I read the Great Bend Tribune article: “Scandal strikes at ancient order of Malta over ex-Chancellor” (Dec 22 issue). The Order of Malta is one of the most ancient of Papal Knighthoods. I, myself am a member of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gerard, the relief arm of the honorable Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. It was established around the year 1099 A.D. by a monk actually named “Blessed Gerard.” I am also a member of a separate Papal chivalric group: The Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. That Order was likewise founded close to the year 1099 A.D.by Duke Godfrey de Bouillon. The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre have as their motto “Deus Lo Vult” which means “God Wills It.” The Order of Malta, abbreviated S.M.O.M. has as its motto: Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum”, which means: “Defense of the Faith and assistance to the poor.” The Order of Malta also operates a maternity hospital in Bethlehem in which I (and others) contribute to, monetarily, for its existence.
The present scandal arose over the Order’s Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, being forcibly ousted earlier this month. There were accusations that he or his subordinates, including some priests and nuns, allowed, condoned and permitted condoms to be distributed in Africa to curb the spread of AIDS and other diseases. The Vatican has a long-standing policy of opposing contraception. However, even though I am a Catholic myself, I feel the punishment was far too harsh.
The now ex-Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager was ousted. I think some latitude should have been given. I am pro-life; I am also
like Pope Francis in showing compassion in recognizing that “unusual crises require unusual responses.” A prime example was greater latitude with the case of Zika Virus in South America this year, which prompted many Catholic priests to give Catholic women who were either pregnant or of childbearing ages a greater latitude in protecting their health.
I am not condoning promiscuity. However, I do believe that in this 21st Century, the Catholic Church can be compassionate and recognize “real-world realities.” Condoms are merely a barrier. Their use cannot be compared as identical to an abortion. They aren’t. To his credit, Pope Francis has a loving attitude.
Sadly, the Order of Malta’s patron cardinal, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is a fine man in many other respects, has a backward mentality. Burke is overly stern and thinks people should live as they did in the 1950’s. That sheltered and turning a blind-eye attitude is not only bad public health-policy, but makes the Catholic Church take a step backward by hoping that all medical problems can simply be “wished-away” by doctrine or dogma. They can’t. We live in modern times. Humans are fallible and diseases can strike people of any race, religion, age or other demographic.
My prayer is that the Church can restore harmony and restore the faith of men and women in the Church. That the Church is more “caring” than “punitive.” If diseases can be slowed, or even stopped. The health of “the living” should come first. Church officials shouldn’t be punished for trying to slow down outbreaks of diseases.
James A. Marples,