Knights and Membership

Blogger and third degree Knight Tom Peters stirred up the organization this week. Being both a blogger and a Knight myself, I’ve been following the kerfuffle this week with interest:

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.”

Additionally, the KC’s were disinclined to do more than the bishops in bouncing people out of the organization. Apparently a membership (self-)purge is underway, at least on a small scale, given the comments from the blogotariat from Knights preparing to turn in their cards.

Mr Peters’ critique netted this response from the Supreme Council.

I agree with the Knights on this. I think there is room for dissent, for those within the KC’s to make their case, but ultimately, I think the wiser course is to keep republicanism out of the organization. I’m going to tell a story, then come back to this point.

I wasn’t inclined to join the Knights. I had never been approached until my friend Joe asked me about twelve, thirteen years ago. He and his wife sang in the funeral choir. He was retired, and volunteered at the hospital. He was also a sacristan and Communion minister. He asked me if he could sponsor my membership and he willingly received my questions. No, I didn’t have to get the formal wear. Yes, I was welcome to participate in charitable and social activities. However much or little I did was up to me. The other Knights he named were also men I respected. So for me, it was something of an exploration, and something of trusting and knowing the others involved. They were guys I would want to hang around with.

When the bishops’ cover0up scandal broke in 2002, I know there were rumblings. I did consider that the KC’s might have made some statement. And it certainly would sting if the organization were publicly critical of bishops. Another course was followed, and in retrospect, I concur with the silence. Other groups of Catholics spoke out against abusive clergy and bishops, and not everyone or every group is called to congruence in its public statements and actions.

My readers know I consider the disinvite strategy to be wrongheaded. It’s bad sociology. It’s bad for the Christian virtues of trust. It foments secular values. It would be bad enough if it were only a republican dirty-trick philosophy left over from the radical 60’s and 70’s. But it damages the Church along the lines of unity, which, last time I looked, was a credal quality. Unlike the actual transgressions of morality.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the blogosphere and among the KC’s in the future. The Knights are a fairly conservative organization, and on this point, so are their harshest critics. But we Knights also have principles that predate modern republicanism. No doubt, some men will turn in their membership cards. I hope the numbers are few to none. It might be that the principles that led to the founding of the organization are less needful today. But Catholic men still need all the support they can get. Among friends, among brothers, there can be guidance, correction, or whatever you want to call it. Let’s keep the vigor for the pro-life effort to the hard work in the trenches: supporting Birthright and other efforts, presenting a calm and trusting visage to fencesitters, and providing charity to those in need.

I also hope that this sort of critique is starting to burn itself out. Calmer heads and hearts really need to prevail on these issues.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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15 Responses to Knights and Membership

  1. SK Marc Harris says:

    I must disagree with your opinion in this matter. A fundamental qualification for being a Knight is complete faithfulness to the Doctrines of the Church. This is not a “Men’s Club” but a group of men who make a solemn vow to uphold and defend the Church. We Knights are called to a higher standard than the everyday Catholic and when brother Knights openly and obstinately oppose Doctrines, they cause not only scandal within the Order and Church, but weaken any authority the Knights have to perform their mission. Supreme’s lack of action against these members is viewed as nothing less than public endorsement of their views. It leads many of us who truly believe in our mission to look with serious doubt upon our leaders. I personally have begun to question if Supreme’s devotion to the founding principles of the Order has been lost and wonder if they have become nothing more than insurance company taking advantage of Fr. McGiveny’s vision.

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      And if your brother knights divorce, are found to be practicing artificial birth control, having extra-marital affairs, or are giving moral and financial support to wives/daughters who have an abortion …. then what?

  2. Liam says:

    Have any KofC chapters tried to discipline members who have publicly endorsed the use of torture by the American government in the past decade?

  3. Todd says:

    “A fundamental qualification for being a Knight is complete faithfulness to the Doctrines of the Church.”

    Complete? Is this true? And if true, how does this expectation differ in effect from “perfect” faithfulness? And if all one needed to do to eject a Knight from the brotherhood (for whatever reason) is to search, I fail to grasp the purpose of an organization other than to winnow down the membership to something more palatable to mob rule.

    And as for your last comments, Marc, I have to refer you to CCC 2478. Is it seemly for a brother Knight to bypass the Catechism to think the worst of his brothers? If I had a personal vendetta against you, for example, is a violation of #2478 enough of an incomplete Catholicism to warrant my theoretical suggestion you should not be a Knight?

    Do you see where this is going? The potential for damage, and for what? The unborn are still aborted, and the organization spends energy attacking and defending within.

    This is why I believe it is the place to apply Matthew 18:15, not rovism.

    • SK Marc Harris says:

      This is not a republican/democrat issue and applies to All Doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. CCC 2478 says we should be careful to interpret our neighbor in a favorable way. How exactly can you favorable interpret the actions of someone who publicly stands for abortion (or, to satisfy Liam- torture)? The difference between the public stance of a politician and the opinions of the average Knight is the public nature. If that average Knight stood up in his shirt at the street corner or even in front of the abortion clinic and endorsed abortion, then, yes, he should be disciplined as well. The Knights are a private organization and have the right to restrict membership to those only faithful to the Church. If that restricts membership down to a minimal number than so be it. When you apply for membership, you are asked if you are a practical Catholic.
      You cannot be a practical Catholic unless you fully accept the Doctrines of the Church. In fact, if you do not fully accept the Doctrines of the Church and are obstinate in your rejection, you are a heretic and have no place in the Knights.

      • Todd says:

        Marc, you are wavering in this discussion. The KC’s speak of “practical” Catholicism. The word you used in post #1 is “complete.” I questioned the proximity of “perfect” to “complete.” You’ve swtiched back to “practical.” If the KC’s meant “complete,” why didn’t they use it?

        Are you reading more into what the Knights expect of their members than they actually do? And if so, aren’t you putting yourself above your brothers in making rules and insisting they be followed?

        Also, my brother, don’t play coy with me. My reference to CCC 2478 was in regard to this statement of yours:

        “I personally have begun to question if Supreme’s devotion to the founding principles of the Order has been lost and wonder if they have become nothing more than insurance company …”

        If it’s a personal question, keep it personal; don’t make it public. If you have a problem with individuals or the organization, as a “practical Catholic,” you are obliged to go to the source, not air the dirty laundry here like a politician would.

        That said, your posts here are certainly welcome, especially if you disagree with me. But don’t be surprised if others here try to get you to strengthen your arguments.

        A question for you to respond to: Why does the abortion issue give you the right to question the motives of those who you believe are “just running an insurance company”?

      • SK Marc Harris says:

        I don’t see a difference between “practical” and “complete” when you look at how it is defined by the KofC. No Catholic can ever have perfect faithfulness but we should aspire to perfection in our faithfulness to Church Doctrine and seek out the confessional when we fail.

        As for your CCC quote, I read your comment the wrong way. Am I wrong to expect supreme to act in a complete pro-life way, I don’t believe so. When they don’t respond to a member who is publicly endorsing abortion, the KofC pro-life message loses validity. Its the same situation as someone who defends the faith but doesn’t agree with one part of the faith. The arguments are now tainted with hypocrisy.
        “A question for you to respond to: Why does the abortion issue give you the right to question the motives of those who you believe are “just running an insurance company”?” It’s not just the abortion issue. This is one of several symptoms I’ve seen. I’ve seen councils spending more time talking about how to add members and meet the quota of new insurance/annuities placed on them by supreme than they are working on our mission. I was once a firm believer in the insurance program and even worked on becoming an agent. Then I saw how they treated a field agent who couldn’t make the quotas due to his wife’s medical conditions. I don’t feel it’s much of a leap to look at all these items together and come to the conclusion that the insurance sales are more important than the mission.

        I don’t mind disagreement, but I will not respond to the same tired arguments I hear over and over. Its like discussing the faith with a ruckmanite – waste of time.

      • Todd says:

        Thanks for continuing to engage. Personally, I don’t find my arguments to be tiresome, but then, I suppose few of us find our personal soapboxes to be so.

        I think this is a very real issue for the Knights, and quite separate from another real issue you raise with your life insurance story. Your subjective experience colors your approach to this issue. My subjective experience with rabid pro-lifers leads me to think the Supreme Council is on the right track here. I sure wouldn’t want to see local KC councils turn into something that looks like the worst policers of the Catholic internet.

        So tell me: why wouldn’t going to individual Knights first work in this case? And why, suddenly, are people suddenly realizing that with two million members, not everyone is in lockstep on every Major Issue? Quite honestly, I find this neither surprising nor scandalous.

      • SK Marc Harris says:

        Again you are overlooking the fundamental reason for this issue – the public face of the politician. There is no question that there are individual members who are deny the Church’s authority on one issue or another. I have no doubt that there are many Knights who use contraception. These members who are obstinate in their sin should be counseled appropriately but since this is a private matter and they are not creating scandal the damage is minimal. These politicians have been counseled and still remain obstinate while publicly maintaining their status as Catholic and a Knight. As long as Supreme allows these men to claim to be Knights, any pro-life efforts by the Knights is tainted. Also, this is far from a new issue. There have been many politicians who have had heretical views while maintaining that they were Catholic and Knights. There were repeated calls for Ted Kennedy and Mario Cuomo to be expelled for decades.

        As for your comment about “rabid pro-lifers”. First, I am not a “rabid pro-lifer”. I do, however, find no excuse for any Catholic to obstinately dissent from Church Doctrine, particularly when they declare, through solemn vow, to uphold and defend the Church. I also have no tolerance for those who do so openly and lead other into heresy as well by their example.

        “Your subjective experience colors your approach to this issue.”
        I do not believe the examples I have given color my opinion any more than someone who sees a man, with a purse, running from a woman who is screaming “stop thief” would conclude that he must be a mugger. Put the clues together and you get a pretty good picture.

        What becomes tiresome is the use of tired phrases or personal attacks. Your approach is not as tiresome because you like to use innuendo to attack the opposition. Use of phrases like policing and lockstep bring to the subconscious mind thoughts of Nazi Germany and bias the reader against your opposition. The use of “rabid” brings to mind an out of control, diseased animal with no purpose other than destruction. Even the most adamant pro-lifer acts with purpose and conviction, not destructive abandon. Taking the argument away from the public nature of the politician also tries to sway the reader. That being said, I will no longer be engaging in this discussion, I’m helping waterboard heretics tonight and want to look my best.

  4. Bill Kurtz says:

    To SK Mark Harris:
    I’m a Knight. I proudly voted for Barack Obama, and I’d do it again.

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