Knights of Columbus- Grand Knight resigns, alleges discrimination of sexuality


Controversy has surrounded the Saint Anselm Chapter of the Knights of Columbus recently as former Grand Knight Andrew Keyes resigned over what he claims was unfair discrimination based on his sexuality. Members from the school and national chapters have all issued responses to the Saint Anselm Crier over the events which have transpired.

Keyes, a double major in Criminal Justice and Politics in the Class of 2018, states that he was approached by the school’s chapter and told that he was formally asked to resign after he brought a member of the same sex to the Knights of Columbus Formal held on March 16. In an interview with the Crier, the Massachusetts Native said that at the event he didn’t receive any negative backlash for his decision to bring a male date to the formal. According to Keyes, many people were aware of his sexuality and the night continued smoothly. In the days following the formal, he claims knowledge of what occurred at the formal became public and it was requested by some that action be taken against the Grand Knight.

Keyes has been part of the Saint Anselm Chapter for four years states that he was not told outright that he was being forced to quit, but suspected that the Chapter was being pressured by the Supreme Council with threats to cut funding. Keyes told the Crier that while Chapter Chaplain Father Benedict Guevin was incredibly supportive, he expressed to Andrew that his hands were essentially tied. Keyes stated that in a meeting with Father Benedict, he said “I do not want any fight in the community- you can either resign peacefully or fight it and choose to go through an impeachment trial.”

Father Benedict, who provides spiritual guidance to the Knights, says that he had spoken to Keyes previous to leaving for a conference in Washington, D.C. last week. He believed that the two were on good terms at that time. Father Benedict also maintains, however, that he would never have held an impeachment trial, as this “isn’t his way of running things”. He also mentioned that he found out last week that Keyes had gone to the Dean’s Office about his resignation. Keyes says he was told that it was an option to “stay on as Grand Knight and (have) administration support [him.]” Both Keyes and Father Benedict however have stated that the Knights of Columbus is a Church organization, rather than a school club, and thus the school’s ability to get involved is limited. Keyes claimed that he was asked to resign because funding to the school’s chapter was threatened to be revoked, but both Father Benedict and Supreme Council dispute this.

The Crier reached out to Joseph Cullen, who is the Senior Communications Specialist for the Knights at their National Headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut.  Cullen sent a written statement saying, “The Knights of Columbus Supreme Office did not threaten to withhold any funding at any time to this council.” When asked how they reconciled with members of the LGBTQ community wanting to take part in the Knights of Columbus, he simply stated that “the membership criteria to be a Knight is that one be a practicing Catholic male age 18 or older.” Father Benedict also added that the Saint Anselm Chapter pays the Supreme office membership dues, and that he felt it wasn’t possible for funding to be cut by them when the organization doesn’t provide the school with financial support- thus, any connection to issues of funding remains murky at best.

According to both current Knights and Father Benedict, the issue is not with sexuality specifically, nor with Keyes as a person, but rather with the conflict created by Keyes’ position of Grand Knight and the Catholic Church’s understanding of relationships and sexuality. The Knights of Columbus mission statement says that “The Knights of Columbus is committed to being a Catholic company that upholds Catholic values and supports Catholic causes.” Therefore according to members of the Knights, since Keyes held the top leadership role, a contradiction was created between his role as Catholic leader and his decision to bring a male to the Knights of Columbus Formal.

Jaycen Carroll, Class of 2019, who is currently serving as Grand Knight until their elections, has stated that, “It isn’t about being gay, but it is about openly being declaring yourself in a same-sex relationship while holding office in an organization that seeks to uphold Catholic teaching,” a point echoed by Father Benedict and several other members of the Knights. Carroll furthermore stated he was confident the same decision would have been reached if the same situation had occurred with a Grand Knight who was head of a Public (non-school-affiliated) chapter.

Father Benedict mentioned that this situation would be parallel to someone of the Jewish faith holding a top leadership position but not representing Jewish values. Carroll said that this situation could be likened to a situation where “(A) leader of the (Knights of Columbus) decided to get civilly married because they didn’t want to uphold the responsibilities of being married in the Church, then (he would be removed) because the leader would not be upholding Catholic values.” Both maintained that he was free to attend meetings noting that “Mr. Keyes remains a knight and, as such, should be treated fraternally and with charity.”

Keyes ultimately stated that “I joined the knights because of their brotherhood, [their] community involvement and welcoming nature… it’s a family devoted to loving God and the community around them along with being able to help those less fortunate.”  During his interview with The Crier, Keyes mentioned how he was not only removed from his position as Grand Knight but had been told that his role as an altar server was no longer allowed, although this was not confirmed by the Saint Anselm Abbey Church at press time. He maintains that the Knights had nothing to do with his removal from his role in the Church and wanted to express that he has experienced support from many members of the Monastery and school community.