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Knight suspended for critical views.

SAN DIEGO - An Orange County, Calif., Knights of Columbus member has been suspended by a Knights' district deputy and the local council's charter apparently temporarily withdrawn in reaction to the member calling for limited terms for top Knights and other criticisms of the governing body.

The suspended member, truck driver and pro-life activist David Levine, a two-year member of Knights Council 4922, which meets in St. Norbert's Church, Villa Park, Calif., addressed these and other topics in three monthly council bulletins he issued in February, March and April.

Levine also reprinted a letter to Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant from a K of C member and former editor of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Msgr. Vincent A. Yzermans, who called on the Supreme Knight "and other Supreme officers" to resign.

Yzermans wrote he was of "heavy heart" because he had read the deposition by seven former Knights' insurance, agents in their suit against the Knights of Columbus for financial and other damage resulting from their termination as K of C agents.

Quoting from the deposition, Yzermans also wrote: "You (Dechant) and the board of directors |established the Vicarius Christi irrevocable trust fund with a corpus of $10 million for the Pope's personal charities. The corpus was doubled in 1986 to $20 million. On information and belief, a total of approximately $36 million has been donated to the trust.'"

Added Yzermans, "I do wonder if the individual members and/or individual councils were consulted about this sizable donation."

He also questioned the Knights' donating a quarter-million-dollar organ to Camp David: "Perhaps this sum might have been more usefully spent in fulfilling obligations in justice to the seven plaintiffs."

Levine, writing in the bulletins, took up several topics:

* Taking his lead from the national movement for congressional term limitations, Levine argued the same case against the Knights officials: that "our Supreme Council may very well be losing touch with the rank and file."

Levine noted that Dechant's reappointment to his 16th term as Supreme Knight ("appointed, not voted by the general body," stressed Levine) and 10-years' service as supreme secretary had resulted in Dechant's current $455,000 annual Knights' income, plus chauffeur-driven car.

Levine listed, too, the millions in "reimbursement and fees for the 10 top directors." He also praised the Knights as "the best fraternal organization into the world today," with 1991 contributions to the needy exceeding "$91 million."

* Levine wrote of "the scandal of proabortion politico-Knights within the K of C" as "a blight on our name." He criticized Dechant's "efforts behind the scenes to make sure delegates voted to protect the pro-abortion politico-Knights."

* Levine condemned the Knights' support of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, described it as "a pro-abortion, population-controlling, sterilization-promoting" organization.

* All too many brother Knights agree that our Supreme Council and organizational bylaws are in desperate need of reform," wrote, Levine, who quoted both from the National Catholic Reporter and The Wanderer articles to argue his points.

In an April 19 letter, Levine was told by K of C district deputy Thomas Collins that he was suspended from membership under the bylaws "for misconduct for |publishing any matter ... deemed detrimental to the harmony and good order of the Knights of Columbus.'" Unspecified articles in the March and April bulletins were given as the reason. Continued Collins, who said he was writing with the approval of the state deputy: "If you would like to plead not guilty, you must notify your Grand Knight in writing within 10 days."

Levine has replied "not guilty" and added in his three-page letter: "When we as new members made our First Degree, we were told that the Knights of Columbus protects the religious and civil rights of its members. Well, what has happened to our council's U.S. constitutional right to free speech?"

Levine said that "if any of the articles I printed are |detrimental ... it is because the actions of our Supreme Council are such - not because I merely relayed their actions to other brother Knights."

In Washington, D.C., K of C spokesperson Russell Shaw told NCR that the suspension and/or charter withdrawal were not initiated by officials at Knights' headquarters in New Haven, Conn.

"There is some documentation in New Haven that a fight is going on out there (in California)," said Shaw, "but what the issues are in this argument were not and are not very clear to the national office."

He said that there is an appeals process "for those who care to use it" and that the charter and laws of the K of C do allow a district deputy to suspend and withdraw for cause. "There are grounds, but not unlimited grounds," said Shaw.
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Title Annotation:Knights of Columbus member David Levine
Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:May 7, 1993
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