Be­cause the knights be­long to lovers of God

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION - Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fel­low at the Na­tional Re­view In­sti­tute, editor-at-large of Na­tional Re­view On­line and found­ing direc­tor of Catholic Voices USA. She can be con­tacted at [email protected]­tion­al­re­view.com.

S ince the Knights of Colum­bus re­cently be­came a po­lit­i­cal is­sue, I’ve seen a con­stant re­frain on social me­dia that goes some­thing along the lines of: “What do you mean, the pan­cake break­fast guys?” The point be­ing: Could you be pick­ing on nicer guys? But the Knights’ good­ness goes far beyond break­fast items. The Knights of Colum­bus are about virtue and ser­vice. The United States -- and the world -- would not be the same with­out them.

The Knights be­came an is­sue when two Se­nate Democrats ques­tioned a ju­di­cial nom­i­nee about his mem­ber­ship in the Knights. Hawaii Demo­crat Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard de­serves some kind of adult-in-the-room award for re­sist­ing such a cheap at­tack.

“While I op­pose the nom­i­na­tion of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Ne­braska, I stand strongly against those who are fo­ment­ing re­li­gious big­otry, cit­ing as dis­qual­i­fiers Buescher’s Catholi­cism and his af­fil­i­a­tion with the Knights of Colum­bus,” she wrote. Her oped was coura­geous and im­por­tant, as re­li­gious big­otry is not a pass­ing is­sue. It’s an ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tion that would have peo­ple who take their re­li­gious du­ties se­ri­ously rel­e­gated to a sec­ond class, pun­ished for truly ex­er­cis­ing their re­li­gious lib­erty. Think of the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor hav­ing to go to the Supreme Court to pro­tect their rights dur­ing the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, or the City of Philadel­phia sev­er­ing ties with Catholic Social Ser­vices.

In a series of videos last year, the Knights high­lighted some “everyday he­roes.” It wasn’t so much a com­mer­cial for the or­ga­ni­za­tion -- though it cer­tainly couldn’t hurt -- as a chal­lenge to us all to be bet­ter. That’s what the Knights are about. They make money help­ing fam­i­lies with life in­sur­ance and spend it help­ing fam­i­lies. They help men know how to be good hus­bands and fa­thers who care about what’s go­ing on in their com­mu­ni­ties. They help fam­i­lies re­build af­ter a hur­ri­cane. They’ve ad­vo­cated for and helped dis­placed Mid­dle Eastern Chris­tians re­build in the face of a geno­cide there that most of the coun­try is ig­nor­ing. They are good neigh­bors. They are men­tors. Carl An­der­son, the head of the Knights of Colum­bus since 2000, wrote one of the most sen­si­ble books about pol­i­tics in re­cent years, “Beyond a House Di­vided.” Backed by deep­dive polls the Knights have been com­mis­sion­ing for over a decade now, he nudges us to­ward a bet­ter way, find­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­mon ground on some of the most con­tentious is­sues of the day.

As the Knights were in the news, I was at the cathe­dral of St. Peter and St. Paul in In­di­anapo­lis, as 3,000 peo­ple waited in long lines to ven­er­ate a relic, the in­cor­rupt heart of Saint John Vian­ney. Vian­ney was a priest full of love for God’s peo­ple. What­ever you think of such pi­ous prac­tices and relics, the scene was re­mark­able, and very K of C: Fam­i­lies of all ages were there, with at least three gen­er­a­tions in many cases. I saw one ac­tive mil­i­tary man, sit­ting in the front row, pray­ing. There were peo­ple from dif­fer­ent in­come brack­ets, pro­fes­sions and walks of life.

That night af­ter Mass, the relic moved on to the Fel­low­ship of Catholic Univer­sity Stu­dents SEEK con­fer­ence, with over 17,000, mostly col­lege stu­dents, in at­ten­dance.

Just as soon as I re­turned to New York, a friend texted me a pic­ture of her view of the same relic in a par­ish church in Colum­bus, Ohio. That heart is do­ing more to re­store Catholic hearts in this time of scan­dal than we can ever know or un­der­stand -- draw­ing us to prayer, root­ing us in his­tory, in­spir­ing oth­ers.

The Knights are far from an “ex­trem­ist” group. To the con­trary, we need more peo­ple like them. Thank­fully, they’re a part of Amer­i­can life. May their ranks only grow, and may we learn to trea­sure op­por­tu­ni­ties for vir­tu­ous fel­low­ship and civic ser­vice en­cour­ag­ing us to be our fullest and best.

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