Knights of Columbus
This is Carl Anderson. You may not know him. But he is one of the most inf luential Catholics in the world
Think of the controversies that have beset the Catholic Church in recent years – troubles at the Vatican Bank, investigations into American women Religious, the introduction of the new English Missal, the fight with President Obama over health care. Linked to all of them is Carl Anderson, head of a wealthy lay organisation, the Knights of Columbus. How does he manage to have a finger in so many pies? Our Rome correspondent investigates
No one knows how difficult it is to serve both God and Mammon as much as the men who run the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the so-called Vatican Bank. Turmoil over the recent ousting of its president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, has not only made that clear, but has also put a spotlight on the Vatican’s less than successful efforts to “modernise” this ambiguous financial institution and bring it into line with European regulations.
The reasons why Gotti Tedeschi, an Italian financier and member of Opus Dei, failed in this task remain mysterious. But it became obvious months ago that his bosses had lost confidence in him. Now they are looking to an American lawyer and insurance mogul to resurrect this ambitious enterprise. He is Carl Anderson, the 62-year-old head of the Knights of Columbus, a US-based organisation that describes itself as “the world’s foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society”. He has been on the IOR’s five-man board of directors since September 2009. As its recording secretary, he wrote the unflattering 24 March memorandum to officially inform Gotti Tedeschi of his firing, a decision that the fivemember commission of cardinals that oversees the IOR then ratified. Many of Anderson’s fellow Catholic Americans probably did not realise he was so closely associated with the Vatican Bank until its latest mess. That would have been because most of them grew up with an image of the Knights of Columbus as a group of Catholic men who sponsored Friday fish fries at their local meeting hall, provided swordand-plume honour guards at special episcopal Masses and gathered each week for a game of cards over a few beers or whisky sours.
In fact, the Knights is a wealthy organisation with assets of US$15.6 billion (£10bn), which it dispenses to charities and other worthy causes. It claims to have given away nearly US$1.5bn (£965 million) over the past decade, to beneficiaries including projects and activities sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Holy See. The money is presumed to come from interest and investments generated from the multibillion-dollar life insurance company that exists exclusively for the Knights and their families. When Fr Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882, the main purpose was to provide financial support for the widows and orphans of its members. Now that there are 1.8 million men belonging to some 14,000 chapters (mostly in the US and Canada, but also in Mexico, the Philippines, Poland and several Caribbean countries), it is easy to understand how the organisation’s wealth has expanded so impressively. The empire now has US$80bn (£51.4bn) of insurance in force with 1,400 full-time agents in the field.
Carl Anderson has been involved with the Knights, which calls itself “the strong right arm of the Church”, since the 1980s. For the past 12 years he has been the Supreme Knight, a lucrative position with an annual combined salary and benefits package of roughly US$1.2m (£772,051). The Supreme Knight also oversees a group that helps bankroll the hierarchy’s projects and mission. Even in the world of religion, it is not unheard of for he who pays
ThePope greets Carl Anderson after blessing the Vatican’s newhigh-definition mobile TV studio in 2010. Photo: CNS, Paul Haring the piper sometimes gets to pick the tune.
By virtue of his office, the Supreme Knight is considered a trusted Catholic layman. So like his predecessor, Virgil Dechant (1977– 2000), Anderson is a member of such Roman Curia offices as the Pontifical Council for the Laity (2002), the Pontifical Academy for Life (1998) and the Pontifical Council for the Family (2008), as well as a consultor to two other pontifical councils – Justice and Peace (2003) and Social Communications (2007).
The Knights give thousands of dollars each year to these offices. They have also pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into an ongoing project begun in 1981 to refurbish St Peter’s Basilica, largely financed the Vaticansponsored visitation of the communities of US women Religious, and helped to substantially cover the budget of the Vox Clara Committee, the group of English-speaking bishops set up to oversee the new translation of the Roman Missal.
But Carl Anderson’s influence in the USCCB and at the Vatican is not merely derivative of his position as head of the Knights of Columbus. It is also due to the personal contacts with movers and shakers in the Catholic hierarchy who he began to cultivate long before he rose to the pinnacle of his fraternal order. Some of these relationships were probably forged during his years in Washington DC, where he practised law and then worked for President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1987.
It was during this period that Mgr William Lori, a man with whom Anderson would later form a powerful allegiance, was a personal aide to Washington’s Cardinal James Hickey. Lori became an auxiliary bishop in Washington in 1995, but in 2001 – only a year after Anderson became Supreme Knight – he was appointed Bishop of Bridgeport (Connecticut), just a 21-mile drive from the Knights’ headquarters in New Haven. Bishop Lori was elected Supreme Chaplain of the Knights in 2005, and then last March he was named as Archbishop of Baltimore, even though he was not thought to be in line for the prestigious post. His appointment came just a few months after he was put in charge of the USCCB’s high-powered ad hoc committee for religious liberty, the body leading the fight against President Obama’s contraception mandate
4 | THE TABLET | 16 June 2012 for health-care coverage. Significantly, Anderson is a consultant to the committee and the Knights of Columbus are one of its principal financial and political supporters.
Anderson also began to consolidate important connections in Rome well before becoming Supreme Knight, particularly during the years between 1983 and 1998 when he served as a visiting professor at the Lateran University’s John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. During that period several other churchmen who are now cardinals and leading Vatican officials were also professors or deans at the university. They include Cardinals Carlo Caffarra (Bologna) and Marc Ouellet (Congregation for Bishops), as well as Archbishop Rino Fisichella (Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation), the latter who also worked with Anderson briefly at the Academy for Life. Anderson also would have become acquainted with Cardinals Edwin O’Brien (Knights of the Holy Sepulchre) and Timothy Dolan (New York), who were rectors during this period at the Pontifical North American College.
But perhaps the most important contact Anderson made was with Cardinal Angelo Scola, currently Archbishop of Milan and Italy’s leading candidate for the papacy. The ambitious and industrious Fr Scola taught at the John Paul II Institute from 1982 until 1999, when he was named Bishop of Grosseto. When he returned as bishop-rector of the Lateran in 1995, he carried out much-needed, multi-million-dollar renovations before taking his building campaign north in 2002 as Patriarch of Venice. One of his first ambitious projects was to re-open and expand a university closed more than 70 years earlier, calling it the Studium Generale Marcianum.
Cardinal Scola appointed Anderson to the institute’s scientific committee. He also named him as the lone layman to the board of promoters of the Marcianum’s Oasis Project, a research foundation that meets annually and produces a journal to promote inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in the Mediterranean world.
Anderson is held in high esteem by some of the most important and powerful men in the Church hierarchy, including Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB. He was the first Vatican Secretary of State to attend a Knights of Columbus convention, something he did in 2007 when he went to the 125th anniversary gathering in Nashville, Tennessee. While there, the cardinal assured the Knights he would “personally work on” helping to have their founder proclaimed a saint.
Such high-level backing would seem to give credence to the speculation in the Italian media that Anderson could soon be asked to succeed the deposed Gotti Tedeschi as president of the Institute of the Works of Religion. The fact that he is not a banker would not disqualify him, but might actually help the Holy See in its insistence that the IOR is not a bank at all. But if the Supreme Knight were to become the institute’s president, he’d likely have to relinquish his current post and at least some of the influence it has given him.
‘Church policy on divorce is confusing, cruel, contradictory and uncanonical’
The Catholic Church’s current official policy regarding divorced people in second marriages, as exemplified by Pope Benedict’s recent remarks in Milan, is a cause not so much of “suffering”, as he put it, but of grave scandal. It is driving people away in droves. It is a mess – not only confusing, cruel and contradictory, but also uncanonical.
Take the case of Angela, who could be anybody’s sister. Despite warnings that he had a reputation, she married Basil and they had two boys. Then, reverting to type, he got his secretary Charlene pregnant, left Angela, and they divorced. Eventually Angela found Dave, much more her type. He supplied the missing male role-model she felt her children badly needed. They fell in love, and she remarried. A happy ending? Yes, but only if you discount the efforts of the Catholic Church to bring back the heartache from which she had only recently escaped. No wonder she stopped going to Mass.
Pope John Paul II clearly had someone like Angela in mind when he wrote, in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.” Would any reasonable pastor, exercising careful discernment as John Paul says he must, judge that Angela is “obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin”? Obviously not. Yet apart from excommunication, that is the only criterion offered, under the relevant Canon Law clause 915, as to whom should not be admitted to Holy Communion. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not mention remarriage or divorce.
What is strange about this particular extract from Familiaris Consortio is that it goes nowhere, has no consequences. The Pope is plainly setting out the case for some relaxation – then baulks at it. Remarried Catholics “are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist”, Pope John Paul II bluntly declares. Any priest who exercised his discernment “for the sake of truth” needn’t have bothered.
Despite it being the Pope’s decisive knock-down conclusion, his theology seems to have mystified the Vatican’s own Congregation for Legislative Texts. It ignored the point completely when it issued a clarification of Canon 915 in 2000. The Congregation simply argued that the Canon does not mean what it says. Never mind the absence of manifest grave sin obstinately persisted in, as in the case of someone like Angela and indeed as in the examples “requiring careful discernment” outlined by Familiaris Consortio. Never mind the principle of Canon Law, as in criminal and civil law, that a restrictive law must be applied narrowly. It insists Canon 915 must be “interpreted” – by which it means “misrepresented” or “distorted” – by the light of traditional practice. Which cannot change.
So the Vatican Congregation treats Angela as being in a state of obstinate manifest grave sin even though she plainly isn’t. She cannot receive Holy Communion at Mass even though she is plainly qualified for it. An exemplary wife and loving mother who probably hasn’t a sinful bone in her body, Angela is regarded as far worse than priests who sexually abuse children, for they at least – and all too readily – can be forgiven. And this is where cruelty is added to cruelty. She has no remedy. She cannot confess and be absolved of a sin she hasn’t actually committed. Nor, with any integrity, can she leave Dave. Even the bizarre “brother and sister” solution advocated in Familiaris Consortio involves breaching her marriage vows to him. What we have here is an efficient machine for manufacturing lapsed Catholics, by the legion, or for breaking up good marriages.
But all this is so unnecessary. If everyone just followed Canon 915 in its plain and simple meaning, the problem would fade away. There can be no disobedience in that. And Angela could come home.
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