The Fighting Knights

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 2, 2008 | Categories: Dissent, Politics

Fr. Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, must be spinning around in his grave!   His Knights have gotten into politics, publicly fighting one another over supporting a party whose discrimination and distain for Irish and Italian immigrants caused the Knights to come into being 120 years ago. mcgivney_300.jpg

In the late 1800s, discrimination against American Catholics was widespread. Many Catholics struggled to find work and ended up in inferno-like mills. An injury or the death of the wage earner would leave a family penniless. The grim threat of chronic homelessness and even starvation could fast become realities. Called to action in 1882 by his sympathy for these suffering people, Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, an organization that has helped to save countless families from the indignity of destitution.

The current Supreme Knight in the KofC is Carl Anderson.   He is also the author of A Civilization of Love. kc_logo.gif

Carl Anderson’s partisan remarks about Catholic vice presidential candidate Sen.  Joseph Biden (D-Delware) ignited a revolt inside the Knights, and lead to the creation of Knights for Obama.   Knights for Obama objected to Anderson’s attempt to deliver the Knights and their families en masse  into the Republican camp.   They are also speaking out forcefully for the Knights to address all the issues under Catholic social teaching – not just cherry-picked to align with the Republican party.

Up until this election, I always had a rather benign but fond  view of “the Knights”– a fraternal association of Catholic men who did a number of things together from their storefront meeting places: raise money for mentally and physically  challenged  children through solicitation at stoplights; sponsor spaghetti dinners and breakfasts for charity, and provide an escort to the bishop in some very fancy costumes.   In short, men getting together to drink and play cards, and also protect and provide for  the most defenseless among us: children.

I visited the Knights of Columbus website.   The only initiatives they mention on their home page have to do with abortion and same-sex marriage.   They also prominently market their  insurance policies, and Carl Anderson photo-ops with bishops and the Pope.

What is not on the Knights’ home page are charitable giving options for children.

There is no mention of the millions of children without health care.   The children that are hungry.   The children that are homeless. Or in foster care. Or neglected. Or have drug problems. Or coping alone with stress in the home. Or boys and girls  on their own, and making a livelihood via prostitition.

Why is that? Where is the voice and the clout of the  national organization for these children?

The Knights can and should speak out against abortion.   But the Knights are a Catholic  organization, not a marketing auxilliary of the Republican party or just those social concerns  that don’t cost money.

The Knights need to have the guts and fortitude to challenge all  politicians and parties on behalf of all children – born as well as unborn. Children that are here…not just egg and embryo.

For example, a year ago, President Bush vetoed   at $35 billion expansion of the current State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Under the vetoed plan, government-sponsored health coverage would have been expanded from 6.6 million people, mostly children, to include an additional 4 million kids and 700,000 adults. Currently, 9 percent, or 6 million, of the 43 million uninsured Americans are children under 18. SCHIP is available to people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but are not able to afford private insurance.

Contrast that funding against the $150 billion annually for the Iraqi war. And the billions more in energy company profits the government doesn’t even make a feeble attempt to tax.

The  Knights don’t mention human costs of  the Iraqi war, and all the children it has helped to turn into refugees–in particular, Christian Iraqis.   They don’t rise to defend the Iraqi  children that have been killed, wounded, and maimed in this military venture;  the casualties to pregnant women somehow weren’t  noted in the Defense of Life materials and ads.  

There is also no mention of the 18, 19, 20 year old conscripts from America, mostly poor or working class, that have died in Iraqi or been wounded in this conflict. A lot of them enlisted to get money for college or training for a better life.

Many of these young men and women are immigrants, just like the people who  inspired  Father McGivney a long time ago.

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4 Responses to “The Fighting Knights”

  1. Ed Hummel Says:

    No one organization can be all things to all people. Locally, individual knights do much beyond the scope of the organization. For example, renovating homes for indigent families, relocating a non-profit Thrift Store locally, volunteering at the local St. Vincent dePaul Store, supplying Catholic schools with necessary office equipment, donating to and assisting at a local Food Pantry, aiding young women with troubled pregnancies both before and after birth for up to 3 years with free diapers, baby beds, etc. Members do much charitable work both inside the Councils and outside of them.

  2. Karen Says:

    Ed, those are good points. Thank you for writing. Karen

  3. OHIO JOE Says:

    First of all, the Knights of Columbus do not and never have officially promoted one party over the other. However, Patriotism is the 4th Degree of Knighthood (the other 3 being Charity, Unity and Fraternity.) I just became a forth Degree Knight the other day. As Patriotic American Catholics we ultimately put both our Church and Country ahead of our party (whatever it might be.)

    With respect, it is either malcontentment or ignorance to suggest that Father McGivney is rolling over in his grave. Like many Councils, our council in Ohio has promoted vocations, Catholic Educations, the care of Widows and Orphans, the care of unwed mothers, we have helped in Soups Kitchens, Given money to the local poor, as well as the poor in other parts of our country and our Hemisphere. Our first priority is to promote Life and respect for the Lives of all of our citizens. This includes the Unborn, the elderly, the Handicapped and those with Special needs.

    As Fourth Degree Knights we are asked to be good Patriotic citizens and partake in the cultural life of our Country. Many Catholic Priests and Lay people both before Father McGivney and after him have promoted these same values. Some of these people were Knights and some were not. If it had not been for such Great Catholics dedicating their lives (and in some cases giving their lives) to their Faith and Country, America would not be the Great Country that it is today. Knights can belong to whatever party they wish, but they must promote Catholic values and they must enter the voting both with a Catholic conscience.

    As for Mr. Biden, I suppose that some Knights will support their Co-religionist and some will not. As an American Catholic, (never mind, my status as a Knight) I for one cannot in good conscience vote for my fellow co-religionist tomorrow. While, Mr. Biden may be a well meaning Catholic Gentlemen, he appears to have no clue about the Sacredness of Life. Otherwise, he would not promote Abortion and Euthanasia. He further appears to have little understanding of true Catholic history in this country.

    I am also concerned about his management abilities. His behavior throughout the campaign has been unbecoming and bizarre. His buffoonery has proven that he is not up to the task and this is another reason that unfortunately, I cannot support my co-religionist. I pray that he will one day learn more about our faith and learn that Life is precious.

    America shall survive regardless of whether Mr. Biden becomes Vice President. However, it will be better if he does not become Vice-President. As a Catholic who was not originally born in this great country, I appreciate the ability to practice my faith without government retribution and as a 4th Degree Knight, I take my citizenship seriously.

  4. Karen Says:

    Dear Ohio Joe, thank you for all that you and your fellow Knights do for the unborn, the elderly, and people with special needs in the United States and abroad. It it so important that these people feel they are cared for and supported, since often our government has not made the alleviation of their suffering, or care for their needs, any kind of priority.

    Like you, I consider myself a patriotic American. I learned love of our country at the knee of my father, an amputee Marine Corps veteran of WWII.

    All the best to you and your fellow Knights. Thank you.


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