Catholic Gonzaga University Bans Knights of Columbus Because They’re Catholic

I’ve written posts recently that I said were “man bites dog” stories. I suppose that makes this one a “dog bites self” story. 

According to the Cardinal Newman Society, Gonzaga University which bills itself as a Catholic university and whose mascot is the bulldog, banned the Knights of Columbus from their campus. This evidently came after a year of stone-walling by the University administration.

The reason this dog decided to bite itself? 

Because the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization. Dr Sue Weitz, Gonzaga Vice President for Student Life, wrote (emphasis mine):

“The Knights of Columbus, by their very nature, is a men’s organization in which only Catholics may participate via membership,” says a letter obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society written by Sue Weitz, Vice President for Student Life. “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.”

So. Does this mean that if I went to Gonzaga, my all-mom (which, by definition, makes us all female) rosary group could not be recognized by the university? What about an all-girl lamaze class? Of course, the all-male part of this letter, coming from a school with a winning basketball team, which, if I’m not mistaken, is all-male, is ridiculous on its face. It’s just puffery.

The thing that really strikes home is the “dog bites self” action of a Catholic university banning a Catholic organization because it’s Catholic. Dr Weitz commented in the letter that she “believes strongly in the university’s policy of non-discrimination and inclusiveness.”

I would guess that she probably believes what she wrote, but it’s nonsense. In truth, schools like Gonzaga that are so self-consciously “inclusive” and committed to “nondiscrimination” are the elite training grounds for a new upper class. Wealthy parents prepare their children from infancy to go to schools like Gonzaga because they are a funnel for targeting certain people into the privileged zip codes and plumb positions that rule the rest of us.

Harvard, Princeton, Yale are the premiere examples of this. A diploma from one of these schools is a ticket to entry into that other world of easy connections the rest of the country knows nothing about.  Gonzaga students have to push a bit more to get there, but for a vice president of this school to call it “inclusive” and “nondiscriminatory” is an oxymoron.

In truth, these upper tier schools, including those on the second and third tiers like Gonzaga, are no more inclusive and nondiscriminatory than the old “400″ of East Coast high society.

Money is the new discrimination. Wealth is the new prejudice. And the attitudes of the moneyed class control and corrupt higher education from top to bottom. Based on this action banning the Knights of Columbus from their Catholic school, I would say that these attitudes of exclusiveness and discrimination rule absolutely at Gonzaga. 

I don’t find it surprising at all that a school which has veered so far from Catholic teaching as it regards wealth and power would be embarrassed by an unashamedly Catholic organization like the Knights of Columbus. Catholicism, if it is practiced as a faith and not a social delimiter, is the antithesis of what all these upper tier schools have become. 

There was a time when education was considered a leaven to our whole society. The principle behind public education is that we will provide a free, equal education for all our citizens so that every single one of them has a chance to live their life to its fullest. 

What has happened instead is that our schools have become, as I said earlier, funnels for discrimination. From the horrible slum schools we foist on large segments of the population, to the country club public schools we provide to other segments of the population, and on into the university level, education in this country has become a method and a means of creating and perpetuating a moneyed elite and a limited citizenry.

Gonzaga is part of that.

The last thing a school of this nature would want is a genuine Christian influence on its campus. Christianity has a way of turning this elitist nonsense on its head and demanding in the name of a God of justice and mercy that we do better.

I am not saying that this bizarre little letter with its facile self-righteousness that banned the Knights of Columbus from Gonzaga’s campus said any of this. I am not even saying that the Vice President who wrote it or the administrative board that backed it are thinking in these precise terms. I am saying that this is what they are doing.

These upper tier schools appear to be so self-congratulatory that it would never occur to them to challenge their own moral assumptions. They are bubbles of group-think and like-thinking and they have become increasingly aggressive about keeping anyone who is not “our kind” off their premises.

The Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Church which preaches the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount are definitely not “our kind” in these schools.

Upper tier schools talk a good game about their inclusive, nondiscriminatory values. But in practice they are the instruments by which we have created and are perpetuating an isolated and privileged new upper class.

Gonzaga still claims it’s Catholic identity. In fact, it’s rather self-conscious about it. But I think Gonzaga lost its true Catholic identity long before it sent this letter banning the Knights of Columbus from its campus. True Catholic identity means identifying with the least, the lost, the poor and the weak. Gonzaga has evidently become the kind of school where that Gospel challenge to true inclusiveness and non-discrimination is a bridge too far. 


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  • Bill S

    I don’t think it is discrimination to have a club or organization that is dedicated to a certain segment of society. We have Italian-American and Polish-American clubs, VFWs, women’s organizations, etc. Before I adopted my atheist views, I joined the K of C and am still a member. I wouldn’t think of leaving it just because my faith has changed. I don’t think the University realizes that the K of C serves many non-denominational functions and would be not so different from an African-American, Islamic, Chinese, etc. organization. I think it is a big mistake banning them from the campus.

  • Theodore Seeber

    Her e-mail is . Perhaps a large enough outcry will challenge this.

    • Ted Seeber

      And this is what I got back:
      Dear Mr. Seeber:
      Thank you for your thoughtful note regarding the recent reports about the proposed Knights of Columbus student group at Gonzaga. We appreciate you taking the time to connect with us. Please note the statement below, and check back with me if you would like to be informed at the conclusion of the review.


      Gonzaga University’s Student Life division recently issued a decision that it could not recognize a proposed Knights of Columbus student club under its current club recognition process. The University is concerned that all of the factors involved in this decision have not been represented in their entirety, and thus may be misunderstood.

      Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh states that Gonzaga honors and respects the purpose and good works of the Knights of Columbus, with which it has a long tradition and mutual collaboration at both local and state levels. The Knights of Columbus College Council (#12583) is already present within the student body and receives support from the administration. Gonzaga University’s core Catholic and Jesuit identity recognizes, encourages and supports many student organizations that advance faith-related issues (for example, Gonzaga Right to Life, and the Blessed John Paul II Fellowship).

      President McCulloh has received a request from the sponsoring student to review the decision regarding the recognition of the organization as a student club, and has decided to undertake this review. The review is expected to take 30-45 days.

      Thank you,
      Mary Joan

      Mary Joan Hahn, APR
      Director of Community and Public Relations
      Gonzaga University
      Direct: 509.313.6095
      Mobile: 509.263.3698

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        Thank you Ted. I would think that Gonzaga alumnis might have some ability to persuade if they wrote. Do you know any?

        • Theodore Seeber

          I know a few- and pasted a link to your blog in the Magis Center For Reason and Faith moderator group on facebook- since that is centered at Gonzaga.

  • Mike Petrik

    The sheer lunacy of Ms. Weitz’s reasoning is hysterical. Even funnier than Bill’s well-intended but silly notion that it makes sense to be an atheist and a K of C.

    • savvy


      Bill wants the kingdom, but not the King. He wants the Catholic church, because it has influence in the world, but he could care less about the theology. This is the driving force behind clericalism.

      • Theodore Seeber

        I understand the first sentence. But the second and third puzzle me a lot. How can a closet atheist (the center of such philosophy is individual truth, right or wrong) be for clericalism (the philosophy within the Church that ignores the sins of priests and takes every word any member of the magisterium says to be infallible)? These seem to me to be competing extreme philosophies, totally antitheistic to each other.

  • Guest

    I looked through their list of clubs and there are a number of Catholic oriented ones, including the Knights (men) and Setons (women) of Gonzaga focused on community service and the Blessed JP II club. But as far as I can see they are not limited to participation by Catholics only.

    Nor could I see any other clubs that limit membership to a specific criteria, e.g., the Black Student Union is presumably open to students of other races who want to participate in their activities, although the limited info on the club website doesn’t really make it clear what membership limitations are for any group. Presumably the Golf Club and the Filipino American Club only include people interested in golf or Filipino culture, but they are probably open to anyone that wants to be a member.

    The K of C is Catholic members only and there is nothing wrong with that. It just doesn’t fit the criteria for a student org. and I don’t think that is anti-Catholic. I think student orgs have to be open to all students or things can get too polarized. It creates a problem for some clubs in that they might get over-run by opponents trying to shut them down but that’s what well-written membership by-laws are supposed to prevent.

  • Cynthia Schrage

    While it does seem ridiculous, I think “Guest” is right. Technically, the K of C does restrict membership, and that does violate most colleges’ student organization requirements.

    I used to be a big fan of the Knights, until I learned that they won’t insure single Catholic women that aren’t members of a religious order. Apparently, single lay women don’t count with them, and I find that objectionable.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Cynthia, I don’t see how their insurance has anything to do with this situation at Gonzaga. So far as I know, it was not an issue in the decision the university made.

      Also, when did “rules” trump reason? This is a Catholic school, or it says it is. The Knights of Columbus are the pre-eminent Catholic laymen’s organization. I think you could make a fair case for sexism being involved in banning them for this reason. The idea that someone can say “I have a rule, that I wrote myself, which allows me to make arbitrary judgements of what other people may do,” does not mean that anyone else is required to accede to the logic of this so-called “rule.”

      Private organizations should have the right to restrict membership. I include country clubs and such that restrict on the basis of things I find truly abhorrent. I don’t like what they do, but I believe they have a right to do it. Fraternities and sororities restrict membership all the time, as do religious orders and certain civic organizations.

      On a university campus the question becomes one of which organizations do they chose to support, not a question of the rules. I would wager that if you delved into it, you would find that Gonzaga has been at least somewhat selective in how it enforces these rules. I say that because that’s how these things work. Gonzaga has evidently written some rules for itself that its administration believes trump its charter and public position as a Catholic school.

      A school founded and promoted as a Catholic university is coming dangerously close to false advertising when they do something like this. If I was paying the tuition (which I can not afford, btw, since it’s around $34,500 for one year) for one of my kids to attend Gonzaga, that’s exactly how this incident would make me feel. It makes no difference if they were members of the Knights or not. The principle is the thing.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Cynthia, the primary purpose of Knights of Columbus Insurance is to insure the future of widows and children of members. Has been that way since 1882. If your father is a Knight, you should be able to get insurance through them, even as an adult child.

  • Ákos

    They are not Cathlic but Hyper-Liberal because they believe in the Individual who is Unlimitable being Divine. Of course there cannot be such a social limit as an exclusive membership for the Divine Individual. One could argue that they don’t think that individuals are unlimitable but they are afraid of haughtyness from the part of such an exclusive club and envy from the part of those excluded. But this fear is only hypothetical. If such a thing emerged they cpuld still change their rules. But they are so super cautious – or so hysterically Liberal – that their policy proved to be the realization of UDI religion (Unlimitable Divine Individual). I guess they would ban the Catholic church from their campus because Catholic church is an organization the member of which cannot be anything else but Catholic.

  • FW Ken

    From what I’ve been reading, some Knights chapters have made sure a parallel group for women is available, and offer an associate membership for non-Catholics. That strikes me as good evangelism and brings more hands to bear on the Knights good works.

    If memory serves, this school has on faculty a woman who claims to be both an Episcopal priest and a Muslim.

    • Andrew O’Brien

      I believe you are thinking of Seattle University (also Jesuit, though).

    • Dale

      Ken, I believe you are referring to Ann Holmes Redding. After refusing to renounce Islam, she was formally “defrocked” by The Episcopal Church, so she is no longer a priest.

      As Andrew mentioned, she taught at Seattle University for one academic year, as a visiting professor. Since that time, she founded an organization called Abrahamic Reunion West. Its goal is to re-unite, or at least reconcile, the three Abrahamic religions. I think her duties with that group has kept her busy.

  • vox borealis

    Another example in a long list for why the Church should start shedding many of its Catholic-in-name-only institutions, including (sadly) many universities and not a few hospitals.

  • Pam

    My daughter attends Gonzaga and I have heard complaints about Dr. Weitz for the past 2 years. She and her housemates have described how many of Dr. Weitz policies are creating an oppressive student climate at Gonzaga. This is just one more bad policy decision.

    A Catholic university which refuses an elite Catholic club? No more annual contributions from my family.

  • Andrew O’Brien

    They should ban the Jesuits. They are also all male.

    • Rebecca Hamilton


  • Connie Clark

    This is so disheartening. My high school-age son hopes to attend a Catholic university–and Gonzaga has always been high on his list. But if this is what he has to look forward to, maybe we should save our money and look into state schools or non-Catholic schools with Newman Centers. You know, like George Washington University. Oh, wait…

  • Fabio P.Barbieri

    Oh, it’s a Jesuit institution, eh? Explains everything.

  • Bill S

    ” He wants the Catholic church, because it has influence in the world, but he could care less about the theology. This is the driving force behind clericalism.”

    Savvy, I looked up clericalism:
    a policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy.

    You haven’t correctly identified my motivation for staying in the K of C and going to church. That’s where the people I know and love are. The best I can do is go along with them and state my real feelings anonymously.

  • FW Ken

    Connie Clark -

    The Newman Guide is a good review of Catholic schools referencing their academics and Catholic identity:

    • Connie Clark

      Thanks, FW Ken. This is handy!

  • Michael Moore

    I read on the web “Sue Weitz, Vice President of Student Life, talks with a few students at Crosby. Weitz will step down as Vice President after 30 years of service to the University. Look for a story in the upcoming issue of Gonzaga Magazine on what she has learned in her time at Gonzaga.”
    As someone said maybe she saw the light (at the end of the tunnel)

  • FW Ken

    Dale and Andrew –

    Thank you. I did, in fact, confuse Seattle U. and Gonzaga. I didn’t know the Episcopal Church had defrocked Ms. Redding, although her bishop (Geralyn Wolf) did suspend her. That was the last I heard.

  • VtLaura

    In order for a university to recognize and truly be diverse, it must allow groups to be diverse, meaning different from each other. If you do not allow Catholics or Catholic men’s organizations to exist, you discriminate against Catholics/Catholic men’s organizations. You cannot have diversity if you do not allow groups to be who they are. By disallowing groups to discriminate according to its kind, the university discriminates by disallowing diversity. Think about a chess club that wants all its members to be chess players or those who want to learn chess, but cannot because that would be discrimination, a prayer group that wants all its members to pray (but of course one must believe in the power of prayer) and would exclude atheists. There is no diversity on campus if the university does not allow groups to be who they are.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Wise words Laura.