The Knights of Columbus is organized into four degrees of membership, the fourth being the highest. In the early 1900’s a document was circulated alleging to be the order’s fourth degree oath, in which members promised to wage endless war on Protestants. Known as the “Bogus Oath,” it was frequently cited by anti-Catholic lecturers and authors through the 1920’s, particularly when Alfred E. Smith ran as the nation’s first Catholic presidential candidate. Here is the entire document as reproduced from a book titled The 4th Degree Oath of the Knights of Columbus:
I, _____________, now in the Presence of Almighty God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the blessed St. John the Baptist, the holy apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, and all the Saints, sacred host of Heaven, and to you, my Ghostly Father, the superior general of the society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, in the pontification of Paul the III, and continued to be present, do by the womb of the Virgin, the matrix of God, and the rod of Jesus Christ, declare and swear, that his Holiness, the Pope, is Christ’s vice-regent, and is the true and only head of the Catholic or Universal Church throughout the earth; and that by virtue of the keys of binding and loosing given his holiness by my Savior, Jesus Christ, he hath power to depose heretical kings, princes, States, commonwealths and governments that they may be safely destroyed. Therefore, to the utmost of my power, I will defend this doctrine and his Holiness’ right and custom against all usurpers of the heretical or Protestant authority whatever, especially the Lutheran Church of Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and the now pretended authority and churches of England and Scotland, and the branches of same now established in Ireland, and on the continent of America and elsewhere, and all adherents in regard that they may be usurped and heretical, opposing the sacred Mother Church of Rome.
I now denounce and disown any allegiance as due to any heretical king, prince or State, named Protestant or Liberals, or obedience to any of their laws, magistrates or officers.
I do further declare, that I will help, assist and advise all or any of his Holiness’ agents, in any place where I should be, in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Ireland or America, or in any other kingdom or territory I shall come to, and do my utmost to extirpate the heretical Protestant or Masonic Doctrines, and to destroy all their pretended powers, legal or otherwise.
I do further promise and declare that, notwithstanding I am dispensed with to assume any religion heretical for the propagation of the Mother Church’s interest; to keep secret and private all her agent’s counsels from time to time, as they entrust me, and not divulge, directly or indirectly, by word, writing or circumstance whatever, but to execute all that should be proposed, given in charge, or discovered unto me, by any Ghostly Father or any of this sacred order.
I do further promise and declare that I will have no opinion or will of my own or any mental reservation whatsoever, even as a corpse or cadaver (perinde ac cadaver), but will unhesitatingly obey each and every command that I may receive from my superiors in the militia of the Pope and of Jesus Christ.
That I will go to any part of the world withersoever I may be sent, to the frozen regions of the North, to the burning sands of the desert of Africa, or the Jungles of India, to the centers of civilization of Europe, or to the wild haunts of the barbarous savages of America, without murmuring or repining, and will be submissive in all things whatsoever is communicated to me.
I do further promise and declare that I will, when opportunity presents, make and wage relentless war, secretly and openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Masons, as I am directed to do, to extirpate them from the face of the whole earth; and that I will spare neither age, sex or condition, and that I will burn, hang, waste, boil, flay, strangle, and bury alive these infamous heretics ; rip up the stomachs and wombs of the women, and crush their infants’ head against the walls, in order to annihilate their execrable race. That when the same cannot be done openly, I will secretly use the poisonous cup, the strangulation cord, the steel of the poinard, or the leaden bullet, regardless of the honor, rank, dignity or authority of the persons, whatever be their condition in life, either public or private, as I at any time may be directed so to do, by any agent of the Pope, or Superior of the Brotherhood of the Holy Father of the Society of Jesus.
In confirmation of which I hereby dedicate my life, soul and all corporeal powers, and with the dagger which I now receive I will subscribe my name, written in my blood, in testimony thereof; and should I prove false or weaken in my determination, may my brethren and fellow soldiers of the militia of the Pope, cut off my hands and feet and my throat from ear to ear, my belly opened and sulphur burned therein with all the punishment that can be inflicted upon me on earth and my soul shall be tortured by demons in eternal hell forever.
That I will in voting always vote for a Knight of Columbus in preference to a Protestant— especially a Mason and that I will leave my party so to do; that if two Catholics are on the ticket I will satisfy myself which is the better supporter of the Mother Church and vote accordingly.
That I will not deal with or employ a Protestant if in my power to deal with or employ a Catholic. That I will place Catholic girls in Protestant families of the heretics.
That I will provide myself with arms and ammunition that I may be in readiness when the sword is passed, or I am, commanded to defend the church, either as an individual or with the militia of the Pope.
All of which I, ___________ , do swear by the blessed Trinity and the blessed Sacrament which I am now to receive, to perform and on my part to keep this my oath.
In testimony thereof. I take this most holy and blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, and witness the same further, with my name written with the point of this dagger, dipped in my own blood, and seal, in the face of this Holy Sacrament.
Thomas E. Watson, The 4th Degree Oath of the Knights of Columbus: An Un-American Secret Society Bound to the Italian, By Pledges of Treason and Murder (Thomson, GA: The Tom Watson Book Company, 1928), 19-21.