Knights of Columbus

Knights of Columbus
Knights of Columbus

Knights of Columbus Emblem
Abbreviation KofC
Motto In service to one. In service to all
Formation March 29, 1882 (1882-03-29) (129 years ago)
Type Catholic fraternal service
Headquarters 1 Columbus Plaza,
New Haven, Connecticut
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Key people Michael J. McGivney

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in the United States in 1882, it is named in honor of Christopher Columbus.[1]

There are more than 1.8 million members in 15,000 councils, with nearly 200 councils on college campuses. Membership is limited to "practical Catholic" men aged 18 or older.[2]

Councils have been chartered in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Guatemala, Panama, Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Guam, Spain, Japan, Cuba, and most recently in Poland. The Knights' official junior organization, the Columbian Squires, has over 5,000 Circles. All the Order's ceremonials and business meetings are restricted to members, though all other events are open to the public. A promise not to reveal any details of the ceremonials except to an equally qualified Knight is required to ensure their impact and meaning for new members; an additional clause subordinates the promise to that Knight's civil and religious duties.

In the 2010 fraternal year, the Order gave over US$154 million directly to charity (over $1.406 billion in charitable contributions and 653 million man hours in the last 10 years) and performed over 70 million man-hours of voluntary service. Over 413,000 pints of blood were donated. For their support for the Church and local communities, as well as for their philanthropic efforts, the Order often refers to itself as the "strong right arm of the Church".[3] The Order's insurance program has more than $80 billion of life insurance policies in force, backed up by $15.5 billion in assets, and holds the highest insurance ratings given by A. M. Best and the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association.[4], though Standard & Poor's downgraded the program to AA+ in August 2011[5].



The Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus was founded by an Irish-American Catholic priest, The Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut. He gathered a group of men from St. Mary's parish for an organizational meeting on October 2, 1881 and the Order was incorporated under the laws of the U.S. state of Connecticut on March 29, 1882.[6] Though the first councils were all in that state, the Order spread throughout New England and the United States in subsequent years.

The primary motivation for the Order was to be a mutual benefit society. As a parish priest in an immigrant community, McGivney saw what could happen to a family when the breadwinner died, and wanted to provide insurance to care for the widows and orphans left behind. He had to temporarily leave his seminary studies to care for his family when his father died.[7] In the late 19th century, Catholics were regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social services.[8] In addition, Catholics were either barred from many of the popular fraternal organizations, or, as in the case of Freemasonry, forbidden from joining by the Catholic Church itself. McGivney wished to provide them an alternative. He also believed that Catholicism and fraternalism were not incompatible and wished to found a society that would encourage men to be proud of their American-Catholic heritage.[9]

McGivney traveled to Boston to examine the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters and to Brooklyn to learn about the recently established Catholic Benevolent League, both of which offered insurance benefits. He found the latter to be lacking the excitement he thought was needed if his organization were to compete with the secret societies of the day. He expressed an interest in establishing a New Haven Court of the Foresters, but the charter of Massachusetts Foresters prevented them from operating outside their Commonwealth. The committee of St. Mary's parishioners which McGivney had assembled then decided to form a club that was entirely original.[10]

McGivney had originally conceived of the name "Sons of Columbus", but James T. Mullen, who would become the first Supreme Knight, successfully suggested that "Knights of Columbus" would better capture the ritualistic nature of the new organization.[11] The Order was founded 10 years before the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World, and in a time of renewed interest in him. Columbus was a hero to many American Catholics, and the naming him as patron was partly an attempt to bridge the division between the Irish-Catholic founders of the Order and Catholic immigrants of other nationalities living in Connecticut.

Christopher Columbus is the patron and namesake of the Knights.

The Connecticut Catholic ran an editorial in 1878 that illustrated the esteem in which American Catholics held Columbus. "As American Catholics we do not know of anyone who more deserves our grateful remembrance than the great and noble man – the pious, zealous, faithful Catholic, the enterprising navigator, and the large-hearted and generous sailor: Christopher Columbus."[12]

The name of Columbus was also partially intended as a mild rebuke to Anglo-Saxon Protestant leaders, who upheld the explorer (a Catholic Genovese Italian working for Catholic Spain) as an American hero, yet simultaneously sought to marginalize recent Catholic immigrants. In taking Columbus as their patron, they were sending the message that not only could Catholics be full members of American society, but were, in fact, instrumental in its foundation.[13]

By the time of the first annual convention in 1884, the Order was prospering. In the five councils throughout Connecticut there were 459 members. Groups from other states were requesting information.[14] The Charter of 1899 included four statements of purpose, including "to promote such social and intellectual intercourse among its members as shall be desirable and proper, and by such lawful means as to them shall seem best."[15] The new charter showed members' desire to grow the organization beyond a simple mutual benefit insurance society.

The original insurance system devised by McGivney gave a deceased Knight's widow a $1,000 death benefit. Each member was assessed $1 upon a death, and when the number of Knights grew beyond 1,000 the assessment decreased according to the rate of increase.[16] Each member, regardless of age, was assessed equally. As a result, younger, healthier members could expect to pay more over the course of their lifetimes than those men who joined when they were older.[17] There was also a Sick Benefit Deposit for members who fell ill and could not work. Each sick Knight was entitled to draw up to $5 a week for 13 weeks (roughly equivalent to $125.75 in 2009 dollars[18]). If he remained sick after that, the council to which he belonged regulated the sum of money given to him.[19]

Around 1912 it was claimed that fourth degree Knights had to swear an oath to exterminate Freemasons and Protestants. Despite the fact that it was denied, and the real oath published, this was read into the congressional record by Thomas S. Butler. In the 1928 Presidential election a million copies were printed to hurt the campaign of the Catholic Democratic candidate Al Smith.[20]

Today there are more than 15,000 councils around the world, and the Knights of Columbus is a multi-billion dollar non-profit charitable organization. Knights distribute Tootsie Rolls to raise funds to fight developmental disabilities, volunteer for the Special Olympics and other charitable organizations, erect pro-life billboards and "Keep Christ in Christmas" signs, conduct blood drives and raise funds for disaster victims, and parade at patriotic events with their red capes, feathered chapeaux, and ceremonial swords.

In 2010, the cause for McGivney's canonization was before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. A guild[21] had been formed to promote his cause. On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. The pope's declaration significantly advances the priest's process toward sainthood, and gives the parish priest the distinction of "Venerable Servant of God." If the cause is successful, he will be the first priest born in the United States to be canonized as a Saint.


While some councils were integrated, increasing pressure came from Church officials and organizations to change its blackball system and Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart was actively encouraging councils to accept black candidates by the end of the 1950s.[22]

In 1963 Hart attended a special meeting at the White House hosted by President Kennedy to discuss civil rights with other religious leaders. A few months later, a Notre Dame alumnus's application was rejected because he was black. Six council officers resigned in protest and the incident made national news. Hart then declared that the process for membership would be revised at the next Supreme Convention, but died before he could see it take place.[23]

The 1964 Supreme Convention was scheduled to be held at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. A few days before the Convention, new Supreme Knight John W. McDevitt learned the hotel admitted only white guests and immediately threatened to move to another hotel. The hotel changed its policy and so did the Order. The Convention amended the admissions rule to require one-third of those voting to reject a new member and in 1972 the Supreme Convention again amended its rules to require a majority of members voting to reject a candidate.[24]


Supreme Knight Supreme Chaplain
Carl A. Anderson Bishop William E. Lori
Deputy Supreme Knight Dennis Savoie
Supreme Secretary Charles E. Maurer Jr.
Supreme Treasurer Logan T. Ludwig
Supreme Advocate John Marrella
Supreme Warden Francisco R. Gomez
Supreme Master Dennis Stoddard

The Supreme Council is the governing body of the Order and is composed of elected representatives from each jurisdiction. The Supreme Council acts in similar manner to shareholders at an annual meeting, and each year elects seven members to the Supreme Board of Directors for three-year terms. The twenty-one member board then chooses from its own membership the senior operating officials of the Order, including the Supreme Knight.[25]

State Councils in each of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, each province in Canada, and other jurisdictions carved out of member countries are led by State Deputies and other officers elected at state conventions. Territorial Deputies are appointed by the Supreme Knight, and lead areas not yet incorporated into State Councils.

District Deputies are appointed by the Supreme Knight upon the recommendation of the State Deputy, and oversee several local councils, each of which is led by a Grand Knight. Other elected council officers include the Deputy Grand Knight, Chancellor, Warden, Recorder, Treasurer, Advocate, Guards and Trustees. A Chaplain is appointed by the Grand Knight and a Financial Secretary by the Supreme Knight. Council officers are properly addressed by using the title "worthy" (e.g. Worthy Grand Knight). Councils are numbered in the order in which they chartered into the Order and are named by the local membership. San Salvador Council #1 was named for the first island Columbus landed on in the New World.

The title "Knight" is purely fraternal and is not the equivalent to a sovereign accolade. Therefore Knights of Columbus do not rank with Chevaliers and Commanders of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Order of Malta, the Order of St. Gregory the Great, or members of any other historic military or chivalric orders.

Degrees and principles

The Order is dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. A First Degree exemplification ceremony, by which a man joins the Order, explicates the virtue of charity. He is then said to be a First Degree Knight of Columbus; after participating the subsequent degrees, each of which focuses on another virtue, he rises to that status. Upon reaching the Third Degree, a gentleman is considered a full member. Priests do not participate directly in Degree exemplifications as laymen do, but rather take the degree by observation.

The first ritual handbook was printed in 1885, but contained only sections teaching Unity and Charity. Supreme Knight Mullen, along with primary ritual author Daniel Colwell, believed that the initiation ceremony should be held in three sections "in accord with the 'Trinity of Virtues, Charity, Unity, and Brotherly love.'" The third section, expounding Fraternity, was officially adopted in 1891. The third degree is the highest degree a Knights of Columbus member can obtain. The fourth degree is a separate honor and is not higher than the third degree. A member must be a third degree Knight before becoming a fourth degree however.[26]

Fourth degree

Rank Color
Supreme Master Dark Blue Cape and Chapeau
Vice Supreme Master Light Blue Cape and Chapeau
Master Gold Cape and Chapeau
District Marshall Green Cape and Chapeau
Faithful Navigator White Cape and Chapeau
Assembly Commander Purple Cape and Chapeau
Color Corps Members Red Cape and White Chapeau

The Fourth Degree is the highest degree of the order. It is an extension of the third degree. Members of this degree are addressed as "Sir Knight". The primary purpose of the Fourth Degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism and to encourage active Catholic citizenship. Fewer than 18% of Knights join the Fourth Degree, which is optional; of a total 1,703,307 Knights there were 292,289 Fourth Degree Knights.[27] A Knight is eligible to join the Fourth Degree after six months from the date of his First Degree, providing he has completed the 2nd and 3rd degrees beforehand.

Assemblies are distinct from councils, and are led by a separate set of elected officers. The Supreme Board of Directors appoints a Supreme Master, currently Dennis Stoddard of Florida, and twenty Vice Supreme Masters to govern the Fourth Degree. Each Vice Supreme Master oversees a Province, which is subdivided into Districts. The Supreme Master appoints District Masters to supervise several assemblies.

Each assembly is led by a Navigator. Other elected assembly officers include the Captain, Admiral, Pilot, Scribe, Purser, Comptroller, Sentinels and Trustees. A Friar and Color Corps Commander are appointed by the Navigator. Assembly officers are properly addressed by using the title "faithful" (e.g. Faithful Navigator). Assemblies are numbered in the order in which they chartered into the Order, and are named by the local membership.

Knights of Columbus marching in a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Fort Collins, Colorado
A Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Chapeau

Only Fourth Degree Knights may optionally purchase and wear the full regalia and join the Assembly’s Color Corps. The Color Corps is the most visible arm of the Knights, as they are often seen in parades and other local events wearing their colorful regalia. Official dress for the Color Corps is a black tuxedo, baldric, white gloves, cape and naval chapeau. In warm climates and during warm months a white dinner jacket may be worn, if done as a unit [28] Baldrics are worn from the right shoulder to left hip and are color specific by nation. In the United States, Panama and the Philippines, baldrics are red, white and blue. Red and white baldrics are used in Canada and Poland; red, white and green in Mexico; and blue and white in Guatemala.[29] Service baldrics include a scabbard for a sword and are worn over the coat while social baldrics are worn under the coat. The colors on a Fourth Degree Knight's cape and chapeau denote the office he holds within the Degree. Faithful Navigators and Past Faithful Navigators are permitted to carry a white handled silver sword. Masters and Vice Supreme Masters, as well as Former Masters and Former Vice Supreme Masters, are also denoted by their gold swords.[30]

The need for a patriotic degree was first considered in 1886, and a special plea was made at the National Meeting of 1899. The first Fourth Degree exemplification followed in 1900 with 1,100 Knights participating at the Lenox Lyceum in New York City.[31] Today there are more than 2,500 Assemblies.[27]

Insurance program

Many early members were recent immigrants who often lived in unsanitary conditions and performed hazardous jobs for poor pay. Since its founding, a primary mission of the Knights of Columbus has been to protect families against the financial ruin caused by the death of the breadwinner. While this method originally was intended to provide a core group of people who would support a widow and her children after the death of their husband and father, it has expanded into much more.

Today the Order offers a modern, professional insurance operation with more than $80 billion of life insurance policies in force as of June 2011.[citation needed] Products include permanent and term life insurance as well as annuities and long term care insurance. Insurance sales grew 19% in 2004, more than three times the rate of industry at large. The Order holds $16 billion in assets and had $1.8 billion (as of August 2010) in revenue and $71 million in profits in 2005.[citation needed] The order paid over $243 million in death benefits in 2009 and $1.7 billion in the last decade as of August 2010. This is large enough to rank 49th on the A.M Best list of all life insurance companies in North America.[32] According to the 2011 Fortune 1000 list the Knights of Columbus ranks 900 in total revenue.[33] Only two other insurers in North America have received the highest ratings from both A. M. Best and Standard & Poor's. The Order is certified by the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association for ethical sales practices.[27]

Charitable giving

Charity is the foremost principle of the Knights of Columbus. In the 2010 fraternal year the Order gave more than $154 million directly to charity and performed over 70 million man hours in volunteer service. According to Independent Sector, an organization that tracks volunteerism, the value of an hour of community service that year was $21 making the total value of the Knights volunteer service nearly $1.5 billion. [34]

The Knights have a tradition of supporting those with physical and developmental disabilities. More than $382 million has been given over the past three decades to groups and programs that support the intellectually and physically disabled. One of the largest recipients of funds in this area is the Special Olympics.[27]

The Vicarius Christi Fund has a endowment of $20 million and has earned more than $35 million, since its establishment in 1981, for the Pope's personal charities. The multimillion dollar Pacem in Terris Fund aids the Catholic Church's efforts for peace in the Middle East. The Order also has eleven separate funds totaling $18 million to assist men and women who are discerning religious vocations pay tuition and other expenses.[35]

The Order funded the first renovation of the façade of St. Peter's Basilica in over 350 years.[36]

The Knights' Satellite Uplink Program has provided funding to broadcast a number of papal events, including the annual Easter and Christmas Masses, as well as the World Day of Peace in Assisi, the Peace Summit in Assisi, World Youth Days, the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica's for the Millennial Jubilee, Pope John Paul II's visit to Nazareth, and several other events. In missionary territories the Order also pays for the satellite downlink.

United in Charity, a general, unrestricted endowment fund, was introduced at the 2004 Supreme Council meeting to support and ensure the overall long-term charitable and philanthropic goals of the Order. The fund is wholly managed, maintained and operated by Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Before United in Charity was formed, all requests for funds were met with the general funds of the Order or in combination with specific appeals. Requests from the Church and organizations closely aligned with the mission of the Order often far exceeded the amount available, and it is hoped that eventually United in Charity's earnings will be sufficient to completely fund the Order's charitable priorities.

The Knights of Columbus established the first national blood-donor program in 1938, two years before the American Red Cross started the wartime “Plasma for Britain” campaign, which became the National Blood Donor Service in 1941.

Aside from their other charitable activities, The Knights of Columbus gave significant charitable contributions to the people of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in January 2010. In April, the Order also donated 1,000 wheelchairs to the people of Haiti in partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission.[37]

Recognizing that the need was still great in Haiti some seven months after the disaster, the Knights of Columbus partnered with Project Medishare in August 2010 for an initiative entitled, "Healing Haiti's Children." The initiative, backed by a more than $1 million commitment from the Knights of Columbus provides free prosthetic limbs and a minimum of two years of rehab to every child who suffered an amputation because injuries sustained during the earthquake. In January 2011, the Order announced that 100 children had already been aided by the program.[38]

Ever since its founding, the Knights of Columbus has also been involved in evangelization. In 1948, the Knights started the Catholic Information Service (CIS) to provide low-cost Catholic publications for the general public as well as for parishes, schools, retreat houses, military installations, correctional facilities, legislatures, the medical community, and for individuals who request them. Since then, CIS has printed millions of booklets, and thousands of people have enrolled in CIS correspondence and on-line courses.[39]

College councils

While most Knights of Columbus Councils are located at parishes or near multiple parish communities, many men first join the Knights while in college. Over 21,000 Knights are members of over 250 college councils worldwide in six countries.

The University of Notre Dame Council 1477[40] was founded in 1910 as the first college council,[41][42][43] and is currently the largest college council in the country. It was followed by the councils at St. Louis University and Benedictine College.[44] In 1919, Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary council 1965 became the first council attached to a seminary, at what is now Mount St. Mary's University.[45][46] In 1937, the University of Illinois became the first public university with a Knights of Columbus Council, The Illini Council Number 2782.

Some College Councils hold a unique form of the Knights Membership Blitz styled "Go Roman Week". The name is a play on the fact that most fraternities on college campuses are given Greek alphabet designations, while the Knights of Columbus is made up mostly of Roman Catholics (although members of any of the various Catholic Rites may join). At some Catholic universities, such as the University of St. Thomas, University of Notre Dame, Saint Anselm College and Benedictine College, the Knights are the only fraternity permitted on campus. However, councils at some other colleges have difficulty attaining official college recognition because of their all-male composition.[47]

Each October, the Supreme Council hosts a College Council Conference at their headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. Awards are given for the greatest increases in membership, the best Youth, Community, Council, Family and Church activities and the overall Outstanding College Council of the year. The United States Air Force Academy's Council 8200 was the 2010 Outstanding College Council.[48] College Councils are represented by the College Council Advisory Board made up of students internationally and currently chaired by Air Force Academy Grand Knight Julian Gluck. The CCAB and College Knights often travel to World Youth Day to represent the Order and help facilitate.

Columbian Squires

Squire Advancement Program
Level 1: Page
Level 2: Shield Bearer
Level 3: Swordsman
Level 4: Lancer
Level 5: Squire of the Body of Christ

The Knights' official junior organization is the Columbian Squires. This international fraternity for boys 10–18 has over 5,000 circles. According to Brother Barnabas McDonald, F.S.C., the Squires' founder, “The supreme purpose of the Columbian Squires is character building.” Squires have fun and share their Catholic faith, help people in need, and enjoy the company of friends in social, family, athletic, cultural, civic and spiritual activities. Through their local circle, Squires work and socialize as a group of friends, elect their own officers, and develop into Catholic leaders.

Each Circle is supervised by a Knights of Columbus Council or Assembly, and has an advisory board made up of either the Grand Knight, the Deputy Grand Knight and Chaplain, or the Faithful Navigator, the Faithful Captain and Faithful Friar. Circles are either Council based, parish based, or school based, depending on the location of the circle and the Knight counselors.

The first Circle was started in Duluth, Minnesota.

Squire Roses

The Squire Roses are a youth sorority run by individual State Councils within the Knights of Columbus, for Catholic girls between the ages of 10 and 18. They are a sister organization to the Squires.

The Squire Roses were created in 1996 by adoption of the Virginia State Council of Knights of Columbus. The founder of this organization is Russell DeRose, currently a Chief Counselor for Squire Roses Circle #1, St. Mary of Sorrows, in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

The Squire Roses are officially recognized in the Jurisdictions of Virginia and Washington DC, with acceptance in New Jersey and California soon to follow.[citation needed]

Emblems of the Order

Emblem of the Order

The emblem of the Order dates from the second Supreme Council meeting on May 12, 1883, when James T. Mullen, who was then supreme knight, designed it.

The emblem consists of a shield mounted upon the Formée cross (having the arms narrow at the center and expanding toward the ends). The shield is that associated with a medieval knight. The Formée cross is the representation of a traditional artistic design of the cross of Christ through which all graces of redemption were procured for mankind. This then represents the Catholic spirit of the Order.

Mounted on the shield are three objects: a fasces (a bundle of rods bound together about an ax with the blade projecting) standing vertically and, crossed behind it, an anchor and a dagger or short sword. The fasces from Roman days, carried before magistrates as an emblem of authority, is symbolic of authority which must exist in any tightly-bonded and efficiently operating organization. The anchor is the mariner's symbol for Columbus, patron of the Order, while the short sword or dagger was the weapon of the Knight when engaged upon an errand of mercy. Thus, the shield expresses Catholic Knighthood in organized merciful action, and with the letters, K of C, it proclaims this specific form of activity. [49]

Each Knight receives the emblem as a lapel pin upon initiation.

Fourth Degree emblem

Fourth Degree emblem

The triad emblem of the Fourth Degree features the dove, the cross and the globe. Taken spiritually the sacred symbols typify the union of the Three Divine Persons in one Godhead, referred to as the most Blessed Trinity. Red, white and blue are also the colors of the flag of the country in which the Knights originated. They are used to stress patriotism, the basic principle of the Fourth Degree.[50]


The globe is a symbol to represent God the Father, the Creator of the Earth and the Universe in the Catholic tradition. It is styled as a blue globe with the continents of the Western Hemisphere in white.


The red cross is a symbol for God the Son the Redeemer of Mankind in the Catholic tradition. This is styled as a red cross with gold borders and gold knobs at the end of each of the points. This cross is known as the Isabella cross, after the Queen of Spain who sponsored Columbus.


The white dove is a symbol of God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of Humanity in the Catholic tradition. The dove is also a symbol of peace. Columbus' name in Italian (Colombo), also means "dove."

Knights of Columbus protocol

Like most fraternal orders, the Knights have a protocol, sometimes referred to as the "Litany", which dictates the order of rank within the Order, and is typically used at formal functions or presentations in the Order. A First degree member must identify himself as such to any other brother, of a higher rank i.e. Second, Third, and Fourth degrees, so that the brother will know what he can and cannot discuss with the First Degree and therefore not break his promise to keep further exemplifications secret. This also applies to any other member from Second and Third degrees on up to the Fourth degree. Supreme is the highest rank within the Order and rank works its way down from there. Officers hold a higher rank than general members in councils and assemblies.


Knights of Columbus Councils, Fourth Degree Assemblies, and Columbian Squire Circles have similar officers. In the Councils, officer titles are prefixed with "Worthy" and in the Assemblies, officer titles are prefixed with "Faithful". In addition to the Columbian Squires' officers listed below, there is an adult position of "Chief Counselor" that helps oversee the Circle.

Council Assembly Circle
Grand Knight Navigator Chief Squire
Chaplain* Friar* Father Prior
Deputy Grand Knight Captain Deputy Chief Squire
Chancellor Admiral Marshall Squire
Recorder Scribe Notary Squire
Financial Secretary** Comptroller Bursar Squire
Treasurer Purser Bursar Squire
Lecturer* nonexistent nonexistent
Advocate nonexistent nonexistent
Warden Pilot Marshall Squire
Inside Guard Inner Sentinel Sentry
Outside Guard Outer Sentinel Sentry
Trustee (3 Year) Trustee (3 Year) nonexistent
Trustee (2 Year) Trustee (2 Year) nonexistent
Trustee (1 Year) Trustee (1 Year) nonexistent
nonexistent Color Corp Commander nonexistent

(*Appointed annually by each Council's Grand Knight or Assembly's Navigator)

(**Appointed for a 3-year term by the Supreme Knight)

Political activities

In 1954, lobbying by the Order helped convince the U.S. Congress to add the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. President Dwight Eisenhower wrote to Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart thanking the Knights for their "part in the movement to have the words 'under God' added to our Pledge of Allegiance."[51] Similar lobbying convinced many state legislatures to adopt October 12 as Columbus Day and led to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's confirmation of Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1937.

Tens of thousands of Knights of Columbus placards are handed out at the March For Life.

While the Knights of Columbus support political awareness and activity, United States councils are prohibited by tax laws from engaging in candidate endorsement and partisan political activity due to their non-profit status.[52] In the election year of 1992, President George H. W. Bush appeared at the annual convention and President George W. Bush sent videotaped messages before he attended in person at the 2004 election year convention.[53] In addition, at the same convention, the assembled delegates chanted "Four more years!"[54] Public policy activity is limited to issue-specific campaigns, typically dealing with Catholic family and life issues. Bush's Democratic opponent, John Kerry, baptized a Catholic but now an ardent dissenter from the Church's teachings on abortion, was not invited to address the 2004 convention.[55]

In the United States, the Knights of Columbus uphold the Roman Catholic Church's positions on public policy and social issues. They have adopted resolutions advocating a Culture of Life,[56] defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,[57] and promoting Catholic practices in public schools, government, and voluntary organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America. The Order also funded a postcard campaign in 2005 in an attempt to stop the Canadian parliament from legalizing same-sex marriage.

On April 9, 2006 the Board of Directors commented on the "U.S. immigration policy [which] has become an intensely debated and divisive issue on both sides of the border between the U.S. and Mexico." They called "upon the President and the U.S. Congress to agree upon immigration legislation that not only gains control over the process of immigration, but also rejects any effort to criminalize those who provide humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants, and provides these immigrants an avenue by which they can emerge from the shadows of society and seek legal residency and citizenship in the U.S."[58]

In California’s 2008 election the Knights of Columbus attracted media attention when they donated more than $1.4 million to Proposition 8, becoming the largest financial supporter of Proposition 8[59] which succeeded in banning marriages between same-sex couples in the state. A group called “Californians Against Hate”, viewing Proposition 8 as a denial of civil rights and a promotion of inequality, has added the Knights of Columbus to their “Dishonor Roll."[60][61][62]

Heads of state

George W. Bush greets Fourth Degree Knights at the 122nd Annual Convention.

The Knights of Columbus invites the head of state of every country they operate in to the Supreme Convention each year. In 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon gave the keynote address at the States Dinner; Secretary of Transportation and Knight John Volpe was responsible for this first appearance of a U.S. President at a Supreme Council gathering.[63] President Ronald Reagan spoke at the Centennial Convention in 1982. President George H.W. Bush appeared in 1992. President Bill Clinton sent a written message while he was in office, and President George W. Bush sent videotaped messages before he attended in person at the 2004 convention.[64]

John F. Kennedy, the only Catholic to be elected President of the United States, was a Fourth Degree member of Bunker Hill Council No. 62 and Bishop Cheverus General Assembly. Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart visited Kennedy at the White House on Columbus Day, 1961. The president told Hart that his younger brother, Ted Kennedy, had received "his Third Degree in our Order three weeks before." Hart presented Kennedy with a poster of the American Flag with the story of how the Order got the words "under God" inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance.[65]

In 1959 Fidel Castro sent an aide to represent him at a Fourth Degree banquet in honor of the Golden Jubilee of the Order's entry into Cuba. Supreme Knight Hart attended a banquet in the Cuban Prime Minister's honor in April of that year sponsored by the Overseas Press Club and later sent him a letter expressing regret that they were not able to meet in person.[66]

Knights of Columbus salute during the welcoming ceremony for Pope Benedict XVI on the South Lawn of the White House (April 16, 2008)

Knights of Columbus were among the groups that welcomed Pope Benedict XVI on the South Lawn of the White House on April 16, 2008, the pontiff's 81st birthday.[67]

Notable buildings

See List of Knights of Columbus buildings.

Famous Knights

Many famous Catholic men from all over the world have been Knights of Columbus. In the United States, the most notable include John F. Kennedy; Ted Kennedy; Al Smith; Sargent Shriver; Alan Keyes; Samuel Alito, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida; and Sergeant Major Daniel Daly, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient, once described by the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps as "the most outstanding Marine of all time".[68]

Many notable clerics are also Knights, including Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston; and Cardinal Jaime Sin, former archbishop of Manila. In the world of sports, Vince Lombardi, the famed former coach of the Green Bay Packers; Lou Albano, wrestler; James Connolly, the first Olympic gold-medal champion in modern times; Floyd Patterson, former heavyweight boxing champion,; and baseball star Babe Ruth were Knights.[69]

On October 15, 2006, Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia (1878–1938) was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. In 2000, six other Knights were declared saints by Pope John Paul II.[70]

For a more comprehensive list, see List of notable Knights of Columbus. Also see Category:Knights of Columbus.


Canada Hall incident

In 2005, a local Knights of Columbus council in Canada was fined $2,000 [71] by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The Council's Hall Manager signed a contract for the use of their facilities with Tracey Smith and Deborah Chymyshynto but canceled it after they became aware that it was for a same-sex wedding reception.[72] The two women said they were unaware that the facility was affiliated with the Catholic Church. The local council responded that the hall is on the same compound as a parish church and there were Catholic symbols such as a picture of the Pope and a crucifix inside.[73] The tribunal ruled the Council was within its rights to refuse to rent it based on their religious convictions but fined them "for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect" of the women.[74]

Similar organizations

The Knights of Columbus is a member of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights, which includes fifteen fraternal orders such as the Knights of Saint Columbanus in Ireland, the Knights of Saint Columba in the United Kingdom, the Knights of Peter Claver in the United States, the Knights of the Southern Cross in Australia and New Zealand, the Knights of Da Gama in South Africa, and the Knights of St. Mulumba in Nigeria.[75]

Many councils also have women's auxiliaries, but the Supreme Council does not charter them and they may adopt any name they choose. At the turn of the 20th century two were formed by local councils and each took the name the Daughters of Isabella. Using the same name, both groups expanded and issued charters to other Circles but never merged. The newer organization renamed itself the Catholic Daughters of the Americas in 1921 and both have structures independent of the Knights of Columbus. Additionally, the Columbiettes is a female auxiliary conceived to work with the Knights of Columbus. In the Philippines, the Knights of Columbus ladies' auxiliary is also known as the Daughters of Mary Immaculate,[76] with a youth arm dubbed as the Squirettes of Mary. The Squirettes of Mary can be considered a female counterpart of the Knights of Columbus' youth arm, the Columbian Squires, or, more accurately, roughly equivalent to the Squire Roses.

See also


  1. ^ "History". Knights of Columbus. Retrieved 2006-08-04. 
  2. ^ "These Men they Call Knights" (PDF). Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2007-08-22. "A practical Catholic is one who lives up to the Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church." 
  3. ^ "Keeping Father McGivney's Promise". Knightline 27 (7): 1. July 2010. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "History". Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. Retrieved 2006-06-01. 
  7. ^ Brinkley & Fenster, pg. 51
  8. ^ Kaufman
  9. ^ Kaufman, p. 17.
  10. ^ Brinkley & Fenster, pp. 116–7
  11. ^ Kaufman, pg. 16
  12. ^ "Christopher Columbus – Discoverer of the New World". Connecticut Catholic, III: pp. 4. May 25, 1878. 
  13. ^ "Christopher Columbus – 500 Years Later". Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. Retrieved 2008-09-23. "By taking the name of Columbus, the Knights were able to remind the entire country of the Catholic roots of the New World, and to highlight the fact that faithful Catholics could also be good citizens ..." 
  14. ^ Brinkley & Fenster, pg. 171
  15. ^ Kaufman, pg. 73
  16. ^ Kaufman, pg. 22
  17. ^ Kaufman, pp. 36–7
  18. ^
  19. ^ Brinkley & Fenster, pg. 123
  20. ^ Great & Fake Oath (part 2), Time Magazine, September 3, 1928
  21. ^ guild
  22. ^ Kaufman, pg. 396
  23. ^ Kaufman, pg. 397
  24. ^ Kaufman, pg. 400
  25. ^ Kaufman, pp. 375–6
  26. ^ Kaufman, pg. 33
  27. ^ a b c d "Supreme Knight's Annual Report". Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  28. ^ "Laws and Rules of the Order Governing the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus". Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  29. ^ "Emblem, Jewels and Regalia". Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  30. ^ "Laws and Rules of the Order Governing the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus". Retrieved 2006-06-19. 
  31. ^ Kaufman, pp. 137–9
  32. ^ * Fortune magazines listing of America's largest corporations
  33. ^ * [1]
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Support of Vocations". Retrieved 2006-06-06. 
  36. ^ "Knights of Columbus and John Paul II". Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  37. ^ Annual Report of the Supreme Knight
  38. ^ "A Promise Kept"
  39. ^ * Free Samples of Catholic Information Service publications
  40. ^ Council 1477
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ Cheffers, Elizabeth (September 24, 2004). "Knights serve the community". The Observer. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  45. ^ Bauernschub, John P. (1949). Fifty Years of Columbianism in Maryland. 
  46. ^ Bauernschub, John P. (1965). Columbianism in Maryland 1897-1965. 
  47. ^ "Discussions continue after University of Wisconsin boots Knights of Columbus". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  48. ^
  49. ^ "Emblem of the Order". Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. Retrieved 2006-06-16. 
  50. ^ "Fourth Degree Emblem". Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  51. ^ Kaufman, pg. 385.
  52. ^ Caplin; Drysdale (Winter 1999). "Voter Education vs. Partisan Politicking: What a 501(c)(3) can and cannot do". The Grantsmanship Center. Retrieved 2006-07-18. 
  53. ^ "Why was President Bush invited to this year’s Supreme Convention?". Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  54. ^ Cooperman (August 4, 2004). "Bush Tells Catholic Group He Will Tackle Its Issues". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  55. ^
  56. ^ "Resolution on Building a Culture of Life". August 4, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  57. ^ "Resolution on Defense of Marriage". August 4, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  58. ^ "Resolution on U.S. Immigration Policy". April 9, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  59. ^Campaign Finance, California Secretary of State, 2008.
  60. ^ Dishonor Roll
  61. ^ “Dishonor Roll”
  62. ^ Californians Against Hate, Retrieved on July 19, 2010.
  63. ^ Christopher Kaufman, Faith and Fraternalism, Harper and Row, 1982, p. 411.
  64. ^, url accessed June 9, 2006.
  65. ^ Kaufman, pp. 393–4
  66. ^ Kaufman, pg. 391.
  67. ^ Bush Welcomes Pope With Pomp and Pageantry – US News and World Report
  68. ^ "Iconic Artifacts". The National Museum of the Marine Corps. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  69. ^ Stephen Singular, By Their Works: Profiles of Men of Faith Who Made a Difference, HarperCollins, 2006.
  70. ^ "1st Knight-of-Columbus-Bishop to Be Canonized". Zenit News Agency. October 10, 2006. 
  71. ^ fined $2,000
  72. ^ "B.C. tribunal awards lesbian couple damages". Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  73. ^ "Photos of Port Coquitlam, B.C. Knights of Columbus Hall Dispute Lesbians’ Claims". Lifesite. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 
  74. ^ "Smith and Chymyshyn v. Knights of Columbus" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-06-27. One of the females, Tracey Smith, was also a co-worker of the Knight who was in charge of renting the hall. They both worked at Costco and the Knight David Hauser was fired from his job due to this incident. "Costco Fires Catholic Who Denied Knights of Columbus Hall for Lesbian "Marriage"". 
  75. ^ "Member Orders". International Alliance of Catholic Knights. Retrieved 2006-05-30. 
  76. ^


  • Kaufman, Christopher (1982). Faith and Fraternalism. Harper and Row. 
  • Brinkley, Douglas; Julie M. Fenster (2006). Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism. William Morrow Publishers. ISBN 978-0060776848. 

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