My 27 June article, “Stalinist Purges and More in the Knights of Malta,” has elicited a response in the form of a Declaration of the Grand Magistry of the Order (PDF). I am publishing this brief reply solely to avoid giving the impression that might otherwise arise that the Statement is unanswerable and has vanquished falsehood with truth. The Statement, sent out by the Communications Office of the Order, is a composite of suppressio veri and suggestio falsi, while it also relies on Baron Boeselager’s policy of plausible deniability in concealing his acts. I frame my reply under each of the headings given in the Statement.
Sovereignty and independence: The document falsely suggests that the Order’s relations with the Holy See were bad under Grand Master Festing and have now been improved. In fact there was no cloud whatever in relations with the Holy See until the Grand Chancellor created a crisis in December 2016 by refusing to accept his dismissal by Fra Matthew Festing. One can well accept that the Vatican is now happier with the Order of Malta after re-imposing Boeselager and deposing Fra Matthew to make way for him. It now has the Order under its thumb, with a “Special Delegate”, Cardinal Becciu, giving orders. What an achievement to boast of!
Judgment of the Hamburg regional court: It is interesting that Baron Boeselager raises this subject, which I did not mention in my article. It shows what his sensitive spots are. He seeks to exculpate himself on the grounds that (on a peripheral subject) Kath.net made a mis-statement, and had judgment against it under that head. But on the main issue, the distribution of condoms, which is what Grand Master Festing dismissed him for, Boeselager lost his case. The judgment of the court was:
“the compelling impression [is] that the Applicant (Boeselager) knew that condoms had been distributed in relief operations by Malteser International using the UNHCR aid packages… The Court considers that an impartial reader could, indeed, thereby be led to believe that the Applicant (Boeselager) himself was indeed responsible in respect of all the afore-mentioned charges against him, which necessarily also entails his having full knowledge of all the relevant circumstances. In its judgment, the Court in these proceedings finds that the impression given is true as a matter of fact”.
Thus, over his attempt to deny the facts for which the Grand Master dismissed him, the Hamburg court did not believe him. [Editor’s Note: See more on the Hamburg decision here.]
Grand Prior of England: As to the claim that Fra Ian Scott was not dismissed, unfortunately the regime in Rome can rely on Fra Ian behaving like a gentleman while they behave like dictators. I merely note that the Statement does not reply to my main charge, that the Grand Magistry has imposed a Procurator on the Grand Priory of England instead of allowing the election of a new Prior. This is because of the insistence on keeping nobiliary qualifications, in contradiction to the Grand Magistry’s claim of reforming intentions.
Portuguese Association: The Association’s “normal institutional life”, we are told, is restored by appointing a Delegate to dismiss its entire Council and appoint another without election. Normal under the new regime, we can well believe.
Delegation of Rome: The Statement says that “the Grand Magistry” has nothing to do with the resignation of the Delegation’s Council. A brief account of the incident has been circulated among the American and other knights, who will judge for themselves.
Scandinavian Association: “The Grand Magistry”, the Statement says, did not intervene in the election of the President. Yet an Association which was previously distinguished for its enthusiasm for the Old Rite now has as its President a German woman who is a bitter opponent of it and quickly proceeded to demand its banning.
Celebrations in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite: As my article merely pointed out that the ban on the Old Rite was demanded by the intrusive Scandinavian President, this section calls for no comment.
Stricter observance of the vows made by the religious members of the Order: We will see very soon how true this is.
Swiss fund donation: “Albrecht Boeselager’s reinstatement as Grand Chancellor in January 2017 had nothing to do with the Swiss Fund.” Somebody just forgot to feed this line to Cardinal Parolin, who, by pure coincidence, in December 2016 appointed a committee of five members to concoct a denigratory report on Grand Master Festing so as to force his dismissal, and the group included as its President the nuncio Archbishop Silvano Tomasi and two bankers, all three of whom had been working closely with Boeselager in the matter of the fund. [Editor’s note: see more on the suspicious nature of this committee here.]
Leadership of the Grand Master: A bland testimonial, offering no answer to the fact that he is a puppet whom even the Italians did not want to vote for in 2008, when Fra Matthew Festing was elected.
Appointment of the Cardinalis Patronus: Boeselager denies that he tried to prevent Cardinal Burke being appointed in 2015. I was living in the Magistral Palace at the time, and I heard every detail of what happened from the Grand Master and other members of the Sovereign Council.
Alleged German hegemony: To plead that, of Baron Boeselager (Grand Chancellor), Count Esterhazy (Receiver of the Common Treasury) and Count Henckel (member of the Sovereign Council), only two are members of the German Association can only deceive readers who do not know the Order and its structure. The three mentioned are the operators of the control that the German party now has over the Order and of the overweening power that the German Association exerts within it.
I will close by citing a section found in each of two letters sent out last week by the Presidents of two of the US Associations, the American (i.e. Eastern) and the Western, to their knights [links go to PDF copies of each letter]. While seeking to stop their members from being influenced by what I wrote, they both admit: “Many of the facts cited in this article are true“. One could make the same point by noticing the large parts of my article to which the Statement of the Grand Magistry offers no reply at all.
What, if anything, can be done about all this? In my 1P5 article that elicited the attempted rebuttal, I asked whether the Knights of Malta will allow themselves to be led to the slaughter. In truth, the situation remains very fluid, and the present regime’s footing is more precarious than many realise. Members, particularly the Professed, have every right to challenge the supposed “reforms”, not only on the basis of canon law, but also on the basis of the large body of legislation made by the Order itself and by the Papacy, which remains in force. Existing rights cannot be taken away unilaterally, as in some banana republic. Let the present members remind themselves of the knightly virtues of courage and steadfastness, and stay to serve and indeed to fight if necessary, rather than to capitulate without a whimper, as we did in 1798 on Malta under the “leadership” of the German Grand Master von Hompesch of unhappy memory.
Henry Sire, historian and writer of The Dictator Pope, is the author of six books on Catholic history and biography, including one on the famous English Jesuit, writer, and philosopher Father Martin D’Arcy. The Dictator Pope is the fruit of Henry Sire’s four-year residence in Rome from 2013 to 2017. During that time he became personally acquainted with many figures in the Vatican, including cardinals and curial officials, together with journalists specializing in Vatican affairs.