PALACE INTRIGUES ON THE FUTURE OF THE ORDER OF MALTA?
9 Maggio 2020
Dear friends and enemies of Stilum Curiae, a few days ago the funeral was held for the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, who passed away on the night of April 29.
Last week we gave you an overview of the situation for the Order of Malta going forward: the government of the Order has now passed, according to the rule of law, to the Grand Commander (the Portuguese octogenarian Fra Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas Boas), who has assumed the position of “Interim Lieutenant” with the duty to convoke, between one and three months from now, the “Council of State” which will elect a new Grand Master. And we also provided the list of professed knights who are eligible according to the requirements of the constitution of the Order.
The overall situation, however, is not very reassuring. Reports from sources close to the order indicate that there is much uncertainty and embarrassment over the way in which the closely knit entourage that surrounded Dalla Torre is managing the situation.
Naturally, it was foreseeable that the world pandemic would have had repercussions on the ancient protocols linked to the procedures to be followed at the death of a Grand Master of the Order of Malta (who is, we recall, both the superior of a religious order as well as a head of state with the high-sounding and ancient title of “Most Eminent Highness”), but those who are familiar with the situation point out that the official channels of information have not always distinguished thesmelves by the perfect style for which the Order has always distinguished itself, even if only in the collective imagination.
We are referring to the various communications sent out in recent days, in which there has been not one reference to the usual “State Funeral.” The custom of the Order in the past has been to have two separate funerals in order to emphasize the double nature of the Order: first, a funeral Mass with the body present which was reserved for members of the Order and dignitaries, and then, one month later, a “State Funeral.”) Instead, the communications speak only of “solemn” Masses, as Il Messaggero points out, directly quoting the letter sent by the Order’s embassy in Italy headed by Ambassador Stefano Ronca. Someone complained that the letter lacked a certain diplomatic style, but apparently certain circles have lost their old polish.
On the other hand, as often happens, institutions reflect the people who compose them, and in this regard the entourage of collaborators of the deceased Grand Master do not seem to distinguish themselves positively, and not only for causes that may appear “formalistic.”
Oh yes, because it appears that the passing of Dalla Torre is wrapped up in mysterious palace plots. Here is what we know. Late in the morning on Tuesday, April 28, the Grand Master was taken to a private Roman medical clinic (the ARS medica, famous for gynecology) as a result of complications in his already precarious state of health that had been aggravated during the preceding weeks. It seems that just at the same time, an email was sent to all those who are called “capitulars” of the Order with three attachments. The first was a letter of the Grand Commander in which he asked for prayers for the health of the Grand Master (along the same lines as the letter sent out that afternoon after there were rumors that he had died). The second, the most important one, was the official convocation of an Extraordinary General Chapter of the Order for November 6-8, 2020, signed by the Grand Master, for the purpose of approving the notorious reform. And finally the third attachment was a letter from the Grand Chancellor (Boeselager) who communicated that he had sent the draft of the “constitutional reform” of the Order to the Holy See (thus to Cardinal Beccui, the special delegate of the Pope). In his accompanying letter, Boeselager did not hide the question of several problems with the reform, not only connected to the uncertainty of the pandemic but also to the development of the Holy See raising substantial objections to the definitive text.
So far, everything seems to be going smoothly, except for one small detail that we think should not be underestimated: the letter with which the Grand Master convoked the General Chapter is dated April 28, the same day that he was placed on his deathbed.
Now it should not escape anyone’s comprehension that it is at least a bit odd that a 75-year-old cancer patient who is urgently hospitalized and about to die a few hours later would in the same moment sign such an important letter in the same situation in which a great crisis is occurring, nor does it seem reasonable that he would have issued a directive on such an important matter with a date that was subsequent to the date when he actually signed it.
But even if we admit that it is possible that he signed it that morning and then fell ill (and nobody knows if this really happened except his closest collaborators and his doctor), with the noted prudence and many praised qualities of a good and holy man (as everyone describes him in the numerous articles that have been published in his memory in recent days), how could it be possible that a man such as Fra Giacomo Dalla Torre could perform an act of such moral impact, knowing that is was very unlikely that his frail condition would permit him to still be alive in November? Would a man such as he really have so bound his successor, since the constitutional reform had never been shared with the other professed knights of the Order? The whole situation reeks of palace intrigue. Furthermore, the official notice announcing Dalla Torre’s death does not state the exact time of death (as is usually customary), but only a vague and generic “after midnight.”
One wonders what to do with such an imprudent exit. Naturally we can only make conjectures, and what appears most credible is that this was an internal action that attempted to save what was salvageable since there was no longer an institutional screen (that enjoyed a certain favor in the Vatican) that would have permitted them to handle the general situation.
Just to clarify: the general chapter is the most important moment in the lift of every religious Order. A chapter discusses, decides, and directs the life and charism of the Order; it addresses all questions of “governance” of the Order. An “extraordinary” general chapter, in which substantial reform is to be discussed, is even more important. There is a need for reflection and prudence, and the matter cannot be reduced to a 3-day meeting. This is even more the case when there are few consecrated members of the Order and they do not ordinarily live together, since the Order of Malta is a “lay religious order,” which means that at the chapter the number of religious present will be far less than the number of “secular” members, which is already a glaring anomaly from the point of view of canon law.
Seen in this light, the final blow from the palace may have been oriented towards paralyzing the souls of all those who are hoping for a faithful reform that does not distort the institution and on the other hand to attempt to hasten the “recognition” of the Holy See, pushing it towards a quick approval of the constitutional reform by presenting it as a sort of “pious wish” of the deceased and greatly esteemed Grand Master, clearly exploiting his premature death. Such an interpretation of the events would effectively be in line with many of the “institutional” comments that were made following Dalla Torre’s premature passing which all painted him as the one who dreamed of the reform of the Order more than anything else.
In addition to this, it has also been clear for some time that there has not been a good rapport between the Via Condotti [the headquarters of the Order] and the Vatican; or perhaps there never was. On the other hand, it is still true that despite having the undeniable style of a commissioner, the approach of Cardinal Becciu overcame his initial suspicion for a world that was quite foreign to him, and he slowly oriented the Order towards emphasizing its religious character, recalling on more than one occasion (most recently in his homily for the Mass on the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, the patron of the Order, last June 24) the Order’s need to adhere to its religious duties and give consistent witness “without exploiting the works of charity” – a clear slap against a certain style of the leadership that had indubitably distinguished the political action of the Grand Chancellor.
Boeselager, in fact, ever since he was Grand Hospitaller (that is, the Order’s “Minister of Health”) always distinguished himself by his attempt to involve the Order in a certain ambit of geopolitics, freeing it from classical Catholic ethical positions (often by means of less than orthodox behavior) and aligning it ideologically with the globalist axis (even recently declaring openly that it was explicitly in favor of the controversial “global compact” that naturally has a pro-immigration tone). Boeselager shamelessly attempted to wink at noted papal positions on these matters, exploiting the works of charity (which ought to be works of faith, not politics) as well as the Order itself, ever more stripped of its nearly-one-thousand-year-old identity as a religious Order and ever closer to becoming an NGO through a process of invasive laicization (and thus secularization), to the detriment of its religious nucleus which has gradually been ousted by its government.
But when, in addition to these ideological questions, we mix in the flow of money, the game becomes quite dangerous. Evidently reducing the religious aspects of the Order to mere decoration and folklore did not make Becciu very happy, and in the meantime he would have also understood that the religious nature of the Order, beyond giving it its identity, is also the reason for its “sovereignty” and not just a quaint and picuresque medieval trapping.
And so we are now very curious to know what the Special Delegate Cardinal Becciu will say this morning in his homily at Dalla Torre’s funeral Mass.
Meanwhile, it shoule be noted that the Daily Bulletin of the Vatican Press Office for last Saturday, May 2, reported the news that in the morning the Holy Father received Cardinal Becciu “The Special Delegate To The Sovereign Military Order of Malta.” The fact that this title was expressly indicated (rather than his principal title of Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints) does not leave much space to the imagination as to what exact topic the Holy Father wanted to discuss with Becciu.
On the other hand, in any case, everything now hinges on following the procedures, an area in which the “pro-German axis” has always been very imprudent, arrogant, and overbearing. However the role that Becciu will play in his function as Special Delegate of the Pope is fundamental, above all in enuring that there is respect for the rules in the canonical procedure of the election of the superior of a religious order.
It would be in the clear interest of the present “Interim Lieutenant” to take advantage of the unhappy situation of the pandemic and the resulting logistical difficulties, bypassing the existing norms and insisting that the Order proceed to the notorious “Extraordinary General Chapter” in November under his leadership, presenting this in an exploitative way as the “legacy” of the late Grand Master, as “the last great act of his governance,” as “his greatest desire,” pushing through the reformed constitution as if it were a settled matter mortis causa, then proceeding to the election (with the new changed rules) of a new Grand Master who will be someone more agreeable, thereby avoiding the danger of having a Grand Master who is “uncomfortable” because he is not in accord with the incumbent powers.
Another possible course of action for the pro-German axis – less dramatic but no less effective – would be the election of an “Acting Grand Master” for a one-year term who would be harmless and willing to allow the constitutional reform of the Order to proceed (under the same conditions).
However things play out, however, in a curious merging of purposes, the role of Becciu (and thus of the Holy See) will now be decisive, because he will now be monitoring the situation to see that the procedures are respected without unnecessary cutting of corners or under-the-table maneuvers, and then, insisting on his duty to recall the Order to its religious identity, he will permit the choice to be made between those candidates who meet the eligibility guidelines (few as they are, but they do exist), following all of the canonical regulations.
Fantasy? Conspiracy theories? It is said that “Politics is a subtle game where nothing is predictable…because everything is possible.”
Let’s wait and see what happens.
Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino @pellegrino2020
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