CNN Asks If Catholic Bishops Are 'Imposing' Catholic Beliefs by Investigating Girl Scouts' Questionable Ties

CNN's Carol Costello wondered why the U.S. Catholic Bishops are investigating the Girl Scouts over possible ties to Planned Parenthood and the distribution of anti-Catholic material. "Not all of those Girl Scouts are Catholic," Costello mused on Tuesday. "So why impose Catholic beliefs on the Girl Scouts and threaten to pull out of the organization?"

Costello hosted the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, who argued that the Girl Scouts might be the one's "imposing" on others' beliefs. "I think it's going backwards. If, in fact, everything that the critics of the Girl Scouts are saying were true, then it's the Girl Scouts imposing on Catholics," he insisted.

And perhaps CNN could answer for evidence of "imposing" its own beliefs on its audience, with the overwhelming number of pro-gay guests who appeared on CNN to praise President Obama's support of same-sex marriage.

According to Donohue, the U.S. Bishops were simply "looking into" various allegations, including that the world group of the Girl Scouts favored abortion-inducing drugs and condoms, and that the former CEO bragged about ties to Planned Parenthood.

However, later on Costello apparently forgot those allegations as she questioned Donohue's evidence. "Yeah, but you're only talking about one play," she said referencing an anti-Catholic play that according to Donohue was promoted by the Girl Scouts. You don't have any other evidence to cite, do you?"

Donohue went on to defend the Church deciding to pull out of the Girl Scouts as not imposition of its beliefs, but as "pluralism."

"So let's just say hypothetically that the Girl Scouts were to become hyper-politicized and were introducing more anti-Catholic materials into the classroom and into the Girl Scouts meetings and the Catholic mothers would decide to pull. That's exercising pluralism. That's what's called diversity," he argued.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on May 15 on CNN Newsroom at 10:15 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: Roman Catholic bishops are investigating the Girl Scouts. It may sound odd, but bishops are concerned that some of the organization's programs contradict the Church's views on contraception and abortion. Some in the Catholic Church think the Girl Scouts have ties to Planned Parenthood, or endorse organizations that are in favor of family planning like Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders. According to The Washington Post, about 500,000 of the 2.3 million girl scouts in the United States are Catholic. So if the Catholic Church cuts ties with the organization, it would be significant. Bill Donahue is president of the Catholic League and he's here to tell us more. Welcome.

BILL DONOHUE, president, Catholic League: How are you doing, Carol?

COSTELLO: I'm good. So, Bill, what's the big concern by the bishops?

DONOHUE: Well, I think the bishops have a moral responsibility to be responsive to the mothers who have come forward over the years to parish priests and to the bishops and saying listen, we're concerned about the politicization of the Girl Scouts. Now what do they mean by that? Well, the global group, the world group of the Girl Scouts is in favor of abortion-inducing drugs, is in favor of condom use. Does that mean the Girl Scouts of the United States are? We don't know. We do know one thing, in 2004 the CEO of the Girl Scouts of America went on broadcast television bragging about the close relationship between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood. So those are just some of the concerns, and all they're doing is looking into it and being responsive to the mothers who have come forward.

COSTELLO: Well one of the concerns, as I understand it, is some object to these materials given to the Girl Scouts about organizations like Doctors Without Borders, which is a great organization, right, they provide medical care in combat zones, but they also push for family planning. Some might say that's sort of a tenuous connection and sort of nitpicking. Do these people who are complaining say that these girl scouts shouldn't get any information about any organization who pushes for family planning and condom use?

DONOHUE: Well, I think that's exactly the question that's on the table, and I can understand what you're saying, and there's a point of view there that has to be respected. I think what they're looking at is the nexus. How close is the tie? Is it distant? Then that's one thing, maybe not going to worry about it. But you know, it's not just even there with the abortifacients and the like. They've promoted anti-Catholic material such as "Simply Maria," by Josephina Lopez, a decidedly anti-Catholic play. Now I know for a fact that if Catholic schools adopted an anti-gay book, we'd hear all about it. So there are some problems there. I think for the most part the bishops are on board, the girl scouts do good work, they have done traditionally. I personally would be surprised if there's a break, but to inquire about some things that could be disturbing, nothing wrong with that.

COSTELLO: So just to make it clear, you personally don't think the Girl Scouts are anti-Catholic, do you?

DONOHUE: No, I don't, but I do wonder why they would pick up an anti-Catholic play and distribute it and then have to pull it. Somebody there, obviously, is not particularly Catholic-friendly. I certainly don't think the Girl Scouts as an organization is anti-Catholic. That would be absurd.

COSTELLO: Well, I would posture that 2. – there are, what, 2.3 million girl scouts in the country, 500,000 of them are Catholic. Not all of those Girl Scouts are Catholic. So why impose Catholic beliefs on the Girl Scout [sic] and threaten to pull out of the organization?

DONOHUE: I think it's going backwards. If, in fact, everything that the critics of the Girl Scouts are saying were true, then it's the Girl Scouts imposing on Catholics. And Catholics are free to join and not to join a voluntary organization. So let's just say hypothetically that the Girl Scouts were to become hyper-politicized and were introducing more anti-Catholic materials into the classroom and into the Girl Scouts' meetings and the Catholic mothers would decide to pull. That's exercising pluralism. That's what's called diversity.

COSTELLO: Yeah, but you're only talking about one play. You don't have any other evidence to cite, do you?

DONOHUE: Well, I'm just saying that when the parents have come to this, I just gave you three examples. The world organization, abortion-inducing drugs they kind of like. Past CEO of the Girl Scouts of America saying we have a nice relationship with Planned Parenthood, and an anti-Catholic play that they had to pull as a book in the materials. That to me, along with other things that these mothers are talking about, at least it begs the question, what's going on here? I obviously think at the end of the day we're not going to have a problem because overall, there's no question the Girl Scouts do wonderful work.

COSTELLO: Okay. So when do you think this investigation will be over? Because the review has been going on for what, two years now?

DONOHUE: Well, let me tell you something, one thing about the Catholic Church, it goes very, very slowly. So who knows. If this were something really pressing, I think they would have wrapped it up by now. It's one committee of the Bishops, by the way, one committee.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014