Christopher Lamb, writing for the professedly progressivist Catholic weekly newspaper The Tablet, reported on 5 January that Pope Francis has explicitly requested from the Order of Malta that it retain as its Grand Chancellor the German Knight, Albrecht von Boeselager. According to Lamb:
Cardinal Raymond Burke and the Knights of Malta’s leader defied the wishes of Pope Francis and the Holy See when they sacked a senior figure in a row about the distribution of condoms. Letters seen by The Tablet reveal that Francis specifically requested [that] no one be dismissed in a dispute that saw Albrecht von Boeselager thrown out as Grand Chancellor and then suspended from the Order. [my emphasis]
Lamb then quotes a letter sent to Matthew Festing, the head of the Order of Malta, and written by Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in which he explains that Pope Francis does not wish the dismissal of von Boeselager to take place:
“I wish first of all to reiterate that these measures [the sacking and suspension of Boeselager] must not be attributed to the will of the Pope or his directives,” the cardinal wrote in a letter to Festing on 21 December. “As I expressed to you in my letter of 12 December 2016: ‘as far as the use and diffusion of methods and means contrary to the moral law, His Holiness has asked for dialogue as the way to deal with, and resolve, eventual problems. But he has never spoken of sending someone away!’” [my emphasis]
This surprising insistence upon the way of dialogue instead of dismissal is especially astonishing to observers when compared to the recent dismissal of three CDF priests and to the refusal of Pope Francis even to give reasons for his peremptory orders to Cardinal Gerhard Müller in this case.
To return to Cardinal Parolin now. According to The Tablet, the cardinal also informed Matthew Festing, the Order’s Grand Master, that Pope Francis does very well and unmistakably “have authority in this case,” even though the Order is in several ways and, as such, an independent organization:
Cardinal Parolin says Francis would like the conflict to be resolved but raises the possibility the Holy See could take further steps against the Order – and given the defiance [sic] of the Pope in this matter, the positions of both Cardinal Burke and Festing are under pressure. [my emphasis]
What this news report shows to us is that, in this case, Pope Francis shows himself to be eager to defend a dubious man – and to threaten those who have dismissed him – who is himself known to have allowed and promoted the use of condoms and contraceptives (which are also, in many cases, abortifacients). As LifeSiteNews has recently reported, von Boeselager clearly violated in his actions Catholic moral teaching:
The NGO documents uncovered by the Lepanto Institute show that von Boeselager oversaw the distribution of condoms and oral contraceptives while he was Grand Hospitaller, the person in charge of the charitable work of the Order, through its international charity Malteser International. Documents from the World Health Organization, Three Disease Fund, Save the Children, and UNAIDS all show that Malteser was responsible for distributing and promoting contraception. The distribution and promotion of contraception were part of Malteser’s role as a grantee and partner of these organizations, the documents indicate.
What this incident shows is that Pope Francis himself refuses to use stricter chastening methods when it is about those who promote a laxer or more liberalizing moral agenda. The same applies to the recently reported incident where Pope Francis re-instated a laicized priest who had been found guilty of grave sexual abuse but whom the pope, in 2014, later called back into the active priesthood where he remains. As Michael Dougherty himself writes:
Pope Francis and his cardinal allies have been known to interfere with CDF’s [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] judgments on abuse cases. This intervention has become so endemic to the system that cases of priestly abuse in Rome are now known to have two sets of distinctions. The first is guilty or innocent. The second is “with cardinal friends” or “without cardinal friends.” And indeed, Pope Francis is apparently pressing ahead with his reversion of abuse practices even though the cardinals who are favorable to this reform of reform have already brought him trouble because of their friends. Consider the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli. Inzoli lived in a flamboyant fashion and had such a taste for flashy cars that he earned the nickname “Don Mercedes.” He was also accused of molesting children. He allegedly abused minors in the confessional. He even went so far as to teach children that sexual contact with him was legitimated by scripture and their faith. When his case reached CDF, he was found guilty. And in 2012, under the papacy of Pope Benedict, Inzoli was defrocked. But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto [sic], now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.” These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy. [my emphasis]
So here we have a confirmation, and in two cases – one a promoter of contraception (and more), the other a child abuser – where Pope Francis rejects a sterner chastening and punishment of the gravely responsible persons. However, in the recent case of the Congregation for Doctrine, Pope Francis has shown his unexplained (and likely irreversible) austerity: he has ordered the prompt removal of three well-trained and well-respected priests from their dicastery offices.
Moreover, the German Catholic newspaper, Die Tagespost, has now confirmed, on 4 January, the earlier story as reported by Marco Tosatti about the three priests who were dismissed from the CDF, and this new confirmation was made on the basis of their own distinct sources in Rome:
As is to be learned from the Vatican, the report of the Italian Vatican specialist, Marco Tossati, at the end of December , according to which Pope Francis enforced the dismissal of three employees of the Congregation for the Doctrine, corresponds with the facts.
Furthermore, in this context of the pope’s own recent conduct, Die Tagespost even surprisingly uses the expression about his “rather authoritarian style of leadership” and then hints at signs that also show that “the nervousness in the inner circle of Francis and in himself is growing.”
Nevertheless, does it not astonish us somewhat that the German Bishops’ Conference’s website has immediately rebuked Die Tagespost for its alleged attempt “to silence” the “reformer pope”? That indignantly huffy article, published on the official website of the German Bishops, katholisch.de, even closes with these rather meaningful, if not celebratory, words:
The pope is having more and more difficulties. Inasmuch as only a few stand as clearly at his side – in his earnest grappling for an open and merciful Church – as Cardinal Reinhard Marx himself: the President of the German Bishops’ Conference.
Dr. Maike Hickson, born and raised in Germany, studied History and French Literature at the University of Hannover and lived for several years in Switzerland where she wrote her doctoral dissertation. She is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.
Her articles have appeared in American and European journals such as Catholicism.org, LifeSiteNews, The Wanderer, Culture Wars, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Apropos, and Zeit-Fragen.