Catholic Gonzaga University won’t allow Catholic students to form Catholic group

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Roman Catholic, Jesuit-affiliated Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington has refused to recognize the Knights of Columbus as an official student group because — wait for it — the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization.

Gonzaga administrators notified the students who had sought the school’s official seal of approval last month, reports The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Daily.

“The Knights of Columbus, by their very nature, is a men’s organization in which only Catholics may participate via membership,” reads a letter written by Sue Weitz, vice president for student life. “These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University.”

Right here seems like a sufficiently good place to observe that Gonzaga is under the umbrella of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) — a men’s organization in which only Catholic men may participate via membership.

Anyway, Weitz’s letter went on to explain that she feels “strongly” about Gonzaga’s “commitment to non-discrimination and inclusivity” and is troubled by the fact that “all members of a student Knights of Columbus group must be Catholic.”

“If Gonzaga was an institution that served only Catholics and limited the benefits of the collegiate experience only to them, the decision-making process may have been different,” she also opined. “To embrace the diversity and yet endorse a group based on faith exclusivity is a challenge that cannot be reconciled at this time.”

Weitz did not respond to queries from Catholic Education Daily.

The Knights of Columbus, founded in 1882 by a Connecticut priest, is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization.

A student-organized Knights of Columbus branch was successfully established at Gonzaga in 1999. At some unspecified point thereafter, though, the group’s officially-sanctioned status lapsed.

There also appears to be a building on Gonzaga’s campus named after the Knights of Columbus. According to the GU Bulldog Blog, the bland, brick edifice houses a members-only bar called the Christopher Columbus Club. Members must pay a $20 fee, get referred by another member and be at least 21 years old. (There’s also free food involved, and a t-shirt.)

The students seeking to resurrect the Knights of Columbus at Gonzaga spoke — anonymously — to The Catholic Daily. They said they are now weighing other options. One alternative is to form a group that is wholly separate from the school. Another possibility might be to establish a Knights of Columbus student group as part of the campus ministry.

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Eric Owens