Knights of Malta’s Grand Master has Resigned

BREAKING: Knights of Malta’s Grand Master has Resigned

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[The Grand Master blinked in the showdown with FrankenPope. Will the ex-Grand Chancellor be the next Grand Master?]

Steve Skojec January 24, 2017

It would seem that Malta has become the battleground where some of the deepest divisions in the Church have been playing out. From Cardinal Burke’s exile to the role of Patronus of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the landmark Maltese bishops’ guidelines on Amoris Laetitia to the battle that’s been going on between the order and Rome after the Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Malta, Albrecht Boeselager, was forced out following the revelation of his involvement in the distribution of condoms, it seems to be one thing after another in news related to the tiny Mediterranean island nation.

But now, the “knights who won’t retreat” have done exactly this, with the order’s Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, having resigned his post today at the request of Pope Francis. The position of Grand Master is for life, making this move — especially after the order’s strong statement of resistance to a Vatican inquiry — very strange.

The official website of the order does not yet have the announcement in their news section, and the report from the Spanish-language website InfoVaticana is notably sparse, consisting mostly of background, with the exception of the following sentence:

According to what InfoVaticana has heard, Pope Francis has asked him to offer his resignation.

This entire episode with the Order of Malta has been, I must admit, incredibly hard to follow for the casual observer. I do not expect it to be made much clearer following this unexpected news.

POSTSCRIPT: I know the order has been, following the loss of Malta in 1800, based in Rome, but it retains its title for a reason. I note the connection between what is happening in Malta proper and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta because it seems, at least to me, more than just a coincidence.

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7 comments on “Knights of Malta’s Grand Master has Resigned

  1. From Reuters (Skojec update)
    Knights of Malta head resigns after dispute with Vatican

    The head of the Knights of Malta, who has been locked in a bitter dispute with the Vatican, has resigned, a spokesperson for the Rome-based Catholic chivalric and charity institution said on Wednesday.

    The spokesperson said Grand Master Matthew Festing, 67, had resigned after Pope Francis asked him to step down at a meeting on Tuesday. Grand masters of the institution, which was founded in the 11th century, usually keep their positions for life.

    “The pope asked him to resign and he agreed,” the spokesperson said, adding that the next step was a formality in which the group’s Sovereign Council would have to sign off on the highly unusual resignation. The order would be run by its number two, or grand commander, until a new head is elected.

    Festing and the Vatican have been locked in a bitter dispute since one of the order’s top knights, Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, was sacked in December in the chivalric equivalent of a boardroom showdown – ostensibly because he allowed the use of condoms in a medical project for the poor.

    Von Boeselager appealed to the pope, who appointed a five-member commission to look into the unusual circumstances of the sacking, but Festing refused to cooperate and called the commission illegitimate.

    Festing’s resignation was the latest twist in a battle of wills between the heads of two of the world’s oldest institutions.

    Festing, a Briton, had denounced the papal commission as intervention in the order’s sovereign affairs, accused members having a conflict of interest and defiantly set up his own internal commission. …

    ——————————————–

    Did you catch that: “defiantly“!? Reuters demands obedience to PF when they can bash a Catholic.

    The pope’s action is vicious, unless there is something nefarious about Festing that we haven’t yet heard. Again, C. Burke gets the message that he is toxic. Anyone he befriends will receive a pipe bomb in his mailbox.

  2. [Another FrankenPope Eigenmächtigkeitsputsch!]

    Pope Takes Over Knights of Malta After Condom Dispute

    By NICOLE WINFIELD, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY — Jan 25, 2017

    The Vatican announced Wednesday it was taking over the embattled Knights of Malta in an extraordinary display of papal power after the leader of the sovereign lay Catholic order publicly defied Pope Francis in a dispute over condoms.

    The move is remarkable — and controversial — because it marks the intervention of one sovereign state, the Holy See, into the internal governing affairs of another, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an ancient aristocratic order that runs a vast charity operation around the globe.

    The Vatican said Matthew Festing, 67, offered to resign as the Knights’ grand master on Tuesday during an audience with the pope, and that Francis had accepted it on Wednesday. A Vatican statement said the Knights’ governance would shift temporarily to the order’s No. 2 “pending the appointment of the papal delegate.”

    Festing had refused to cooperate with a papal commission investigating his decision to oust the order’s grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, over revelations that the Knights’ charity branch had distributed condoms under Boeselager’s watch.

    Festing had cited the Knights’ status as a sovereign entity in refusing to cooperate with the pope’s investigation. Many canon lawyers had backed him up, questioning the pope’s right to intervene in what was essentially an act of internal governance.

    The naming of a papal delegate signals a Vatican takeover, harking back to the Vatican’s previous takeovers of the Legion of Christ and Jesuit religious orders when they were undergoing periods of scandal or turmoil.

    But those are religious orders that report directly to the Holy See. The Knights of Malta is a sovereign entity under international law, making the Vatican intervention all the more remarkable.

    The Order of Malta has many trappings of a sovereign state, issuing its own stamps, passports and license plates and holding diplomatic relations with 106 states, the Holy See included.

    As a result, even the Vatican’s statement announcing the takeover was problematic: According to the Knights’ own laws, the grand master is elected by the order’s top leadership and submits his resignation to the order’s top leadership. The pope is only informed of the decisions.

    “It’s not for the Holy Father to accept the resignation of the Grand Master, it’s for the sovereign council to accept it,” noted Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America.

    As if to drive home that point, the Knights issued a statement Wednesday saying the sovereign council had been convened for Jan. 28 to formally accept his resignation.

    Martens said the Vatican intervention was “dangerous” as a result, because it set a precedent that could eventually be used against the Holy See, which has a similarly unique status as a tiny sovereign entity that nevertheless enjoys international recognition at the United Nations and elsewhere.

    “You are giving ammunition to those who are opposed to an international status for the Holy See,” Martens said, noting some groups have challenged the Vatican’s status at the U.N.

    * * *

    • The Vatican has destroyed the Order of Malta’s sovereignty. What if Italy does the same to the Vatican?

      by Ed Condon
      posted Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017

      The curia remains a place where cliques have more authority than the law. It doesn’t bode well

      The most remarkable thing about the Order of Malta controversy is not that the Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, has resigned. That is extraordinary enough, especially given that it was apparently on the invitation of Pope Francis. No, the most astonishing feature of the story is today’s announcement that the Pope will install an Apostolic Delegate to run the Order. In effect, this abolishes the Order as a sovereign entity. Under international law, what we are seeing is effectively the annexation of one country by another.

      How did it come to this? Somehow, the small clique who rallied around the former Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Boeselager, have managed to turn a matter of the Order’s own internal governance into a full-blown diplomatic crisis between the two oldest and most prominent sovereign entities in the western world.

      The clique never had much of a case. As I have written before, there is no question that, legally speaking, the commission set up on the recommendation of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State to investigate his sacking of Boeselager was and remains totally illegitimate.

      It is clear that Boeselager was dismissed, following his refusal to resign, according to the approved legal process of the Order. It has been alleged that Fra’ Festing “defied” Pope Francis by dismissing Boeselager. But any opinion the Pope may have expressed before the event would have been in the much-rumoured letter on the matter from the Pope directly to Cardinal Burke, the Holy See’s envoy to the Order. This letter has not even been formally confirmed as existing, let alone leaked. Its purported contents remain the great unanswered question at the heart of this whole affair.

      As far as one can tell from the various reports, the Pope actually gave no indication that he was opposed to the firing of Boeselager. In fact, the Holy Father seems to have been deeply concerned about the gravity of the allegations against Boeselager and even at the possibility of masonic infiltration of the Order’s membership and activities. The fact that the actual text of this letter has remained totally confidential speaks volumes about the discretion and respect for the Holy Father of both the Cardinal Patron and the Grand Master, even as they have been publicly accused of the opposite.

      Fra’ Festing’s humility and courtesy are typical of the man. He has served the Order and the Pope well, with total devotion and respect for the obligations of the law and his position. And now, he has been forced from his position for doing his duty. Yet Boeselager – who refused to obey a direct order from his sovereign – and his allies have triumphed.

      These allies have carried out a sordid campaign of leaked letters from Cardinal Parolin’s department, which served the sad and obvious end of framing a public narrative in which Fra’ Festing supposedly “defied” the explicit wishes of the Pope. In fact, even according to the confused and changeable timeline constructed by his friends, it was clear that Boeselager was dismissed well before Cardinal Parolin’s apparent (and still illegitimate) intervention.

      The sad and severe consequences of this chain of events are considerable. The international legitimacy of the Order of Malta is now in ruins, its constitutional integrity and diplomatic standing now seem beyond repair.

      Today’s announcement of an Apostolic Delegate to be appointed by the Pope represents, essentially, the total abrogation of the Order’s sovereignty. Yet the consequences for the Holy See itself may, in the longer term, be equally or even more severe. The disregard for the mutually sovereign relationship between the Holy See and the Order sets a precedent in international law, which will now lurk under the Secretariat of State’s dealings with other governments like an unexploded bomb.

      If the Holy See can so brazenly insert itself into the internal governance of another sovereign entity whose legitimacy stems from a mutual agreement under international law, it now has no legal defence should another sovereign body, say the government of the Italian Republic, choose to view the independence of the Holy See as a similarly anachronistic formality. Cardinal Parolin should prepare to see today’s actions cited as legitimate precedent when the IOR, commonly called the Vatican Bank, finds its sovereign independence under renewed pressure from other countries or international bodies. Pope Benedict XVI said that “a society without laws is a society without rights”; the naked disregard for the law shown in recent weeks has sown a bitter harvest for the Holy See’s diplomatic corps to reap in the future.

      For those less concerned with the diplomatic and legal aspects of this situation, there is one over-riding truth which has emerged from all this. It is now clear that for all the great hopes of curial reform which accompanied the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican remains a place where cliques and personal networks have more authority than the law, and where leaking and smearing remain part of the everyday business of governance.

      The Pope himself is, as he has often stated, not a lawyer, nor is the law something he is known to have much interest in. Those in his curia who have prompted him to this action have deliberately served him, the office of the papacy, the international sovereignty of the Holy See, and of course the men and women of the Order of Malta, incredibly badly. I suspect it is now just a matter of when, not if, they come to regret it.

  3. Posted by Oakes Spalding on WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2017

    Vatican Insider on Pope’s Malta Takeover: “This was a Mafia-like Transaction”

    Just about the only people on earth that Pope Francis has warned might go to hell are members of the Mafia.

    How ironic then, that Francis is being increasingly compared to a Mafia-leader.

    In a bombshell development yesterday, Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta submitted his resignation to the Pope.

    This was a surprise because just a few weeks ago, the Knights had told the Vatican that it had no authority over their internal governing affairs. Festing may have based yesterday’s decision on the fact that all Knights have made a vow of obedience to the Pope. But vow or no vow, four weeks ago, the Knights had in in effect told Francis to buzz off.

    After the resignation is validated by the Knights on Saturday (most think it will be accepted), the Order will apparently be run by a Papal appointee. Edward Pentin writes that this “is a significant and controversial development in view of the Order’s sovereign status.”

    In the Catholic world, Malta has fallen. One might say that the Pope succeeded where Hitler failed.

    Cardinal Burke remains as Patron of the Order. But he has been rendered powerless, like some holdover from the old governing aristocracy in 1930’s Germany. Indeed, it appears that Burke himself may have been tricked into escalating the set of events that led to the coup, with Pope Francis encouraging him to go after “Freemasons” in the organization and then cutting him off at the knees.

    One Vatican insider, relating the comment of a friend, has called the whole thing a “Mafia-like transaction.”

    Die-hard Pope defenders will no doubt claim that this was a necessary action to assert control over a “conservative” element that potentially threatened his agenda. Many Pope opponents would agree with that from the other side. But the same Vatican source believes that there is another angle to it that is at least as important to focus on.

    There is a boatload of money involved. And the Holy See will get control of it.

    The Church of Mercy rolls on.

  4. POSTED BY THETIMMAN ON 25 JANUARY 2017

    Remarks at a Maltese Funeral

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    Friends, Maltese, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Fra Matthew Festing, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Fra Matthew. The noble Francis
    Hath told you Fra Matthew was ambitious:
    If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
    And grievously hath Fra Matthew answer’d it.
    Here, under leave of Francis and the rest–
    For Francis is an honourable man;
    So are they all, all honourable men–
    Come I to speak in Fra Matthew’s funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
    But Francis says he was ambitious;
    And Francis is an honourable man.
    He hath upheld the doctrines of Rome
    Whose tenets were laid down by Christ:
    Did this in Fra Matthew seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Fra Matthew hath wept:
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Francis says he was ambitious;
    And Francis is an honourable man.
    You all did see that on the internet
    A subordinate distributing condoms to poor souls,
    Which Fra Matthew made him rue: was this ambition?
    Yet Francis says he was ambitious– and did not accompany;
    And, sure, he is an honourable man.
    I speak not to disprove what Francis spoke,
    But here I am to speak what I do know.
    You all did love Christ once, not without cause:
    What cause withholds you then, to mourn for His servant?
    O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
    And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
    My heart is in the coffin there with Fra Matthew–and the Sovereign Order of Knights—

    And I must pause till it come back to me.

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