These aren’t my grandfather’s Knights of Columbus. And that’s a shame

GETTY IMAGES Members of the Knights of Columbus, take part in Columbus Day ceremonies on Oct. 8, 2012 in Washington, … Continued


Members of the Knights of Columbus, take part in Columbus Day ceremonies on Oct. 8, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

When I was younger, the words “Knights of Columbus” conjured up fond images of my grandfather donning his cape and plumed hat to march in a parade, or slipping into his regalia for a special Mass at his parish church. The Knights council helped coordinate an annual festival for people with developmental disabilities and my whole family volunteered. The Knights of Columbus were good guys in my eyes. They raised money for hot meals, warm clothes and wheelchairs for families that could not afford them.

More recently, these worthy activities have been cast into shadow. Under Carl A. Anderson , a political appointee in the Reagan administration who endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2008, the Knights have become increasingly politicized, spending millions of dollars not to help people, but to hurt them.

Since 2005, the Knights of Columbus has provided more than $15.8 million to the campaign to deprive gay and lesbian people of the right to marry the person whom they love, and to undermine the security of children being raised by same-sex parents. They have made ethically dubious alliances that have brought shame on themselves and our church, and they’ve played the bully with their political and theological opponents.

The Equally Blessed coalition has shined some much-needed light on the Knights dealings in a detailed new report, The Strong Right Arm of the Bishops: The Knights of Columbus and Anti-Marriage Equality Funding. The report is based primarily on forms the Knights filed with the Internal Revenue Service and various state boards of election. Among the highlights are:

$1.9 million in donations to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), $1.4 million of which was devoted to a successful and highly controversial campaign to overturn marriage equality legislation in Maine.

A $1.1 million dollar donation to which supported the passage of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned marriage equality in California.

More than $1.1 million in donations to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage (which is now called the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage).

More than $630,000 in donations to groups working against marriage equality through ballot initiatives that will be voted on next month in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

The quiet role that the Knights and their powerful chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore played in the Vatican’s crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of nuns in the United States.

In all, the Knights has been active in opposing marriage equality in 12 states: Arizona; California; Connecticut; Florida; Kansas; Maine; Maryland, Massachusetts; Minnesota; New Jersey; Pennsylvania, and Washington.

They have made common cause with the National Organization for Marriage, an organization whose internal strategy memos came to light during legal proceedings in Maine, revealing that is leaders advocated turning children against gay parents and pitting the Black and Hispanic communities against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, in order to overturn marriage equality legislation that had passed in 2009.

The Knights say they are “one with the church” in their campaign against marriage equality, but that isn’t true. A steady stream of polling demonstrates that most Catholics support marriage equality, and that young Catholics support it overwhelmingly. I don’t know anyone who thinks that our faith justifies soliciting children to publicly vilify their parents, or to turn minority communities against one another.

There is a curious duality in the Knights’ thinking, as though the church is “us,” LGBT people are “them,” and all is fair in political combat. But Catholic pews and schools and religious orders are filled with gay and lesbian people, their friends and their families. The Knights have spent millions of dollars that could have been devoted to tending the sick, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked to depriving gay and lesbian people of equal treatment under the law. In the process they are undermining the stability of households led by same-sex parents and jeopardizing the well-being of those couples’ children. You can hang many labels on this kind of behavior, but pro-family is not one of them.

I keep thinking back, in the midst of all this, to my father and grandfather and wondering what they would have thought of an organization that was spending so much money and political muscle to marginalize people like me and my wife and to introduce unnecessary uncertainty into the lives of our children. I suspect that they would be disappointed in the way that the Knights have tarnished their reputation to pursue a punitive political agenda, and I know they would have been steadfast in their support for the people whom they love.

These aren’t my grandfather’s Knights of Columbus. And that’s a shame.

Marianne T. Duddy-Burke is executive director of DignityUSA, a member of the Equally Blessed coalition, which also includes Call To Action, Fortunate Families and New Ways Ministry.

  • scoutonymous

    Seems like the writer’s gripe is primarily that the Knights of Columbus do not support gay marriage. Neither does the Catholic Church, though. And neither did Jesus Himself: “A man shall leave his mother and a woman shall leave her home, and they shall travel to where the two shall become one. They are, therefore, no longer two but one flesh.”

    Jesus is not someone who is just entitled to His opinion. And look at what St Paul wrote in Romans 1 on the topic. Their teaching is unmistakeably clear.

    Apparently, the writer thinks that the Knights of Columbus are hurting people because they do not embrace immorality but instead support the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Reads more like the writer has left the Catholic Church than that anything has changed with the Knights of Columbus, or the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

  • Balanced2468

    TAKE OFF YOUR ROSE COLORED GLASSES. Hate to burst your bubble about your “grandfather’s” Knights of Columbus, but this is very much your grandfather’s KoC. I am not disagreeing with your assessment that the KoC’s political position is backward and not appropriate in today’s world, but the KoC has NEVER been an organization that promotes social change, just the opposite, the KoC is very much an organization that wants to stomp out social change. The KoC has also always been very politically active at every level of politics in the US. If you spent any time studying a little history of the KoC, you would notice, the KoC struggled horrible as whether to support JFK or not. His being the first Catholic President eventually overrode his more liberal social agenda. Notice there were now women in your grandfathers KoC. Interesting, there were also no gay men in your grandfathers KoC. KoC fought vehemently against integration, equal rights, a woman’s right to choose, women in the work place and many other topics of social change throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Why would you expect the 90s, 2000s and 2010s would be anything different? The KoC is, as it always has been – very politically driven, socially conservative, fiscally liberal – in much the same way the Catholic church has been for 2000 years.

  • rwoodama

    Polls of self-identifying Catholics do NOT define the Church’s stance on issues. You call what the Knights are doing political. Its not. Its a moral stance and it 100% in line with the Churches teachings. And as your grandather – obviously a faithful Catholic – did, we are helping at the grass-roots level via volunteering and giving every day to people in need everyday. Today’s Knights still do and believe all the things your grandfather’s Knights did. Do you still believe what he believed?

  • MarkTenneyNewMathDoneRight

    I didn’t know the Knights were so right.

  • jfair1

    Gotta praise the Knights for standing up for morality and the faith. We already have marriage equality in this country. But we don’t have equality between marriage and fornication.

  • Catken1

    Forcing all Americans to structure their marriages according to Catholic dogma or be denied marriage may be in line with the Church’s teachings, but it is not in line with American religious freedom or the Constitution.

    And attacking other Americans’ families, marriages and children because they don’t conform to your religious beliefs is no more “moral” than if a Muslim tried to take away your marriage and hurt your kids because you don’t adhere to Sharia law.

    Believing Catholic dogma about marriage and living it in your own life is your right. Belief that all Americans need to be forced by the civil government to live by your religion’s rules is un-American.

  • Catken1

    Jesus affirming heterosexual marriage- the majority, as it always has been – is not the same as Jesus denying or insulting gay marriage. He was speaking generally about marriage, and using the terms generally applicable to most marriages – he was not making a statement about the only sort of marriage that is acceptable.

    Anyway, whatever you believe about Jesus or the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, it shows little faith in your beliefs to whine to civil government to deny marriages to those who don’t follow them. If your beliefs are really good, God-given and valid, they should be able to be passed on by reason and persuasion, not enforced by big government edict. We do not require adherence to any religious law in this country in order to partake of the civil benefits of citizenship.

  • Catken1

    Yep, “morality” is keeping someone from their dying spouse’s bedside, making children’s lives less secure and less happy, making us all pay extra taxes and extra fees in hospitals because people who could take care of each other with employer benefits and suchlike aren’t allowed to do so, and generally hurting anyone who doesn’t conform to your religious doctrine.

    How virtuous you are, sticking your busybody nose into your neighbor’s life and dictating what family choices they may make. How moral you are, damaging people’s lives and causing them massive amounts of pain because, in a country based on religious freedom, they freely choose not to follow your religion. How wise your judgment, allowing the latest Kardashian travesty or Gingrichian legalized adultery to be deemed “marriage” while calling the devoted lifelong partnership of two gay people merely “fornication.”

    And black is white, right is left, and chocolate is broccoli.

  • IntellectOne

    The Knights of Columbus want to follow the Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church because the organization was begun by a priest.
    Two Moral and Political Issues are at stake in this election. The Democrats are trying to Redefine Marriage so the K’s of C must get involved in the Public Square. They still do all the other charities that they have always done.
    The Democrats also have Abortion on Demand in their Platform. This is why, in this election, it must be stressed that you cannot be an ‘Authentic’ Catholic and vote for the Democrat under the Democrat Platform.
    It is imperative that the Knight’s of Columbus endorse Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
    The Knights of Columbus want to be ‘Authentic Catholic’.
    For: President: Mitt Romney………Presidential and a Statesman
    For Vice President Paul Ryan……..A man for all Seasons

    I approved this message!

  • Catken1

    So if you are Catholic, you cannot tolerate anyone who doesn’t follow Catholic doctrine?
    Therefore, if you are Catholic, you cannot support the religious freedom that is a core principle of this nation’s founding, and cannot therefore be a real American.
    If you want a theocracy, where you can dictate to everyone that the meaning of marriage is physical, animalistic breeding and not love, devotion, and lifelong commitment, and that a woman who gets pregnant stops being human and becomes a piece of property, a thing to be used, go found one somewhere else.

  • holly23

    just a clarification: Mr. Anderson probably did not endorse George W in 2008, unless he was confused by the ideas of term limits.

  • holly23

    what about the death penalty?

    what about wars aboad?

    I do believe the POPE has said something about these two topics…oh, he’s AGAINST them?

    Oh!! Well, then how can you reconcile that with your post? Hmm. Well, it seems as if we all love to turn a blind eye to the part of politics that disagree with our religions (which IT ALWAYS DOES). Thou shall not kill? That seems like it would interfere a lot. How about the parts about feeding the poor?
    I’m not saying don’t vote for whoever, just don’t tell me that they represent Catholic liturgy perfectly, because they don’t. I guarantee you.

  • chrisinwien

    This childish tantrum is typical of the loss of catachesis suffered by the last two generations of Catholics. The bishops have begun to apologize; the writer, a victim, apparently hasn’t figured it out yet.

    My family has been involved — centrally and happily — in the K of C since 1915. Today’s Knights do as much to volunteer, to educate, to support families and friends in the faith and in the world, and to bring people to Christ, as they have ever done.

    I know DC is a mecca for gays, so the Post seems to concentrate on their complaints about the Church — or actually, its teaching, the Ten Commandments.

    But let me assure you (surprise!) — DC is a haven for fornicators, adulterers, thieves, murderers, and liars, too. Why haven’t they formed “support groups” and demanded equality on the pages of the Post? Because they’ve broken the wrong Commandment?

    Wake up, homosexuals and lesbians. You and a lot of other folks simply don’t want to obey the teachings of the Church. Fine. They’re hard. Christ said they were hard. But His yoke is light, if you but take His hand — and that hand, by His choice, is extended lovingly to you from the Church He founded. That Church suffered, grew, and matured for some 400 years before there was a New Testament. But you can’t just say “Lord, Lord”: Jesus said “do the will of my Father.” Read the Commandments.

    The Church’s one foundation, is Jesus Christ Our Lord. And the Church — warts and all, and sinners all, is where Christ is. So stop your tantrums and, should you desire salvation, go to Confession like the rest of us sinners.

    Forgiveness works wonders. Denial brings death.

    God bless the K of C and may their good works, and their defense of the faith and the truth, long endure and prosper.

  • eulogos

    The Knights of Columbus have not moved from their original positions. Now, as then, they support the teachings of the Catholic Church. They still participate in all the corporal works of mercy the author mention. They are the same organization they ever were. They *are* her grandfather’s Knights of Columbus.

    It is the author who has moved away from where her grandfather stood, not the Knights of Columbus. Have you heard the saying “If God seems far away, who moved?” If the values of the Knights of Columbus seem far from yours, whose values have changed radically?

    Don’t blame the K of C for being Catholic because you are not.

  • wellspring

    Jesus did not affirm marriage or the family. Ever read the Bible? He was anti-family and anti-marriage. You can’t cherry pick what doesn’t agree with your political/theological beliefs.

  • amelia45

    Thank you for speaking out. The bishops speak for the magisterium of the Catholic Church, but that Church also includes the tens of millions of Catholics who believe that gay marriage should be a civil right.

    The People of the Church have a wide range of thinking on the subject. The Magisterium may say what the official line is, but Catholics think for themselves, at least some of us – perhaps even most of us – still do.

  • leibowde84

    I am a catholic, and I will be the first to admit that Catholic Doctrine is WRONG about a lot of things. But, who isn’t these days. Every person, every organization, and, yes, every organized religion, is guilty of mistakes and spreading falsities. It’s part of being human or man-made. And, to look for proof of this, all one has to look to is the evidence of cover-ups of molestation by various church officials, even the Pope.

    The best decision the Church can make is to do away with the notion that they are always right. It’s counterintuitive and it mocks the intelligence of those who don’t believe. Always keep in perspective the truth that no one knows the absolute truth, but merely portions of it. Which parts are which creates different faiths, and the are all more similar than you think. Acknowledgement of this fact is essential to being a successful and relevant religion.

    Change is essential to progress, and refusal to accept this truth will cause anyone to be left in the dust. When I was a kid, the Knights were everywhere. They were known by every kid in my school and made their presence known by getting new members. This is the first time I’ve heard their name in the past 10 years. Organizations such as this that refuse to bend to modern societal norms will become part of history. AND THAT IS A GREAT THING!!

  • leibowde84

    Wait a minute. What commandment do homosexuals break? I need clarification on that. Never heard that before.

  • leibowde84

    So, does the idea that homosexuality is wrong come from the fact that they can’t procreate? And, does that assume that sex is some sort of vile act when pregnancy isn’t an option? Further, does this mean that sex should only be used for procreative purpose and, since pregnancy out of wedlock is also morally wrong, then, if you never intend to get married, you are never aloud to have sex?

    Am I missing something? Yes, procreation was in need of a push back in the day and the family was a necessary feature if one wanted to survive past the age of 20. But, now, pregnancy arguable happens more often than it should. So, why this dependance on this illogical need to advertise procreation. I don’t think we will ever have to worry about people not having kids anymore.

    Also, there is absolutely no objective evidence that suggests homosexuals can’t be good parents too. If anything, people who are willing to put up with so much hatred, simply because they love each other are most likely adequate to provide the necessary amount of love deserving of a child. But, in order to defend a stance that denies certain couples the right of legal marriage (not holy matrimony — two very distinct terms), one should at least be able to explain why it is bad for society. And let’s not rely on Homer Simpson quotes by saying, “it just isn’t normal.” Because, last time I checked, being normal isn’t really a great thing. The best historical figures are not “normal,” they are extraordinary, and always different.

    All I ask is for a logical explanation. It shouldn’t be that hard to get.

    Also, religious doctrine changes all the time. They used to literally sell forgiveness back in the day, so you can’t deny that. Maybe this one is up for debate as well. BTW, I am a heterosexual who always tries to be accepting of other people. I admit, some aspects of homosexuality really weird me out, but I get really irritated when people judge others simply for the sake of self-glorification, which i

  • Joxxer

    Good for the Knights!! Glad to hear their voice–where are all of the bishops???

  • anotherinterestedparty

    Too much first order thinking only on this board; there are huge consequences to defining same sex marriage to be about bigotry. I’m from Canada and I’ll choose one: I don’t happen to believe children are bigots for wanting a mother and a father and so need to be subject to indoctrination to wipe the preference from their minds indifferent to the negative results of such mind bending. And let’s not forget our abusive Human Rights Commissions used to silence those who offend particular activists… Good people can disagree without being “haters”.

  • tony55398

    The Knights should stay out of politics, it can only cause division within.