We have written at considerable length about the tragic saga of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in these pages over the past two years. In my most recent piece, I discussed how the recent election has highlighted how fully the German faction has now taken over the Knights of Malta. This was evidenced in large part by Albrecht von Boeselager’s Vatican-backed coup against former Grand Master Matthew Festing, and the former’s re-election to the position of Grand Chancellor after he was previously dismissed for condom distribution through the order’s charitable arm. I said at the beginning of my article that “the takeover of the Knights of Malta is now complete.”
But it appears I was wrong. There was still another knife to drive in.
Earlier this week, I received a copy of a letter from Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre, the new Grand Master of the Order – a man who, it is important to remember, is seen by some insiders as little more than Von Boeselager’s puppet. The letter states:
As religious Superior and Soverign of the Order, it is my duty to ensure that…communion is present in every aspect of our Order’s life. Among all the elements which sontitute our spiritual life, the question of the liturgy to use in our celebrations has a particular significance.
As you all know, Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificium, [sic] albeit leaving every priest the freedom to celebrate privately in an extraordinary form, nevertheless states that inside a religious institute the matter is to be decided by the Major Superior according to the norm of law and their particular statues (Summorum Pontificium, [sic] art. 3).
I have thus decided, as supreme guarantor of the cohesion and communion of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of which Providence made me Grand Master, that henceforth all the liturgical ceremonies within our Order must be performed according to the ordinary rite of the Church (rite of St. Paul VI) and not the extraordinary rite (Tridentine rite). This decision applies to all the official liturgical celebrations such as investitures, masses during our pilgrimages, memorial masses, as well as the feasts and solemnities of the Order.
The order is, in a word, a total ban on the use of the traditional Latin Mass — the very liturgy that the 900 year-old order has used for most of its history, and to which a great many of its members have a devotion.
It is also almost certainly a violation of Summorum Pontificum, which Fra’ Giacomo could have at least had the decency to learn how to spell before unceremoniously trampling upon it.
Though I wanted to report on it right away, it seemed appropriate to seek more information from my sources. And as I waited, I saw the letter circulate, then be claimed as a fake. Even one knowledgeable insider I spoke with thought it was a hoax.
But today, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register reports that he received official confirmation from Eugenio Ajroldi di Robbiate, a spokesman for the Order.
The suppression order is real.
“Critics of the extraordinary form,” writes Pentin, “say it divides the faithful and ignores the reasons for the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council. Some influential European members of the order hold this view, particularly within the Order’s German and Scandinavian associations, and are said to have lobbied for this change for some time.” [emphasis added]
The Germans again?
You don’t say.
A canonist member of the order speaking to the Register on condition of anonymity said it is “evident” that the norm gives superiors to the faculty to allow permission to celebrate in the extraordinary form “‘often or habitually or permanently’ or not.”
“But clearly it does not authorize them to prohibit or eliminate or make the extraordinary form practically impossible,” the source added. “The faculty is for the purpose of increasing the celebration of the Old Rite, not to decrease it or to eliminate it.”
He said the grand master had made a “sad decision,” which “goes against the ratio legis” and “invalidates it.” He said a “lower applicable or determinative norm cannot go against the superior norm, from whom it also receives the power to apply it.”
Another canonist, though not within the order, said rather than unify the order, the decision penalizes those “who were simply doing what the law of the Church allows.”
They feel hurt, he said, and the letter “may have a truly divisive effect” as it may seem to “favor one side.” Dalla Torre is thus “separating himself from the other side and declaring at the same time that there are two sides, whereas no one was saying it up until now,” he said.
Roger McCaffrey, the publisher of The Traditionalist magazine, wondered, “How can a Knight of Malta stand in the way of a universal right given to priests by a supreme pontiff,” and said such a decision reminds him of being back “in the 1970s.”
Pentin confirms that Von Boeselager is “seen as the key figure behind this directive.” A “well-placed source” told him that he was assisted by “other modernists who have seized direction of the order,” and that Von Boeselager is “known in the Vatican to be ‘strongly opposed’ to the Traditional Latin Mass.”
Think about it for a moment: Albrecht Von Boeselager is caught distributing condoms through an ancient Catholic religious order’s charitable works arm. He is dismissed by the Grand Master of the Order, as he should have been. Shortly thereafter, however, the pope himself calls the Grand Master into his office and tells him to resign, and to implicate Cardinal Burke, the Order’s Cardinal Patron, in the dismissal of Von Boeselager. Within a short time, the Grand Master’s resignation is accepted and Cardinal Burke is replaced in function, if not in title, by papal hatchet-man Cardinal Becciu, who also has his fingerprints all over the removal of Cardinal Pell from the Vatican Bank reform. Von Boeselager is reinstated. An amenable Grand Master is elected. Von Boeselager sues a Catholic newspaper in Austria for reporting on his condom distribution scandal and loses the case, because the court finds the charges against him credible. But he doesn’t fight it. He just goes on to be re-elected to the position he was dismissed from two and a half years before, and then uses his influence to stamp out the traditional Latin Mass — a liturgy favored by both the former Grand Master, Festing, and Cardinal Burke, the now exiled Cardinal Patron of the Order — who, incidentally, signed his recent declaration against the errors in the Church with his full title from the Order of Malta.
It’s like a plot to a movie. If it weren’t already taken, we could call it, “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.