The Knights of Columbus (K of C) is a global Catholic fraternal service order founded by Fr. Michael J. McGivney on March 29, 1882, as a mutual benefit society for working-class and immigrant Catholics in the United States. In addition to providing an insurance system for its members, the Knight of Columbus has grown to support refugee relief, Catholic education, local parishes and dioceses, and global Catholic social and political causes. The Knights promote the Catholic view on public policy issues, including opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. The Order has been called “the strong right arm of the Church”, and has been praised by popes, presidents, and other world leaders, for support of the Church, programs of evangelization and Catholic education, civic involvement, and aid to those in need.
Knights of Columbus are Catholic men committed to the exemplification of charity, unity, fraternity, patriotism, and defense of the priesthood. The Order is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is unequivocal in its loyalty to the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. It is firmly committed to the protection of human life, from conception to natural death, and to the preservation and defense of the family. It was on these bedrock principles that the Order was founded over a century ago and remains true to them today.
As of 2023, the Knights reported having over two million members around the world. Women may participate in K of C through the Columbiettes and other female auxiliaries, and boys may join the Columbian Squires. The Order comprises four different "degrees", each one of which exemplifies one of the core principles of the order.
There are more than 16,000 local Knights of Columbus councils around the world, including over 300 on college campuses.