Pope Francis has got himself into a right old mess over condoms. The problem is that he can’t say condoms are OK, but he doesn’t want the rules enforced too strictly. Add in the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, and a gay butler, and you have the makings of very Vaticanesque pickle
[Hat-tip to PewSitter]
By Tim Hedges (had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelance writer, novelist, and farmer)
On 7 February 2017
It seemed in the Italian press as if one country had invaded another. It was in fact one very small country which had engineered a coup d’état against an even smaller sovereign entity which wasn’t, properly speaking, a country.
The Pope had fired the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta. The reason? Obeying Church teaching.
It is hard to know how Pope Francis gets himself into these scrapes. What should have been a quiet private matter, if it happened at all, was in every paper in the civilised world. For sheer, bull headed, foot-in-mouth belligerence Papa Bergoglio trumps Trump.
The Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta was Fra’ Robert Matthew Festing, Guards Officer and son of a Chief of the Imperial General Staff. You have to be a bit socially upmarket to get on in this company, the other bigwigs being a selection of the European Catholic aristocracy.
Anyway, Festing had sacked Albrecht, Freiherr von Boeselager, the Grand Chancellor, on the grounds that he, the Freiherr, had been involved in charitable works which distributed condoms. Now, the Catholic faith is against the use of condoms, so you might imagine that the Pope would have patted the blessed Festing on the back for ridding the order of a dangerous progressive.
It is of course Francis who is the progressive, dangerous or otherwise, but, being the Pope, he can’t say that condoms are OK. As with offering Holy Communion to divorcees, he can’t change the rules but doesn’t want them exercised too strictly. So he just sacked someone for doing the right thing.
Then came the posters. All over central Rome, they featured a grumpy looking Pope and, underneath, a philippic against the Holy Father, mentioning, amongst other sins, the Order of Malta fiasco. Where is your Mercy?, it asked, referring to the Pope’s Jubilee year of Mercy.
Strangely enough, the screed was written in the Roman dialect, putting it in the tradition of the denouncers and rumour mongers of old, who used to leave their handwritten defamations on various statues in the ancient city. But no one is fooled by this. They all think it comes from Cardinal Burke.
Raymond Leo Burke is an American traditionalist who has been something of a thorn in the side of the reformist Pope. Bergoglio sacked him from several senior positions, but one he held on to was Patron of the Order of Malta.