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Pope Francis Reinstates Disgraced Order of Malta Leader who Distributed Condoms
February 11, 2017

Pope Francis reinstates disgraced Order of Malta official who distributed condoms

Pope Francis re-instated a disgraced former ranking official of the Order of Malta who was sacked after an investigation revealed he distributed condoms, contrary to Church teaching.

Albrecht von Boeslager, the German former Grand Chancellor, was fired and suspended from the Order by Matthew Festing, head of the Order of Malta, with the blessing of Cardinal Raymond Burke, Patron of the Order of Malta.

Documents uncovered by the Lepanto Institute show that von Boeselager oversaw the distribution of condoms and oral contraceptives while he was Grand Hospitaller, the person in charge of the charitable work of the Order, through its international charity Malteser International. Likewise, documents from the World Health Organization, Three Disease Fund, Save the Children, and UNAIDS all show that Malteser was responsible for distributing and promoting contraception. The distribution and promotion of contraception were part of Malteser’s role as a grantee and partner of these organizations, the documents indicate.


Christopher Lamb, writing for the Catholic weekly newspaper The Tablet, reported on 5 January that Pope Francis has explicitly requested from Festing to retain von Boeselager as its Grand Chancellor. Lamb then quotes a letter sent to Matthew Festing, written by Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in which he explains that Pope Francis does not wish the dismissal of von Boeselager to take place.

“I wish first of all to reiterate that these measures [the sacking and suspension of Boeselager] must not be attributed to the will of the Pope or his directives,” the cardinal wrote in a letter to Festing on 21 December. “As I expressed to you in my letter of 12 December 2016: ‘as far as the use and diffusion of methods and means contrary to the moral law, His Holiness has asked for dialogue as the way to deal with, and resolve, eventual problems. But he has never spoken of sending someone away!’”

Festing has refused to comply to the request of the Pope to re-instate Boeslager, insisting that as a sovereign entity, the Order had sole jurisdiction over this “internal matter”.

The Pope then formed a Vatican commission to “investigate” the Order of Malta following the issue. On January 25, Festing formally submitted his resignation to Pope Francis, after the Pope asked him to resign amid the controversy.

Festing is known for his orthodox and unwavering devotion to the Faith. After the resignation of Festing, Von Boesleger was re-instated by Pope Francis, despite his involvement in distribution of condoms.


Critics are saying that the resignation of Festing, and the intervention of Pope Francis, essentially ended 900 years of legal sovereignty of the Order of Malta. Canon lawyer Dr. Edward Condon said regarding the unprecedented papal intervention: “In terms of international law, the Holy See just annexed another sovereign entity.” Catholic University of America canon law professor Kurt Martens said that this was a “serious violation of international law”, and that the United Nations should “intervene”.

The eleventh-century Knights are Catholicism’s oldest military Order, running charitable initiatives across the globe – they are also treated as a sovereign entity with diplomatic relations with countries across the world. Festing, formerly known by the title of “His Most Eminent Highness”, is a quasi-head of state and treated as an honorary cardinal.

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