The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to throw out the precedent set in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country, is a landmark victory but not the end of the fight for life, said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly.
“Roe v. Wade is finally gone. We now have a chance to win the fight for life,” Kelly said during the Annual Report to the Supreme Council delivered on Tuesday, Aug. 2, the opening day of the 140th Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention held in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Knights have been involved in the effort to end abortion in the United States since the beginning of the respect for life movement soon after the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, Kelly noted, supporting the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., providing ultrasound machines to pregnancy resource centers, and a host of other activities.
“By ending Roe, the Court has empowered us to end one of the worst injustices in American history,” Kelly said. “Roe is overturned, but we have more work to do. We will continue to march for life until abortion is unthinkable.”
With the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center, the question of abortion will now move to the states.
“Each state has a choice to make,” Kelly said. “At least half will protect life to some degree. But others will keep the abortion status quo. And some states will even expand abortion, putting mothers and children in greater danger. They will double down on a culture of death. So we must push forward with a message of life.
“The good news is that the American people, in fact, are with us,” Kelly added. “We have found that when you move beyond simplistic labels and ask Americans what they actually think about abortion, there is a clear pro-life consensus.”
Polling by the Knights and Marist shows that seven in 10 Americans favor substantial restrictions on legal abortions, Kelly said. “Year after year, the overwhelming majority wants to protect life.
“But we can’t just change the law. We must also change hearts and minds,” he said. “With Roe gone, many mothers will still experience fear and uncertainty. Many will be tempted to seek an abortion in another state. But the Knights can point them in a different direction — toward life.”
Kelly called on the Knights to increase its support for pregnancy resource centers that help women experiencing an unexpected or crisis pregnancy.
The Supreme Council has launched the Aid and Support After Pregnancy (ASAP) initiative. “When a council donates to a pregnancy center or maternity home, the Supreme Council will match 20 percent,” Kelly said. “We’ve set an initial target of $5 million for this year alone. But I know we can exceed that goal.
“ASAP is a priority, and around the world, I urge every Knight to rededicate himself to supporting mothers and children,” Kelly said.
The Catholic Church in the United States and around the world is facing other challenges, as well, Kelly said.
“We are at risk of losing the freedom to practice our faith and even to speak openly about the most foundational truths,” Kelly said. “Amid this crisis, it’s getting harder to be a Catholic. And it’s tougher than ever to hand on our faith to our children and our grandchildren.”
Four out of five Catholics will fall away from the Church by their early 20s, Kelly said. “In these difficult times, each of us needs a living faith. And each of us needs to lead others to the faith. That’s why we’ll soon launch a discipleship and evangelization initiative.”
Evangelization will be one of his top priorities as Supreme Knight, said Kelly, who was installed in the position in 2021. “When I look back on the order’s history, I see evangelization in virtually everything we’ve done,” Kelly said. “Yet today, there is a special urgency.
“Trusting in God’s strength, and not in our own, Knights of Columbus say, ‘Yes.’ For our faith, for our families — we will gladly step into the breach,” Kelly said. “For us, going into the breach means strengthening families and spreading the faith. It means deepening our commitment to our highest principles — charity, unity and fraternity.”
The Supreme Convention, which attracted more than 2,500 Knights and their families from around the world to Nashville’s Opryland Resort and Convention Center Aug. 2-4, was the first one held in-person since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After three long years, the Supreme Convention is in person again,” Kelly said. “We are back where we belong.”
With more than 2 million members worldwide, the Knights, which are open to Catholic men 18 and older, are the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization.
“I know exactly how to sum up the men of this brotherhood,” Kelly said. “It’s the heart of my message today and our mission moving forward: A Knight is a leader who stands in the breach. We protect the faith. We defend the family, and when a need arises, we rise to meet it — with charity, unity and fraternity.”
In the last fraternal year, Knights donated nearly $154 million to charity and provided close to 48 million hours of volunteer service.
Before Kelly delivered the annual report, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the order’s Supreme Chaplain, read a papal message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, delivered on behalf of Pope Francis.
“The theme of this year’s convention — ‘Into the Breach’ — recognizes the firm commitment of the Knights to contribute to the renewal of the Church’s life and mission at this critical moment in her history,” following the global COVID-19 pandemic, Cardinal Parolin wrote.
“Indeed, one of the urgent tasks facing the Church at every level in the immediate future is that of restoring vibrant parish life, rebuilding the works of the apostolate and reaching out pastorally to those who, for whatever reason, have yet to return to full participation in the Church’s sacramental life,” he added. “His Holiness is convinced that the Knights will find creative ways to place their ingenuity, generosity and trust in God’s grace at the service of this urgent task of spiritual renewal, and so play a vital role in ensuring that individuals and parishes emerge from the crisis in an even better state than before.”
The message also acknowledged the Knights efforts to provide relief to the people of Ukraine since the invasion of the country by Russia last February.
“From the outbreak of hostilities, the Knights have been in the forefront of efforts to address the grave humanitarian crisis resulting from the displacement of countless civilians, providing much-needed food, medicine and clothing to the refugees,” Parolin wrote. Pope Francis “is greatly consoled by the solidarity shown to the suffering Ukrainian people through the efforts of the Knights in that country, in cooperation with the local Churches, to meet so many immediate material and spiritual needs.”
It is fitting that the Knights were gathering in Tennessee and the Diocese of Nashville, the home of Mikey Schachle, the son of Daniel and Michelle Schachle, parishioners at St. Christopher Church in Dickson. Mikey’s cure of a deadly case of fetal hydrops while still in his mother’s womb was proclaimed a miracle due to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, opening the door to his beatification.
“Mikey Schachle is now a healthy and active 7-year-old,” Kelly said as Mikey and his parents sat in the front row. “To the Schachle family: Thank you — for saying ‘yes’ to life. And thank you for playing such an important role in our founder’s path to beatification. And Mikey, your life is a blessing to your family, to us and to the world.”
To read the full Annual Report, visit www.kofc.org/en/events/supreme-convention/2022/index.html.