Knights of Malta Seek Answers From Pope

by Christine Niles  •  •  April 28, 2017   

Letter to Holy Father lays out serious concerns

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ROME ( - The Knights of Malta, shaken by internal strife and warring factions, are turning to the Holy Father for answers. In a letter obtained by Church Militant, concerned members "respectfully seek clarification by competent authorities of serious questions and misgivings which have arisen recently in the life and governance" of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

"The recent unfolding of serious events that have taken place over the past months regarding the Order of Malta have left many in perplexity," the letter begins. "This has been exacerbated by the lack of reasonable explanation presented both to the faithful members of the Order and the public at large regarding actions taken by Your Holiness and Vatican officials."

The recent unfolding of serious events that have taken place over the past months regarding the Order of Malta have left many in perplexity.

These events include the sudden, unexpected resignation in January of Fra' Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Order for nine years, and the immediate reinstatement of the disgraced Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, suspended after being caught in a condom distribution scandal last year, as well as over questionable financial dealings.

The letter lays out two primary points of concern:

  1. Von Boeselager's lack of transparency with regard to Malteser International, the Order's charitable arm, when it was found distributing condoms to Third World countries;
  2. The order (now reversed) by Abp. Angelo Becciu, papal delegate to the Knights of Malta, that Festing stay away from Rome during the conclave to elect a new leader.

On the first point, the letter offers a list of ways Malteser's actions contradict Catholic teaching on contraception, holding to the following tenets:

  • That it's acceptable to provide contraceptives for birth spacing
  • That it's acceptable to distribute condoms to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections
  • That Malteser should educate people in the use of contraceptives for birth spacing and in the use of condoms as an option for preventing sexually transmitted infections
  • That in certain situations Malteser had to depart from the Church's teaching when it perceived its "medical and moral responsibility" to be at odds with those teachings

The fact that von Boeselager was promptly reinstated after being found guilty of failing to correct such abuses, and his failure to communicate such abuses to other members, leaves questions about the Holy See's commitment to Catholic reform.

The second point notes the meddling of the Vatican into the Order's affairs, incuding Becciu's most recent order insisting that Festing not attend the conclave.

"This act raises questions about the proper jurisdiction of the Special Delegate with respect to all members of the sovereign Order," the letter observes, "for it effectively places Fra' Festing in a state of exile from Rome, it despoils Fra' Festing of his rights as a member of the Order, and it harms the Order by interfering with a free election of the Grand Master."

The Vatican has since relented, and Festing is attending the conclave, where faithful members are hoping he is re-elected and can help restore order to a deeply troubled and divided organization.

Members of the Order may join their names to the letter by writing to Dr. Paul Camarata at

Please include:

  • Subject Line: Letter of Inquiry
  • First Name, Last Name
  • Local Chapter You Belong To
  • One sentence confirming that you join in respectfully requesting clarifications


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