Anaheim, Calif., Aug 8, 2012 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Throughout the past year, the Knights of Columbus has fulfilled its mission through a strong defense of religious liberty and record-breaking amounts of charitable activity, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson announced.
Continuing in the long tradition of faith and charity that began with the organization’s founder, Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, the Knights have remained firm in their commitment “to preach the Gospel in word and deed,” he said on August 7.
Anderson delivered his annual report at the organization’s 130th Supreme Convention in Anaheim, Calif. With 1.8 million members around the world, the Knights are committed to the principles of charity, unity and fraternity.
One of the most important ways that the order has lived out this calling in the past year is in its adamant defense of religious liberty, Anderson explained.
He recalled the American founders’ commitment to religious freedom as a foundational liberty that comes from God.
“The history of Catholics in the United States is a history of defending religious freedom,” he said, adding that whenever this fundamental liberty is threatened, “we will vigorously defend it.”
Anderson then recalled that the Catholic Church’s interest in religious freedom is not something that began this past year, rather, it has been part of the Catholic experience “from the very beginning.”
And in Anderson’s words, the Knights of Columbus has “taken the lead” in defending religious liberty from various threats in past decades.
In the 19th century, the order stood strong against the Know-Nothings’ accusations that Catholics cannot be good citizens.
In the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan sponsored legislation to ban Catholic schools in the state of Oregon, the Knights supported a group of religious sisters in challenging the law. The sisters eventually won their case in the Supreme Court, securing their religious freedom and setting an important precedent for similar threats in the future.
The fraternal organization also played a key role in adding the words “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950s, Anderson said, adding that “we have defended their right to be there ever since.”
Now, the group is battling numerous contemporary threats to religious liberty, including a federal mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
Like all of the Knights’ work, the recent efforts to defend religious freedom have been “motivated by our commitment to charity,” Anderson emphasized.
This charity can also be seen in the order’s record-breaking donations of time and money in the past year, he said, announcing that the group has donated more than $158 million to charitable causes and over 70 million hours in volunteer work over the last year.
Among the Knights’ partners are the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and the Global Wheelchair Mission. The group has worked overseas to provide prosthetic limbs to Haitian children and assistance to AIDS orphans in Africa. Its domestic initiatives include blood drives, Coats for Kids and efforts to provide ultrasound machines to crisis pregnancy centers.
The order has also enjoyed continued growth, adding 215 new councils in the past year, Anderson reported.
The organization now includes 277 college councils and has reached more than 290,000 members in the Philippines, whom the Supreme Knight described as “truly extraordinary” in their faith and enthusiasm.
Looking forward, Anderson said that the Knights will continue in their practice of pursuing investments that are “economically and morally sustainable.”
The fact that the Knights of Columbus has been given the highest possible ratings for its insurance policies demonstrates that “ethics and success can and should go together,” he said.