The leader of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, seems to be facing some dissent within the ranks over his politicking in the presidential race. A group calling itself "Knights for Obama" has set up a Web page "responding to those who have tarnished the great reputation of the Knights of Columbus by dragging its 1.3 million members into tacit endorsement of the Republican candidate in this crucial Presidential election." The quotes from a few members of the K of C are worth noting.Anderson jumped into the presidential campaign with his letter to Joseph Biden in September. It chastised the VP candidate for comments he made concerning church teaching on abortion and invited him in for a chat.The letter and the invite were all well and good, and I think Biden's statements show he might profit from some theology instruction. But Anderson's political intention was obvious, given that he advertised his letter in some shrewdly targeted campaign "battleground" locales - in newspapers in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., among others.Anderson is certainly familiar with presidential politics. During the 1980s, he served as an aide to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and then as a special assistant to President Reagan and acting director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. Anderson's spokesman at the K of C, Patrick Korten, was a spokesman for Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese III.The Knights took a strong anti-abortion position long before Anderson came to head the organization - but Anderson's decision to advertise his rebuke of the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in the heavily Catholic battleground counties of a battleground state crossed the line into partisan political activity. It's no wonder that some members are speaking out.
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.