The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization devoted to “charity, unity and fraternity,” has spent at least $1.4 million in recent years to promote anti-LGBT studies to U.S. bishops, according to an article published last week in the National Catholic Reporter.
The money was used to send Catholic bishops to workshops hosted by the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. Last year participants heard an address on parenting by gay people, featuring conservative psychologist Thomas Finn, who once told lawmakers in Connecticut that children raised by same-sex couples are “vulnerable to risks such as increased presence of sexually transmitted disease, violence, substance abuse, mental health problems.” This conclusion is at odds with several mainstream studies about children of same-sex couples.
Previous seminars at the center have featured presentations from Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage, and Richard Fitzgibbons, an advocate of the controversial and, in some places, illegal practice of conversion therapy to turn gay people straight. In an interview in 2006, Fitzgibbons said the goal of such counseling is for men to “uncover early conflicts, forgive those who hurt them and increase their male confidence — which in time may lead to the resolution of same-sex attractions.”
The Knights of Columbus has been a leading opponent of equal rights for LGBT Americans. In 2008 the New Haven, Conn.–based organization contributed $1 million to support California’s Proposition 8, which repealed marriage equality in that state.
According to Equally Blessed, a coalition of four pro-LGBT Catholic organizations, the Knights of Columbus has donated over $6.2 million total in fighting same-sex marriage in several states, including at least $1.9 million given directly to the National Organization for Marriage.
Bob Shine of New Ways Ministry, a member of Equally Blessed, praised the Knights of Columbus’s charity work but lamented that the group’s anti-LGBT positions are undermining the organization’s ability to perform its mission.
“The financing of misinformation about LGBT people and supporting political efforts against their equality is a most damaging indictment of the national organization,” he wrote on New Ways Ministry’s blog. “Instead of funding efforts against people, the Knights should be more transparent and fund efforts which support economically poor people.”
The Knights of Columbus, with 1.8 million members in the U.S. and nearly a dozen other countries, reported charitable contributions of $167 million in 2012. A press release from last June says the donations went to “Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, victims of natural disasters, local food banks, the economically disadvantaged and physically and intellectually disabled persons” as well as “church and community projects.”