, one sponsored by the Catholic Church and one by the Lutheran Church. Your religious affiliation generally, but not always, dictated which troop you would join. My dad was Scoutmaster of Troop 34, sponsored by the Catholic Church, so I naturally joined that one.

Many of those affiliations persist today. The beauty of this arrangement is, religion generally doesn’t overlap into Scout activities. Scouts aren’t pestered about religion. They learn scouting. In Mandan, for example, the paper this morning pointed out that St. Joseph’s Catholic Church has sponsored a troop for more than 60 years.

No more.

Today, I am so angry at my bishop that I sent him a letter. I’ve never done anything like this before.  But he needs to hear from Catholics, and today he heard from me. He further angered me this week when he had his priests read a letter from the pulpit last Sunday denouncing the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church has no dog in that fight. We don’t allow same-sex marriage, but we also should not be judging others who do. Lest we be judged.

So today I wrote to the Bishop. If you are a Catholic, and if you agree with me, I urge you to do the same. One of my friends has already done so. In short, he said “Who was it who said, ‘Who am I to judge?’  Pope Francis.”

Here’s my letter. Father, forgive me, but I must speak out.

Dear Bishop Kagan,

            I am a very sad Catholic today. Your stance on the Boy Scouts is intolerant and unbecoming of a Man of Christ. 

            I am particularly troubled by this sentence:

            “While there are indications that the BSA has a religious organization exemption, which each local troop could invoke, that will provide no protection for any of our parishes and/or schools, which sponsor troops.” 

            Protection from what, Bishop Kagan? Protection from what? 

            I would like an answer to that question: Protection from what? What are you afraid of? I sense a deep, dark, absence of compassion and understanding, and more than a bit of ignorance on this issue. I know I must trust you to lead our diocese’s churches and its priests, but this statement gives me no confidence in your thinking process, which is critical to your ability to lead.

            I grew up in  Boy Scout Troop 34 in Hettinger, sponsored by my parish, Holy Trinity Catholic Church. The troop was started by my father, and he served as Scoutmaster for many years. My three brothers and I all were Scouts and mass servers, and we felt both were part of our growing up process. Actually, it would have been unthinkable for us to not do either of those things. I’m pretty sure I can  speak for my father and my brothers in saying that your dictum is a huge mistake.

            As Scouts we were brought up to follow the Scout Oath: On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. 

            And I tried my best to obey the Scout Law, which was which was to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent (and  I didn’t have to look those up–I still remember–that’s how important those things were to me).

            I’m guessing you were not a Boy Scout, Bishop Kagan, or if you were, you have forgotten a lot of what you learned.

            Last Sunday I listened to your equally intolerant letter on gay marriage, read to me by Father Chad Gion, and reacted much the same way as I am reacting today after reading the newspaper story. You, and we as Catholics, have no dog in the gay marriage fight. Gay men and women who choose to marry have no place in my thought process, or in my religious practices or beliefs. It is their business. Not mine. Not yours. 

            It seems to me you’ve picked two unnecessary fights this week, and I am terribly disappointed in you. That’s not leadership. That’s pandering. 

            I am so grateful I have a wonderful compassionate priest in Father Chad. I’ve not seen anyone in my 68 years as a Catholic who better expresses his love for Jesus, and why I should love him, as well as Father Chad does. He may agree with you on these stands, but he doesn’t wear them on his sleeve, and he doesn’t go out of his way to pick a fight. He’s the reason I continue to practice my faith, in spite of the fact I have an intolerant bishop.    

            I hope your days in our diocese are numbered. We need better leadership than you are displaying right now. And I am not just speaking for myself. I have many, many friends who want to see you go away and for the Holy Father to bring us new leadership. True leadership.


Jim Fuglie


15 thoughts on “Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

  1. There are too many churches and religious officials getting into issues that are inconsistent with the love and acceptance taught by Christ. Probably a big reason churches are shrinking and many of those leaving feel closer to their Savior by doing so….


  2. Jim, you have moved me to also write to Bishop Kagan. I was upset when I heard that he was separating the Boy Scouts from the Catholic Church. I am also Catholic and I believe in compassion and not judging people. I think our bishop somewhere along the way missed something.


  3. Jim
    I too am deeply disappointed in our church… so much so, that I have made the agonizing decision to look for another church for my family to attend. Our diocese and my home parish in Williston has become an organization of rules, laws, and judgment. We are no longer known as Christians by our live…..


  4. It is unfortunate that there are many Catholics who cannot distinguish pedophilia from homosexuality, it is especially unfortunate that one of those is the Bismarck Bishop.


  5. This is what happens when you have 35 years of right wing popes(1978-2013). You get a Catholic hierarchy filled with conservative ideologues. Hopefully Pope Francis will make changes, but he’s 78(appointed at age 76). Who knows how much he will be able to do? John II was 58 when appointed and served for 27 years and his top advisor, Benedict, served for another 8 years before retiring. They appointed these bishops like Kagan. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has become a political wing of the Republican party.


  6. Support for Catholic Orthodoxy is not “right wing” as one commentator says. Being Catholic and Christian does not mean accepting everyone and anyone living whatever life they choose to live. We have a faith, we have a creed and we have a communion which means 1. The act or an instance of sharing, as of thoughts or feelings.
    2. Religious or spiritual fellowship. 3. A body of Christians with a common religious faith who practice the same rites; a denomination. There is a great tendency in the Catholic Church in the USA to be “cafeteria catholics” which is accept the easy parts and forget about the difficult parts. Those who choose to “commune” outside of the Catholic church are welcome to do so.


  7. One more reason I’m glad I did not wake up in this world and find myself a member of the Catholic Church. Every young man regardless of sexual or religious orientation should be given the opportunity to join the Boy Scouts. Period! No one except his parents should have ANY say in what organizations he joins. I hope that this action will not force some Scouts to leave Scouting.
    I grew up as a Scout; my father was an assistant Scoutmaster. I know several Scout leaders in Bismarck; they are wonderful men and leaders unlike the local Bishop.
    The First Presbyterian Church in Bismarck has supported Troop 6 for over 100 years and is still going strong.


  8. I am not going to enter into the uproar provoked by the good Bishop’s decision. I simply don’t know enough abut the matter to comment any intelligent way. But I do intend to comment on use of such terms as judgementalism, compassion and other clichés that mar today’s moral debates. We are, of course, not to judge lest we be judged. Clearly refers to the state of one’s soul, psyche (in classic thought they are basically the same), etc. We are even enjoined to say that even monsters like Hitler or Stalin may have gotten a second chance.. Leave that to God to judge. Over and against this is the need for objective judgments, judgments not of one’s individual soul but in objective rightness of his or her actions. Otherwise why would we want law courts to deal justice to people who violate the moral legal code? We need, in that sense, judgment and lots of it. I could go on but suffice to say that careless propagandistic use of these terms– as they are invoked here –do little to clarify matters. Rather, they amount to just so much empty babble, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing in particular.


  9. I loved my parish scout troupe. they took me to eagle. You my mis guarded
    Bishop are presiding over an imploding church. Dozens of bankruptcies.
    Thousands of victims. Destroyed credibility. Why would any one listen
    to any thing you say on any subject. I am still a catholic. Tell me why
    you are destroying my church? John M Nilles


  10. From part 3, section 2, chapter 2, Paragraph 2358 of the Catholic Catechism:
    “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual
    tendencies is not negligible….They must be accepted with respect,
    compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their
    regard should be avoided…”


  11. Spot on Jim. As a Catholic, this Bishop is not reflecting sound Catholic dogma nor any real semblance of Christian teaching. I seem to remember somewhere hearing something about loving your neighbor as yourself. Oh well, times have changed.

    As an unabashed heterosexual male, I have some problem with a gay man being in the leadership role here. I am not by any stretch a homophobe. From a purely pragmatic position, it would seem that a gay man would make some effort to avoid contact with young men simply because of the attraction to members of the same sex. It is a prudent man position. With that said, my Church is simply wrong here as they have been and continue to be on many matters concerning sex. This goes back centuries. I am not supporting theology based upon opinion poles but we sure should be a lot smarter now that 10 or 12 centuries ago.

    I would support a move to request the Pope to remove Kagan. As my youngest son stated to me, “one thing that this Bishop is succeeding at is that Catholics under 35 in increasing numbers will not darken the doors of the Church”. If that is what Kagan and his whole crowd want, they are getting it.


  12. In the past there was a big advertising push, “Catholics Come Home.” I know of no one who came back to the church but know of people who left during that time. Lately non practicing Catholics have told me they may come back to the church due to the pope’s positive, open, non judgemental, welcoming message. It seems that Kagan can now be thought to be an Anti-Pope, trying his best to undue the pope’s message and good works. Why would he want to drive people away?
    Can a narcissist be autistic?


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