Crisis Averted?

Sovereign Knights of Malta (SMOM) Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, has confirmed in a letter that the Holy See’s representative cardinal, Cardinal Tomasi, has met both himself and the Order’s nominated leader for the new constitutional reform committee, Marwan Sehnaoui, on Friday 28 January.

Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager and the leadership of SMOM have agreed to revisions of a draft constitution, which should mean that SMOM has preserved their sovereignty.

According to Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager, the leadership was able to communicate to the top levels of the Holy See this past week, and were able to discuss the misunderstandings and have received assurances that the Holy See in no way wishes to usurp or take away the Order’s sovereignty or internal self-governance. These assurances, or at least some assurances, came from Pope Francis himself.

The Order’s new constitution will deal mainly with the structure of the religious component of the Order, in addition to changing the internal government structure and position eligibility and responsibilities. However, it will not take away from the Order’s ability to self-govern and be sovereign in the temporal sphere.

The important thing to note is that SMOM must agree to these changes, and that the Holy See has merely been devolved to settle internal disputes within the Order, at least that is the way it is being put forth now, as well as the way it was meant to be completed.

The next dates for the next two day meeting on the Order’s new constitution will be 22 and 23 February 2022, later next month.

Marwan Sehnaoui has been confirmed as the Order’s representative for next month’s meetings. He was not allowed in the meetings earlier this week by Cardinal Tomasi.

It is still yet to be seen if these developments will prove true, but for now, crisis has definitely been averted, as least the major crisis anyway dealing with the sovereignty of SMOM.

Furthermore, Cardinal Tomasi has given an interview himself. He has confirmed in this meeting that the sovereignty and self-governance is in no way up to debate with this new constitution and that the questionable wording of the leaked draft has been removed.

As for Cardinal Tomasi, the changes will mainly have to do with a few things: opening up the Order’s top levels to Americans, non-nobility, and the non-religious, combating the push by some to make SMOM a more secular order, and to make the Holy See representatives and clergy members more influential in guiding each member’s and the Order’s religious journey.

Some of the top levels, like Grand Master (Head of State), will no longer need to be from six generations of nobility opening the door for more Americans and others who often lack noble background to lead the Order. The top levels lack of a religious component means a lack of someone who has taken religious vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. They will need to be Catholic, but will just not need to have taken religious vows. The Grand Master and Grand Commander will need to stay members who have taken religious vows however. It is yet to be determined which positions will need to stay by those who take religious vows, and which will be open up to all members regardless of religious vows status. Cardinal Tomasi refers to this as opening up the leaders of SMOM to more competency, or in other words, to members with expertise in a given relevant field.

Many in the German Association have been pushing for the Order to be more secular like a NGO. Cardinal Tomasi viewed this as absolutely wrong and contrary to the Catholic Tradition and humility of the Order. The Order’s new constitution will address this and make the Order even more Catholic.

With so much internal debates about how to properly administer aid in the most Catholic way, and in other topics with regards to how best to govern SMOM according to the Catholic Church’s teachings, the clergy in the Order, as well as the Holy See’s representative will need to guide the Order more to solve these disputes and make these never happen again, at least not to the extent that it did. For Cardinal Tomasi, it is quite simple, the Order just needs to follow what the Pope says and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith states, when it comes to its religious policies.

As for the topic surrounding the Associations and how they handle their own internal governance and property, Cardinal Tomasi stated how he agreed with the decentralization of the Order and that each association should handle their property and their members as they wish, so long as they are doing so following the Catholic Faith. In order to accomplish this feat of decentralization while staying Catholic, the Order’s central leadership will need to have oversight over these associations to prove they are operating within their Catholic Faith.

It is difficult to know how genuine these confirmations are. Time will tell of course. But, as things stand, this is a victory for the Holy See and SMOM, and furthermore, the Holy See now looks good to Catholics with this knowledge.

The Holy See and SMOM are victorious because SMOM will preserve its sovereignty, at the very least for now. The Holy See’s sovereignty status thus remains intact via precedents with SMOM’s sovereignty staying intact. Both are landless and sovereign (effectively landless sovereign-states).

The Holy See looks good now too as Cardinal Tomasi denied many of these accusations of him trying to usurp SMOM’s sovereignty, as well as him creating hostile relations with certain high ranking officials of SMOM. While Cardinal Tomasi did acknowledge that the draft that seemed to make SMOM not sovereign any longer was real at one point, he clearly articulated it no longer is in circulation and has been removed for a long time.

Furthermore, by making it known that the impetus, or a main impetus for removing noble prerequisites for the Order has to do with opening up the leadership more for Americans, it will make the more traditional nobles content, as they want to see traditional conservative Catholics at the top, and American Catholics are more conservative on Catholic stances on average than a lot of their counterparts in Europe, most notably the German Catholics. This shows that the SMOM wishes to have noble-like people in their actions and beliefs, rather than noble people who do not display these attributes of nobility like many of the German Knights.

The Holy See also appeared more religious by displaying that they really seek to make SMOM more formally religiously Catholic and seek to stop any attempts at secularizing or not following Church teachings. While religious vows for some high positions may no longer be mandatory, this is portrayed not as a loss of religiosity of the Order, rather an opening to more regular lay members who are strong in their faith, making members who are married with kids living a regular life from a regular upbringing, but who possess noble traits and strong Catholic conviction eligible for high positions. This is also supposed to allow various experts in topics SMOM focuses on to be in charge of different divisions of SMOM concerning these topics.

But, the Mission Accomplished Banners cannot be put up yet for the Crusader State as SMOM still has to go through the 22 and 23 February meetings, as well as future endeavors.

Cardinal Tomasi, if genuine, outlines that it was really scare tactics, pettiness, and dishonest leakings by SMOM that has led to this point, with pettiness being in reference to the internal squabbling of the Order. Cardinal Tomasi also outlines that he seeks to solidify even more, the Catholic identity and guidance within the Order.

However, if not genuine, which I do believe is the case with Cardinal Tomasi for his minimization of his previous draft constitution, Cardinal Tomasi could simply just be playing into what SMOM wants to hear. After all, Cardinal Tomasi completely downplayed how he and Pope Francis would have led SMOM to lose their sovereignty if it were not for unapproved leaks that caused the backlash forcing these plans to no longer be promoted.

SMOM Knights need to be prepared like any other sovereign-state to defend their sovereignty because the battle is not yet over, nor will it ever truly be. If the Holy See is not trying to take away the Knights’ sovereignty, surely someone else will. While these battles may take place on the diplomatic front instead of in a physical war, it is still nonetheless a battle this ancient Catholic Order must be ready to fight for.

For now, Pope Francis has done what is best for the Holy See, the Church, and Catholics, while the leaders of SMOM have done what is best for SMOM, the Church, and Catholics too. And, what is best for SMOM is to remain sovereign which enables the Holy See’s claim to a separate sovereignty from the Vatican City State more legitimate, as well as the Vatican City State’s claim to sovereignty.

Crisis has been averted for now. This is a good start to a better foreign policy stance by Pope Francis with regards to SMOM and the betterment of the Church and its Members.


Published by CK 22

I like history, politics, foreign diplomacy, sports, and more. Basically, the most popular things, plus also geography.

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