2021 Pro-Life Legacy Award: Carl Anderson

Category: Blog
By: Ann Clare Levy
Posted on: January 27, 2021

2021 Pro-Life Legacy Award: Carl Anderson

As supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl A. Anderson is the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, which has nearly 2 million members.

Mr. Anderson has had a distinguished career as a public servant and educator. From 1983 to 1987, he served in various positions of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, including special assistant to the President and acting director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. Following his service at the White House, Mr. Anderson served for nearly a decade as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

From 1983 to 1998, Mr. Anderson taught as a visiting professor of family law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. In 1988, he became the founding vice president and first dean of the Washington, D.C., session of this graduate school of theology now located at The Catholic University of America.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do To Transform The World; co-author (with Msgr. Eduardo Chávez) of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love, also a New York Times bestseller; co-editor (with Livio Melina) of The Way of Love: Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est; co-author (with José Granados) of Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II’s Theology of the Body; and author of Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street and the Media.

Mr. Anderson was the only Catholic layman from North America to serve as an auditor at the World Synod of Bishops in 2001, 2005 and 2008. In addition, Mr. Anderson participated as an auditor in the 2012 Synod of Bishops.

Pope John Paul II appointed Mr. Anderson as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (1998) and the Pontifical Council for the Laity (2002), and as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (2003). Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (2007) and as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family (2008). In addition, he has served as a consultant to the Pro-Life Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) since 2002.

Mr. Anderson is a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Sylvester, a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

He serves as a member of the International Scientific Council of the Studium Generale Marcianum of Venice. In 1994, he was a member of the Vatican delegation for the Fifteenth Meeting of the International Jewish Liaison Committee held in Jerusalem.

Mr. Anderson currently serves on the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He has received honorary doctorates from The Catholic University of America, The Pontifical Theology Academy of Krakow and St. Vincent’s Seminary, Latrobe, Pa. Mr. Anderson is the recipient of many honors including the Imago Dei Award, Archdiocese of Denver (2005); the Canterbury Medal, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (2007); Servant of Peace Award, Path to Peace Foundation (2007); Rector’s Award, Pontifical North American College, Rome (2008); The John Carroll Society Award (2009); the Lupa Capitolina Award, City of Rome (2009); the John Cardinal O’Connor Award (2009); and the Evangelium Vitae Medal (2015).

Mr. Anderson served as assistant supreme secretary and supreme secretary of the Knights of Columbus until he became supreme knight in October 2000. Prior to that, he served as the Order’s vice president for public policy from 1987 to 1997. He has been grand knight, district deputy, state advocate, state secretary and state deputy for the District of Columbia.

Since Mr. Anderson assumed the responsibilities of supreme knight in 2000, the Knights of Columbus has achieved new heights in charitable giving, providing in 2018 alone over $185.6 million directly to charity and more than 76 million hours in volunteer service.

In addition, Supreme Knight Anderson has overseen consistently strong growth in the Knights’ financial resources. In 2018, the Order’s insurance in force surpassed $109 billion.

Despite two serious market corrections during his tenure, the Knights has remained financially strong. Today, the Knights of Columbus is one of the largest and most respected insurance companies in North America.

Supreme Knight Anderson has also led the Knights in a variety of charitable endeavors including:

  • Establishing the Heroes Fund to provide immediate assistance to the families of first responders who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001;
  • Establishing the $2 million Pacem in Terris Fund, the earnings of which are used to promote peace initiatives in the Holy Land and to assist the Latin Patriarchate in supporting the Christian community there;
  • Financially sponsoring the 2004 Papal Concert of Reconciliation;
  • In partnership with Project Medishare, establishing the Healing Haiti’s Children program, which has provided approximately 1,000 victims in Haiti with prosthetic limbs in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated that country; and
  • Launching the Christian Refugee Relief Fund, a charitable fund that has raised more than $25 million to benefit persecuted Christians in the Middle East. These funds are used for food, housing and other basic necessities for those in the region who have fled their homes.

Learn more about the accomplishments of the Knights of Columbus under the leadership of Supreme Knight Anderson.

Mr. Anderson holds degrees in philosophy from Seattle University and in law from the University of Denver. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and is admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

He and his wife, Dorian, are the parents of five children.


March for Life is honored to bestow the “Pro-life Legacy Award” to Carl Anderson, in recognition of his life-long commitment to upholding the profound dignity of the unborn child.

For more information about the Virtual Rose Dinner Gala, go to marchforlife.org/annual-rose-dinner/

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