Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Knights Who Say, "What?"

The delightfully impotent Catholic Action League of Massachusetts is in the corner sputtering again. I insist on calling it CLAM instead of CALM. The apparently sole member, C.J. Doyle, is not pacific. He is emotional and strident, insistsingon sending out rabid, alarmist electronic press releases, and failing at everything, including stopping same-sex marriage, in the legislature or courts.

This week, the Doyle guy is exercised again about the Knights of Columbus, specifically that the KofC won't throw out politicians who don't vote the way he thinks is Roman Catholic. We've heard this before and those who wet themselves over this issue do so again and again.

The Catholic World News (another rag-tag group of a few) treats Doyle's latest like real news here. Then again, they don't have much to report. Apparently the other hot current issue was a month-old Vatican directive that R.C. parishes should not provide records to Mormons seeking to posthumously baptize folk. (Be still, my heart!)

If you click over to read the KofC slam, don't overlook the rabid comments at the end.

The tale is that some winger Catholics figure that if a politician don't vote how they prefer, that's reason for expulsion from the frat. Unfortunately for them, neither the Massachusetts council nor the national organization will make their call or even vote on such a measure. They also would rather do the charity and other work of the order than decide who's been good enough for them.

According to Doyle, Joe Craven introduced a resolution at the latest Massachusetts KofC confab to direct the state deputy "to summarily suspend those members of the Knights of Columbus who are public officials, present or former, or candidates for public office, who through their votes, campaign literature, web sites or public statements openly support abortion or homosexual marriage." In case you have any doubt, that would be primarily for providing any kind of support, even oral comments, that enables women's reproductive choice (including abortion) or supporting same-sex marriage.

Of course, that's a majority of the men in the state house here and I think our entire Congressional delegation. I don't know how many are KofC members or exactly what the horror of being suspended would mean to them.

Also unfortunately for the Action League and its like-minded, the KofC rules don't really provide for this. I don't own a copy of the Laws of the Order rule book, but several rabble rousers cite the relevant sections. Craven's own assault relies on the vague justification of "giving scandal, scandalous conduct or practice unbecoming a member of this Order."

It's a pity the laws aren't specific, as in "not voting the way C. Joseph Doyle or Joseph Craven demand." Instead, at the state confab, the legal guru, Supreme Advocate Paul Devin said the resolution was "unconstitutional," laments Doyle.

It's not only Massachusetts who has this manufactured issue. In Virginia, 17 years ago, House of Delegates candidate Mike Dwyer was dogged and defamed for refusing to say he'd vote against any funds that could be used for abortions. As a KofC, he was the target of screeds calling for his ouster from the order. His attacker was another scandal guy, citing KofC laws:
  • Section 162.7 of those laws provides that any member guilty of "giving scandal, scandalous conduct or practice unbecoming a member of this Order" shall be suspended or expelled.
  • Section 162.9 provides that any member guilty of "speaking, writing, printing or publishing any matter or statement which shall be deemed to be detrimental to the harmony and good order of the Knights of Columbus, or tending to create discord and dissension among the members or create public scandal, or causing the same to be done" shall be suspended or expelled.
  • Pursuant to Section 171, if a Knight "violates any of the provisions of the Order's laws, "it shall be the duty of any member who may have or acquire knowledge of the same to make written complaint to the Grand Knight, specifically setting forth the wrongdoings of the accused." Unpleasant though it may be to accuse a brother Knight, Section 171 imposes a duty on a Knight to file a complaint when he knows of a violation of the Order's laws. Section 171 thus leaves a Knight no alternative, if he is to avoid violating the Order's laws himself. And the obligation to file a complaint is imposed on any Knight who knows of the violation, not just the men who belong to the miscreant's local council.

According to the 1991 tale, after unending pursuit, Dwyer was suspended, but we don't know for how long or if he appealed or was reinstated. The whole effort seemed to be yelling down the well and to little effect.

Yet, those who fight this battle are relentless and focused, and plainly outraged.

The order, in contrast, is about its major tasks — "Guided by four core principles—charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism— these founding members strove to overcome the hardships of the time. Poverty. Unemployment. Even persecution."

It actually is at core a service organization, much like the animal men's groups, like the Elks, Moose and Lions. It does a pretty good business selling life insurance to members. Of course, it is Roman Catholic and has that religious outlook.

Yet, the national and state KofC groups are not about forcing conformity or even defining scandal or finding ways to oust the least faithful to doctrine among them. They'd seem to like to keep doing good deeds, bringing in the dues, and supporting each other.

For politics and public policy, "(l)ed by the Fourth Degree, the Order encourages its own members--and all people--to vote pro-life. The Knights of Columbus feels that the right to life is not a partisan issue, but rather the pre-eminent moral issue of our time."

Moreover, the national organization also publishes a policy that cites the work of the current Pope when he still ran the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Six years ago, his Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life defined for bishops, politicians the laity involved in politics how to behave. It states:
Every member of the faithful, including those engaged in political activity, should act out of a well-formed Christian conscience. It is the task of the Church's teaching office to bring the light of the Gospel message to the circumstances of our day. The role then of the Church as teacher in no way impinges upon the proper autonomy of lay Catholics in politics.

The document reminds us while there is a rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church, public policy cannot be separated from morality. Thus the constant and legitimate task of pastors of souls is to teach.

The Catholic tradition brings to any national debate a consistent moral framework that is anchored in the Scriptures and expressed in the teaching of the Church as well as in the everyday experience of educating the young, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, welcoming refugees and speaking for those who have no voice.

"Faithful Citizenship" points out: "As bishops, we seek to form the consciences of our people. We do not wish to instruct persons on how they should vote by endorsing or opposing candidates. … We are convinced that a consistent ethic of life should be the moral framework from which to address issues in the political arena.

"For Catholics, the defense of human life and dignity is not a narrow cause, but a way of life and a framework for action."

All of us have an obligation to be informed on the major political issues of our day and how political action and public policy reflect or are inconsistent with the basic natural moral law. Our political actions, out of which come the laws of this country, must be based on the natural moral law and the most basic of all human rights — the right to life.

Despite then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's nickname of God's Rottweiler, you won't find any of the League's flaming rhetoric there. Priests teach, while people think and act in conscience.

The last thread that the KofC self-identified purity police cling to has the order's requirement that members be and remain "practical Catholics," as in what most of us would loosely call practicing Roman Catholics. There is a long, detailed explanation on page 18 of this chaplain's handbook. Pretty much, some things such as divorce are forbidden. Those and anything else that would prevent you from taking communion and otherwise being in union with the church are a basis for ouster from the order.

That really only fits multi-marrier Rudy Giuliani and a few other R.C. politicians (and Rudy took communion when the Pope was at Yankee Stadium anyway).

Perhaps it time for Doyle and his ilk to stop huffing and bellowing enough to check in on Matthew 7:1-5 (New International):
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
In context, that's all pretty plain. Those who anoint themselves judges of who is moral enough to be a Knight don't seem to have to stature for the position.

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1 comment:

Uncle said...

I've always wanted to walk up to Doyle, pinch his butt and say "Hey CJ! How about a little Catholic action?" Such an unfortunate name!

Knights of Columbus...what you missed with a non-Catholic upbringing! You never got to watch the Knights in tuxedos,capes and feathered hats at various religious ceremonies, rather like badly confused drag queens. With that visual implanted, it's hard to take seriously anything associated with them.

Say "K of C" five times fast and you'll be ordering chicken.

Enough rudeness for tonight!