Home-schooled students have own way of marking start of new school year

WASHINGTON -- Although Catholic home-schooled students do not necessarily start the school year with new friends, teachers or schedules, they often have their own ways of bringing in the new school year.

The Leone family in Madison, Wis., celebrates with a Mass and picnic organized by a support group of Catholic home educators in the Diocese of Madison.

Newspaper ads urging people to leave church seen having little impact

WASHINGTON -- Dialogue generated by full-page newspaper ads placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a good thing, said an associate professor of theology.

"The very presence of an ad like that is a symbol for one dimension of the situation of Catholicism in American society today," said Tom Beaudoin, associate professor of theology at Fordham University's Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education in New York.

The ads, which appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today in May and June, encouraged "nominal Catholics" to quit the church. The full-page ad, in the form of an open letter, cited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate, the Vatican's call for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and church teaching against artificial contraception and same-sex marriage as reasons to leave.

Paul Scolese, president of the John Carroll Society in Washington, said the ads misstated Catholic teaching and the church's stand on religious liberty, but he added such campaigns were not likely to have an impact or propel a massive movement away from religion.

Girl Scouts CEO says group working with bishops on questions

WASHINGTON -- Girl Scouts of the USA is working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops "to answer some questions they have," the organization's chief executive officer said May 30.

Anna Maria Chavez, a Catholic who has been the Girl Scouts CEO since last November, made the comments during a luncheon address at the National Press Club.

She said the Girl Scouts does not take a position on "issues that we're being alleged to take positions on," such as birth control and sexuality, adding that the organization only focuses on the leadership development and growth of millions of young women.

GSUSA, as it's known, has 3.2 million girl and adult members. About 500,000 Catholic girls and adults in the U.S. are involved in Girl Scouts.

Some claim the Girl Scouts promotes Planned Parenthood and its advocacy of birth control and abortion. Others have complained that some printed material distributed to Scouts contained references that countered the Catholic Church's teachings; the books were reprinted after Catholic leaders complained about the content.