English | | | KofC 125th Home | Contact Us

Pushing Boundaries - A History of the Knights of Columbus

Part VI: New Horizons

Pope John Paul II greets the Order's officers and directors during a private audience  granted the Knights in 1993.

In 1960, the Democrats nominated another Catholic as their candidate for president: John F. Kennedy, a member of Bunker Hill Council 62 in Charlestown, Mass., and a Fourth Degree Knight. Hart was by then the supreme knight of an organization that had grown so much in stature and influence that its 75th anniversary in 1957 had been marked by a cover story in Life magazine.

Hart believed that Kennedy’s election “would do more to eliminate bigotry in this country than anything else that ever happened.”

Anti-Catholicism wore different masks than it did during Al Smith’s campaign, but Kennedy had his own Oklahoma City moment. His was in Houston, in a speech to a group of Protestant ministers. “I am not the Catholic candidate for president,” he told them. “I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church, and the Church does not speak for me,” he said.

He railed, too, as Smith had, about religious prejudice, and he outlined his belief in an America “that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish…and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

But Kennedy won, and when Luke Hart visited the White House, the president greeted him by saying, “Hello, Chief” — a moment that showed just how far upward the Knights had helped to redefine the boundaries of what it meant to be both a Catholic and a real, pure, genuine American.

Part V | Part VI

Historical Highlights
125 Years in Review
The McGivney Legacy
Supreme Knights Gallery
St. Mary’s Church
Papal Moments
At Work Everywhere
His Timeless Message
Faith in Action
Knights of Columbus Photo Album