A POWER STRUGGLE: KNIGHTS OF MALTA VS. THE VATICAN

A Power Struggle: Knights of Malta vs. the Vatican

The Grand Master is defending himself and the order’s sovereignty

by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D. • ChurchMilitant • January 16, 2017

Update: Tuesday, the Vatican hit back at the Sovereign Military Order of Malta re-asserting its decision to continue its investigation of the order. In a press release issued this morning, the Vatican “reaffirms its confidence” in the papal commission, after the order’s Grand Chancellor said Friday there were “serious accusations of a conflict of interest” among three of the commission’s members.

The Holy See Press Office declared in its statement:

In relation to the events of recent weeks concerning the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Holy See wishes to reiterate its support and encouragement for the commendable work that members and volunteers carry out in various parts of the world, in fulfilment of the aims of the Order: tuitio fidei (the defense of the Faith) and obsequium pauperum (service to the poor, the sick and those in greatest need).

For the support and advancement of this generous mission, the Holy See reaffirms its confidence in the five Members of the Group appointed by Pope Francis on 21 December 2016 to inform him about the present crisis of the Central Direction of the Order, and rejects, based on the documentation in its possession, any attempt to discredit these Members of the Group and their work.

The Holy See counts on the complete cooperation of all in this sensitive stage, and awaits the Report of the above-mentioned Group in order to adopt, within its area of competence, the most fitting decisions for the good of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and of the Church.

ROME – The Grand Master of the Knights of Malta is defending his refusal to co-operate with the Vatican. In a Friday communiqué with members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing explained that his intention was only to protect the sovereignty of the order.

“Suffice it to say, whilst I was trying to enjoy a peaceful Advent and Christmastide, I have barely been able to concentrate on anything else,” he wrote in the letter. “It has been extremely tiring and I am sure many of you have had your Christmases disturbed by similar preoccupations.”

The order is currently locked in a power struggle with the Vatican after the pope established a commission to investigate the order’s dismissal of Albrecht von Boeselager, the Grand Chancellor, for allegedly overseeing the distribution of condoms in Africa through Malteser International, the order’s charitable arm.

Speaking with Church Militant, Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute, who spearheaded an investigation into Malteser International, affirmed that evidence shows the former Grand Chancellor had full knowledge of the condom distribution.

“He’s already contradicted himself,” Hichborn said. “He’s saying in the first hand that he knew about it, and in the second hand he didn’t know about it. And in both messages, he’s saying that Malteser International was not the actual distributor of condoms, but some other implementing partner.”

He continued:

But we also that that’s not true because from at least three different reporting agencies —UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, and an organization called the Three Diseases Fund — all independently indicated that Malteser International was distributing condoms; and in fact several of these organizations gave metrics and showed exactly how many condoms were being distributed by Malteser International.

Hichborn’s investigation — which revealed that Malteser had been handing out contraception in Africa since 2005 — came after the order itself had produced a report showing its humanitarian arm had been involved in anti-Catholic activities, with the explicit knowledge of von Boeselager.

The Knights of Malta continue to insist its decision to fire von Boeselager is correct, and posted an official statement on January 10 declaring its refusal to co-operate with the Vatican commission:

The Grand Magistry of the Sovereign Order of Malta, in response to the activities being carried out by a Group appointed by the Secretary of State of the Vatican, considers it appropriate to reiterate that the replacement of the former Grand Chancellor was an internal act of the government of the Order.

Thus, considering the legal irrelevance of this Group and of its findings relating to the legal structure of the Order of Malta, the Order has decided that it should not cooperate with it.

Festing is also claiming that the Vatican commission is compromised, proffering in his Friday letter “serious accusations of a conflict of interest.” Recent reports reveal that three members of the papal commission are associated with a fund in Geneva in which the Knights are financially tied.

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3 comments on “A POWER STRUGGLE: KNIGHTS OF MALTA VS. THE VATICAN

  1. Don’t kid yourself this whole fiasco is another direct attack on a real Catholic , Cardinal Raymond Burke

    • [As confirmed by the following quote from The Tablet (aka The Pill) , the British liberal “Catholic” equivalent of the National un-Catholic Reporter]

      “The row has laid bare the internal resistance faced by the Pope with Cardinal Burke also threatening to “formally correct” Francis over his concessions to divorced and remarried Catholics. This dispute over condom distribution – something which von Boeselager says he stopped – reveals the clash between the Pope’s vision for a Church of compassion and dialogue, and Cardinal Burke’s vision of a Church based on rules.”

  2. More on:

    “Festing is also claiming that the Vatican commission is compromised, proffering in his Friday letter “serious accusations of a conflict of interest.” Recent reports reveal that three members of the papal commission are associated with a fund in Geneva in which the Knights are financially tied.”

    WARNING: Biased (i.e., liberal “Catholic”) source containing “fake (i.e., untrue) news”: The Tablet (aka The Pill), the British equivalent of the National un-Catholic Reporter

    ORDER OF MALTA CHIEF WITHDRAWS COOPERATION AFTER ACCUSING VATICAN’S INQUIRY OF LINKS WITH FUND IN GENEVA

    16 January 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

    Grand Master Festing says Order won’t cooperate with Holy See until own inquiry is complete, in letter seen by The Tablet

    Order of Malta chief withdraws cooperation after accusing Vatican’s inquiry of links with fund in Geneva

    The leader of the Knights of Malta has doubled-down his opposition to a Vatican inquiry into his sacking of a top official by seeking to discredit members of the investigation and by setting up his own commission to investigate them.

    In a letter the Grand Master, Matthew Festing, claims the make-up of the commission announced by the Holy See is unfit to investigate because they have links to a fund in Geneva, thus making them unable to objectively assess the situation.

    The move is the latest in an ongoing battle between the Order of Malta and the Vatican over the sacking of Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, in a row about the distribution of condoms in Myanmar.

    Festing provides no further details to back up his latest assertion and stresses “there is nothing to suggest anything untoward”. But he claims that evidence has been presented to him that warrants his action to set up his own inquiry.

    “The makeup of the group of people has raised serious questions within the Grand Magistry. There are serious accusations of a conflict of interest for at least three of the members who have been proved to be linked to a fund in Geneva,” the Grand Master writes in a letter sent to the order’s leadership which has been seen by The Tablet.

    “Needless to say there is nothing to suggest anything untoward, but personal and financial links make the commission members clearly unfit to address the situation objectively. The proof presented to me have prompted me to put in place a professional commission of inquiry into the situation.”

    As a result Festing says the Vatican’s commission will be kept at “arms length” until his own investigation concludes, a position that further ups tension between the order and the Holy See.

    The order has already refused to co-operate with the Vatican commission into von Boeselager’s dismissal as they are a sovereign entity (the group has diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries and observer status at the United Nations).

    But the Vatican has insisted it has the power to inquire into the circumstances around the action against von Boeselager’s as the knights are also a Catholic religious order who ultimately owe obedience to the Pope.

    Francis set up a commission before Christmas to be led by seasoned papal diplomat Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a former envoy to the UN in Geneva.

    He is being assisted by Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Marc Odendall, an investment banker; Jacques de Liedekerke, a lawyer; and Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order of Malta in Lebanon.

    Festing does not name the fund in question, although Odendall is listed as treasurer of the Swiss-based Caritas in Veritate Foundation which has the Holy See’s representative to the UN in Geneva as its president. The foundation’s aims are to promote the Church’s position in public debate and international negotiations.

    There is no suggestion that Odendall’s involvement in this fund causes a conflict of interest, and Festing’s claims are so far unsubstantiated.

    The Grand Master sacked and suspended his respected Grand Chanceller in what also appears to have been about a long running power struggle at the top of the order. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the order’s patron and prominent Francis critic was present at the dismissal with both he and Festing claiming the action was backed by the Pope and the Holy See.

    But letters have revealed Francis made no request for Boeselager to be dismissed and instead called for the situation to be resolved with dialogue.

    The row has laid bare the internal resistance faced by the Pope with Cardinal Burke also threatening to “formally correct” Francis over his concessions to divorced and remarried Catholics.

    This dispute over condom distribution – something which von Boeselager says he stopped – reveals the clash between the Pope’s vision for a Church of compassion and dialogue, and Cardinal Burke’s vision of a Church based on rules.

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