Ousted Knights of Malta of­fi­cial takes case to or­der’s court

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Ni­cole Win­field

The stand­off be­tween the Vat­i­can and the Knights of Malta has taken a new twist, with the ousted for­eign min­is­ter of the an­cient aris­to­cratic lay Catholic or­der ap­peal­ing his sus­pen­sion to the Knights’ in­ter­nal tri­bunal.

Al­brecht von Boe­se­lager was re­moved on 8 De­cem­ber af­ter he re­fused a de­mand by the top knight to re­sign over rev­e­la­tions that the or­der’s char­ity branch dis­trib­uted tens of thou­sands of con­doms in Myan­mar un­der his watch. Catholic teach­ing for­bids the use of ar­ti­fi­cial con­tra­cep­tion.

In a state­ment on Thurs­day, von Boe­se­lager said that he filed an ap­peal with the Knights’ tri­bunal 4 Jan­uary. The ap­peal ar­gues that “not even one of the con­di­tions” gov­ern­ing sus­pen­sion of mem­bers ap­plied to his case.

Specif­i­cally, he said there was no rea­son to ini­ti­ate a dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dure against him, and that re­gard­less the one used to sus­pend him was in­valid.

Pope Fran­cis has in­ter­vened in the dis­pute, set­ting up a com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate what the Vat­i­can No. 2 has said was an “un­prece­dented cri­sis” within the or­der. The lead­er­ship of the Knights, how­ever, has re­fused to co­op­er­ate with the pope’s probe, cit­ing its sta­tus as a sov­er­eign en­tity un­der in­ter­na­tional law.

Aside from the un­usual clash be­tween a Catholic or­der and the head of the Catholic Church, the case has drawn at­ten­tion be­cause of the role played by con­ser­va­tive Car­di­nal Ray­mond Burke.

Burke is the pope’s am­bas­sador to the Knights, but he is also a Fran­cis critic and hard­liner on sex­ual ethics. Boe­se­lager has said he was told, dur­ing a meet­ing at­tended by Burke, that the pope wanted him to re­sign as grand chan­cel­lor over the con­dom scan­dal.

The Vat­i­can sec­re­tary of state has said the pope wanted no such thing and wanted the is­sue re­solved through di­a­logue.

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

But in a 22 De­cem­ber an­nounce­ment of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Vat­i­can cited its sta­tus as a “lay re­li­gious or­der” that is at the ser­vice to “the faith and the Holy Father.”

The knights trace their his­tory to the 11th cen­tury with the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­fir­mary in Jerusalem that cared for pil­grims of all faiths. It now counts 13,500 mem­bers and 100,000 staff and vol­un­teers who pro­vide health care in hos­pi­tals and clin­ics around the world.

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