Let me respond by presenting some scenarios and asking some questions.
1) First of all, let me vehemently disagree that comparing the K of C to the Church is valid. The Church is NOT a human institution like the K of C. She was established by Christ and is infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. The sins of her members in no way reflect on her indefectability. You cannot say that about the Knights or any other lay organization in the Church. So that's off the table.I love our local parish council of the Knights of Columbus. The men in it are dedicated, hard-working and faithful (especially my favorite Knight -- the one I live with). Our parish could not function as well as it does without our Knights' council.
Quitting the Knights, on the other hand, is a matter of prudential judgment. Catholics can disagree about it, and make their cases without resorting to calling each other names.
2) So....let's consider some questions. Suppose you joined a national pro-life group, let's call it Defenders of the Unborn. And suppose the organization's charter claimed their major goal was ending abortion, but you discovered that members (even leaders) were working as hard as they could to keep the murder of babies legal. Suppose again that your local chapter attempted to throw out a politician who was the major proponent of legislation to protect and expand the killing in your state. When the national office got word, they instructed your chapter, in no uncertain terms, not to expell or challenge any member on these grounds, but treat them as members in good standing. In fact, if a member did raise a fuss even in a private conversation with the pro-abortion member at a meeting, he would be rebuked by the leadership and persecuted. How long would you stay in that "pro-life" group?
3) Why did Jesus condemn the Pharisees? After all, they fasted and tithed and went out of their way to avoid ritual uncleanliness. Wasn't it because their words and their actions were in conflict? And didn't Jesus found a NEW CHURCH, one that was indefectable in its doctrines despite the hypocrisy of some of its members, a Church protected by the Holy Spirit?
4) If an organization within that Church claims to follow the principles of the Church but does not, and, in fact, causes public scandal by its actions or inactions should it be supported?
5) Was Jesus serious when he condemned hypocrisy?
6) Isn't it possible that the best way to reform an organization (one that is not infallibly protected by the Holy Spirit) is to leave it with the proviso that you'll return when they clean up their act?
Having said that, the men could serve the parish just as well if they renamed themselves the Knights of Our Lady and pulled out from under the National K of C umbrella. And I guarantee that if 10-20% of the councils around the country, especially the big, rich ones, voted to leave, the Knights of Columbus would change almost overnight.
Sometimes, it's impossible to reform an organization from within. Look at the Republican Party. Pro-lifers have been trying to reform it for four decades with little impact. The tea party movement has used the pull-out strategy, no more business as usual, which has had more influence in a few years than all those years of working within the system with the establishment leaders.
I believe there are two major problems reflected in the Knights' controversy: love of money and human respect. When you run a huge company, like the Knights' insurance industry, you want to avoid controversy to protect the assets of the group. You especially don't want to make enemies of those who pass legislation that affects your business. Additionally, there is a "prestige factor" associated with having a Ted Kennedy and other "distinguished individuals" in your ranks. Human respect is a universal temptation to fallen man. We all want to be important in the eyes of others. As one who has spent a lifetime caring about what others think of me, I know the temptation firsthand. I laugh sometimes about the Lord calling me to fight in the pro-life movement. The first time a pro-abort screamed at me and made obscene gestures I cried. Being on the frontlines of the pro-abortion battle went a long way to curing my desire for human respect.
As for the opinions I've expressed about the Knights, I don't think they "spread venom." They seem to me to reflect common sense and a zeal for the faith and for the souls of those teetering on the brink. Politicians who support the murder of the innocent and scandalize in the process are pretty far from being "practical Catholics" according to the Knights' charter. And they are in serious danger of hellfire when you consider Jesus' words about "what you did for the least of my little ones." Is there anyone more least than the infant waiting to be born? Shouldn't we be warning them so they can repent?
Admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. The Knights do the publicly pro-abortion in their midst no favor by refusing to address their scandal. After all, you can sin by omission as well as commission and to be silent when you ought to speak is morally wrong. In today's culture of death, I think we all have an obligation to blow the trumpet of warning. We all know that many bishops are not doing their duty. I don't think that absolves us from doing ours. If they won't speak, the laity must. Many souls can be saved if the laity have the courage to defend the truth in charity.