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The Knights of Malta removed Albrecht von Boeselager from his post as Grand Chancellor on the grounds that he violated his promise of obedience.

January 25, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – After personally asking the head of the Knights of Malta to resign, Pope Francis is rumored to be reinstating the controversial official at the center of the dispute – despite the official's role in overseeing the distribution of contraceptives through the order's charity.

The Tablet's Rome reporter Christopher Lamb tweeted this as new details emerge about the pope's takeover of the order:

German aristocrat Albrecht von Boeselager was fired from his post as Grand Chancellor on the grounds that he violated his promise of obedience. He refused to resign even though his superiors asked him to, thus violating his vow of obedience and allowing the order to take disciplinary action. His superiors had asked him to resign abow to fter learning how he had overseen the distribution of contraceptives while leading Malteser International, the order's charity.

While Pope Francis has spoken boldly of valuing the poor and the dangers of wealth and vanity, the courting of the powerful Von Boeselager family by the Vatican is evident. In addition to the controversial reversing of the decision of the Grand Master and forcing his resignation over Albrecht von Boeselager's dismissal, Albrecht's brother Georg was in the midst of the controversy appointed to a leadershop position at the Vatican bank

Soon after von Boeselager's dismissal, Pope Francis launched an investigation into the Knights of Malta. The investigation was rumored to focus more on what led to von Boeselager's dismissal, not whether he had actually violated Church teaching by promoting contraception around the world. 

A Catholic watchdog group then released a slew of NGO reports and documents proving that von Boeselager had overseen the distribution of not only condoms but also oral contraceptives.

Late Tuesday night, the news emerged that Pope Francis had personally asked Grand Master Matthew Festing, the order's highest-ranking official, to resign, and that Festing complied. The order has confirmed it is convening a Sovereign Council to formalize Festing's resignation. He was expected to remain in the position for the rest of his life. 

Up until Festing's resignation, the Order had insisted the dispute was an internal matter and rebuffed Vatican interference. But now, according to the Associated Press, the Vatican will be appointing a “papal delegate” to lead the order. In the meantime, its second in command will take over.

The Order of Malta's Washington, D.C. office was not immediately available to comment.

In a sign of how messy the dispute is, Lamb suggested in a Tablet article and on twitter that Festing's leadership was a concern to the Vatican because a knight who failed to report sex abuse was on the order's governing council. 

Catholic University of America canon law professor Kurt Martens said this is a “serious violation of international law” and the United Nations should “intervene.”

“The Order of Malta is a Sovereign entity, like any State, and the Holy See has no authority to intervene in its internal administrative affairs, just as the Pope cannot intervene in the administration of Norway, India or the United States,” Knight of Malta Raymond De Souza wrote on a website supporting Festing and opposing the papal investigation of the order. “Since Pope Paschal II granted full autonomy in the 11th century, the Order has always been obedient to the Church as far as faith, morals and ecclesiastical discipline are concerned. But since it is as sovereign as a State, internal administration is not under the control of the Holy See. Unless, of course, this fake commission is just a decoy to discredit His Eminence Raymond  Burke, the Order’s Patron Cardinal, and, by association,  the other Cardinals who asked the Holy Father to clarify his ambiguous teaching in Amoris Letitia on marriage and adultery.”