The Sad Story of the Knights of Columbus
The apparent source
of the problem
The Rosary Shop doesn't exist because of any special genius on our part. We've simply listened to and tried to serve people. If someone wanted a little crucifix, we tried to find it. If he wanted a medal of St. [insert a weird name here], we went looking. Bit by bit we ended up carrying a lot of different items, including a rosary center depicting the Knights of Columbus symbol. This was requested of us by actual Knights, or their friends or family, so that they could make a rosary special to them; again, we just called vendors until we found some. We bought them, and then made them available to others. Like everything else we carry, they were acquired through entirely legitimate channels.
Some people who were or knew Knights even suggested rosary designs that Knights might like. As with many other suggestions, we just put it on the site as a service to others. I've known some good men in the KofC. I've personally been invited to join the Knights several times, and we've made donations to support them.
It all went fine until February 10, 2009. We received a letter from a lawyer, Joseph Niglio, who is apparently on staff at the Knights of Columbus headquarters. In his letter he claimed that we were breaking the law, "infringing" on KofC trademarks, "diluting" the Knights of Columbus, making a "false designation of origin," and engaging in "unfair competition." He accused us of using the trademarks and reputation of the Knights of Columbus to market and promote our own business. He went on to demand that we cease all "use, manufacture, marketing, promotion, distribution and sale" of anything in any way connected with the Knights of Columbus, demanded various written assurances from us, access to our accounting records, and other information. He said that if we didn't comply immediately with his requirements that they would basically destroy us via legal, financial means. He said that this was all being done to "defend" themselves from us, and that he hoped we could remain "amicable." He even ended his threat/demand-letter with a "very truly yours."
It is rare to have such a perfect example of so many problems in the Church all wrapped up in one neat little package, so I'll take it. I know that most people in the KofC are good, faithful people just trying to do something good, but there are some really, really bad apples in that bunch (and in almost any bunch). This is not the first time we've run into leadership in the KofC or the Church who think that their affiliations somehow release them from any duty to actually act in an ethical, Christian manner. As mentioned elsewhere, such people do this because they believe they have no personal accountability for their words and actions, and they are able to leverage the resources of good people in order to manipulate others. They usually threaten or bully others, and when you respond to their behavior in any way except complete submission, they either claim that you are victimizing them, or pour on more serious attacks to bring about your compliance. In this case, he's made various false claims and demands of us; if we don't comply, he says he'll cause us even greater harm. Does this behavior sound like something Jesus would condone?
Attempts to reason with people like this are usually futile (though I continue to try). To counter this behavior, we've decided to truthfully publicize such events, along with the names of the people and organizations that perform them. Why? Not for any kind of revenge, but because sunlight is a great deterrent and antiseptic. Sometimes, when we can't do the right thing for the right reasons, we'll do it at least to avoid other people finding out. It is our hope that, by publicizing the names of the people and organizations that engage in these behaviors, perhaps they'll think twice before doing it to someone else. (Interested parties should see my paper on psychological disorders, and how to deal with people who have them.)
If they don't want people to be able to get Knights of Columbus medals, centers or rosaries, then that is their choice. All they had to do was explain that and respectfully communicate their wishes. But they didn't do that. They seem to believe that the first step is to threaten to sue your brother.
Some might claim that I'm breaking this behavioral rule myself -- that I have not attempted to work this out privately and charitably. However, I sent a letter to Carl Anderson, the "Supreme Knight," explaining how we didn't appreciate receiving letters that made false claims about our actions and threatened to harm us without any prior communication and without any provocation on our part. I requested an apology and retraction, and stated that we had, per their request, stopped listing anything having to do with the Knights of Columbus. As we've received further inquiries about KofC medals, I've explained that we no longer carry them, why we don't, and have sent copies of these communications to the KofC. I received no reply to any communication I've sent to them.
In any event, the bottom line is that we'd love to provide you with a special center that you could use to make a rosary for the Knight in your life, but the Knights of Columbus won't allow it.
On May 5 -- roughly three months after the original letter from Joseph Niglio and my reply -- I received a call from John Marrella. He is the head counsel for the Knights of Columbus. He was very kind and apologetic about how the matter was handled by his staff. We are in discussion about how to proceed. We await a reply from the Knights of Columbus on whether we may again to offer the Knights of Columbus center.
On June 17, after additional communications, we were informed that The Rosary Shop was not to distribute any items associated with the Knights of Columbus. Apparently, no supplier is to do so; anyone that does is doing so against the wishes of the Knights of Columbus. Instead, people are to be referred to the Knights of Columbus gift store.