Last week, the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal benefit society and one of the largest Catholic organizations in the world, hosted its 129th "Supreme Convention" in Denver, CO, which was referred to as "So That the World May Know New Hope." At the conference, the Knights leadership reaffirmed their commitment to fighting marriage equality and working against pro-life advocates. The 2,000 attendees pledged to continue the fight against marriage equality in any way that they could.
The Colorado Independent spoke with an attendee of the conference, who explained how the Knights planned to oppose marriage equality:
Asked how the Knights would pursue the fight for the resolutions, [Deputy Grand Knight Bruce] Desautels said beyond lobbying efforts each Knight was resolved to do what they can do through the courts, through the power of numbers and persuasion. What about financial support?
"I guess that is up to every individual," Desautels said.
It's not like the Knights of Columbus organization itself is stingy on its contributions to marriage equality-fighting measures.
One of the primary functions of the group is to financially support organizations that align with the membership's views. That's all well and good when they're supporting, say, disaster relief in Haiti. But last year, news surfaced that in 2009, the organization had donated $1.4 million to the National Organization for Marriage, the anti-gay organization that's been named an official hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. That single donation is almost half of the $3.5 million the organization spent on all of its "Community Projects" in 2009, which included contributing to relief efforts, sustaining food pantries, and helping homeless shelters.
In the 2011 charitable giving section of the annual report, the National Organization for Marriage is not listed as a recipient of Knights of Columbus funding in 2010, but several other "family life" organizations and institutions, including the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, are.
Besides monetary support, the Knights leadership continues to speak out fervently against marriage equality. In his 2011 annual report, Carl A. Anderson, the supreme knight and chairman of the group's board, tries to galvanize further support. He writes:
In May, the Minnesota legislature voted to put a marriage protection amendment on the ballot in 2012. Unfortunately, in New York it was another story. The narrow vote to enact same-sex "marriage" in the New York Senate came despite our determined effort and that of Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the other New York bishops.
One of our proudest moments was cosponsoring, with the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II during his visit to the U.S. in 1995. During his homily that day, he said, "there can be no life worthy of the human person without a culture - and a legal system - that honors and defends marriage and the family." Children, he said, "need not only material support from their parents, but more importantly a secure, affectionate and morally correct family environment." The New York State Senate may have forgotten this message, but the Knights of Columbus never will.
Our position is a simple one: trust the people. Wherever the people have had an opportunity to cast a ballot on the matter, voters have chosen to protect traditional marriage in every single case. In Maine, they did so by overturning a vote by the state legislature. In 30 states, including California, the people have voted to enact constitutional amendments to protect marriage between a man and a woman. As this national debate continues, we must be well-informed and capable of discussing the issue with our fellow citizens.
As the second largest Catholic organization besides the Church itself, the influence of the Knights of Columbus is far-reaching. Their continued dedication to the anti-marriage equality movement could be significant in upcoming ballot initiatives, like in Minnesota or Maine.