The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts today criticized the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus for prohibiting state and local jurisdictions in the Order from suspending the membership of candidates and elected officials who support abortion and same gender marriage. At its annual state convention last weekend, the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus refused to take action on a resolution authored by Former District Deputy Joseph B. Craven Jr. urging the State Deputy to suspend such members, citing a letter from Supreme Advocate and General Counsel John A. Marrella.
Marrella stated: "... 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, which will consider the prudence of addressing the conduct of the public figure in light of the overall good of the Order."
In the thirty-seven years since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Board of Directors has never, to public knowledge, removed a single pro-abortion political figure from the Knights of Columbus. In Massachusetts, a majority of Knights serving in the Legislature voted in 2007 against a constitutional amendment restoring traditional marriage, and voted in 2005 for a law which compels Catholic hospitals to distribute the so-called morning after pill to rape victims.
The Catholic Action League called Marrella's letter "a shocking abdication of responsibility, and a shameful surrender to the culture of death."
Catholic Action League Executive Director C.J. Doyle stated: "This letter effectively kills any grassroots initiative within the Knights to address the scandal of pro-abortion pols in the Order. It is now clear that the Knights of Columbus, for the foreseeable future, will continue to harbor in its ranks public officials who oppose Catholic morality, and who believe that the killing of 1.3 million pre-born children each year ought to remain legal in the United States."
"Apparently, for the national leadership of the Knights of Columbus, the protection of its insurance business, tax exempt status, and its ratings from Standard and Poors is more important than defending the right to life. Despite its pretensions to the contrary, the Knights of Columbus has now made its peace with legal abortion in America."
Enclosed is a copy of the letter from Supreme Advocate John A. Marrella to State Deputy William F. Donovan.
April 15, 2010
Mr. William F. Donovan
4 Irving Drive
Walpole, MA 02081-2430
Worthy State Deputy and Dear Brother Donovan:
You have asked our opinion with respect to a proposed resolution calling on the State Deputy to summarily suspend certain public figures who are members of the Knights of Columbus and who have publicly taken positions contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the proposed resolution would be imprudent and contrary to the policy of the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council.
We recognize that some of our members who are public figures may use their public position to advocate or support policy positions that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals. We further recognize that such conduct may cause confusion in that, among other things, it contradicts the Catholic identity and mission of the Order. We also recognize that such conduct can be the source of internal dissension within councils and among members.
We understand that some subordinate councils have the impulse to address real or perceived scandal caused by members who are public figures. Because of the public stature of such members, however, decisions to summarily suspend the member necessarily affect the entire Order. For this reason, 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, which will consider the prudence of addressing the conduct of the public figure in light of the overall good of the Order.
The reason for this is straightforward. Any action by a state council likely will be understood by the public as an action of the Supreme Council on behalf of the entire Order. Of course, subordinate councils, including state councils, do no have the authority to speak on behalf of the entire Order with respect to such matters. To the extent that any subordinate council addresses the public acts of particular public figures, they may do so only at the express direction of and in concert with the Supreme Board of Directors, only in the rarest of circumstances, and only after careful consideration of all possible ramifications relating to the good of the Order.
Finally, the Order must be sensitive to the role of the bishops, with whom we stand in solidarity. If the public figure's bishop has not excommunicated him for his public positions on issues relating to matters of faith and morals, it would be highly inappropriate for the Knights of Columbus to do so.
We thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to discuss this matter further.
Sincerely and fraternally,
John A. Marrella
Supreme Advocate and General Counsel