Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

The Knights of Columbus reply

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 22, 2010

 In response to my comments on the presence of abortion supporters within their ranks, the Knights of Columbus have made this statement:

Membership in the Knights of Columbus 

Patrick S. Korten, Vice President for Communications Knights of Columbus Supreme Council

The Knights of Columbus has always urged its members to live in a way completely consistent with Catholic teaching on all issues. We are proudly and unambiguously pro-life and have been at the forefront of the effort to protect marriage. Though we are saddened that not all of our members always live up to the Catholic faith, we are grateful that the vast majority do, and that they do so much good for the Church and society. Our councils have a chaplain, a Catholic priest, to ensure that the Knights of the council are educated in the tenets of the Catholic faith. In short, our beliefs are those of the Church, with no additions and no subtractions.

Since our founding by Father Michael J. McGivney in 1882, membership in the Knights has been open to Catholic men at least 18 years of age who are “practical (that is, practicing) Catholics” in union with the Holy See. We leave the determination of who is a “practical” Catholic to the Church, and do not presume to substitute our own judgment for that of the bishop of each diocese. If the bishop considers a man to be a practicing Catholic in good standing, the Order does not attempt to second-guess his decision.

Once a man becomes a brother Knight, our principles of charity, unity and fraternity require that we regard him as a brother in all respects, even when he may stray from the teachings of the Church. Our responsibility in such circumstances is to try to help him embrace the fullness of the Catholic faith.

As the largest Catholic family fraternal service organization in the world, the Knights of Columbus is a strongly pro-life, pro-marriage organization, irrespective of the views of a tiny minority of our members, just as is the case with the Catholic Church. Our policy in these areas is stated with absolute clarity at each of our annual conventions and is widely circulated to members and the general public.

We have been a mainstay of the pro-life movement since well before Roe v. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court in 1973, and strongly supported the successful effort by brother Knight Henry Hyde to legislatively prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions.

We ask each of our more than 13,000 councils to conduct pro-life activities each year, and we are proud that the great majority do so, providing the backbone of the grassroots pro-life movement in the United States and many other countries as well. Our financial support, and thousands of volunteer hours from our members, make the annual March for Life in Washington possible. The same is true of the growing number of state marches for life, as well as in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and in provincial capitals all across Canada.

In our newest pro-life project, the Knights of Columbus has already purchased 25 ultrasound machines at a cost of nearly $1 million, for placement in pro-life pregnancy resource centers in 15 states. These ultrasound machines are saving lives every day and our goal is to place hundreds of these machines across the country.

The Order provides major support to the Pro-Life Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as to the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, a joint project of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus.

Knights by the thousands have been at the forefront of the successful efforts to enact constitutional amendments protecting marriage in every one of the 30 states which have adopted them.

In short, the Knights of Columbus has been making a real, significant difference in both the pro-life and pro-marriage areas for decades, and that is the true measure of our identity and our determination to support these fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith. It is a powerful, affirmative, broad-based effort that is strongly supported by the overwhelming majority of our 1.8 million members on three continents.

There are those who believe that our time, resources and energy could be better spent hunting down a handful of members who constitute the rare exception. We disagree. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - May. 28, 2010 4:08 PM ET USA

    A tree is judged by its fruits. How many converts among their publicly pro-abort and/or pro-homosexual marriage members do the Knights hold up as witness to their efforts of fraternal charity?

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - May. 26, 2010 8:39 AM ET USA

    I'm a 3rd Degree Knight myself, and I find it harder to look my fellow pro-life Catholics in the face and credibly tell them the Knights are truly pro-life. The KC leadership seems to have forgotten a few fundamental truths: 1) We are the Church Militant (not the Church Passive); 2) If the bishops won't do their job to correct public scandal, then we have to correct it ourselves as Knights; and 3) as spschultz points out so eloquently, oaths mean something. I took mine seriously.

  • Posted by: - May. 25, 2010 5:15 PM ET USA

    How can we be accused of "hunting down" anyone when this dissent seems to be flung in our faces? How many times does a Pope need to emphasize the hierarchy of values and the need for laymen to act before we actually do something? How can I, a 3rd degree Knight, expect anyone to take myself and my brother Knights seriously if we can't take action on our own? Are we to educate our consciences according to the Church, then act accordingly or not?

  • Posted by: voxfem - May. 24, 2010 8:14 PM ET USA

    So these "brothers who stray" are being helped to "embrace the fullness of the Catholic faith"? If so, then I might be able to concede they don't need to break the ties. If there is no real effort, or if once the effort is made and the man remains obstinate, how can they believe their own statements?

  • Posted by: - May. 24, 2010 6:47 PM ET USA

    Yeah, Korten lost me on the "hunting down" comment too. Pro-abortion politicians want to TELL us! They want to BRAG! They want to say: "I believe in abortion, and that is an authentic Catholic position as PROVEN by the fact that the bishop gives me communion AND I'm a Knight of Columbus in good standing. This means that the Church doesn't really mean that you HAVE to be pro-life--it's a mater of personal opinion really.

  • Posted by: Solzy2004 - May. 24, 2010 12:37 AM ET USA

    spschultz is so right. They don't have to be "hunted down." They are right in the Knight's faces, but unfortunately, not yet squirming on the points of their lances.

  • Posted by: Mack - May. 23, 2010 3:25 PM ET USA

    Perhaps a new leader is called for.

  • Posted by: - May. 23, 2010 7:54 AM ET USA

    A good riposte by the Knights, I thought, until I got to the "hunting down" of the last line - a clear pejorative that shows the mindset of the writer. There's no "hunting down" at all, and spschultz rightly calls them out on that. Still, the point remains that, if the Bishops are going to punt the issue, how can we hold the Knights to a higher standard? Can the Knights define a "practical Catholic" in a way different from the Bishops?

  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - May. 22, 2010 10:34 PM ET USA

    to spschultz, my thoughts exactly!

  • Posted by: spschultz - May. 22, 2010 10:59 AM ET USA

    Yet more weave & dodge dribble from the KofC leadership. 1) Members take an oath to GOD to live as faithful Catholics. Not holding people accountable to that oath makes it an empty oath and an empty oath sworn to God is a very dangerous & sinful action. 2) They keep dodging the issue: we are talking about those to PUBLICLY dissent. No one is talking about any sort of “inquisition” to root out dissenters. These men make it clear where they stand PUBLICLY. There is NO "hunting down" involved!