VATICAN CITY, Italy, May 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Senior members among the world’s oldest Catholic chivalric order are calling for the group’s chancellor – reinstated by Pope Francis amid an international condom scandal – to resign.
The resignation call stems from a German court finding Knights of Malta Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager to be “untruthful” in denying knowledge of condom distribution under his watch by the Order’s charitable relief arm.
Boeselager had in fact “knowingly procured” the condom distribution, three German judges had found, with “full knowledge and will.”
Boeselager had “plunged the whole Order into its worst crisis for decades, if not centuries,” a leaked internal email says, by going around the Order’s normal process and to the Vatican for help after he was suspended.
His behavior is dishonorable, the Knights of Malta say in the email obtained by Church Militant, and should he stay in the position of Grand Chancellor, it would be a disgrace to the order.
“How can he remain?” asked one senior knight of Boeselager. “A court has effectively found him untruthful.”
“He claimed not to know, and the court said that he must have known,” the knight said. “We cannot have a Grand Chancellor whose truthfulness has been impugned by a court of law. He must resign. It is as simple as that.”
The April 30 email message was sent to the entirety of the Knights of Malta global membership in advance of last week’s May 2 election of Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre to the lifetime position of Grand Master.
The Order’s elective body voted last week to retain its Lieutenant Grand Master – who’d been elected to the interim term last year after Francis’ controversial intervention and removal of the previous Grand Master.
“As the Order prepares for the forthcoming Council Complete of State and elections for a new leader,” the email begins, “it is important that members of the Order worldwide understand the gravity of the judgment of a German court against the Grand Chancellor, Albrecht, Freiherr von Boeselager, in which he was effectively found by 3 judges to have been untruthful.”
It then explains how Boeselager sued Austrian Catholic news service Kath.net in the Hamburg District Court, “attempting to silence their reporting of condom distribution when Boeselager was Grand Hospitaller of the Order.”
“However, the judges found that Boeselager’s denial of knowledge about the condom distribution was untruthful and that he had “knowingly procured” it with “full knowledge and will,” the email states.
The court ultimately ruled in Kath.net’s favor, and the June 6, 2017 decision finding Kath.net’s reporting that Boeselager “knowingly procured the distribution of condoms (was), in fact, correct,” is included in the email obtained by Church Militant.
Kath.net procured a cease-and-desist order at the end of 2016 from lawyers for Malteser International, the Order’s international charitable arm, concerning the Catholic news outlet’s reporting on Albrecht von Boeselager in his role as Grand Chancellor of the Order.
In addition Boeselager’s involvement in condom distribution, Kath.net had also reported on coverage from another news outlet, BILD newspaper, the report saying Boeselager had “accepted a donation of 30 million Swiss Francs, the origin of which is dubious.”
The condom scandal and the dicey donation under Boeselager’s tenure have entwined the Knights of Malta in controversy over the last few years.
The Order’s Grand Master at the time Matthew Festing had removed German aristocrat Boeselager from his role as the Knights’ Grand Chancellor in late 2016 for Boeselager’s violating his promise of obedience. This was because Boeselager had declined to resign after his part in condom distribution was revealed.
In addition, “unexplained financial dealings involving Boeselager and a number of his associates caused considerable disquiet to the Grand Master,” an earlier Church Militant (CM) report on another internal Order document said.
The document in the April 2017 CM report detailed questionable financial dealings involving Boeselager and the Order, and suggested collusion with leadership in the German bishops and the Vatican, amid a power struggle within the Knights of Malta over the Order’s religious character.
Pope Francis had intervened and reinstated Boeselager in January 2017, also asking the Order’s Grand Master Matthew Festing, who had removed von Boeselager, to resign from his lifetime post.
Francis’ move caused considerable surprise because the Order of Malta is a sovereign state.
Also enmeshed in this was Pope Francis’ shelving of Cardinal Raymond Burke as Cardinal Patron of the Knights of Malta, by naming Archbishop Angelo Becciu his personal envoy to oversee the “spiritual and moral” reform of the Order, especially its branch of professed Knights, in February 2017.
By doing this Francis effectively sidelined Burke by handing Burke’s two areas of influence as Cardinal Patron — promoting the spiritual interests of the Order and its members, and relations between the Holy See and the Order — over to Becciu.
Cardinal Burke had supported Festing in acting to remove Boeselager. Pope Francis asked Burke in a December 2016 letter to see to it that Freemasons were removed from the Knights of Malta and also ensure that the Order “resolve” any distribution of contraceptives it might be involved in.
The Pope’s proposed reform of the Order has caused worry among some of its members for the possibility it could overturn of the practice of having a professed Knight of noble lineage at the head of the 900-year-old Order – key in sustaining the Order’s moral character
The pope’s sidelining of Cardinal Burke as Cardinal Patron of the Knights of Malta was further sealed last week with Francis’ asking Becciu to remain his special delegate indefinitely.
The German court’s decision regarding Boeselager and Kath.net in effect confirms comparable findings by the Order’s own internal report from January 2017 commissioned by Grand Master Festing to look into the condom affair, the April 30 internal email says.
“Members will recall that Boeselager was suspended by the Grand Master in December 2016 for, among other things, acting without the consent of the Grand Master or the Sovereign Council,” it states. “He plunged the whole Order into its worst crisis for decades, if not centuries, by circumventing the Order’s normal appeal procedures, seeking instead intervention by the Vatican Secretariat of State.”
“Many senior figures within the Order, which includes many German knights, now consider that Boeselager is deeply compromised and behaving dishonourably,” the email adds. “They consider that it would be a disgrace to the Order and, indeed, his own noble family, if he were to remain in the post of Grand Chancellor.”