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Knights of Columbus refuse to allow suspension of members who promote abortion, gay marriage

May 19, 2010

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."

"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."

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.

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. "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."


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  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - May. 25, 2010 11:46 PM ET USA

    Many years ago, as a Protestant, I was a member of the Masonic order. In fact, I was a Mason for 35 years. I resigned when it became apparent to me that lodges in the state where I was "raised" not only would not admit black Masons, they told me my Masonic obligation required me to get up and leave a lodge of Masons elsewhere if a black Mason entered. I would resign in principle from the Knights of Columbus should I discover that pro-abortion advocates are allowed to remain in the Order.

  • Posted by: - May. 24, 2010 3:16 PM ET USA

    Thank God the Knights stand in solidarity with the Church and continue to uphold the great ancient tradition known as unity: "wherever the bishop is... there is the catholic church," and "let no one do anything connected with the Church without the Bishop." (St. Ignatius of Antioch c. 111 AD, Letter to the Smyrneans 8) Lastly, what do you do to your gay brother? It's easiest to cast him out of the family, it's difficult and Christ-like to love him enough to offer prayers and sacrifices for him.

  • Posted by: humblesoldier4christ - May. 22, 2010 6:54 PM ET USA

    When someone wanted to recruit me into the KofC, I read the story of Ven. Michael McGivney. I found out later that very few of the members in my parish have really read and studied his life. Although I am convinced that there are individual members and councils whose participations are meritorious, for some reason, I couldn't see myself becoming a passionate member. Rightly or wrongly, most members don't strike me as being serious, let alone fairly knowledgeable, about the Spiritual Warfare.

  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2010 12:16 AM ET USA

    haroldjeffers1124: How do you expect the Catholic faithful to end abortion or other problems if we refuse even to suspend someone's active membership when they openly defy Church teachings? Do we have any principles as Knights? Or are we merely a bunch of guys gathering together to have fun and make believe that we care? How can we expect our Councils to matter and rules to have teeth if we don't address an obvious core breach with what we profess to believe?

  • Posted by: winnerbjp - May. 20, 2010 1:50 PM ET USA

    I am glad this happened!! The Knights of Columbus will always stand with Peter! The Vicar of Christ appointed the (weak Bishops)we will not supercede Him. Our Lord uses these circumstance to challenge Knights at the local level to utilize the Council Admission Process which would let prospective members know the KofC position against abortion and gay marriage. We Knights know that it is not by numbers alone we rely. Vivat Jesus!!

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - May. 20, 2010 9:12 AM ET USA

    When I stand before Jesus in Judgement, I think He's going to ask me what I did and didn't do.....not what the bishops did and didn't do.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - May. 20, 2010 9:08 AM ET USA

    I am both a Knight and a supporter of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. CJ Doyle is a courageous lay Catholic who has more spine than our hierarchy. I support the many good things the Knights do, but I disagree with this cowardly deference to the inaction of cowardly bishops.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - May. 20, 2010 9:06 AM ET USA

    "In this case we do not want the K of C to be more Catholic than the bishops. Seems like a resonable position for the laity." Deacon2476427, what happens when our bishops abdicate their responsibility to enforce canon 915? What about when St Catherine of Siena (a lay Dominican) wrote letters of fraternal correction to the weak Popes of her time? Lay people can and should be "more Catholic than their bishops" when their bishops fail to do their job and leave us twisting in the wind!

  • Posted by: lfjardine9175 - May. 20, 2010 8:53 AM ET USA

    Perhaps the title should read "Knights of Columbus refuse to discipline members before bishops take action." After all, in the understanding of the Order, it is the pastor who decides on the "Catholicity" of the member, not the Order. If the Bishops refuse to do anything, how can the Knights?

  • Posted by: - May. 20, 2010 8:51 AM ET USA

    As I knight my understanding is that in order to be a faithful member one must be in "good standing" with the Holy Catholic Church. Which to me implies that you maintain not only a belief in but a support of it's tenets with regard to the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Thank God all of the councils to which I have belonged have strongly supported such events as the March for Life. Let us pray for a unite front against the forces of evil in our world.

  • Posted by: spschultz - May. 20, 2010 8:38 AM ET USA

    No one has mentioned what several of our FAITHFUL Bishops have told us many times (explaining Canon Law): One is not only excommunicated by action of a Bishop. When one PUBLICALY opposes fundamental Church teaching and commits heresy, that person removes himself from the Church and "self-excommunicates." The KofC claims to stand for life & families, but clearly only stands for the bottom line & profit!

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - May. 19, 2010 11:31 PM ET USA

    Supreme Advocate John Marrella's example of bishops who do not "ex- communicate" Catholic politicians who vote in favor of abortion and same-sex marriage for why the K of C can not "excommunicate" these men is a misnomer. As a Catholic fraternal organization the K of C does not have the authority to "excommunicate" from the Catholic Church any of its members; however, it does have the authority and duty to "discharge" any member whose behavior is a constant scandal to the Catholic faith.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2010 10:44 PM ET USA

    Whether the bishops have abdicated from their responsibilities or not, I should think that we, the members of the K of C, would have the right and responsibility to discipline our own members when needed. How can we Knights mean much if our Councils can't enforce our Church's doctrine?

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - May. 19, 2010 10:35 PM ET USA

    What happened to subsidarity? An individual priest would be within his rights to refuse communion to anyone guilty of public sin. Why should a local or state council be prevented from acting as their conscience dictates? It sounds like the same vein of Espiscopal thought that condoned the Kenndey family's behavior.

  • Posted by: Defender - May. 19, 2010 9:54 PM ET USA

    Seems like the Catholic Action League is the organization to join. At least they aren't afraid to call it like it is.

  • Posted by: mmbarto - May. 19, 2010 9:43 PM ET USA

    How about all those Knights who voted for the culture of Death guy Barack Obama...? So you can add to this list all those who voted for 'abortion rights'...since that's the net result of their horribly mistaken votes..!

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - May. 19, 2010 9:28 PM ET USA

    Outrageous cowardice!

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - May. 19, 2010 9:24 PM ET USA

    The Knights have been, and remain irrelevant to the process of restoring the laws and the culture of the United States to be in accord with Catholic moral teaching. Next question?

  • Posted by: jbryant_132832 - May. 19, 2010 9:23 PM ET USA

    "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," I totally disagree with this. Sounds like political correctness is seeping into the K of C - most disappointing. This is a squandered opportunity for the laity to lead by example, its not a time roll over and play dead.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2010 8:48 PM ET USA

    This is why I left the K of C years ago after being a member for over 10 years. As far as the bishops are concerned, they should be ashamed of themselves but they aren't. They are more interested in self-promotion than the Church's teachings.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2010 8:43 PM ET USA

    Disgraceful! These are the fearless knights ? Why can't a local council take courageous action in the face of the national copout and let the chips fall where they may??

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - May. 19, 2010 8:01 PM ET USA

    Who will stand up for unborn babies' lives?

  • Posted by: LPFM - May. 19, 2010 7:52 PM ET USA

    Councils could at least compose non-binding resolutions that state that abortion and so-called same-sex marriages are unacceptable. If they can't manage to do those little bits, then maybe they ought to pack it in.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2010 7:39 PM ET USA

    Sometimes we accuse others of being, "more catholic than the Pope." In this case we do not want the K of C to be more Catholic than the bishops. Seems like a resonable position for the laity.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2010 7:30 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately, as a pro-lifer and a member of the K of C, I have to agree with the statement that the KofC shouldn't go further on discipline that the person's own bishop. However, the other events just show the muddy thinking of the rank and file of men in the KofC. Sorry, guys, it's just true.

  • Posted by: Biscjim - May. 19, 2010 6:38 PM ET USA

    They are just pushing themselves further towards being just an irrelevant social club.

  • Posted by: KC627 - May. 19, 2010 6:38 PM ET USA

    It states on the K of C web site that "Membership in the Knights of Columbus is open to men 18 years of age or older who are practical (that is, practicing) Catholics in union with the Holy See. This means that an applicant or member accepts the teaching authority of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals, aspires to live in accord with the precepts of the Catholic Church, and is in good standing in the Catholic Church." Good standing in the Catholic Church? Hmmmm. I wonder . . .

  • Posted by: JimKcda - May. 19, 2010 6:35 PM ET USA

    What is it the liberals keep saying about Vat II and Lay Leadership in the Church? The KofC's can't rule their own lay apolastlate within the laws of the Church because the Bishops won't fulfill their responsibilities?!?? Something doesn't add up here -- unless the KofC is just another political arm of the Bishops and all their talk about Lay Catholic Apolistic is just a lot of smoke and mirrors.

  • Posted by: cephas - May. 19, 2010 6:09 PM ET USA

    National Knights very pro-life and heavily supported traditional marriage in California referendum. Massachusetts catholics start with a small c, as in cafeteria, rather than with a capital C, as in Catholic.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2010 2:56 PM ET USA

    A KofC abdication of responsibility? You bet it is, but it's just following the abdication of the Bishops. John Marella is just saying, "The Bishops have abdicated their responsibility, so we can too."