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And by opposing, end them…

The story of the Knights of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing, Albrescht von Boeselager, Pope Francis, the condoms for “sex trade workers” in Malaysia and the multi-million dollar Swiss trust fund, just keeps getting better and better.

Today, Pope Crankypants had a few snide comments about holy obedience…

Something on your mind, holiness?

Maybe this.

“…He is a man with a spine, not put off by danger. A man who comes from fighting stock. A man who rose to the top of a complex and ancient chivalric order not through political calculation, but pure dedication and pluck.

And today, we are happy to inform you that he’s returned to form.”

The Knights news just keeps getting more and more like an episode of the Borgias. I was thinking, for the HBO miniseries, Jeremy Irons and Gary Oldman could be brought in to play Boeselagar and Parolin, respectively. James McAvoy could play Ed Pentin. And Ridley Scott to direct – those scenes where Boeselager has his “visions” or locutions from the Holy Ghost telling him he’s been chosen to “save the Order” have to be centrepieces. (Yep. Not making that one up…)

Anyway, the latest is that, completely within his rights, Fra Matthew Festing has decided to ignore the “order” from the Vatican that he not attend the plenary session this weekend that will vote on a new Grand Master. The constitutions of the Knights – remember that whole “sovereign entity” thing? – say that he can attend, and indeed has to. The word “plenary” means “everybody”. Apparently you can’t elect a new leader of the Knights without all the able-bodied members of that rank and since there are only 55 in the whole wide world, it seems they would miss one if he didn’t show.

Now, apparently, the Vatican is backpedalling: “I ask you under obedience…Oh, wait no… of course that was just a suggestion. You should follow your conscience.”

“Oh, that whole obedience thing? We didn’t really mean it. The Pope simply offered his opinion, but wants Fra’ Festing to act in accordance with his conscience… yeah yeah… That’s it… Conscience…”

“Dalla Santa Sede gli è stato replicato che la richiesta restava, decidesse in coscienza. E lui ha deciso di presentarsi.” That is, basically, the Holy See confirmed that the Pope asked him not to come, but he should make a decision based on his conscience. What that means is they’re now saying that the Holy Father shared his opinion, but is not ordering him under religious obedience.

Predictably, the mainstream outlets are just for some reason, somehow failing to report this little nuanced detail, instead depicting Fra Matthew’s decision as some kind of “act of defiance” of a Vatican order to a subordinate. Ah yeah… except there’s that whole pesky “sovereign entity” thing, which means that “the Vatican” has absolutely no business sticking its nose into the election, that Becciu had zero authority to tell a citizen (and former Sovereign) of another country that he was in some way not allowed to travel to Rome…sorry guys, but the pope hasn’t been the boss of Rome since 1870.

And if anyone is wondering about Fra Matthew’s loyalty or obedience, consider how quick he was to resign. The story I got was that the pope demanded he resign on the spot, after ordering him to the Vatican “in one hour,” with no consultation with any member of the Knights or time to consider – and no, you have to come alone, no bringing anyone else with you. It was just, write the letter in this office right now… like a scene from the Godfather.

Now, as for the blatant journalistic pandering, there are only a small number of logical possibilities: either Reuters/AP (etc) who are promoting this “disobedience” line have no idea that the pope has no authority whatsoever to demand any of this – that this whole affair has been not just outrageous but an actual violation of international law – which means they’re grotesquely negligent. Or they are counting on the Catholic public to be so bamboozled by Papal Positivism that they don’t know to ask, and will simply swallow the whole thing as it’s being presented by the pope’s droogs in the Secretariat of State and the media.

Now I’ve contacted a friend in the Knights who has advised me to take a look at this Italian report that shows that in this so-called order not to come to Rome for the plenary, there was actually an exchange of letters, the second one of which from Becciu said that it was nothing more than a matter of Fra Matthew’s conscience whether to come and participate in the vote.

It seems the Italian journalist was more interested in doing his homework than in perpetuating the yarn of propaganda that Chris Lamb at the Tablet and others have spun, because he gives us a little more realistic information, writing,

Fra ‘Festing responded with a letter saying that his absence would bring “chaos and even conflict” and some voters “may challenge the validity” of the vote. From the Holy See has come the reply that the request was left to be decided in [Fra Matthew’s] conscience.

And he decided to show up. Those who support it say that the constitution of the Order gives the right to vote and the “obedience” that is due to the Pope in religious matters is not about “sovereign prerogatives” of the government of the Order as a “subject of international law.”

To put it simply: Fra Matthew has an obligation to obey the pope, like any Catholic, in matters pertaining to faith and morals, and that’s as far as religious obedience goes. It emphatically does not extend to matters in the secular realm, that is, the governance of a sovereign state or entity.

The pope does not have the authority to demand obedience in matters pertaining to the government of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta. When he is telling Fra Matthew not to come to Rome, he is overstepping the limits of papal authority. He was, in effect, speaking as the head of state of the Vatican City State, which made him about as authoritative to tell Fra Matthew what to do as the king of Brunei.

Now we’ll have to wait and see what happens this weekend…

Ed writes:

The Vatican, meanwhile, is taking a leading role in this week’s elections, and closely consulting Boeselager and others who share the grand chancellor’s vision.

Pope Francis will meet representatives from the order Thursday evening, including Boeselager, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, the grand commander and interim lieutenant, and Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, the order’s grand hospitaller. Fra’ Festing won’t be in attendance, nor will many other figures who worked under him during his time as grand master.

Archbishop Becciu is also effectively running the election and being accused of heavy-handedness, as seen by the program for the vote over the coming days.

A friend of mine close to the Order wrote to tell me:

“I have heard from two separate sources that the Pope has asked to meet today with the Grand Priors of the Order of Malta, who form a large part of the Complete Council of State which is to elect a new Grand Master. Who can say why he’s so interested to see them, but the recent unconstitutional banning of Festing from attending clearly gives one to believe that the bully boys not going to take any chances that Festing might be re-elected, so I imagine it will be a muscle flexing exercise by Francis.”

This was later confirmed by Sandro Magister , and then Vatican Radio itself fessed up in an unusually terse message.

I’ve got a pretty good notion that the people in charge will do more or less anything to stop Matthew Festing and the Catholic faction from being reinstated. They certainly didn’t hold back in getting rid of them in the first place and we’ve seen over and over that nothing at all gives them pause, not Canon Law, not the secular law, not the moral law, not fact that everyone in the world is watching, not the fact that we all know instantly when they’re lying. They don’t seem to care about any of it. The entire business of the Vatican is now power, and nothing but power, to be gained and held by any means, subtle or unsubtle.

But we’ve learned a good lesson just from this little thing. Look what happened when Fra Matthew stood on his legal prerogatives. The bully backed down. Which is what I’m told bullies do when you stand up to them.

 

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