Pope commends Knights of Columbus for defense of religious liberty in the United States
In the midst of unprecedented attempts by the federal government to encroach on First Amendment religious liberty, the pope has applauded and encouraged the work of the Knights of Columbus to protect Americans’ religious freedom.
In a letter of greeting sent to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, as the Knights of Columbus prepares for its 130th international convention in Anaheim, California, Pope Benedict XVI — via a letter signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State — encouraged the organization’s religious liberty work and expressed confidence that the Knights would take a leadership role in leading the laity “to counter reductive secularism which would delegitimize the church’s participation in public debate about issues which are determining the future of American society.”
The Knights — led by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson — have been actively involved in the defense of religious freedom. Every one of the Knights’ state councils in the United States passed a resolution this year in support of religious liberty, and Supreme Knight Anderson has written and spoken on the subject both in the media and in a series of public speeches against proposed limits to First Amendment rights including the HHS Mandate – which seeks, with only the narrowest of exemptions, to force employers to cover medical interventions which are contrary to Catholic teaching — and the government’s arguments in Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC, which unsuccessfully sought to eliminate the exception from general employment law enjoyed by religious ministers.
The letter expressing the pope’s sentiments stated: “At a time when concerted efforts are being made to redefine and restrict the exercise of the right to religious freedom, the Knights of Columbus have worked tirelessly to help the Catholic community recognize and respond to the unprecedented gravity of these new threats to the Church’s liberty and public moral witness. By defending the right of all religious believers, as individual citizens and in their institutions, to work responsibly in shaping a democratic society inspired by their deepest beliefs, values and aspiration, you Order has proudly lived up to the high religious and patriotic principles which inspired its founding.”
It continued: “His Holiness is confident that the Supreme Convention will carry on this distinguished legacy by providing sound inspiration, guidance and direction to a new generation of faithful and dedicated Catholic laymen. As he stated to the bishops of the United States earlier this year, the demands of the new evangelization and the defense of the church’s freedom in our day call for ‘an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-a-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the church’s participation in public debate about issues which are determining the future of American society’ (Ad Limina Address, 19 Jan. 2012).”
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson noted that: “the message from the pope to the Knights of Columbus is clear. We must continue to stand up for our religious liberty and to point the way for our fellow Catholics to do the same. Defense of religious liberty has long been a part of the Knights of Columbus history — dating back to our defense of Catholic education from the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. We are honored by the pope’s encouragement and confidence in our work, and will continue to do all we can to protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans from laws and regulations that would encroach on the first freedom guaranteed in our bill of rights — the freedom to practice our religion.”
The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest fraternal group, with more than 1.8 million members worldwide, the majority of whom live in the United States. One of the country’s most active charitable groups, last year the Knights of Columbus gave more than $158 million and 70 million hours to charitable causes.
The organization will hold its 130th convention in Anaheim, Calif. from Aug. 7-9.