Wikileaks: Francis’ private letter about power struggle over Knights of Malta


At the Register Ed Pentin provides some explanations.  HERE

Originally Published on: Jan 30, 2019

Wikileaks.   Whatever you may think of Wikileaks, this is interesting.  HERE

My emphases:

Pope’s Private Letter Reveals Early Involvement in Power Struggle
30 January, 2019

Documents released by WikiLeaks today shed light on a power struggle within the highest offices of the Catholic Church. Amongst the documents is a private letter written by Pope Francis. The existence of this letter, addressed to the papal envoy [of the Sovreign Military Order of the Knights of Malta] Cardinal Raymond Burke, has been the source of much speculation in the media [1]. It is now published for the first time in full and with the Pope’s signature.

This letter concerns the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, also known as the Order of Malta or the Knights of Malta, originally founded in Jerusalem during the Crusades in 1099. As the name indicates, it has been widely recognised as a sovereign entity in itself despite theoretically being subject to papal authority as a Catholic institution.

This ambiguous status cuts to the heart of the dispute as it reached a fever pitch after Pope Francis forced the abdication of Matthew Festing as Prince and Grand Master of the Order in January 2017. A month earlier Festing had dismissed the Order’s Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.

The reason for the dismissal is said to be that Boeselager, who served as health minister for the Order, was held personally responsible for having approved funds for an aid mission in Africa that distributed condoms, amongst other things. This directly contravenes Church teachings on contraception and Festing was adamant that Boeselager be held responsible.

Boeselager, however, appealed to Pope Francis, who in turn deeply undermined the Order’s independence and sovereignty by appointing a papal commission to investigate the matter and report back to the Holy See. Boeselager was subsequently reinstated at the same time as Festing was ousted. The papal letter, published by WikiLeaks today, shows the Pope was aware of and involved in the dispute since at least November 2016 when he met with Cardinal Burke.

The Pope’s dramatic moves in January 2017 effectively abolished the sovereignty of the Order and have been described by its harshest critics as the annexation of one country (the Order) by another (the Holy See) [2]. Members of the Order even went so far as to challenge papal authority on the matter and refused to co-operate with the Vatican’s investigation [3]. This is seen by many observers as part of a larger power struggle between conservative and liberal elements within the Church, represented by Festing and Boeselager respectively (for example, [4]).

Adding yet more intrigue to the tale are rumours that some high-ranking members of the Order have also attended Masonic lodges or other organisations deemed suspect by the Church [5]. Some of this seems to be confirmed by the Pope’s letter, which is dated 1 December 2016 (over a month before Boeselager was reinstated and Festing dismissed).

In the letter Pope Francis states: “In particular, members of the Order must avoid secular and frivoulous (sic) behaviour, such as membership to associations, movements and organisations which are contrary to the Catholic faith and/or of a relativist nature.” He goes on to state that any members of such organisations need to be removed from the Order.

Regarding the condom scandal at the heart of this matter, the Pope states: “I would be very disappointed if ? as you told me ? some of the high Officers were aware of practices such as the distribution of any type of contraceptive and have not yet intervened to end such things.” He further states that: “I have no doubts that by following the principle of Paul and speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), the matter can be discussed with the Officers and the necessary rectification obtained.”

The letter also confirms that Cardinal Burke had an audience with the Pope on 10 November 2016 to discuss the mounting crisis. This was before Boeselager was even removed by Festing. The text of the letter makes clear that the Pope was already committed to asserting his authority over the Order at this early stage. He writes: “Your Eminence, together with the leaders of the Order, will have to make ever more clear the close connection which unites the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the Roman Pontiff, both from a structural and operational point-of-view.” Along with the Pope’s letter to Cardinal Burke, WikiLeaks has published several other documents relating to the dispute. These include internal communications and memos, some of which have been quoted in the media.






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  1. William says:

    Like most of the things to come out of Rome lately, I don’t know what to make of it.

  2. JesusFreak84 says:

    Power struggles, Freemasons, all the stuff of a novel…except it’s not…

  3. The Cobbler says:

    So… uncorroboratable sources tell us that Francis, who’s never been known to take action to protect orthodoxy from novel schemers, took over the Knights of Malta to make them more orthodox… by reinstating a guy who is alleged to have done heterodox things…

    That smells in more ways than one; next they’ll tell us Francis refused to clarify Amoris Lætitiæ* in order to preserve orthodoxy, or that he refused to answer Viganó’s accusations in order to resolve them.

    A village in Vietnam comes to mind.

    I wonder, though – if this letter is authentic, is it at all possible that Francis is appealing to orthodox ideas to justify what he does for his own purposes? I mean, in other words, that he’s malicious rather than foolish?

    :shrug: Well, I’ve been in camp “ignore the Pope till he does something that actually matters” for the past few years, so I’m not huge on trying to ferret out the man’s intentions. Just thinking out loud at random.

    *Did I get the joined æ right? I don’t know whether there are instances of a followed by e in Latin that are not supposed to be joined in the event that you have the typography to join them. …I just figured out how to type those recently so I’m kinda doing it because I can.

  4. TonyO says:

    I have always wondered what the right solution is for an entity that is both in principle run by Catholics and for Catholic purposes, and is also a “sovereign entity”, as to how it it is supposed to play out when the Catholic hierarchy person on point (be it bishop or pope) claims the authority to remove the leadership of the sovereign entity.

    It is my suspicion that (a) a bishop who is the ordinary might have the authority to demand that the sovereign head step down, as a purely religious matter, for the sake of his soul. In doing so, though, I think the bishop would have to refer to some extant principle which required it, such as something in canon law (for example). And as a result this attempt could be appealed by the Catholic leader, appealed to Rome.

    And (b) of course there is no where to appeal when it is the Pope who acts. But this does not mean that a Catholic who is the leader of such entity (imagine, a Catholic president of the US) must step down if the Pope says to – not if the Pope does not invoke something that distinguishes upon what authority he demands such an action. And if it is clearly smoke and mirrors, then it is a false assertion of authority and may be ignored.

    Still less does a bishop or pope have the authority to simply appoint the next leader – unless the Catholic organization’s own internal rules give him that authority. Otherwise, he is just acting like a busy-body. The organization could ignore the act as empty of meaning. However, because of the historical connection of the Knights of Malta to the Holy See, I suspect that there is indeed something specific in their internal structure that gives the Pope the authority to appoint a new head. Or something close to that. If there isn’t, then the order as a whole body should have stood up to Francis and reminded him that he hasn’t the power. (Another thing Thomas More might have said to Henry). Not a rebuff of his authority, a reminder of its limits.

  5. Therese says:

    Where there is doubt, pay attention to what people do, not what they say.

  6. Gab says:

    I’m so sick of this inanity. Why isn’t the pope out there saying something against the devastating abortion law in NY? If they passed a law banning climate change and the protection of the environment, I bet the pope would be mouthing off about it quick smart.

    Sorry, but I’m just so fed up with the pope and his spineless bishops right now.

  7. MrsAnchor says:

    Agreed. I think we really need to brings back THE Disciplines back into fashion for all this mess. Lent can’t come soon enough.

    I might add what Oregon is trying to pass into Law. “Mandatory” visits to parents homes to view the welfare of the children. It go’s through pretty much everyone who has a baby is a target… LifeSite has an article on the matter.

    Lucia wasn’t kidding the final attack would be on the family!! Is that what FEMA camps will be for, the unspoken Catholic population because they refused to allow their kids to be indoctrinated?! The article mentions CPS…. gosh they’re an unholy entity. I’ve got firsthand knowledge

    God help us and every Saint we definitely need your prayers at this time

  8. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    Anything to do with the Order of Malta in the press is given an air of the arcane, as if the Order were some sort secret society like the Illuminati or the Rosicrucians or some such nonsense. In reality, my understanding of it is that it is very mundane. Its statutes and constitutions are easily available online, its ceremonies are all held in public, and its members are middle aged, middle class Catholics who are trying to do some good in their communities. As for the sovereignty, it is just the kind of pseudosovereignty given by convention to the United Nations and the Red Cross, and for the same reason: it allows the organization to have regular relations with governments so that they can more easily interact with them in times of crisis instead, cutting down response times and opening doors which otherwise might be closed to outside organizations.

  9. TonyO says:

    As for the sovereignty, it is just the kind of pseudosovereignty given by convention to the United Nations and the Red Cross,

    That isn’t pseudosovereignty.

    It is best to be clear on the distinction between having sovereignty real and substantial, and being recognized as having sovereignty both other sovereign powers.

    In practical day to day life, a real human sovereign entity that has failed to get any other sovereigns to recognize its authority will eventually lapse altogether, though it may take generations. But de jure real sovereignty can exist even when other sovereigns won’t recognize it.

    The rub comes when some other powers recognize it, and others do not. For 30 years, the US recognized the Taiwan government as real. Then it stopped, transferring recognition to Beijing and its government. But the action of the US did not deprive Taiwan of its real authority as a sovereign government. (Besides the fact that the US made a political and moral error in asserting that Taiwan “is” part of China and China’s one government is that of Beijing. What the US should have said is that Beijing’s government is the government of China, and that while Taiwan was historically part of China, its ACTUAL status is a disputed matter and the US is seeking further dialogue before it offers a position.) It is obvious, by this point, that if operating as a real, successful, and effective government – to the people’s strong acclaim – for 70 years, is not enough to instantiate a “real” sovereign power, nobody can offer a definition that does any better. Certainly the United States in 1776, 1783, and 1812 had far less to go on in support of its claim to sovereignty.

    There are numerous entities that are recognized by the nations and powers of the world for various purposes other than to govern a territory: many are called NGOs. They make real decisions affecting people, and carry plenty of power, though typically only as mediated through systems of law which they do not themselves write. Perhaps the best way to understand the sovereignty of a non-territorial entity like this is to reflect on whether any territorial power has the de jureauthority to control it or completely suppress it. If not, then in some sense it does not “answer to” any other entity in a definitive and ultimate way, and thus bears real sovereignty.

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