By now, the Knights of Columbus’ anti-LGBT activities are well-documented, but still many Catholics continue to invest in the Knights’ insurance and investment plans. Nicole Sotelo of the National Catholic Reporter took a closer look at the Knights’ operation, specifically about the organization’s expanding relationship with church workers.
Sotelo, who has worked in the banking industry, noted that last year, the Knights launched a new subsidiary investment firm for Catholic institutions. Clients include religious orders and dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Chicago, who offer their employees access to the Knights’ funds totaling some $83 million.
The problem is that profits from these business ventures help fund the Knights’ political efforts, along with dues from members and traditional fundraising activiites.
On LGBT issues, Sotelo said the Knights have “played a significant political role in the movement against LGBT justice.” She continued:
“For example, the organization funded anti-LGBT speakers for bishops through the National Catholic Bioethics Center. Additionally, Knights officials have repeatedly backed anti-LGBT political causes to the tune of $6.25 million, from 2005-2012 alone. The majority of Catholics support LGBT justice and many church workers are themselves gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Church workers need to know that if they invest in these mutual funds, a portion of their money could be used against the LGBT community.”
Sotelo also reported on the Knights’ activities funding right-wing activists like the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has opposed contraceptive health coverage for church workers.
The takeaway for Sotelo is that church workers and others “may assume that by investing in Knights of Columbus mutual funds that the stocks are in line with Catholic values. That is not always the case.” She commented:
“No company is perfect and, by extension, no stock is perfect. That is why the U.S. bishops’ conference issued investment guidelines that encourage shareholder advocacy. This means that Catholic organizations holding stock should use the voting power that comes with it to encourage companies toward better business practices. . .However, no shareholder advocacy is listed on the Knights’ Asset Advisors website and the communications department did not respond to questions about it by the deadline.”
Sotelo concluded that while “there is much to admire about the Knights of Columbus,” their explicit claims to be a Catholic organization supporting the interest of church workers are not being lived out.
The Knights have been at the center of many LGBT-related controversies in recent years. Sotelo’s previous reporting in 2014 showed the Knights had funded anti-gay workshops hosted by the National Catholic Bioethics Center, which has ties to reparative therapy advocates. The Knights were also quite active funding anti-marriage equality initiatives in 2012, something which Catholics petitioned them to stop.
But there have also been bright spots. In January 2015, a local council in Indiana reversed its decision denying a same-gender couple use of their hall for a wedding. And some Knights have either resigned from the organization in protest of the anti-LGBT work or publicly opposed the group, including a former vice president of their insurance division.
It is a loss to the church that Catholics cannot access financial services actually consistent with their values. The Knights of Columbus should stop funding right-wing anti-LGBT and anti-woman initiatives, and instead promote ethical investment of the profits which are used to fund charitable works.
–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 16, 2016