Beliefs Ethics Faith Institutions News Politics

Knights of Columbus head says Catholics cannot vote for abortion advocates

Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus fraternal order and one of the most influential lay Catholics in the church. Photo courtesy of Knights of Columbus

(RNS) Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus fraternal order and one of the most influential lay Catholics in the church, has said that abortion outweighs all other issues in the presidential campaign and Catholics cannot vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights.

Abortion is not “just another political issue” but “is in reality a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths,” Anderson told the Knights’ international convention in Toronto in a speech on Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 2).

“What political issue could possibly outweigh this human devastation? Abortion is different. Abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale,” said Anderson, a veteran Republican official who worked for the late North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms and served in various positions in the Reagan administration.

“We need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates. It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians,” Anderson said in remarks prepared for delivery to the crowd, which included some 100 Catholic bishops.

“We will never succeed in building a culture of life if we continue to vote for politicians who support a culture of death,” said Anderson, who called the Knights, who have two million members worldwide, the “strong right arm” of the Catholic Church.

The role of abortion rights in politics has long been a flashpoint for Catholic leaders and Catholic politicians.

In recent decades, the U.S. hierarchy has grown increasingly conservative and for many bishops an elected official’s stance on abortion rights has become a litmus test for a Catholic candidate’s worthiness to receive Communion and for any candidate to receive the support of Catholic voters.

Abortion and gay marriage have been called “non-negotiables” that can disqualify a candidate in the view of many leaders — a stance that has effectively favored Republicans over Democrats, who have become more uniformly supportive of abortion rights.

That dynamic has been playing out in recent weeks with Republican nominee Donald Trump saying he opposes abortion while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has steadfastly supported abortion rights throughout her long public career.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, is a practicing Catholic from Virginia who says he is personally opposed to abortion but supports abortion rights.

The election of Pope Francis in 2013 scrambled much of the long-standing political dynamics, however.

While Francis is staunchly against abortion, he lamented early on in his papacy that the church speaks so much about abortion and matters of sexuality at the expense of social justice and the poor and marginalized — topics he has put at the center of the church’s mission.

“I have never understood the expression non-negotiable values,” Francis said in a 2014 interview. “Values are values, and that is it. I can’t say that, of the fingers of a hand, there is one less useful than the rest. Whereby I do not understand in what sense there may be negotiable values.”

It remains to be seen how the abortion issue will play out in the church — the Knights of Columbus are huge benefactors to dioceses and charitable causes — and in the campaign.

Trump is viewed with suspicion by some abortion foes, who worry that his conversion to their cause is recent and not sincere. They also argue that Trump’s positions on other issues are disqualifying.

In his keynote address, Anderson also cited the fight for religious freedom at home and abroad as priorities for the Knights.

The organization has been a strong supporter of the legal battle against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate and it has been increasingly involved in efforts to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

“Christians there have been tortured, murdered, enslaved and driven into exile,” Anderson said. “Many in the West wanted to look away, but we would not let them.”

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

60 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • As the American branch of the Roman Catholic Church is somewhat fractured over this issue, primarily the prelates against some measure of the parishioners, I am curious as to what degree of authority Anderson has as a lay leader to make the above declaration. Don’t misunderstand me, as a citizen with an individual conscience his right is unquestioned. Nor do I disagree with his sentiments, indeed, I embrace them heartily. Perhaps it is intended as a call to remembrance, I simply wish such sentiments could be framed collegially, underscored with only a hint of admonition.

  • A woman’s choice will remain unalienable long after all the churches have been converted to fast-food restaurants.

  • Remember when the Knights of Columbus wasn’t a reactionary political advocacy group? They used to be a mild mannered Italian American civic organization.

  • When the K of C fights as hard for chemical castration for all sex offenders, I’ll take them more seriously on this matter. For now? Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  • Why? First, they are unrelated. Second, why that particular issue? Third, not everyone can take on every issue; sometimes we can only focus on an issue or two to fight for and be able to devote our time and energy to it.

  • Democrats do not promote abortion. However, they do support the right of a woman to decide whether to accept the discomfort, pain, health risks, and economic consequences of bearing a child. Men have no right to impose their judgement on a woman regarding her health. Health decisions, whether for men or women, should be the sole decision of the individual and their physician.
    It is interesting that the KoC would deny millions of people access to affordable health insurance because they wish to impose their religious beliefs (which are not universal even among Christians) on women. This is especially egregious given that lacking health insurance results in unnecessary suffering, disability, and death, as documented by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Of course they’re related. Women don’t spontaneously impregnate themselves.

    I want to see steps taken to control male sexual behavior, not just women and girls. Let’s see K of C focus on deadbeat dads, the proliferation of “baby daddies”, and other issues of male sexual behavior. But they won’t even consider controlling sexual behavior of male sexual criminals! How can they expect to be taken seriously and respectfully on this issue?

    In addition, the entire RCC puts far less energy, attention and dollars on caring for existing children than on women’s sexual behavior. That’s why the RCC, including the K of C is often and accurately called fetus worshippers and active participants in oppression of women.

  • “In addition, the entire RCC puts far less energy, attention and dollars on caring for existing children than on women’s sexual behavior. ”

    I’m not even Catholic and I know that that is a bunch of hogwash considering the plethora of Catholic run hospitals, orphanages,adoption agencies, etc.

  • Well, actually, Irish-American. While named for Columbus it was founded by Michael McGivney.

  • Carl Anderson is a GOP operative, and continues to do so from his perch at the KofC. There is no surprise here. Sadly.

  • Spot-on, Ed. Most Catholics pay little about the misogyny of the bishops and the K of C. Catholic women approve of abortion and contraception at the same rate as non-Catholic women.

  • You omitted the “energy and attention” part. I didn’t clarify that I was referring to what the bishops and the rest of the American RCC hierarchy does. Sorry for the omission. And the rest of my comment?

  • I copied your comment word for word and “energy and attention” was part of it. It is such an untrue statement it is absurd in its very nature.

    As for the rest of your comment and the previous comment, it is entirely derived out of selfish “rights” and misplaced blame (because apparently it is a sex offender’s fault when a married couple aborts their child because of gender selection). Generally speaking it is near impossible to convince someone they are being selfish because it requires them to spontaneously think beyond themselves. That rarely happens.

  • “Generally speaking it is near impossible to convince someone they are being selfish because it requires them to spontaneously think beyond themselves.”

    Don’t give up though. One day you might get there. Bye.

  • Catholics and other religious groups need to keep their religion to themselves. Believe anything and in anything that you wish, but this beautiful nation is NOT a theocracy, there is NO national religion, our forefathers were not Christians, they were deists.
    If you are Catholic and do not wish to have an abortion, then don’t have an abortion, but abortion is between women and their physicians, not their legislators or their priests!
    If you do not want to marry someone of your own gender, then don’t.
    Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims should and must be allowed to worship as they please and follow their own dictates or dogmas, but do not tell others how to worship or for WHOM THEY SHOULD VOTE!!!!!

  • As someone who worked as a RN in an OR, and later in pre operative education, I can attest to the fact that you are correct, edddoerr.

  • In this nation abortion is NOT done for “sex selection!” 90% of abortions are done in the first two to three months, before the sex of the fetus can be determined.

  • Even back in the days when abortion was “illegal,” abortions were done. I worked back in those days as a RN. The tragedy was that only wealthy women had SAFE abortions, poor and middle class women died, or were hospitalized due to hemorrhage or massive infections. Some were left sterile.

  • The orphanages are a disgrace and scandal ridden. However, many of the RC politicians are the ones to cut funding for the safety nets that might allow a poor woman to keep her child, if she wanted to, and could afford the time away from her job to allow for a delivery and recovery time after giving birth.
    You talk is hollow, chumba1.

  • And over 90% are not done because of rape and incest (something that might get a man charged as a sex offender), I was combating an absurd argument with an almost equally unlikely scenario.

  • You remind me of Margret Sanger – I praise you for your views.

    Poor women who carried to term with the inherent problems of motherhood – the newborn came into a world where the mother could barely afford healthcare for herself, let alone for her newborn who suffered both physical as well as emotional pain.

    Being one of those who was born into that condition – compounded by an abusive alcoholic father, and a shrew of a mother, by the age of eight I had seriously contemplated and rehearsed several suicide scenarios due to the unrelenting pain of living in a “hell-hole” from which there was no escape. I wished to never having been born.

    Although diminished, the pain of my childhood continues – late into my 8th decade.

  • I think you’re correct. In a sense, my question was rhetorical, but given his lay position, his authority will lie in the degree of influence he is able to exert on fellow catholics.

  • Because I believe when we as Christians emphasize a traditional and orthodox view of Scripture, we are still obligated to do it in a spirit of grace.

  • Great admonition can be offered with Grace. In fact, it’s prominent in Scripture. Paul wrote some scathing things in 1 Corinthians. James, likewise contains some strong admonitions.
    I’m not saying we should jump to great admonition, and not being Catholic, I’m not sure what the dynamic is here, but perhaps it is time for more than a hint. To “let loose” something on earth. Think about the process of grace when dealing with a brother in Christ. First confront him privately, and if he refuses, ultimately admonish and excommunicate him publicly.

  • Translation: “If you are Catholic and to not wish to kill your baby, then don’t kill your baby, but killing babies is between women and their physicians, not their legislators or their priests!”

  • Only if you are ignorant or dishonest enough to be unable to tell the difference between born and unborn. Babies are born, so they are not aborted.

    The problem being you are laboring under the delusion that all women must do as you say. That and you have no concern for their existence in general. Hence framing the subject entirely on the fetus.

  • As an ex-OR orderly and floor washer (and morgue attendant) and husband of an OR Head Nurse (retired) I can attest to the fact that Catholic women who approve of abortion are Catholic In Name Only.

  • But Roman Catholics can vote for tax cheats, philanderers, pedophiles, spouse abusers, liars, fraudsters, thieves, and similar types?

    The RCC obsession with sex, gender and biology manifests again. Typical.

  • “The role of abortion rights in politics has long been a flashpoint for Catholic leaders and Catholic politicians.”

    Catholic media needs to stop appending the term ‘rights’ to satanic acts like abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. Doing so plays into the subliminal seduction of associating intrinsically evil acts with a ‘good’. There is no such thing as a right to do evil – exactly the opposite of what relativism wants us to believe.

  • Let’s try doing the math: (mother’s body) + (baby’s body) = 2 bodies.

    To argue that present socioeconomic evils (poverty, disease etc.) support committing more evil (murdering babies before they exit the birth canal – and occasionally after) is stupid and dishonest. Abortion is a moral issue because it involves the right to life and murder of the innocent. Murder is a moral evil no matter what religion – if any – one practices.

  • It’s called r-a-p-e. That’s why we have police forces, not church men’s groups to enforce that law.

    But while we’re on the subject of men not controlling their sexual behavior, and the fact that you’re voting for Hillary – which means her husband will effectively be the VP: Will you be expecting the Knights of Columbus to monitor his behavior too? Just wondering.

  • Hmmmm… If you deleted “pedophiles” and added “sociopaths,” you would have the Clintons.

  • Democrats are the party of Death. Ironic that many of them Malloy Ct. etc. Oppose death penalty for Cheshire home invasion killers . That they are against Just like Kaine of Vir.. the VP.. On the killing of babies in ALL months of Pregnancy, selling of Baby Body parts by PP. ,sex gender selection abortions in all nine months of pregnancy or ANY restriction on Abortion they are pro death NOT Pro Choice. Just like their kkk supporting Mentor Margaret Sanger

  • Too bad spineless gutless AB like Dolan , O “Malley and Weurhl (Suspended Father Guarzino for denying Communion to loud mouth Lesbian Bhuddist), etc. do not grow a backbone and boot pro abortion Pols like GOP Rauner(If he is alleged catholic) or Baker of Mass. and Dems from the faith as well.

  • Catholic health care and pro life centers help millions of women and their babies. That is why the pro death democrats try to close them in N.y. and California etc..

  • Do these people still claim that a virgin gave birth and then blasted off to the clouds? Sad.

  • The Mayo Clinic (widely considered one of the best hospitals in the world) disagrees with you. Here’s the first paragraph of its article on the first trimester (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-care/art-20045302 ):

    “You’re pregnant. Congratulations! You’ll undoubtedly spend the months ahead wondering how your baby is growing and developing. What does your baby look like? How big is he or she? When will you feel the first kick?”

    And from the first paragraph covering Week Five:

    “The fifth week of pregnancy, or the third week after conception, marks the beginning of the embryonic period. This is when the baby’s brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin to form.”

    So for the Mayo Clinic, a baby is a baby from the beginning.

  • No disagreement with your basic point. But in my own case, having suffered a bit from too much pride and self regard in the past, I now desire to assert the truths and dictums of scripture without compromise, but also with a gentler spirit than in times past.

  • How dishonest are you? Until you can physically separate a fetus from its mother, it makes no difference from a rights perspective how developed they are. As long as it survives only at its mother’s will, your concerns don’t mean squat compared to hers. Her body, her rules.

    You may consider them human brings, but they are not people in any legal sense. You have to be born for that. Hence nobody has a conception certificate, but everyone has a birth certificate.

    It’s telling that you only focus on a fetus and ignore all consideration of its mother.

  • If my beliefs that babies do not magically transform from lumps of flesh into human beings because they’re born somehow make me “dishonest,” then I’m in good company. The latest CNN poll has 54% of the country stating that abortion should be either always illegal (16%) or legal in a few circumstances (38%), versus 44% that believe abortion should always be legal (29%) or legal in most circumstances (15%). 74% of Americans favor banning abortions after 20 weeks except to save the life of the mother, including 62% of those that described themselves as strongly pro-choice. No, you’re definitely in the small minority on this one.

    And your statement that unborn babies are not people in any legal sense? The same thing was true of slaves two centuries ago. I suspect that in the future supporters of our ongoing holocaust will be judged in the same light as so many currently judge slaveowners now, however unfair that may be.

  • Thanks, I appreciate your willingness to be transformed by the Spirit regarding pride. God bless!

  • It is your inability to face facts and acknowledge a situation in a clear manner. Choosing hysterics, analogy and handling instead. I don’t care what you believe goes on in a womb. I don’t have to. The facts are plain as day. BTW slaves were born. There is no form of existence for born people comparable to gestation. Bad analogy is a sign of theinability to argue the facts of your position.

    A fetus is physically inseparable from its mother prior to birth/viability. So treating it as a separate person and ignoring the mother is just irrational nonsense. You are dishonest and frankly callous to make arguments for a fetus but omit the mothers interests or claim they don’t exist.

    I can’t help it I point out the obvious lunacy of treating a fetus as a person, but a woman isn’t. But that is the nature of fetus worship.

  • So courageous of Carl Anderson to speak out against abortion since it never was or will be an issue for him. This action covers all the sins he may have committed and will shoot him into the heights of the celestial kingdom. This pivotal issue takes no brains, no guts, no struggle, not stress. Just keep criticizing women who commit this unpardonable sin and relegate them to butchers. While Carl Anderson welcomes his friends who can send their wives and mistresses out of the country to the best doctors who will never say a word for the right price. What a hero Anderson. A man of unimaginable rectitude!!

  • Um…so Trump is a “maybe” at worst on the question of abortion…but let’s do remember, could we, that Hillary will be for abortion “MOST DEFINITELY, HELL YES, ABORTION ANYTIME, ANYWHERE, FOR ANY REASON”, and her legislative efforts and Supreme Court appointees will reflect her 100% favorability ratings from PP and NARAL. Just so we’re clear here…

  • Men have every right to opine on this topic (this bromide is so very road-worn – what, because I’m not a soldier currently serving under arms, I cannot have an opinion on war, or because I’m not a police officer wearing a gun and badge, I cannot have an opinion on law enforcement or crime??? Insipid!), because men (especially CATHOLIC men) have a duty, especially from the divinely ordered role of men as leaders and protectors of the weak, to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves: the unborn who face the threat of the horrible crime of being murdered in utero. And let’s face facts, shall we? Democrats, by their actions, legislative priorities, judicial proclivities, and fund-raising preferences, most certainly DO promote abortion, when they promote the interests of the MOST prolific vendor of procured abortion in the world – Planned Parenthood – with the rabidity with which they can be reliably expected to do. Don’t let’s be stupid, after all.

  • Blah, blah, blah. Tired modernist, feminist rhetoric. By the way, the fact that Catholic women contracept, abort, cohabitate outside of the sacrament of marriage, fornicate, twerk, and in too many cases, generally behave like courtesans, is affirmation of only one thing, and it ain’t good: the utter failure of the bishops over the past two generations to have some guts and faithfully teach according to the Magisterium.

    I assume, edddoerr, that you are over 60 and are on your way to a long overdue removal from the conversation. Can’t wait.

  • Blah-blah-blah yourself. While as a male of the species I have no need for an abortion, I respect the right of every woman to follow her own conscience on the matter. As for the bishops, if they had not ignored or covered up the age-old clergy sexual abuse mess, they might earn a bit more respect. Note also that Catholic school enrollment has dropped from 5.5 million in 1965 to 2 million today, due, according to studies by Catholic university studies, to “changing parental preferences.” The bishops seem to be out of touch with the Catholic laity. — Edd Doerr

  • “Catholics cannot vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights…”

    Oh, but I can. And you can bet your fuzzy little scapular that I will. And I’m going around my neighborhood to get other people to vote for candidates who support abortion rights. And I’m giving money to candidates who support abortion rites. And so are lots of other Catholics.

ADVERTISEMENTs