2012-11-02 / Faith

Scouts connect religion and society

. Troop members earn Pope Pius XII religious emblems
By Darleen Principe

Moorpark High School junior Andrew Fastiggi knew about the Catholic Church’s stance against modern forms of birth control and contraception.

But until the 16-year-old Boy Scout began researching the topic as part of a Scouting project to earn the Pope Pius XII religious emblem, he didn’t know why his faith held that position.

So Fastiggi turned to the Bible, where he found several passages supporting the church’s stance.

He also found some letters written by Pope John Paul II and other papal documents talking about contraception and marriage.

“The Catholic Church opposes the use of contraception because they see it as unnatural, in preventing God’s plan,” Fastiggi said. “And I found that the Catholic Church promotes a certain type of natural birth control, called Natural Family Planning, where a husband and wife work around specific times of a woman’s menstrual cycle to plan pregnancies.”

Fastiggi, a Scout with Moorpark Troop 611, sponsored by Holy Cross Catholic Church, was one of three boys who researched various social issues last summer in order to earn the Pope Pius XII emblem—the highest religious award a Catholic Scout can earn.

Moorpark teens Timothy Stuhr, 16, and Ryan Swanson, 17, also completed their emblem projects and will receive their awards alongside other Scouts throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at a mass celebration in May at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

To earn the Pope Pius XII emblem, Scouts must be in ninth grade or above, complete a ser- vice project, and examine a current social issue facing the Catholic Church or society.

Lisa Schwartz, a volunteer instructor for the Pope Pius program at Holy Cross, said earning the emblem is very rare.

“Like earning Eagle Scout, most boys don’t get to that level,” she said. “It’s a unique opportunity that means something to them and their faith. Not a lot of boys take the time out of their lives to pursue it. It’s a big honor.”

Since Holy Cross began offering the program in 2001, only 12 Moorpark Boy Scouts have earned the Pope Pius XII emblem.

The congregation also offers classes for the Ad Altare Dei emblem—an award available to Catholic Scouts in seventh grade or above that involves exploring the Boy Scout Oath in comparison to Catholicism’s Seven Sacraments.

Michael Kromm, deacon at Holy Cross, and his wife, Sandra, are the other two instructors for the religious emblem programs at Holy Cross.

Although Schwartz and the Kromms only teach classes for the Catholic emblems, they also help non-Catholic Boy Scouts attain religious emblems in their respective faiths.

“The Boy Scouts of America offers religious emblems in all religions,” Schwartz said. “Just because our troop is sponsored by the church, it doesn’t mean all our boys are Catholic. Some of our boys have earned Presbyterian or Methodist emblems.”

Kromm said he has connected Jewish and Islamic scouts with local rabbis and Muslim leaders to earn their respective religious awards.

For Andrew Fastiggi, earning the Ad Altare Dei and Pope Pius XII emblems has given him an in-depth look at the Catholic religion.

“There are many different religious emblems, and anybody who has a faith that’s in Boy Scouts should really try to get those emblems,” the teenager said. “It’s just a good program to help you better understand your faith.”

While Fastiggi focused his recent research on contraception, Swanson, who is also an Eagle Scout, researched the use of torture throughout history and its effects on society.

Stuhr, also a junior at Moorpark High, studied abortion and its effects on the female body for his Pope Pius award.

Like Fastiggi, Stuhr said he was already somewhat familiar with the church’s stance on abortion before he began his project.

“But now I know much more about it than I did before,” he said. “I already knew the church’s view on abortion, that it is always (for) reproduction. But I didn’t really know that outsiders had many different views on it.

“Some totally say we should have ( abortion as an option) in case someone gets pregnant against their will,” Stuhr continued. “But others support abortion for completely different reasons.”

According to Schwartz, all three boys had their topics approved by program leaders before starting research.

After four weeks of work, the boys then presented their projects to a panel consisting of Boy Scout leaders from Simi Valley.

“They were just so impressed with these boys,” Schwartz said. “They looked at really mature topics, and they were really mature during the presentations.”

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