On Wednesday, the Knights of Malta came under the control of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican. Pope Francis is yet to appoint someone to head the Knights of Malta. The drastic take over took place after the former head of the longstanding institution entered into a disagreement with the Vatican regarding the use of condoms.
Knights of Malta is a religious order that has founded and has been running a set of hospitals and medical clinics across the globe. The main objective of the clinics is to tend to war victims and areas plagued by natural disasters. They also provide pilgrimage services to the sick, bringing them to the catholic shrines.
The Condom Dispute That Started It All
The dispute in question started when Malteser International, a charity branch of the order was found to distribute condoms in Myanmar many years ago, reported LA Times. This action went against the teachings of the church, which condemns artificial birth control. Knights’ Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager learnt about the three programs run by the Malteser International. At the time, he chose to shut down two of them, and let the third go on till the Vatican intervened.
Even though the entire incident took place ages ago, Grand Master Matthew Festing asked Boeselager to step down, back in December 2016, making his past choices an issue. Both Festing and Boeselager have always harbored a deep dislike for each other. Hence, Boeselager refused to resign stating that Festing did not have any basis to fire him.
Calling his refusal to obey a direct order “disgraceful”, Festing exercised his right as Boeselager’s religious superior. He launched a disciplinary process and suspended him. The intervention of the Vatican and Pope Francis further complicated the already sensitive situation.
Pope Francis put together a five-member commission to look into the resignation order of Boeselager. Protection of their sovereign rights is of prime importance to the Knights. Hence, they refused to cooperate with Pope’s orders, stating that the Vatican has no business interfering in the internal matters of the organization.
After demanding cooperation and reviewing the commission’s report, the Vatican asked Festing to resign. On Wednesday, the Vatican mentioned in a press release that the Pope has accepted Festing’s resignation. The Vatican has announced that their appointed leader would be a temporary one until the Knights of Malta are ready to take back control, reported Reuters.