Sunday, October 21, 2012

Most U.S. Catholics Back Marriage Equality, Yet Knights of Columbus Pour $15.85 Million into Anti-Gay Efforts

I realize that I have addressed the issue of the millions of dollars ($15.85 million through 2010 - the Knights delayed filing for 2011 until after this year's elections most likely to hide their involvement in political activities) being poured into anti-gay efforts by the Knights of Columbus - an organization founded to protect widows and children through a fraternal insurance plan and social support.  The Knights of Columbus - of which I was a 4th Degree member up until the time I left the Catholic Church out of disgust over the sex abuse scandal - have betrayed the goals of its founder in many ways, not the least of which is the organization's utter failure to demand accountability and a thorough house cleaning of the Church hierarchy.  As the wealthiest lay organization in the Catholic universe, the Knights could have been a cause for good and the expulsion of bishops and cardinals (and yes even Popes) who played a role in the world wide criminal conspiracy to aid, abet and cover up for sexual predator priests who preyed - often repeatedly - on children and youths.  Instead, the Knights have continued to exhibit blind, servile allegiance to those who allowed crimes against children and fought tooth and claw to deny compensation to victims.  Father McGivney, founder of the Knights must be rolling in his grave.

But such allegiance to criminal conspirators is not the Knights' only sin against children.  The organization has poured millions of dollars into anti-gay initiatives, including anti-gay marriage efforts which, if successful, guarantee that many children will be deprived of the stability and financial security that marriage would bring if their same sex parents could marry.  And then there's the issue of the misuse of funds raised from other Catholics that is raised under the premise that it will be used to help needy children, especially those suffering for disabilities.  Hypocrites is perhaps the best word to describe what the Knights of Columbus have become under the current leadership.  A piece in Religion Dispatches looks at the anti-gay efforts of the Knights and the organization's growing isconnect from the Catholic laity which increasingly supports same sex marriage by considerable margins.  Here are some article highlights:

Quick, what organization was founded to support justice for immigrants, boasts nearly two million (all-male) members, and loves a good parade? The Knights of Columbus still support immigrants’ rights, but those sober-faced men marching down Main Street in full parade regalia are also part of an organization that was the single largest donor in support of California’s Proposition 8. 

This venerable fraternal order has taken up the anti-equality baton in a big, flamboyant way.  The National Organization for Marriage provides organizational muscle to anti-equality initiatives and legislative campaigns. What gives them that muscle is money, and lots of it, from big donors. A new in-depth report released today by Equally Blessed, a coalition of pro-equality Catholic organizations, reveals that the Knights are among NOM’s biggest supporters.

“The Strong Right Arm of the Bishops: The Knights of Columbus and Anti-Marriage Equality Funding,” documents $6.25 million in direct Knights funding to anti-marriage equality campaigns at the national level and in a dozen states since 2005—and another $9.6 million to organizations that are working “to build a conservative religious and political culture to oppose efforts for marriage equality.” According to the report, among the biggest recipients of Knights funding are NOM ($1.9 million) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ($1.2 million). The report does not include figures for 2011 because the Knights delayed filing its tax reporting for 2011 until after the November 2012 elections.

 But you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of the millions in anti-gay spending on the organization’s website, which highlights contributions to groups like Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. 

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Equally Blessed member group Dignity, . . . 
says the work “is being done under cover, using the Knights’ good name and reputation and all the good work they do in the community.” According to the Equally Blessed report, “Of the nearly $155 million donated by the Knights of Columbus in 2010, $125 million was raised at the local level through pancake breakfasts, casino nights, carnivals, and the like.”  

Duddy-Burke says most individual members of the Knights are focused on the kind of charitable work the organization is known for. She said local members have little influence over what happens at the national level.

The Equally Blessed report also notes that Supreme Knight Carol Anderson is a Republican political operative equally well connected to conservatives in the Vatican and in U.S. political circles, including William Lori, Bishop of Baltimore and head of the bishops’ anti equality efforts who also serves as the Knights’ “Supreme Chaplain.” Other right-wing groups such as the Federalist Society, the Howard Center for Family, and Religion & Society (which sponsors the World Congress of Families) have been funded by the Knights, but among the largest recipients is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is aggressively supporting the bishops’ “religious liberty” campaign attacks on the Obama administration.

According to the report, the Catholic Church has funded more than 50 percent of the effort to write discrimination against LGBT people into the Minnesota constitution. In Maryland, cash donations from the Knights and NOM have provided more than 75 percent of the Maryland Marriage Alliance’s war chest. And in Washington, the Catholic Church, Knights, and NOM have provided more than 55 percent of the funding.

“What we have on our side is the belief of the majority of American Catholics,” says Dignity’s Duddy-Burke, noting that more than half of American Catholics support marriage equality. She says “It is not consistent with the gospel for any segment of the church to be using millions of dollars to hurt people.”

Unfortunately, nowadays, most of what the Vatican and conservative Catholics and Protestants do is not consistent with the Gospel message.  Rather, these people have assumed roles even worse and more damning that those of the Pharisees so derided in the Gospels.  Fear and hatred of others have become their principal stock in trade.  Oh, and lets not forget self-congratulation and a misplaced sense of piety.  As for the Knights of Columbus, it is far past time that their tax-exempt status be revoked.

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