Statues of Confederate leaders and the explorer Christopher Columbus have been torn down in the US, as pressure grows on authorities to remove monuments connected to slavery and colonialism.
The Knights of Columbus was once a nice fraternal organization for Roman Catholics in the United States, ala the Free Masons for non-Catholics or the Elks Club or the Lions Club for people in general regardless of religious affiliation.
However, if founding Father Francis McGivney were to look in on the Knights tax filings today, he would be shocked to see that his organization and its leaders have become powerful and influential in ways unimaginable in 1882.
For nearly two decades, under the leadership of a former political operative (Supreme Knight Sir Carl A. Anderson), the Knights of Columbus has increasingly used its enormous wealth to influence the direction of the church, underwriting think tanks and news outlets while gaining entrance into some of the highest levels of decision-making in the church.
During this time, it has become a right-wing advocacy group, and people should know that their donations are going to assist in the Republican Party’s messaging and trying to push the Church in the direction of the Republican Party through strategic donations and spending on non-Church items and on the Church directly in areas that they think will favor Republicans, as well as in their internal messaging.
Carl Anderson, the current Grand Knight, has at times right near elections used member funds to take out newspaper ads calling out people like Joe Biden as “Bad Catholics.”
The time for being complacent is over
What to do?
Change the name.
Language Creates Reality
Etymology. The word knight, from Old English cniht (“boy” or “servant”), is a cognate of the German word Knecht (“servant, bondsman, vassal”).
The meaning of cniht changed over time from its original meaning of “boy” to “household retainer.”
A narrowing of the generic meaning “servant” to “military follower of a king or other superior” was the common understanding by 1100 CE.
Eventually, a knight was a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state (including the pope) or representative for service to the monarch, the church or the country, especially in a military capacity.
Columbus is important. He initiated a turning point in our history. But he should not be someone to be celebrated. (Harvard Graduate School, 2019).
Christopher Columbus did not “discover America,” but his voyages began the Columbian exchange, a turning point in world history involving the massive transfers of human populations, cultures, ideas, animals, plants, and diseases.
Understanding controversies — what Columbus did, how he did it — builds skills that are fundamental for understanding history and establishing a more honest understanding of the past, especially for those who have been victimized.
In recent years, conversations about Columbus have broadened our understanding of the violent abuse of indigenous peoples, the launch of the transatlantic slave trade, and the introduction of a swath of lethal diseases to an unprepared continent. Such conversations have been empowering especially for traditionally underrepresented people like women and people of color.
Continue the good work that has been done through the organization. Current members might consider the dissolution of the organization and reforming as something that continues the same good works, but is no longer part of the national organization and no longer kicks funds up the ladder for a political agenda. It might finally become a more inclusive organization, welcoming women into equal membership and not restricting its membership to “practicing Roman Catholics.” And please, let’s get rid of the silly costumes: swords, baldrics, plumes!
Think about becoming the Servants of St. Oscar Cardinal Romero or the Compassion of St. John of God.
The three symbols of K of C emblem:
fasces: military or executive power
sword: military power, violence or destruction
anchor: traditionally meant “to hold in place,” bound.