Catholics To K of C: Stay Out Of Politics

Thomas MacMillan PhotoTwo weeks ago after voters in three states sent out a clear message of support for gay marriage, more than 5,000 Catholics sent a message to the Knights of Columbus: Stop hurting the church by trying to stop same-sex unions.

That message was delivered in the form of a petition organized by Catholics United Education Fund, a not-for-profit Catholic group working for social justice. Traugott Lawler (at right in photo), one of the more than 5,000 people who signed the petition, hand delivered it to a Knights of Columbus staffer at 3:20 p.m. outside of Knights of Columbus world headquarters in downtown New Haven at the corner of Church Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“As Catholics, we ask that you stop using charitable donations to oppose civil same-sex marriage,” the petition reads. “This money would be better spent serving the needs of the poor.

“More and more Americans, especially younger generations of Catholics, are turning away from religion because of its mistreatment of the LGBT community. We believe your actions are outside the tradition of the Knights of Columbus and are hurting the Church.”

The petition is addressed to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

Knights of Columbus spent more than $600,000 during the recent campaign season on ballot initiatives regarding same-sex marriage, according to Catholics United. Knights of Columbus supported efforts to defeat a ballot approval of gay marriage in Maine, Washington and Maryland, and to pass a constitutional amendment in Minnesota to ban gay marriage. All those efforts failed.

Knights of Columbus staffer Matt St. John declined to comment on the petition. He released a statement saying that the organization “supports Catholic Social Teaching, including on moral issues. Our first concern has always been charity, and over the past 10 years we have donated more than $1.4 billion and 664 million hours to charitable causes.”

Shortly before 3 p.m., Lawler, a retired Yale English professor, pulled up on his bike at Knights of Columbus headquarters. He said he’s not an official member of Catholics United, but he gets the organization’s emails and had signed the petition.

“I’m a Catholic, and I think that Catholics should be kind and care for others,” Lawler said. Knights of Columbus spends lots of money fighting gay marriage, when the organization should support it, he said. “If they have money, they should spend it on the poor.”

Lawler acknowledged that his position on gay marriage is at odds with the official doctrine from the Vatican. “I honor the pope, but I don’t think he’s always right.”

He said he was disappointed by how partisan the Catholic bishops in the United States were during the election: “I think the Knights of Columbus should be above that.”

Lawler said he was expecting more people to show up to hand over the petition. He said he’d gotten a call from James Salt, the head of Catholics United, saying he was stuck in traffic.

Reached later by phone, Catholics United head Salt said the money Knights of Columbus spent fighting gay marriage during the recent election cycle is on top of $6.25 million the organization has spent since 2005 working against gay marriage. The only times that Knights of Columbus has invested in political campaigns it has been on “divisive social issues” that are “driving people away from the church,” Salt said.

At 3:10 p.m., Patrick Carolan of Stratford showed up with a fresh print out of the petition and all of its signatures.

Carolan said he thinks the Catholic church has a right to keep gay marriage out of the church, but it doesn’t have a right to try to stop gay marriages outside of the church. That amounts to an attempt to limit freedom of religion, he said.

Carolan said the Knights of Columbus should get out of politics and get back to the organization’s original mission caring for the sick and the poor, as laid out by founder Father McGivney.

“McGivney would be rolling in his grave,” Carolan said.


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posted by: streever on November 21, 2012  9:37am

Right on! Great work by these Catholics.

The Catholic church has long outlived their doctrine of infallibility and restrictive social actions. Neither the Pope nor any other man on earth is infallible—while I respect the need to follow leaders and establish meaningful authority, it is a mistake of this Pope and the Catholic church to exercise their limited funds to oppress others.

No one will ever force the Catholic church to perform gay marriages in their cathedrals. If the Catholics would like to try to limit the right to marriage outside of their cathedrals, they are welcome to.

They simply need to register as a lobbying agency and pay taxes on the income they allocate for lobbying purposes.

The Catholic church does a lot of good. I’d like to see them draw a clear distinction legally and financially in their work, so that interested parties can support their charity without supporting their bigotry.

posted by: Walt on November 21, 2012  1:45pm

Lobbying is a legitimate deductible expense for business firms, cities and all taxpaying institutions as I recall

Doubt if Streever who is usually   reasonable, really wants to apply a special tax on all non-profits   which express an opinion which may be opposite to his.

Would run afoul of freedom of speech provisions too.

If some folks wish to change the centuries-old definition of “marriage”  to include other than “one man to one woman”, that is their privilege,  but we do not all have to agree with them.. 

I am a Catholic and a Knight and do support the efforts of the Supreme Council KofC in these matters

That does not, as I see it,  give Streever the right to deem me a bigot just because he believes otherwise (Suggest you re-read the Comment Policy)

Streever calls it bigotry, but I support the civil rights actions   giving equal rights to gays, just not their efforts to redefine marriage,which is no more reasonable than saying   triple or quadruple marriages (at one time)  would be okay

PS to editors I note you have now corrected Father McGivney’s name.  I suggest you also correct the location of the KofC Building in New Haven which is also in error


posted by: streever on November 21, 2012  3:38pm

Restricting the freedoms of others is a form of bigotry. While the Catholic church can refuse to perform same-sex marriages without practicing bigotry, it is absolutely a form of bigotry to engage in limiting the rights of others who are not part of the church.

You think that my identifying a practice fraught with bigotry is against the comment policy, but I’ll just remind you that I haven’t actually called you a bigot, nor was I even engaging you: I was describing the actions of the catholic church as a form of bigotry.

Political lobbying is actually explicitly made illegal for 501c3 non-profits, and I believe it should stay as such.

“Action groups” are allowed to lobby, and they also have their own tax rules.

I would like to see all not-for-profit organizations behave as what they are, which is why we give them a tax-exemption, Walt: Because they have explicit missions that are NON governmental.

I am open-minded, but when it comes to several hundred years of tax precedence, I don’t want to change everything. I’d like to see tax exemption laws remain how they were intended to remain: to not penalize organizations doing a job that is valuable to society yet which the government does poorly.

Political lobbying is not a service which the government fails at, unlike higher education, church, and art classes for individuals with disabilities. Church services, funerals, and universities are all important services.

Political lobbying is not. While you may wish to impose your values on others, it should be done through a legal organization, such as an Action Group, and not through a non-profit supposedly providing necessary services to society.

posted by: luckyykid on November 22, 2012  7:05am

Streever, one major point I disagree with you on:

“No one will ever force the Catholic church to perform gay marriages in their cathedrals.”

You are wrong on that because the church and businesses WILL be forced to cater to a demographic they strongly oppose. 

Discrimination laws protect gays just like they protect blacks and Hispanics.  Could you imagine a church saying they wouldn’t marry a couple because they were black?  Wouldn’t fly, and neither will refusal to marry a gay couple.

posted by: streever on November 24, 2012  4:14pm

Us disagreeing on this is irrelevant: it is like disagreeing with smallpox or the plague. Regardless of what we think, what will be will be, and I don’t see any way in which banning same-sex marriage at the Federal level—which is what the KofC is working toward—will prevent it.

On a related note, that is precisely one of the arguments used by opponents of inter-racial marriage. While certainly MOST churches now perform it, many still do not.

posted by: streever on November 24, 2012  4:17pm

Sorry: hit enter too soon.

You draw an interesting analogy to racial discrimination, but ultimately, a flawed one: the arguments don’t hold up, because there is currently no trend toward it.

The reason why racial discrimination is so easy to spot and stop is because black is a suspect classification. It is unlikely that homosexuality will ever be a “suspect classification”—suspect classification has been cited to require an immediate visual identifier, which being gay does not have in and of itself.