Knights’ Work Against Marriage Equality Tarnishes Their Catholic Tradition

The Knights of Columbus’ history of charity is quickly becoming tarnished by their huge financial investment of funds in campaigns to defeat marriage equality proposals across the United States.

Michael O’Keefe, the former vice-president for the Knights’ insurance division, recently criticized this political involvement in an op-ed essay in Maine’s Portland Press Herald.

After recounting how the Knights of Columbus began as a ministry because of anti-Catholic discrimination and “to alleviate the suffering this discrimination caused and to create a life insurance program to protect the economic stability and security of these families,” O’Keefe goes on to observe:

“From 2008 to 2010, the Knights of Columbus has donated more than $3 million to weaken the stability and security of gay and lesbian families by funding campaigns to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry. I urge the Knights of Columbus to remember its history and its pro-family principles and to stop funding campaigns that write discrimination into the laws of Maine and other states.”

O’Keefe is a person who is a natural “bridge” between the worlds of the Knights of Columbus and the LGBT community.  He explains:

“I am the proud father of seven wonderful sons, the youngest of whom is gay. I have enjoyed nothing more than to watch them all grow into the men, the husbands, the fathers and even the Knights they have become.

“I was saddened when I realized how much my youngest struggled to reconcile his Catholic heritage with being born gay. I struggled as well, but it was through love that I accepted and embraced him. This struggle made me a better man and father, and I will be forever grateful for that.

“I am extremely proud of the happy young man he has become and look forward to the day when I can celebrate his marriage just as I have the marriages of his older brothers.

“For 11 years, I worked for the Knights of Columbus, and before my retirement I was a vice president of the organization’s insurance division.”

And his purpose is not to “trash” the Knights, but to make sure that they uphold the best traditions of their organization:

“I was and still am deeply proud to see the fruits of our hard work change this world for the better. This is why I was so disheartened to learn that millions of dollars raised through our insurance programs for charity were being used to fund discriminatory political campaigns.

“In 2009, the Knights of Columbus was the third-largest donor in the drive to repeal marriage equality here in Maine. The Knights of Columbus has donated more than $1 million to the National Organization for Marriage, which is now in its third year of investigation by Maine’s ethics commission for allegedly violating the state’s campaign-finance disclosure laws.

“I fear the Knights of Columbus could jeopardize its charitable work if it continues to support an organization that might be breaking political laws.

“It is certainly within the scope of the mission of the Knights of Columbus to uphold the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding marriage as an example of sacrificial love. It is also within the rights and mission of the Knights of Columbus to present in a positive light a traditional view of marriage as we have known it.

“However, we should all guard against supporting political initiatives that institutionalize discrimination in any form. We must strike a middle ground that recognizes and respects differences of opinion and allows for real civil discourse.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry