Monumental Folly: Knights of Columbus Involved in Another Waste of Millions

I have been a third-degree member of The Knights of Columbus since 1991 and I will always be one. While I have not been happy with councils, individual members and the order's insurance salesmen, I could never walk away from an organization after my father, a Past Grand Knight, Past Financial Secretary, "knighted" me himself with tears in his eyes.

Truly, some of the finest gentleman I have known were Knights and I believe that the Knights of Columbus, once called a nation by Pope John Paul II, may play a role in the Catholic Church far greater than anyone now imagines. I certainly think it will be more valuable in the end than Opus Dei or the Legionnaries of Christ if only because Knights are normal people. Normal and holy gets a lot more done than weird and holy. In fact, weird and holy is often just plain weird.

When I joined the K. of C., the order was embarked on a project to install "Memorials to the Unborn" in Catholic cemeteries. Every council felt peer pressure to spend up to many thousands to set up a piece of stone in a nearby cemetery. In the end, a total of eight-ten million bucks were probably blown. I and a few others thought this money could have been better spent on fighting abortion in more useful ways, say, on supporting women who face the temptation and pressure to have abortions. As it is, ten million dollars went for something that may only be noticed by some senescent Catholics when they go to decorate the family plots on Memorial Day.

At last the "Memorials to the Unborn" project came to an end and I hoped that this was also the end of the Knights of Columbus' traditional preference for funding "bricks and mortar". The order has shown some enlightenment in recent years giving more support to Catholic action as well as Catholic structures. It has been a sponsor of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies at Catholic U. and the money could not be better spent. The Knights in Action section in Columbia magazine always reports wonderful works of charity on the part of local councils.

But then comes word in the January 2006 issue of Columbia that the Knights of Columbus is getting behind another effort to pepper the land with monoliths. This time it's Project Moses. The stones bear the Ten Commandments and the plan is to put one on every church property in the United States.

Project Moses was started by a (You guessed it!) businessman in (You guessed it!) Kansas in response to (You guessed it!) the ACLU threatening to sue Kansas City over a display of the Decalogue.

So here we go again. The peer-pressure is on. More millions are going to be splurged just to say. "Take that ACLU!"

What are some more worthwhile things that an organization could do with ten million dollars?

Catholic education at all levels could use more money, but please, not for building buildings. The most prominent benefactor (at least on paper) of Catholic higher education these days thinks a great Catholic University has a beautiful campus and a winning football team. What are really needed are better salaries to encourage teaching careers and breaks in tuition.

Prisoners could use more Catholic Evangelization, more Catholic instruction materials and aids to growing faith. Catholicism has nowhere near the presence in prisons as do Fundamentalism and Islam. Islam and sociopathy are not things we should mix too much of.

We could really use a Catholic Academy of the Arts to support and encourage the Catholic imagination to produce movies, books and other inspiring works. We could use a Catholic radio network that plays nice music most of the time, not yakkety-yak. We could use Catholic orchestras and large choral groups as well.

Then there's the poor. Jesus promised that we would always have them with us. And "always" is a lot longer than the ACLU will be with us.

Copyright © 2006 by Neal J. Conway. All rights reserved. Knights of Columbus Councils are welcome to print this essay and read it at their meetings.

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