19 May 2010

An unfortunate decision

Catholic World News reports that the "Knights of Columbus refuse to allow suspension of members who promote abortion, gay marriage."

The text of the article follows, with my emphases and comments:

The leadership of the Knights of Columbus (K of C) has forbidden local councils to take any action against members of the Catholic fraternal organization who support legalized abortion or same-sex marriage.

A Massachusetts K of C member had proposed a resolution, to be taken up by the group's state convention, calling for the suspension of membership of any politician who gave public support to abortion and same-sex marriage. That resolution was declared inappropriate by the Supreme Advocate of the K of C, John Marrella.

In a letter to the Massachusetts K of C leadership, Marrella declared that "a subordinate council may not impose fraternal discipline with respect to a public figure's official actions on matters pertaining to faith and morals. Rather, any such discipline must be made by or at the direction of the Supreme Board of Directors." [I suppose this makes sense...maybe.]

"We recognize that some of our members who are public figures may use their public position to advocate or support policy positions that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals," Marrella conceded in his letter. He went on to admit that such public advocacy "contradicts the Catholic identity and mission of the Order." [If it contradicts the identity and mission of the Order, then why shouldn't such members be removed, either locally or nationally?]

Nevertheless, the top legal official of the K of C said that any action taken against K of C members who are public figures would "necessarily affect the entire Order." For that reason, he said, any disciplinary action should be taken by the group's top leadership.

Marrella went on to say that the K of C would not go further than the American bishops in taking public action against members whose public stands conflict with Church moral teachings. "If the public figure's bishop has not excommunicated him for his public positions on issues relating to matters of faith and morals, it would be highly inappropriate for the Knights of Columbus to do so," he wrote. [Does that mean if an official's bishop has declared him excommunicate the Order will remove his membership? Perhaps the casting out of such members from the Knights of Columbus were spur the bishops to a more unified action.]

The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, which had supported the proposed resolution at the state convention, decried the intervention by the top K of C office as an "abdication of responsibility." C.J. Doyle, the executive director of the Catholic Action League, said: "This letter effectively kills any grassroots initiative within the Knights to address the scandal of pro-abortion pols in the Order."

The Catholic Action League charged that the K of C's refusal to take action against pro-abortion members would allow the continuation of a public scandal [I agree]. "In the 37 years since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Board of Directors has never, to public knowledge, removed a single pro-abortion political figure from the Knights of Columbus," Doyle noted. "In Massachusetts, a majority of Knights serving in the Legislature voted in 2007 against a constitutional amendment restoring traditional marriage, and voted in 2005 for a law which compels Catholic hospitals to distribute the so-called morning-after pill to rape victims."


  1. Actually, this makes some sense to me from an organizational point of view. Removing a high profile member (politician, etc.) from the Knights may invite outside scrutiny from the media or others. While I'm still relatively new to the Knights, I haven't seen anything that makes me believe most local councils would be able to handle such scrutiny in a professional manner. (I mean that in a literal sense -- at least, my local council doesn't have a PR person.) The national organization, on the other hand, has experience dealing with the media and is in a better position to answer questions, etc.

    You may disagree with the decision, but I certainly wouldn't read anything sinister into it.

  2. Fr. Daren,
    The Knights of Columbus are one of the largest supporters of the Pro-Life movement. The past two years each council has been assesed an extra amount of money that Order wide amounts to $3 million dollars per year. They also are taking a stand against the Gay Marriage issues in each of the States across the U.S. They spent several million in California a year or so ago to help defeat Proposition 8. As an order we do great things. I really wish there were things that we could to bring those politicians in line but that is a society issue. Yes I believe if a Bishop excommunicated a political official your local council would be able to remove him under the Practical Catholic expectation. In addition to the work in these areas they are instrumental in Newman and the Special Olympics. As an organization they are by no means perfect. But from a reality perspective neither are we. Those folks that choose to rail out against what their faith teaches will have to answer when they meet face to face with our Good Lord one of these days.

  3. Father,

    Does the KC have a creed or set of principles by which a member commits to live? If so, wouldn't such a creed include adherence to the beliefs of the Catholic Church?

    Love in Christ,

  4. JSULLIVAN: I certainly read anything sinister into it; cowardice, maybe.

    KCOLLINGS: I don't dispute the good works the KC does, but there is the question of scandal. The KC can do something about this: namely, expunge those members who are not "practical Catholics," as every member is supposed to be.

  5. Yes, BCB; every knight is to be a "practical Catholic."

  6. BCB-Every Knight is expected to be a practicing Catholic, 18 years or older and also believes and follows the Holy See I believe is the wording.
    Fr. Daren-I spoke with the State Membership chair this evening about this issue and he thought(his personal opinion) that unless a man is excommunicated or a letter is sent out by the Bishop of the man in question to the Knights that they would not take it upon themself to remove a man from the Order. While working for the Knights I did learn that they are very conservative in their approach and they look to the clergy for leadership and guidance in matters of faith. They have great respect for those men that have made the comittment to become priests, brothers and deacons in our Church. They most likely do not want to be perceived as knowing more than our priests in these matters.
    Fr. Daren I believe the real scandal here is the politicians that claim to be Catholic but vote against everything that we believe in. I remember when coming to Springfield and finding out that Sen. Durbin was once very involved with the Pro-Life folks in Springfield so much so that he had been a Master of Ceremonies in the past. What a change when the PAC monies started rolling in. Special interests in Washington have corrupted our system. As a priest I would encourage you to go to Carl.Anderson@kofc.org and ask for a simple explanation of the Massachusetts ruling. He is the Supreme Knight. That is where the buck stops so to speak. I would be interested to see if he responds.

  7. The KC has given their reasoning and I find their logic quite flawed. I agree with Thomas Peters, the American Papist; his words you'll find in a more recent post.