Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boycott the Knights of Columbus

Father Donald Cozzens, PhD is a psychologist and the former president-rector of St. Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio. In his books “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” and “Freeing Celibacy.” He unveils the fact that a very large percentage of Catholic priests are gay. In his book “Freeing Celibacy” in chapter six, which is entitled “Celibacy and Homosexuality,” he states bluntly “the growing awareness that the priesthood is or is becoming a gay profession” [page 65].

Many priests have E-mailed me and expressed their rage and anger over the hypocrisy of the Catholic hierarchy in supporting anti-marriage equality legislation. They have often referred to the bishops as “old queens” who blithely support anti-gay efforts, because of their own self-loathing. One of the organizations, which the bishops have effectively employed to do their dirty work, has been the Knights of Columbus.

Specifically in California, the K of C donated large amounts of monies to the “yes on Prop 8” campaign. Priests feel impotent to fight back because they are kept in positions of economic servitude by their bishops. Cozzens explains why priests are paid in such a Byzantine fashion in his book “The Changing Face of the Priesthood.” Most people express surprise when I tell them that priests are "self-employed" and also receive a "W-2 Form" from the Diocese for their taxes. Self employed persons are not protect like employees by labor laws.

Beyond the issue of salary, priests traditionally receive a BA in Philosophy and then, another four-year degree which is a Masters in Divinity. Neither of these two degrees is very easily translatable into secular employment. This effectively makes it very difficult for a priest to transition out of active ministry. A young priest from the Mid-west recently told me “they gave us all the training we needed to be effective counselors, teachers, administrators, etc BUT they made damn sure we never got any of the credentials necessary to get secular employment in any of those fields.” This is no mere coincidence.

So, what can priests do to fight the anti-gay agenda of the bishops and the K of C? Here is a short list:

1) Borrow the full amount against your Knights of Columbus life insurance policy immediately. Take the check and invest the funds with an LGBT friendly fund. If every priest and K of C insurance policy holder were to do this, it would create a considerable capital drain on K of C and cripple their ability to write large checks to thwart LGBT legislation and ballot initiatives.

2) If you are a layperson, write them at tell them why you have done this. If you are a priest, simply inform them that you have decided to use the funds to promote social justice.

3) Pastors have the power to decide what is published in the Sunday bulletin and what is announced at Mass on Sundays. Do not let the K of C publish or announce.

4) Pastors may grant or withhold permission for organizations to use church facilities for their meetings. Most parishes have very tight facility scheduling. Create a program and tell the K of C they need to meet elsewhere.

Eventually, they will get the message. Economic boycotts helped bring down an unjust regime in South Africa and brought an end to apartheid there, it can work here too.


Teddy Arnolden said...

The Venerable Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus as a mutual benefit society at a time when Catholic Americans were discriminated against by other organizations which provided benefits and insurance for members and member families (Masonic loges, some labor unions, etc.). The order is dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. I imagine Father McGivney would be sad that the K of C is now engaging in unfraternal and unpatriotic discrimination and is a source of disunity. Given the charter of the K of C, I wonder if it is even legal for a non-profit group to be so heavily active in partisan politics (and still retain tax exempt status). Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, a Republican, served as a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. The K of C donated an incredible $1 million to support Prop 8. This money only hurts American families. I am glad you are asking people to, essentially, divest from the K of C. They K of C has abandoned the values of its founder and that is very sad. Episcopalians used to be called "the Republican Party at Prayer." I think that label now belongs to the Catholic Church in the USA.

Anonymous said...

I have just begun helping in a new parish as a supply priest.

The very first time I walked through the doors for Vigil a male parishioner approached me..Are you a Knight Father? I said I am. Then immediately, "come to our meeting on Thursday night." I looked at him and saw the arrogance in his eyes as though he was perfect before God.....I responded "sorry I am to busy..." the next week was a repeat.

My purpose of relating this story is to say I have seperated myself for several years from the Knights.

I do not have an insurance policy with them but I do not agree with their work. The billions they have could feed millions but they use the money for things not of Gospel cleaning the Sistin Chaple etc...the cleaning of paintings might be important to art but human life and its ability to feed people is more important..

almost 20 million to clean those paintings

Fr Geoff you are a very specail angel God has sent us.

Thank you
Fr Vince

Anonymous said...

Once the bishops started opposing EVERY measure legalizing same-sex marriage or civil unions/domestic partnerships (they're even opposing a bill to allow Americans to sponsor their foreign gay loved one!), & once the Vatican ratched up its anti-gay rhetoric, I stopped giving to my local parish, Catholic "charities" - anything Catholic related. The hierarchy has poisoned Mother Church.

Mareczku said...

I wasn't all that aware before of how the Knights of Columbus gave all that money to support Prop. 8 What a waste of money. Why not give the money to help the poor? This organization should not support discrimination.

Delizza said...

The Church would fall on its flat on its a@@ if all the gay clergy "came out" but since that is unlikely, you propose a sensible "hit"... THEIR WALLETS. They can't bankroll the opposition if there will be consequences...



Dale_M said...

Fr. Geoff,

This blog post seems to have prompted the Catholic News Agency to write an article. In it they quote you as saying that you want priests to borrow against the Knights of Columbus insurance policy and then refuse to pay the loan.

I just wanted to alert you, since their article is now being posted on different websites.

Here is a link to the CNA article:

Anonymous said...

The finances behind the K of C are obscure and I don't believe most members are aware where their contributions actually are going. The whole insurance company thing underlying the 'good works' makes one question. My husband is an officer and we are routinely reimbursed for expenses for meals and hotel stays when we attend (together) all the many dinners and degree events. They seem to exist mostly as an organization to reward itself with donor money and spend on gluttony. Don't get me wrong--they do help provide a fraternal example to Catholic men of family and faith. But . . . I feel guilty with all the fancy dinners. I doubt the members realize how much goes to support the K of C organization itself. Regarding spending on the Vatican--don't get me started. Anytime money is involved, it will be used for personal gain in some way. My husband would be furious if he knew I feel this way.

Shawn said...

I remember the akward contrast at mass in Visalia, the thoughtful priest who made me feel so welcome. Then the Knights of Columbus would take the podium and feeling their judgment I would hear their message of exclusion stating how people who didn't dress appropriate for church weren't welcome. It has bothered me all these years wondering of the contrast. I am thankful to have this insight. Those were very akward moments as the koc implied they spoke on your behalf but said things so vast in contrast to your message of grace.

Anonymous said...

Belief in traditional marriage is not discrimination. Gay and heterosexual persons have the exact same rights in the United States. To change the language of law to benefit a point of view is Orwellian and, ultimately, can justify the means to any end. Every Christian that I know who believes in the scriptural definition of marriage no more hate Gays than they do those who masturbate, those who fornicate or those who have married again after divorce, or anymore than they hate themselves for the sin in their own lives. Legally redefining what is,is, does not change what is,is. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and same sex relationships are civil unions or partnerships. My is, is not what your is, is. Father Geoff Farrow's "is", appears to be political to me. I am a proud supporter of the Knight of Columbus.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Anonymous,

Define your terms. “Traditional marriage” for Abraham, our father in faith, was two wives. For Kings David and Solomon “Traditional marriage” meant hundreds of wives. In medieval times “Traditional marriage” meant your father told you who you were going to marry, like it or not. In case you missed English literature in High School, that was the entire premise of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The revolutionary idea that two people should marry for love represented a redefinition of marriage.

“Traditional marriage” for Catholics today living outside of the USA, means you get married once and if your spouse abandons and/or divorces you, too bad, you simply must live the rest of your life alone. If you live in the USA; however, you may easily procure an annulment and remarry multiple times. I’m certain that it is a mere coincidence that 60% of the church’s revenue comes from the USA.

Until the prophet in Salt Lake City had a revelation ending polygamy for LDS (Mormons) “Traditional marriage” meant polygamy in the Utah Territory, redefining marriage as monogamy was the price of admission of Utah as a state. I know that was the nineteenth century, but today in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.. “Traditional marriage” means as many wives as you can afford. One muslim religious commentary suggest 5 wives. Two wives will always fight with each other, 3 and two gang up on one, 4 and you have two binary alliances, 5 and you have an nice mix.

Even a cursory reading of history reveals that there is no such thing as “Traditional marriage.” Marriage, has and continues, to evolve and be redefined, even within the Catholic tradition. If you doubt this, go find old Missale Romano (Sacramentary) and read the Marriage Rite prayers. As late as the sixties, the role of women in marriage was seen as subservient and bound to obedience to their husbands. Try that with your wife now and I suggest you learn to duck flying objects.

“Every Christian I know believes in the scriptural definition of marriage” Really? Do all of your Protestant friends believe that someone who divorces and remarries is an adulterer? So your Lutheran, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, etc friend can all get multiple divorces and remarry multiple times. They still read their Bibles religiously and believe that they are the best of Christians. Then again, so does former Speaker of the House, and convert to Catholicism, Newt Gingrich. He takes communion on Sunday and none of his former wives seem to be an impediment, Jesus commandment against divorce and remarriage not withstanding. Even if they did, you seem to forget that the USA is a secular nation; in fact, that is why the late Ayatollah Khomeini called us “the Great Satan,” because we do not have an Established Religion.

My prayer for you Anonymous is that one day you can sign your real name to your posts and not hide in the shadows. That and perhaps develop empathy for other human beings. The Sabbath (and marriage) were created for man and not man for the Sabbath (and marriage).