January 26, 2017, Wednesday — Knights of Malta and Freemasonry, #2
“One of the difficulties with the Order (of Malta) is that there is a split between those like Matthew Festing who regard the Order as a religious institution doing charitable work in the light of the teachings of the Church and others who would like to see it becoming a merely secular institution following the mores of the world at large. This is the essence of the Festing v Boeselager issue. The distribution of contraceptives was part of the issue…” — a comment several days ago on the American Catholic website onePeterfive
“It seems that pills and condoms are diverting attention from another very serious story, involving money. A huge bequest from a French member directed towards the French association was instead secretly placed in a slush fund of some sort. The lawyer who did the work on it in Switzerland is under investigation, and those in the know include various members of the Vatican commission, who would in effect be examining their own actions.” —private email from a member of the Knights of Malta
“In 1314, the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved and the major part of its property was conferred on the Hospitallers, that is, on the elite troops of the Knights of Malta.” —interview in La Stampa of Turin with Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, for 28 years professor of Medieval History at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, an expert on the history of the Knights of Malta. His words indicate that the Knights inherited much of the the enormous wealth of the dissolved Knights Templar
“Deep Throat: You thought I’d help out on specifics? I’ll confirm what you get, try to keep you on the right track, but that’s all. Are you guys really working? [Woodward nods] How much?
Woodward: I don’t know maybe 16, 18 hours a day — we’ve got sources at Justice, the FBI, but it’s still drying up.
Deep Throat: Then there must be something, mustn’t there. Look, forget the myths the media’s created about the White House — the truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.
Woodward: If you don’t like them, why won’t you be more concrete with me?
Deep Throat: Because the press stinks too — history on the run, that’s all you’re interested in. You come up with anything?
Woodward: John Mitchell resigned as head of CREEP to spend more time with his family. That doesn’t exactly have the ring of truth. Howard Hunt’s been found — there was talk that his lawyer had $25,000 in cash in a paper bag.
Deep Throat: Follow the money. Always follow the money.
Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can’t tell you that.
Woodward: But you could tell me that.
Deep Throat: No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I’ll confirm. I’ll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that’s all. Just… follow the money.” —dialogue from the film All the President’s Men, a 1976 film about the Watergate investigation. “Deep Throat” told the two young journalists that to get to the bottom of the Watergate affair, they needed to “follow the money”
“Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” —Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 6:3
Once they told tales of the Knights of Malta, young soldiers fighting for their beliefs against impossible odds.
In some battles, they were just a few thousand against as many as 100,000, or more, and yet they stood fast, with even the wounded returning to the front lines to help avoid defeat.
In 1565, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sent an invasion force of about 40,000 men to besiege the 700 knights and 8,000 soldiers and expel them from Malta and gain a new base from which to possibly launch another assault on Europe.
At first the battle went badly; about half the knights were killed.
On August 18, the position of the besieged was becoming desperate: dwindling daily in numbers, they were becoming too feeble to hold the long line of fortifications. But when his council suggested the abandonment of Birgu and Senglea and withdrawal to Fort St. Angelo, Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette refused.
On August 23 came yet another grand assault, the last serious effort, as it proved, of the besiegers. It was thrown back with the greatest difficulty, even the wounded taking part in the defense.
The perplexed and indecisive Ottomans heard of the arrival of Sicilian reinforcements in Mellieħa Bay. Unaware that the force was very small, they broke off the siege and left on September 8.
The Great Siege of Malta ended, barely, in victory.
Today, the Order is a shadow of its former self. Perhaps the present crisis will, in a paradoxical way, lead to a rebirth and renewal of the Order. Would that it be so…
Follow the Money
The memorable phrase “follow the money,” used by “Deep Throat,” the anonymous “source” who helped American journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein unravel the mystery of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, really means “discover the motive and follow it back to its source.”
It might more fully be stated “follow the money until you trace it back to its source and you will have the key to explain all of the actions that have unfolded.”
The case we are now investigating, the recent chaos in the leadership of the 900-year-old, highly-respected Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, has grown tangled.
The latest, startling development was the decision of Pope Francis to summon the Master General of the Order, Fra Matthew Festing, 67, to the Vatican on January 24, the day before yesterday, to inform him that his resignation as head of the Knights of Malta was desired.
We have no other details as yet about that meeting. Were the two alone, face to face? Were others present? Did Festing protest? Was there an argument?
Festing agreed to resign.
His decision was made public yesterday.
It was an abrupt retreat from his stance of several days earlier.
Then, Festing had proclaimed the sovereignty of the Knights of Malta against even the Vatican, which was attempting to begin a 5-person “investigation” into the order’s decision in early December to dismiss one of its top officials, Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.
The charges against Boeselager amounted to a type of “dereliction of duty,” not preventing the distribution of condoms and other contraceptive pharmaceuticals over several years as part of the order’s well-known medical charity initiatives worldwide.
Boeselager has stoutly denied the charges, saying he did not know of the irregularities, and when he discovered them, he took action to end them.
Some reports have made the interesting suggestion that a document, drawn up prior to the meeting, was put before Festing for him to sign, and that he did sign it.
This document is said to have included passages detailing the events leading up to the decision to dismiss Boeselager, including specific testimony on the advice and actions of the Order’s Cardinal Protector, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, an American, during the process.
This suggests that Festing was being asked to fill out a sort of affidavit, a record of the recent events in the Order, which could possibly be used at some future time even against Burke.
Some are whispering that that is what is about to happen: that Burke will be accused of having mishandled the matter. It will be said that, despite the clear instructions of the Pope in their meeting on November 10 to “handle the matter quietly” through “dialogue” and “without the dismissal of anyone” from any post, Burke nevertheless went ahead and pushed for the dismissal of Boeselager.
If this accusation is about to be made, then what we are now watching is the final act in a long and elaborate process to prepare a case against Burke, playing out before our eyes.
If Burke is judged to be guilty of such an accusation, some are saying, then the Pope could be justified in taking severe disciplinary action against him, up to and including removing him from the College of Cardinals.
So, we have several questions: What instructions did Pope Francis give to Burke during their November 10 meeting? Did Burke carry out those instructions? Was this entire matter of Boeselager and the resignation of Festing merely a cover for developing a case against Cardinal Burke for negligence or disobedience in carrying out the wishes of the Pope with regard to the Knights of Malta, with the ultimate goal to discredit him?
One problem with all human affairs is that they involve humans(!).
That is, they involve beings who are, by definition, limited, not omniscient; imperfect; subject to being moved by emotion rather than by reason; doomed to choosing a course of action on the basis of partial, or even false, information.
So, when attempting to understand the decisions men take, we must always try to reconstruct what information was available when to those who take decisions.
Clearly, Francis had been told something about the Knights of Malta situation, and as a consequence of that, he decided to summon Festing and to ask for his resignation.
But what had Francis been told? And when? And by whom? And for what purpose?
In order to follow this case in an orderly case, we need a chronology:
November 10, 2016 — Cardinal Burke meets with Pope Francis. Burke tells Francis of his concerns about some non-Catholic, immoral activities being carried out under the sponsorship of the Knights of Malta. The Pope shares his deep concern over this news, and allegedly urges Burke to do all he can to end such activities. Edward Pentin will later report that the Pope tells Burke to “clean out” all “Freemasons” in the Order of Malta.
December 1, 2016 — Pope Francis writes a follow-up letter to Cardinal Burke, encouraging him, as discussed, to promote the Catholic faith in the life of the Order of Malta. The contents of this letter have not been made public, but Cardinal Parolin will refer to the contents in his letter of December 12 and 21.
December 6, 2016 — The moment of decision. At a meeting of the top leadership of the Knights of Malta, Boeselager is asked to submit his resignation. The reason? That he has not prevented the distribution of various contraceptive devices and pills over a number of years. But Boeselager refuses. The Order leadership then forcibly removes him from his post, voting him out. Boeselager is not happy with this outcome.
December 6-11, 2016 — Boeselager contacts Vatican officials, tells them what has happened, and, it appears, the Vatican promises him support.
December 12, 2016 — Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, reportedly a personal friend of Boeselager, writes a letter to Festing, saying that Pope Francis, in his November 10 meeting with Burke, had not instructed Burke to counsel or embark on a course of action which would lead to the dismissal of any of the Order’s leaders.
December 13, 2016 — The Order of Malta issues a statement on the case. Here is that text:
The Current Situation between the Order of Malta and Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager
“Because, unfortunately, some details of the events of last week are being circulated and discussed in an unbalanced manner, the Grand Master of the Order, HMEH Fra’ Matthew Festing, would like to communicate the following. On Tuesday, December 6, an extremely grave and untenable situation became apparent concerning Albrecht von Boeselager’s position as Grand Chancellor of the Order of Malta, and the Grand Master called Boeselager for a meeting in presence of the Grand Commander, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein and Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke as the Holy Father’s representative to the Order of Malta.
“In the meeting the Grand Master said that the situation called for Albrecht von Boeselager to resign as Grand Chancellor, which is especially regretful because of his service to the Order for so many years.
“After Boeselager refused this, eventually the Grand Master had no choice but to order him, under the Promise of Obedience, in presence of the Grand Commander and the Cardinal Patronus, to resign. Boeselager refused again.
“Thus, the Grand Commander, with the backing of the Grand Master and the Sovereign Council and most members of the Order around the world, initiated a disciplinary procedure after which a member can be suspended from membership in the Order, and thus all Offices within the Order.
“The reason for his removal as Grand Chancellor was due to severe problems which occurred during Boeselager’s tenure as Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta, and his subsequent concealment of these problems from the Grand Magistry, as proved in a report commissioned by the Grand Master last year.
“It has to be noted that, for any member of the Order, to refuse a command of the Grand Master – regardless of the reasons behind it – is disgraceful. However, for a member in Obedience to refuse an order under the Promise betrays a disregard for the Order’s spirituality and laws, his Religious Superior and Sovereign, and for the Holy Father’s representative to the Order who was supporting the Grand Master in his decision.
“The Grand Master asks all Members of the Order to remain in the ardent desire that the Order stays united. Although some members of the Order have been publicly protesting, these claims are erroneous and also illustrate a similar disrespect for the Grand Master.
“The Sovereign Council of the Order of Malta will appoint the new Grand Chancellor in the next few days.”
December 21, 2016 — Parolin sends a second letter to the Knights, repeating the same essential points. He says: “As I already said in my prior letter of December 12: regarding the use and distribution of methods and means contrary to the moral law, His Holiness asked for a dialogue on how these eventual problems could be faced and dealt with. But he never said to oust someone!”
December 22, 2016 — Cardinal Parolin establishes a commission of five members to investigate the Boeselager case. The five members of the new commission are: Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the former permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N. in Geneva; Jesuit Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University; and laypeople Jacques de Liedekerke, a lawyer, Marc Odendall, an investment banker, and Marwan Sehnaoui, the head of the Knights of Malta in Lebanon. They are to report back the results of their investigation by January 31, 2017.
January 5 — The Tablet of London reveals the existence of the two letters from the Secretary of State to the Knights of Malta of December 12 and 21.
January 10 — The Knights of Malta issue a statement saying that, because they are a sovereign state under international law, they will not cooperate with the Vatican investigation, which is characterized as an interference in an internal Knights of Malta matter. Here is the text of that statement:
Statement of the Grand Magistry, January 10, 2017
The Grand Magistry of the Sovereign Order of Malta, in response to the activities being carried out by a Group appointed by the Secretary of State of the Vatican, considers it appropriate to reiterate that the replacement of the former Grand Chancellor was an internal act of the government of the Order.
Thus, considering the legal irrelevance of this Group and of its findings relating to the legal structure of the Order of Malta, the Order has decided that it should not cooperate with it. This is to protect its sovereignty against initiatives which claim to be directed at objectively (and, therefore – quite apart from its intentions – reveals it to be legally irrelevant) questioning or even limiting said Sovereignty.
Article 4 paragraph 6 of the Constitutional Charter is clear when it states that “the religious nature of the Order does not prejudice the exercise of sovereign prerogatives pertaining to the Order in so far as it is recognized by States as a subject of international law” and Article 4 paragraph 5 reiterates that “the Order has diplomatic representation to the Holy See, according to the norms of international law.”
The confirmation of such status under international law is also attested to in the Annuario Pontificio of the Holy See, where the Order is mentioned only once and not amongst the religious orders, but rather amongst the States with Embassies accredited the Holy See.
The different ranks of the members of the Order belonging to different classes should be noted, and therefore also the hierarchical relationships that exist between those members and their superiors. The Second Class, to which the former Grand Chancellor belonged, is for members of the Order ‘in Obedience’ who make the Promise according to Article 9 paragraph 2 of the Constitutional Charter (see also Article 8 paragraph 1 b) of the Constitutional Charter). This Promise has nothing to do with the Vow of Obedience taken by the Knights of Justice, who belong to the First Class. Therefore the Knights of Justice “are religious in all respects” (Article 9 paragraph 1 of the Constitutional Charter), whilst they are not ‘Knights in Obedience’.
In addition, according to Article 4 paragraph 2, the Constitutional Charter states that members of the Second Class who have taken the Promise of Obedience are only subordinate to their superiors within the Order.
In the light of these fundamental legal regulations, it is clear that, in strictly legal terms, a refusal to a command ‘in Obedience’ does not justify in any way the involvement of ‘religious superiors’, all the more so as they do not all belong to the Order.
Such involvement, in addition to being legally impossible, is also superfluous in terms of protecting members of the Order: from the time that the members of the Second and Third Class who wish to appeal against disciplinary measures they consider too harsh, can dispute these before the Magistral Courts, as provided for by Article 129 of the Constitutional Code.
Failure to cooperate with the aforementioned Group has therefore strictly legal grounds, thus it is not and cannot in any way be considered as a lack of respect towards the Group, nor towards His Eminence Secretary of State.
The position of the Grand Magistry is that the depositions that individual members consider that they could make to the Group cannot, in their terms and judgments, be in contradiction, directly or indirectly, with the decision of the Grand Master and the Sovereign Council concerning the replacement of the Grand Chancellor.
January 14 — In a statement, Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing seeks to offer reassurance that the legality of the process used to remove former Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager has been “clarified by numerous sources,” in particular the avvocato di stato (attorney general).
January 16 — The Tablet of London reports the existence of a letter by Grand Master Festing which alleges that at least three members of the papal investigation commission may have “conflicts of interest” because of connections to “a fund in Geneva.” The title of the article by Christopher Lamb: “Grand Master Festing says Order won’t cooperate with Holy See until own inquiry is complete, in letter seen by The Tablet; Order of Malta chief withdraws cooperation after accusing Vatican’s inquiry of links with fund in Geneva.” Festing stresses “there is nothing to suggest anything untoward,” but he claims that evidence presented to him warrants his action to set up his own inquiry. “The makeup of the group of people has raised serious questions within the Grand Magistry. There are serious accusations of a conflict of interest for at least three of the members who have been proved to be linked to a fund in Geneva,” the Grand Master writes in a letter sent to the order’s leadership. Festing does not name the fund in question, although Odendall is listed as treasurer of the Swiss-based Caritas in Veritate Foundation which has the Holy See’s representative to the UN in Geneva as its president. The foundation’s aims are to promote the Church’s position in public debate and international negotiations. There is no suggestion that Odendall’s involvement in this fund causes a conflict of interest.
January 17 — The Vatican confirms its trust in the papal commission investigating the forced resignation of the Order of Malta’s former grand chancellor following a letter by the order’s grand master to discredit the group. In a statement today, the Vatican says it “reaffirms its confidence” in the five-member group established by Pope Francis “to inform him about the present crisis of the central direction of the order.” The Vatican also rejects “any attempt to discredit these members of the group,” led by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva.
January 24 — The Pope summons Festing to the Vatican and asks him to resign as the head of the Knights of Malta. Festing agrees to resign.
January 25 — Festing’s resignation is publicly announced by the Order of Malta and by the Holy See. A meeting of the Order’s governing board is called for January 28 to accept the Grand Master’s resignation. And the Vatican announces that the Pope will soon name a “Delegate” to run the Order.
January 26 — Today.
The Mysterious Bequest
As all this is happening, there are whisperings in the underbrush, here and there, in articles and on the internet, that influencing this affair is a struggle between the “German” and “Italian” wings of the Order (the General Chapter of May 2014 reportedly ousted Italians from most of the top spots in the Order, and there are decisions to take on the possible sale of many ancient properties in Italy owned by the Order), and also the question of what to do about a considerable sum of money, $120 million, reportedly left in a bequest to the Order several years ago by a wealthy French gentleman named Jehan du Tour.
The problem with this information is that it is being reported by the Dagospia website in Italy, which, to put it mildly, does not have the highest level of professionality or credibility (link). Still, given the rapid unfolding of this case, and its possible importance for the Church, it seems necessary to point attention to this alleged bequest in the hope that someone else might be able to confirm or deny this report, and in either case, bring the facts to the attention of the Holy Father.
Reportedly, the $120 million have been administered since the death of the donor several years ago by an expert in offshore fund management named Ariane Slinger, who lives in Geneva, and who is reportedly the trustee for the funds, keeping the principal safe and giving out the interest to the four name heirs, one of which is the Order of Malta in France. Allegedly, Chancellor Boeselager in 2014 decided to negotiate with Slinger about these funds, and was assisted by Odendall and Sehnaoui, who allegedly helped draw up a detailed proposal. Boeselager, Odendall and Sehnaoui are said to have exchanged numerous emails with Tomasi and Slinger on a proposed plan for these funds. But, reportedly, the Grand Master, Festing, has refused to engage in any transaction, even as recently as December 7.
The younger brother of Boeselager, Georg, until last year the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Merck Finck & Privatbankiers AG Monaco of Bavaria, has recently replaced Carlo Salvatori in the Council of Superintendence of the IOR, showing the close relationship between the Germans in the Knights of Malta and the Vatican. (link) The younger Boeselager was chosen by the Cardinals Commission of Vigilance of the Institute of Works of Religion. The announcement of the appointment was made on December 15, 2016, just days after the elder Boeselager was removed from his top post in the Knights of Malta.
It is not clear whether Pope Francis himself has been told of all of these connections.
(to be continued)
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What is the glory of God?
“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.