An advisory group at a Roman Catholic parish is urging the Knights of Columbus to change its name on grounds that its namesake explorer has come to stand for European oppression of minorities.
The 110-year-old charity dismissed the appeal as "ideologically tainted baloney."The advisory group at St. Joseph Parish in Rock Island, a town in northwestern Illinois, wants the change because it says Christopher Columbus has come to represent "the mentality of domination, racial superiority and the suppression of minorities."
The parish's 13-member Peace and Justice Commission made the charge in a letter sent last week to 160 Catholic newspapers and other groups nationwide.
"We don't want to get into Columbus-bashing," its chairman, Charles Quilty, said Friday. "But on the other hand we don't think Columbus is really the kind of person the church should be holding up as an example, either."
The Knights of Columbus, a fraternal and benevolent society of Roman Catholic men founded in 1882, claims 1.5 million members worldwide and scores of Utah members.
In a statement from its headquarters in New Haven, Conn., spokesman Russell Shaw said the commission has "bought uncritically into the ideologically tainted baloney about Columbus."
The church group recommended the Knights of Columbus become the Knights of Christ, and get rid of ceremonial swords that Quilty said symbolize violence.
Shaw responded that the swords represent "the high ideals of Christian chivalry" and that the charity will abandon neither the swords nor its name.