Sometimes stories like these take on a second life and a third life…

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A nest of hornets have been stirred in the Catholic blogosphere.  According to the Catholic World Report, administrators at Gonzaga University (GU) have refused the application of the Knights of Columbus group to be recognized as an official student group.

What’s the problem?

According to GU’s Vice President for Student Life, Sue Weitz:

The Knights of Columbus, by their very nature, is a men’s organization in which only Catholics may participate via membership. These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University’s commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion.

Undeterred by the charge that the Knights of Columbus is discriminatory and noninclusive when it comes to its membership criteria, the former advisor to the group, Dr. Eric Cunningham, responded:

The chief reason for my confusion is that as an organization, the Knights of Columbus is, by these criteria, identical to the Society of Jesus. How strange it is to think that if Ignatius of Loyola and his companions, who were students at the University of Paris when they established the Society, had tried to apply for club status at Gonzaga, they would have been denied.

I can’t help but wonder if it is the intention of the Office of Student Life to dissociate itself from Gonzaga University because of the Jesuits’ long-standing practice of such “discrimination,” or will Student Life instead choose to initiate action to remove the Society of Jesus from its affiliation with the Gonzaga community?

This may strike you as an absurd inquiry, but it is actually a logical response to the rationale in your decision. As you noted, the revival of the Catholic Daughters on campus would solve the “gender-exclusivity” problem, but alas, the Catholic Daughters are Catholic too, and that seems to be central problem.

It would appear that the Knights of Columbus have been denied recognition as a club on this Catholic campus specifically because it is a Catholic group. Is that not the only conclusion one might draw?

Well, it’s certainly not the only conclusion one might draw.  But, it certainly is indisputable that the Knights of Columbus is discriminatory and noninclusive when it comes to its membership criteria.  Members must not only be Catholic males, but practicing Catholic males.  And, it appears, that’s a mortal sin when it comes attaining club status at Gonzaga.

But, that’s where this story takes on its second life.

As it just so happens, Catholic Education Daily is reporting that legislators in Idaho and Virginia are inviting religious student clubs to seek official recognition at public universities.

Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia signed the “Student Group Protection Act” on March 26, giving religious clubs the right to define their doctrines and, to the extent allowed by law, to limit membership to students who are committed to their missions.  Govervnor C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho followed up on March 29 when he signed the Campus Access for Religious Students, requiring the state’s universities to recognize religious clubs despite faith-based membership requirements.  Both laws provide for the “special needs” of religious-oriented clubs that have faith requirements for their leaders and members.

Might Knights of Columbus councils be officially recognized as student clubs at state universities in Virginia and Idaho and but not at a Catholic university in Spokane, WA?

Well, GU administrators do have an ace up their sleeves, one that may give this story yet a third life.

As it just so happens, Georgetown University in Washington, DC—also a Jesuit institution—ruled its Knights of Columbus Council 6375 ineligible for official recognition as a student club.  So, too, Fordham University in New York City—another Jesuit institution—ruled its Knights of Columbus Council 6077 ineligible for official recognition as a student club.  However, both institutions allow their Knights of Columbus councils to operate under special supervision from their respective campus ministry offices.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if secular universities officially recognize Knights of Columbus councils as student clubs while Catholic universities—like Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Fordham—don’t because administrators have determined that the organization is discriminatory and noninclusive?



To read the article in the Catholic World Report, click on the following link:

To read the article in Catholic Education Daily, click on the following link:

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