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Knights of Malta members suspect Latin Mass banned to ‘cleanse’ order of traditionalists

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ROME, June 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Knights and members of one of the oldest Military Orders in the Catholic Church are reeling from the newest directive by their Grand Master banning the traditional Latin Mass for its liturgical ceremonies. 

The letter, issued 10 June, reads, in part, that “henceforth all the liturgical ceremonies within (the) 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 the investitures, masses during our pilgrimages, memorial masses as well as the feasts and solemnities of the Order.” 

The letter continues that the directive given is to be “immediately put into practice.”

The order is sending shockwaves throughout the international communities that make up the whole of this fraternal association. Fissures and fractures, already apparent from the scandals of seeming corruption and revelations of support of contraception distribution from early 2017, have now given way to public division and calls for inquest. 

Famed historian Henry Sire, whose book “The Dictator Pope” led to his official suspension from the Order, provided his opinion on the motivation of this new directive by the Grand Master to LifeSite via email correspondence. 

"The first thing to understand about the Grand Master banning celebrations in the traditional rite is that its real author is likely Baron von Boeselager (reference, here), who has just obtained his re-election as Grand Chancellor for another five years." If this is the case, continued Sire, then the letter shows how "completely Fra Giacomo dalla Torre is the puppet of Baron Boeselager, who indeed had him elected Grand Master for precisely that reason.” 

“The move is another step in the programme of revenge that Boeselager has pursued against the traditionalist party – who were strong in the Order's government until he forced Fra’ Matthew Festing out in 2017. The appeal to the rule about “keeping liturgical uniformity in a religious order” (see letter, here) is completely spurious. It would be understandable in a uniform order such as the Jesuits (although even they have priests who say the traditional Mass), but the Order of Malta has always been a very decentralized organization, in which each country was allowed to set its own way of doing things,” said Sire.  

“That, however, is not to Boeselager's liking. He wants an absolute dictatorship in the Order, and he has pretty well achieved it," he added. 

This, however, was not the only voice to respond. Members of the International Sovereign Order reached out to LifeSite on condition of anonymity (due to their status as active “confreres”), to voice their concerns that the motivation was deeper, still. 

One source told LifeSitenews that European members of the order have reason to suspect that the directive was a “direct response” to the June 10 Declaration of Truths issued by cardinals and bishops to correct rampant “doctrinal confusion” in the Church. One of the two cardinals signing the document was Raymond Burke, the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta who was essentially inhibited by Pope Francis from exercising his influence on the order after a crisis involving contraception distribution and a power struggle engulfed the order in 2017. Burke is also a strong supporter of the traditional Latin Mass. 

“We have evidence that the letter from Grand Master Fra' Giacomo Della Torre was released in direct response to the ‘Declaration of Truths’ that was made public by Sovereign Military Order of Malta's Cardinal Patronus, Raymond Cardinal Burke. In fact, Cardinal Patronus Burke is not even carbon copied in the letter,” the source told LifeSiteNews. 

“Since various (national) associations of the Order regularly celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Rite, and might well continue to do so, the alleged usurpers now in charge of the Palazzo Magistrale (the Order's Sovereign headquarters in Rome) might well use such forbidden persistence as a long-awaited pretext to ‘cleanse’ the Order of traditional, ‘rigid’ members who have never been comfortable with the takeover of the Order by Pope Francis," the source continued. 

“This did not happen in a vacuum. For months resentment has been festering at the Palazzo Magistrale towards the confreres (members) who continue in their displeasure at the removal of Grand Master Fra’ Festing and the shabby treatment accorded to him, and several honored members of the Sovereign Council since. This is only one of the measures that Rome (now firmly in the control of the German faction) can employ, and it's not likely to be the only one in the long run,” the source added.

When LifeSiteNews inquired on whether the directive was legal, as even the letter acknowledges priests are permitted to say the Tridentine Mass per Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificium”, the source and member of the Order responded: “The Order has no ‘priests’ (as a Religious Order, such as the Jesuits, do). We're a lay order. We have only ‘Chaplains’ - all of whom belong to dioceses or other religious institutions/orders. This ‘rule’ cited by the Grand Master would apply only to the Palazzo Magistrale, the Lourdes pilgrimage in May, and the annual investiture Masses in the various countries we are located, as well as the very infrequent official Masses sponsored specifically by the Order. Funerals, weddings, would not fall under this.”

When asked by LifeSiteNews what this new measure might mean for the future of the Order, another member responded: “I think there will be some resistance. Not sure about legal resistance, but at least some local pushback or complaints.” 

“If they want to alienate younger people who are interested in the Order's work and history, then this is the way to do it. They seem to be turning the Order into an NGO instead of (preserving) the religious order it really is,” the source said. 

When asked about whether the member thought the Order was still Sovereign, and if they intended to continue within it, he replied: “I think the Order is not sovereign anymore, but that will pass with this Papacy, I think. As for myself, I will still be working with the Order, even if this really goes into effect. The work that we do--especially with the poor-- is truly making an impact…The Traditional Latin Mass is only growing, and I believe there is nothing that can stop it.”

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