When founding the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael McGivney picked Christopher Columbus as a namesake for the organization because in a time when anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant feeling ran rampant, the American public embraced this famous explorer.
Father McGivney and his Knights understood that using Columbus as their Order's namesake asserted an important truth: that not only was there a place for Catholics and immigrants within American society, but that such a person had already played a part in creating the young, free world around them.
Times have changed and today there are those who contest Columbus’ achievements and protest the national holiday held in his honor. They look to make Columbus responsible for all the atrocities against Native Americans.
In an article that appeared in RealClear Politics two years ago and also in recent testimony in New Haven, Conn., Patrick Mason (a member of the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors and also of the Osage Nation), said there is a danger that blaming Columbus misses the lessons of history and adds to the risk of repeating it.
“As American citizens, we need to remember our history, both the good and the bad, so that we are not set up to repeat history’s mistakes,” Mason said. “We need to take an honest look at all our fore-fathers. We need to give them the credit they deserve for what they did well, while being mindful of the things that they should have been done differently or better.”
He added that the current debate brings with it the opportunity honor and acknowledge indigenous people while preserving the great explorer’s legacy.
The Knights of Columbus continue to celebrate Columbus Day, knowing that the explorer gave voice and representation to generations of Catholics, and helped pave a path for the diverse society we have today.
Want to learn more?
• Blaming Columbus Misses the Lessons of History
• A website about Columbus presented by the National Christopher Columbus Association
• K of C-Marist Poll: Do Americans Support Columbus Day?
• Christopher Columbus and Fake History
• Why Columbus Sailed: Interview with Stanford Professor Carol Delaney