05 September 2019, The Tablet

The Knights of Columbus: brothers in alms?

The Knights of Columbus: brothers in alms?

Members of the Knights of Columbus in their new uniform, which replaced ceremonial regalia on 1 July


A US-based fraternity and charity that is one of the wealthiest and most powerful lay organisations in the Catholic Church has been accused of fraud, deception and theft

Eric Wilson was 23 years old when he joined the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternity that, thanks to a multibillion-dollar insurance arm, is the wealthiest and most active lay group in the English-speaking Church.

Two years earlier, he had been received into the Church and like many other male Catholics looked for a group that would support him in his faith. Across parishes in the United States, the Knights are pillars of the community, raising money for charity through fried-fish gatherings on Fridays. Just before Wilson’s “first-degree ceremony” to join the Knights, he was approached by an insurance representative who laid out the life insurance policy options.

“I thought I was joining a Catholic men’s fraternal organisation. I didn’t realise I was joining an insurance company,” he told me. “I was a young guy. I wasn’t married and didn’t have a mortgage. I wasn’t exactly in need of a life insurance policy at that point.” Wilson claims it was made clear to him that if he wanted to be a good Knight, he needed to take out the policy.

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