Knights, Minnesota Archbishop Endanger Church Neutrality

Article excerpt

For the last 128 years; millions of Catholic men have faithfully served the church through the Knights of Columbus' mission to help those in need. But do today's 1.8 million members and their supporters know that their supreme knight, Carl Anderson, is endangering their legacy by contributing their hard-earned charitable dollars not to the needy, but to political battles?

In October 2008, the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that they had formed a partnership. The Knights would fund the bishops' anti-marriage-equality campaigns and Anderson would sit as a consultant to the bishops' ad hoc committee on the same topic.

Since then, the Knights of Columbus have contributed millions of dollars to restrict the freedom to marry in state political battles from California to Maine.

Let me be clear that this was engagement in political battles--not efforts to simply promote among Catholics the Vatican's teaching on same-gender marriage, a teaching the majority of U.S. Catholics reject as unjust discrimination.

Since the Knights and the bishops made their alliance, the Knights have funneled money through the "National Organization for Marriage," a political group that seeks to deny same-gender couples the civil freedom to marry. Last year the Knights contributed $1.4 million to the National Organization for Marriage, as listed in the 2009 Report of the Supreme Knight.

Now, the Knights have ventured into political propaganda even further.

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis created a DVD video message that was sent to more than 400,000 Catholic households in Minnesota last month. Nienstedt exhorts Catholics to take political action to prevent civil marriage equality.

While the archbishop is careful not to mention the name of the gubernatorial candidate for whom he wishes Catholics would vote, there are a number of indicators that make it appear that this DVD was not merely a faith-based educational video but rather a politically influenced campaign tool supported by the National Organization for Marriage and the Knights of Columbus:

* On Sept. 19, Catholic News Agency reported that the archdiocese "brought in Maggie Gallagher, head of the National Organization for Marriage, to discuss strategies for opposing the redefinition of marriage." Later, the article explained why: "The issue is relevant to the governor's race in Minnesota. Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate Mark Dayton supports same-sex 'marriage,' while Republican candidate Tom Emmer does not."

* On Sept. 22, the public relations firm for the National Organization for Marriage issued a press release announcing it had launched a television ad supporting Emmer. The release reads: "Thirty-one other states have exercised their constitutional right to vote on marriage. ... Mark Dayton and Tom Horner [the Independence Party candidate for governor] do not want the people of Minnesota to have any say. …