A member of the Knights of Columbus writes on the Washington Post’s website that the fraternal organization, led by a former Reagan staffer, is suffering from an image problem and misplaced priorities, a situation putting the future of the organization at risk. Anthony Stevens-Arroyo writes:

While the Knights in my current local council sustain my original expectations, the well compensated Supreme Knight Carl Anderson (over $1 million per year) is busy gathering national headlines for bankrolling political “stuff.” Doubtlessly, his record of service outweighs my undistinguished 15 years as a Knight, but has he chosen the right direction for the long-term good of our membership?

At issue are not my political opinions or those of Supreme Knight Anderson: the discontent rises from the use of money that could be better spent on the Knights of Columbus traditional role in alleviating poverty by direct material aid to those in need, like the victims of Hurricane Sandy, where our contribution to date is far less than what was made to 2012 same-sex marriage politics. Admittedly, the sum spent on political causes is dwarfed in the total K of C budget, but “image” counts, as Supreme Knight Anderson should know from his time in the Reagan White House’s public relations effort. Why has he allowed our national image to be politicized at the expense of our grass-roots charity?

He goes on:

Our charity bears no exceptions. For example, there is scarcely a Knight unaware of gays and lesbians who are good people: in fact, some are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. It is not our Catholic duty to punish them because they do not receive the Catholic Sacrament of Marriage; but it is our patriotic American duty to recognize their civil rights in “pursuit of happiness.” Such American Catholic Knights of Columbus’ principles are contradicted when the lay leader of our national organization funds a political campaign to deny those same persons equality before the law.

The Knights’ involvement in the marriage battles was one of my “16 Big Stories in 2012.”

When I was in college a few years ago, there was little difference between the campus chapter of the Knights and the college Republicans. I hear from friends still there that it’s much different today. There’s hope.

Michael J. O’Loughlin

 

Comments

Tom Schneck | 12/28/2012 - 10:42pm

I am not a member of K of C, but I occasionally read Columbus online magazine of the Knights. I have been impressed by the writings of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson because, for one thing, he is strongly supportive of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, with whom I agree on most issues. For example, on the issue of religious liberty, particularly the HHS litigation brought by some religious schools, hospitals and other institutions, he has added a strong voice supportive of the Bishops, while certain religious orders, particularly one large religious order, receiving government grants for programs and students (the University of Notre Dame and some smaller courageous Catholic colleges being exceptions), have been conspicuously timid and mostly silent in voicing opposition to the moral wrongs of the HHS mandates. Is this political? When our Bishops and some in the laity, like Carl Anderson, believe that the government is exceeding its authority under the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment, isn't it a duty of citizens, including Catholics, to speak and act, whether its "political" or not? Religious freedom is being eroded all over the world. Maybe we can't stop it elsewhere, but we certainly should be vigilant of our Constitutional rights here at home. The leadership of Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus have been inspiring to me.

Thomas Rooney OFS | 12/27/2012 - 9:12am

I'm a 3rd Degree Knight. Although I've been fairly active in my Council, which does a lot of good work with special needs kids, Birthright, and our local seminarians, I have been somewhat dismayed with the recent direction of the Order's spending as well. If I wanted to be a member of a Catholic political lobbying group, I would have joined the Catholic League.
I just don't understand why so much of the Order's time and money is being spent on the Church's "below-the-belt" morality. Is that the source and summit of our Catholic faith; the various and sundry ways the faithful use their gentialia??? We're all...ALL...aware of Church teaching on sexual matters. Wouldn't our Order's time and money be better spent bringing more charity to bear toward Special Olympics, Birthright, Catholic Charities, our seminarians, the physical care of our parish grounds, and each other? Isn't that what our Order was formed to do?
I joined the Knights because I saw them as stand-up guys, to use the phrasing of our State Deputy. And by and large, we are. Please, please brothers...leave the lobbying to the Catholic Leasue? Let's do our job and fulfill our vocation as Brothers who take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. We need to fulfill ALL of our founding principles, not only "Patriotism".

James McParland | 12/27/2012 - 1:40pm

Ask yourself this: would the author be calling for reform and less politics if the Knights of Columbus started campaigning IN FAVOR of gay marriage? Of course not. "Reform" is only needed for those groups who don't support one's own pet political views.

Thomas Rooney OFS | 12/27/2012 - 1:56pm

@James - As I don't know the author personally, I can't say if he'd be calling for reform if the Knights blatantly promoted left-leaning political issues and polticians. I know I would. I didn't become a Knight as a political statement. I became - and remain - a Knight because through them I better serve my Church and community in a tangible way; a way that I'd been previously unable to realize fully on my own.

As a Knight of Columbus, the author has every right, and maybe a responsibilty, to speak up about what he sees as deficiencies in the Order. So do I.

Thomas Rooney OFS | 12/27/2012 - 9:27am

From our Order's website...the information about political lobbying is strangely absent

ABOUT US
Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven and some of his parishioners, the Connecticut state legislature on March 29, 1882, officially chartered the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society. The Order is still true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity.

THE KNIGHTS WAS FORMED TO RENDER FINANCIAL AID TO MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. MUTUAL AID AND ASSISTANCE ARE OFFERED TO SICK, DISABLED AND NEEDY MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. SOCIAL AND INTELLECTUAL FELLOWSHIP IS PROMOTED AMONG MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES THROUGH EDUCATIONAL, CHARITABLE, RELIGIOUS, SOCIAL WELFARE, WAR RELIEF AND PUBLIC RELIEF WORKS. (caps mine)

The history of the Order shows how the foresight of Father Michael J. McGivney, whose cause for sainthood is being investigated by the Vatican, brought about what has become the world's foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society. The Order has helped families obtain economic security and stability through its life insurance, annuity and long-term care programs, and has contributed time and energy worldwide to service in communities.

The Knights of Columbus has grown from several members in one council to more than 14,000 councils and 1.8 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan.

George Perkins | 12/22/2012 - 11:03am

I am not a “Knights of Columbus Catholic.” Capes, plumes, and swords in liturgy are not my thing. Yet, I do observe the K. of C. in my parish reliably performing small works such as annually erecting, maintaining, and disassembling our parish outdoor nativity scene or feasting less fortunate youngsters in town to games and toys.
That said, the purpose of my post is to note that it was, I believe, James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake who wrote, “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody’.”

Bill Mazzella | 12/23/2012 - 8:11pm

The lesson of the KofC is the same lesson of the bishops and papacy. Too much politics and catering to power than the captives which we are anointed to set free. We champion the rich and privileged which includes the Vatican and the KC.

Melody Evans | 12/21/2012 - 2:47pm

I did not know that the Knights' role was to work towards "alleviating poverty." The only contact that I have had with them is either seeing them all dressed up at church events, serving breakfast the first Sunday of the month after Mass to raise money, and getting nasty e-mails telling me who I am allowed to vote for as a Catholic (they had gotten my e-mail address from the church, who I had NOT given permission to share that information). Due to those being my contacts I had assumed that they were a completely political organization.

Joshua DeCuir | 12/20/2012 - 11:10pm

So there is no objection to Sr. Simone Campbell speaking at the Democratic National Convention, but God forbid a Catholic organization show some support for Republicans? Are we really supposed to believe that forms of political activism by nuns in favor of one political party are perfectly acceptable, but forms of political action by laymen in favor of another are inherently suspect?

Vince Killoran | 12/21/2012 - 8:41am

The comparison isn't quite right: it would be as if NETWORK was working closely with the Democratic Party on a narrow range of issues. They are actually quite critical of the Party's centrist leadership.

Come to think of it the comparison is correct either: NETWORK is a self-described " Catholic social justice lobby." The KOC identifies itself as "the world's foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society."

James McParland | 12/27/2012 - 1:47pm

I have yet to hear Sr Simone Campbell criticize a Democrat for anything. She actually refuses to criticize Democrats on their abortion agenda - apparently because she thinks the Democratic Party is right and the Catholic Church is wrong.

Vince Killoran | 1/2/2013 - 1:17pm

You are obsesses with Sr. Campbell. Please consult NETWORK's website: the group is quite critical of both parties.

Joshua DeCuir | 12/21/2012 - 10:33am

"The comparison isn't quite right: it would be as if NETWORK was working closely with the Democratic Party on a narrow range of issues. They are actually quite critical of the Party's centrist leadership."

Oh, how silly of me; NETWORK isn't "working closely with the Democratic Party" because it's not liberal enough.

It is remarkable to me how some here would turn Graham Greene's famous maxim into "Catholic means here comes everybody [But Republicans need not apply]."

Vince Killoran | 12/21/2012 - 1:46pm

I don't know what the Greene quote is meant to prove for you--that you aren't "welcomed" on this website?! You appear on a regular basis and have your say.

But, yes, how silly of you! Do you know what NETWORK does and whom they criticize? They are left of mainstream Democrats (and thank God for that). And, they are a self-described lobbying group. If the KOC would can their men's fraternal benefit society" label and acknowledge what they are, i.e., a conservative Catholic lobbying group, they would be on firmer footing.

Joshua DeCuir | 12/21/2012 - 2:27pm

"I don't know what the Greene quote is meant to prove for you--that you aren't "welcomed" on this website?!"

It has nothing to do with me personally. Rather, it's meant to suggest that when Catholic groups favor more liberal positions, everything's honky-dory, yet when some favor conservative positions, we get hand-wringing and tut-tutting about excessive partisanship, and the need for "reform." It's also meant to suggest that liberals who supposedly champion diversity and openness of thought seem threatened when someone disagrees with their point of view. I have no problem with NETWORK and Sr. Simone advocating for whatever political party and position they choose, just as I have no problem with the Knights, or any other "Catholic" group doing so - that's the great thing about freedom of association in both the Church and America. If you don't like what the group stands for, don't join with them, but don't suggest that because they don't share your prudential judgment on certain matters, they stand in need of "reform."

Suggesting that NETWORK is somehow not as reliably Democratic leaning because it criticizes the leadership of the DNC is as laughable as suggesting that Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform are not reliably Republican because they criticize John Boehner as being insufficiently conservative.

Vince Killoran | 12/21/2012 - 3:38pm

"It's also meant to suggest that liberals who supposedly champion diversity and openness of thought seem threatened when someone disagrees with their point of view."

--Given the intense criticism of AMERICA from its dedicated bloggers this is a little precious.

" If you don't like what the group stands for, don't join with them, but don't suggest that because they don't share your prudential judgment on certain matters, they stand in need of "reform."

--It seems that the voices calling for reform are coming from inside the Knights.

Re. NETWORK: Have you ever visited their site or read their position papers? They are very clear that they are a lobbying group and they are well left of much of the Democrat leadership. When it comes to money and influence over politicians Grover N. is in a far different league than Sr. Campbell. Why can't the KOC be honest that they were more about bare knuckle politics and than bingo and fish & chips dinners?

James McParland | 12/27/2012 - 12:55pm

Since you don't mind NETWORK being a political lobbying group well left of the DNC, ("and thank God for that"), is it safe to assume you don't mind it when the U.S. Bishops' Conference supports policies well to the right of the DNC? Or does your judgment about using religion for partisan political purposes depend on which side of the aisle the lobbying group sits on?

Vince Killoran | 1/2/2013 - 1:15pm

The difference is that NETWORK doesn't claim to represent all Catholics--the USCCB does.

Rick Fueyo | 12/20/2012 - 5:35pm

I am a Third Degree Knight, has been long since inactive because I do not agree with the strong political emphasis. I would much embrace a Catholic fraternal organization that did not seem to be an outreach for a political party.

Rick Fueyo

john andrechak | 12/20/2012 - 4:36pm

I no longer support my KC chapter due to the Knights sin of omission regarding the Iraq invasion; if the Church would have put the effort it expends against gay marriage in opposition to the unjust and unjustified invasion of Iraq?

Stephen Kusterer | 12/20/2012 - 1:43pm

Reform? As a Knight myself I hope so. I'm very disillusioned seeing Carl Anderson spending so much KofC money on political issues and so much effort working with Archbishop Lori and others to go after the American Nuns. The Tablet article on the subject posted on America's site back in May did a good job explaining it.

And yes, there is little difference between my local council and the local Republicans.

James McParland | 12/20/2012 - 1:24pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two gay marriage cases this term. We will know soon enough whether it is really our "patriotic duty" to redefine legal marriage and celebrate homosexuality. Something tells me the Supreme Court won't see it that way. If America magazine had its way, I guess the Knights of Columbus would start renting out its halls for gay wedding ceremonies and Planned Parenthood clinics.

Jacqueline MCGEE | 12/23/2012 - 6:40pm

I do not think the author said this. What he did say is that the K of C is a charitable organization that is supposed to render common sense, kind assistance.

James McParland | 12/27/2012 - 1:34pm

Here is the pertinent quote from the column regarding homosexual marriage: "[B]ut it is our patriotic American duty to recognize their civil rights in “pursuit of happiness.” Such American Catholic Knights of Columbus’ principles are contradicted when the lay leader of our national organization funds a political campaign to deny those same persons equality before the law." The author is saying that Americans, and American Knights of Columbus in particular, have a patriotic duty to support gay marriage. He probably thinks we have a patriotic duty to support abortion, incest rights, etc., too. Maybe he thought German Catholics in 1940 had a patriotic duty to kill Jews. I don't know, it's hard to tell.