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A member of the Knights of Columbus is shown sporting the Knights new uniform.A member of the Knights of Columbus is shown sporting the Knights new uniform. July 1 will mark the end of a 79-year era when the Knights change the ceremonial Color Corps regalia long associated with the fraternal Catholic order. (CNS photo/Knights of Columbus)

TORONTO (CNS) -- A long-standing tradition will end this summer as the Knights of Columbus discard the ceremonial capes and plumed chapeaus of its fourth-degree members.

July 1 will mark the end of a 79-year era when the Knights change the ceremonial Color Corps regalia long associated with the fraternal Catholic order. The Color Corps, which acts as an honor guard at religious and civic functions, is distinguishable by its official regalia of tuxedo, cape, chapeau, white gloves and sword.

The preferred dress for fourth-degree members worldwide will no longer include the cape and chapeau. The new uniform will be a jacket and beret. The ceremonial swords will continue to be part of the uniform.

It's all part of the Knights' efforts to attract new members, particularly younger men, said Dan Heffernan, Ontario state deputy for the organization.

The Knights have undertaken extensive research in how to attract new members and have heard one constant from men as to why they won't join the order.

"If I had to wear that regalia, I wouldn't join the Knights," is the refrain Heffernan said he has heard often.

It was a major point raised in a roundtable in March at the Archdiocese of Toronto chancery when the Knights gathered a group of men to discuss their impressions of the organization. Several men noted the cape and chapeau as drawbacks.

Heffernan said some misconceptions exist about the uniform. Many believe all Knights must wear the regalia, but it's only for fourth degree members, "and even then you don't have to wear the regalia," he said. "You could become a member, be a fourth degree and never buy a uniform. ... You're just not part of the color guard."

The uniform of the fourth degree has undergone several changes since it was adopted in 1900. But it has remained relatively the same since 1940, consisting of a plumed chapeau, a tuxedo, a cape and a ceremonial sword. The modernized version will be a blue blazer with the fourth-degree emblem, dark gray slacks, a blue tie and a black beret.

In 2017, the international Knights' board of directors unanimously voted to adopt a new uniform for the fourth degree. The new look debuted at the 135th Supreme Convention in St. Louis that year. The vote came after three years of testing and discussion within the membership. Board members believe it will open the doors to a new generation of Knights.

The move has been met with significant resistance, much of it from Canada, Heffernan said. That included an online petition that garnered almost 10,000 signatures "to reconsider the consequence of this proposed change and keep the existing regalia of the Fourth Degree Assemblies that the Knights and the rest of the world has come to recognize and love."

Heffernan understands and sympathizes with those seeking to keep tradition alive.

"You're always going to have the diehards who are going to wear the old regalia," he said. "If I was 80 years old, I'm not going to go out and buy a new uniform."

The Knights have recognized this, and the old regalia has not been outlawed. Members pushed for a grandfather clause to allow Knights, particularly older members, to continue to wear the old regalia and it was granted, he said.

While there has been resistance, there has also been significant buy-in, Heffernan said. Overall, Knights numbers are stable, even growing worldwide, with almost 2 million members across the globe.

"It's not holding people back from becoming fourth-degree members," Heffernan said.

There are 55,000 Knights in Ontario, with 3,400 being fourth degree. Heffernan said the mandate is to bring in 2,000 new members this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and they are just shy of attaining that number. That will keep the membership stable because up to 1,500 members die each year, he said, and others leave for various reasons.

That stability is reflected in demand for the new regalia. Heffernan said their supplier is having difficulty keeping up with orders and there is a long waiting period before a member can get the new uniform.

"Even as it is right now," he explained, "the supplier is making the uniforms as fast as they can, but if you were to order one now it would probably be the fall before you could get one."

More: US Church
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Mary Therese LEMANEK
4 years 10 months ago

Hopefully the grandfather clause does not become a loophole. What really needs to change is the politics of the Knights.

Frank T
4 years 10 months ago

Their politics of paternalistic entitlement over the rights of women don't help them.
The old musketeer costume of silly plumed hats, swords, sashes and long capes.
Brings to mind some of the old flaming cardinals that Francis has side-lined.

Will Nier
4 years 10 months ago

Why they will look like a defrocked Marine. Keep the traditional. We need it.

John Chuchman
4 years 10 months ago

They need to change a lot more than their garb!!!
like their Mission and their misuse of funds.

Jay Kay
4 years 10 months ago

Agree with that, John. The whole thing is archaic.

Judith Gerharz
4 years 10 months ago

So are there any women in the knights? What is the Church's position on the knighting of women?

Nora Bolcon
4 years 10 months ago

The church does not care if they change their charter. However, the sexist members are dead set against it. Because that is what love looks like you know . . sexism.

Nora Bolcon
4 years 10 months ago

This group is a lay religious order supporting sexism above all else. They are a joke and I hope they die out quickly.

My husband won't join because they are a sexist organization whose members don't allow female knights and because their whole reason for existing seems to be in order to be honored in their nifty uniforms - feathers or no, or this apparent private, all boy's, grammar school, outfit shown in this article! Their idea of charity is attacking women's rights politically, by trying to criminalize all abortion in the U.S. and by attacking public funding for birth control. Both of these "Charities" have been well proven to raise both abortion rates and maternal death rates, when their goals are met, in any country of the world. This means they don't even bother to study, even minimally, the probable effects these new laws, they are pushing, would have on women or the unborn. Dumb and egotistical through and through. I guess they went global because not enough American Catholic Men wanted to join - That gives me some hope, in America at least.

Shame on the church for continually supporting this misogynistic group.

Jay Kay
4 years 10 months ago

They're not a "religious order," although they are a public association of the faithful.

Dale Athlon
4 years 10 months ago

OMG. The amount and viciousness of the HATE on display in the preceding comments is sinful. There is no charity in anything posted thus far.

"Knights of Columbus CEO praises plan for U.S. aid to persecuted Christians"
"Knights of Columbus pledge $1.4 million to churches damaged by hurricanes"
"The Knights of Columbus and Special Olympics – A Bond Forged Years Ago"
"Founded by a parish priest, the Knights of Columbus has always worked hard to encourage young men to consider God’s call to service in the priesthood." (VOCATIONS)
"KofC helps veterans"

The list goes on and on.

Look, it's quite distressing to see such hate & bigotry on display from Jesuit grads who read this magazine. Shame. It makes me cringe sometimes to be a Jesuit grad when I see such hate and extremism and non-Catholic ideology coming from people who are supposed to be educated on the Gospels and Catholicism.

According to Holy Scripture and the Gospel of God Jesus Christ:

1) God created man first, and then created women out of the material of man. (Genesis)
Therefore, man and woman are DIFFERENT, not the same. Radical egalitarianism and transgenderism is not from God, but from Satan.

2) God Jesus Christ created the Sacrament of Marriage. Only a man and a woman can be married. Don't like it? Take it up with Jesus and tell him to contradict himself. Unless Jesus comes back and makes a new revelation, then ideologues and haters cannot second-guess Jesus and the Gospel on marriage.

3) It's a shame there are fake Catholics here who appear to suggest that killing a baby in its own mother's womb is something that's open for debate as to what Jesus would want. Ugh.

4) The Knights today provides a decent place for people to give charity, that is honest and and virtuous. Many people are looking for a good place to give back, but are TURNED OFF by the Soup Kitchen Religion run by the angry types on display. Soup Kitchen religion manifests itself in women-in-pant-suit type Feminism, in divisive racism ("privilege" ideology), anti-white racism, Liberation theology and Marxism, and is often closed to Catholic people who don't want to promote that kind of extremism.

Jay Kay
4 years 10 months ago

Except we are told not to read scripture literally like we'd read a chemistry book, and then told to read it literally only when it supports old misogynistic nonsense like this.

The scientific fact is that we all start out phenotypically female. The genotypic adaptations that create the male of the species differentiate the fetus later. It's a necessity for the perpetuation of the species to have males as well as females. There probably isn't any other reason for it, since efficient and superior you are not.

Also, there are more female human beings on earth than males at any given time. We are hardier on average and live longer. Your phenotype is in the minority, dear sir, and you are the weaker sex -- not us.

Dale Athlon
4 years 10 months ago

God Jesus Christ was male, incarnate, not female. Take it up with God, if you don’t like what He chose. God also didn’t choose women to be Apostles/Priests. Sorry, but that’s fact. You call call God Jesus Christ a misogynist I suppose but think where that puts you: second-guessing the Divine.

Nora Bolcon
4 years 10 months ago

Dale Jesus is male to fulfill the prophesy that God would be willing to sacrifice his son like Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac and it does not indicate anything else. Everything else you have written is false and the Bible does not back any if it but thank you for proving to all who read this thread that sexist and irrational and oppressive people are what the knights of Columbus represent and that is why this group needs to be dissolved like the legionaries of Christ. I could not believe when I got a request for money from the group last month.

Nora Bolcon
4 years 10 months ago

First off Dale,

God creating male and female from the same material means that they are the same not different. If God wanted us to believe men and women were different creations then he would have made them from different materials - it's like a ball of play dough if I break it into two balls, it is still two parts of the same original and no one part is greater or lesser in makeup than the other which is why God, in the old testament, and the new testament tells us to treat others the same because we are all equally man and deserving of same treatment and respect.

If the knights cared about the unborn then they would be using their charity to keep abortion legal since abortion rates are highest where abortion is a crime.

Egalitarian treatment means doing unto others as you would have them do to you - not only does God support this, it is the second part of the great commandment from Jesus Christ in the Gospels.

Not surprising you don't know this since obviously you are one of these knights or their wives.

If your knights don't like bigotry then tell them to stop dishing it out against women with their needless exclusionary rules since they clearly can't take the criticism they have earned.

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