(Michael Hichborn, Life Site News – February 1, 2019) Recent documents published at Wikileaks have rekindled the intrigues within the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMoM). Much attention is being given to the Dec. 1, 2016 letter from Pope Francis to Cdl. Raymond Burke regarding the Pope’s concerns with Knights’ “memberships in associations, movements and organizations which are contrary to the Catholic faith or of a relativist nature,” and with the possible distribution of contraception by the Order’s charitable organization, Malteser International.
The letter from the Pope to Cardinal Burke, however, was already available since April 2017 when an anonymous source dumped a host of confidential Knights of Malta internal documents online that confirm the extent to which the Pope involved himself in the affairs of the Order.
The Knights of Malta scandal centers around one of its senior members, Albrecht von Boeselager, who was in charge of Malteser International — the order’s charitable arm — at the time it was caught distributing contraception. A meeting took place at which Boeselager refused to resign his post as Grand Chancellor and was subsequently suspended from the Order. Von Boeselager then took his case to Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, who then appointed a commission to investigate the matter.
What is interesting about this is that Cdl. Parolin stated in his letter to Fra’ Matthew Festing, then Grand Knight of the SMoM:
regarding the use and dissemination of methods and means contrary to the moral law, His Holiness asked that dialogue be the approach used to address and resolve potential problems. He never mentioned, conversely, expelling anyone. [emphasis original]
Cdl. Parolin suggests that Pope Francis was saying that the supreme authority of the SMoM should only talk to Boeselager and nothing more. This is untrue. In the letter to Cdl. Burke, Pope Francis said regarding this particular matter:
Furthermore, the Order must ensure that methods and means it uses in its initiatives and healthcare works are not contrary to moral law. If in the past there has been a problem of this nature, I hope that it can be completely resolved. I would be very disappointed if- as you told me- some of the high Officers were aware of practices such as the distribution of any type of contraceptives and have not intervened to end such things. I have no doubts that by following the principle of Paul and “speaking the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4, 15), the matter can be discussed with these Officers and the necessary rectification obtained. [emphasis added]
In that last line, Pope Francis spoke of both discussing the matter with those involved and obtaining “necessary rectification.” The rectification imposed by Grand Knight Festing was to request Boeselager’s resignation from his post. When that was refused, in accordance with the laws of the Order, Boeselager was suspended.
At issue was the fact that Boeselager denied knowing about the distribution of condoms by Malteser International … a denial that the Sovereign Council found to be untruthful. The German court also found Boeselager’s denial to be untruthful as well when it sided with Kath.net in a case over this very issue.
Page 19 of the Commission of Inquiry document published at Wikileaks mentioned a testimony given by a priest who witnessed Boeselager state the necessity of providing contraceptives to women. While no details of this testimony are provided in this particular document, the Lepanto Institute has obtained a copy of the testimony and is providing a portion here.
During this conference, a priest listened to a talk given by Ingo Radtke, Malteser International’s Secretary General, who promoted the use and distribution of both condoms and oral contraceptives. Immediately following Radke’s speech, the priest stood up and defended the Church’s condemnation of contraception. As the gathering broke up, the priest was approached by Boeselager, Dominique de la Rochefoucauld (the Grand Hospitaller), and Radke.
In the account of the confrontation, Boeselager defended Malteser International’s (MI) distribution of contraceptives, saying that it’s a “matter of life and death” that women in these certain circumstances receive contraception. He said, “If we don’t give them the condoms, they will die.”
Bear in mind that this comes from eyewitness testimony of a priest who heard these words come from Boeselager’s own mouth in 2014.
Of particular interest to this matter is that Boeselager has claimed that he had no knowledge of the condom distribution, and that as soon as he learned of it, the distribution was brought to an end. However, the commissioned investigation of Malteser International’s involvement in the distribution of condoms and contraception was a direct result of the confrontation Boeselager had with the priest at the end of 2014. The report was submitted in January of 2016, and provided multiple quotes from official Malteser documents indicating Malteser’s policy on the distribution of contraception and condoms, even as late as 2015. As one example, beginning on page 28 of the commissioned report, excerpts are taken from MI documents showing an organizational willingness to promote and distribute contraception and condoms.
From the MI document titled, “Formal Endorsement of the Policy: Bioethics – Basic principles on Birth Spacing and Reproductive Health (issued and signed 17 July 2015), it says, “Provision of contraceptives will never be undertaken systematically to broad target groups, but only in exceptional cases, on a strictly individual basis and under medical and ethical supervision.”
In addition to Boeselager’s public defense of Malteser’s distribution of contraception and the findings of the investigative report commissioned by Fra Festing, the Lepanto Institute has also received copies of emails between two employees of Malteser International regarding a policy shift on condoms in 2013. In these emails between Birke Herzbruch (MI’s country representative in Myanmar) and Maren Paech (MI’s Senior Desk Officer in Myanmar), it is quite clear that MI’s standing policy was to be directly involved in the distribution of contraception and condoms. Ms. Herzbruch complains bitterly about the change in policy, ending the distribution of condoms, saying:
what matters is what Malteser believes is part of a comprehensive HIV package. And in this sense Prevention through condoms is mandatory and not negotiable. Honestly, I cannot believe we are having this discussion. For the time being and until the new HIV Aids Policy of Malteser is applicable, I suggest to proceed as planned with the EMDG, again this is the last year. Condoms are being distributed through partners for the time being at least throughout 2014.
All of the information regarding Albrecht von Boeselager’s leadership over Malteser International, and its distribution of contraception and condoms, established a very clear impetus for his dismissal from the Order, in full accord with the Order’s code of conduct. There never should have been any need or desire on the part of the Vatican to investigate whether or not proper protocols were followed in Boeselager’s suspension.
In the end, Boeselager appealed to Pope Francis over his dismissal. This ultimately led to Pope Francis asking Grand Master Matthew Festing to resign. Earlier decrees were annulled and condom-pusher Boeselager was reinstated as grand chancellor in Jan. 2018. Pope Francis then appointed Cardinal Angelo Becciu in May 2018 as his special delegate to the Knights of Malta, further sealing his demotion of the order’s Cardinal Patron Raymond Burke.
Wikileaks release of the letters evokes a number of questions regarding Pope Francis’ handling of the matter.
For instance, why did Pope Francis tell Cardinal Burke to “completely resolve” the matter and obtain “necessary rectification” and then side with the culprit who appeared to be receiving his just deserts? He not only sided with the culprit who was responsible for distributing contraception but reinstated him, forcing the man who dealt with the culprit to resign.
Another question is why was Cardinal Burke’s rule in the order supplanted after he appeared to do exactly what the Holy Father asked him to do?
The letters do not answer these troubling questions.