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What Do the Knights of Malta Affair and Cardinal Müller's Retreat on Amoris Have in Common?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 12, 2017

It may sound harsh, but at this point the evidence is undeniable: the endlessly touted “reform of the Roman Curia” for which Francis was supposedly elected is revealing itself to be essentially a process by which the entire Vatican apparatus is being taken over by what Michael Brendan Daugherty calls “a clubby group of allies” — all friends of Francis bent on radical changes in the Church — accompanied by a purge of all opponents outside that circle of friends.  Rather than a defense of faith and discipline, the program of this coterie is a consolidation of the Bergoglian regime. And there will be swift and ruthless payback for anyone who resists the operation.

Take the Knights of Malta affair. Readers will recall that in one of his many moves during the Phony Synod, Francis sacked Cardinal Burke as head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest tribunal, and humiliated him by shuffling him off to serve as Cardinal Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This was supposed to put an end to Cardinal Burke’s loyal opposition to the Bergoglian drive for the admission of “certain” public adulterers to Holy Communion. Before that removal, Cardinal Burke had already been removed from the Congregation for Bishops (in December 2013), and since then has been removed from the Congregation for Divine Worship (October 2016).

Except that it didn’t.  Rather, Burke’s role in the Order allowed him time to travel, speak and write in the defense of the Church’s authentic teaching and basic morality. His work in this regard has culminated in the Four Cardinals Letter, publicly posing questions to Francis about whether (in effect) he is attacking the foundations of the Church’s moral edifice in Amoris Laetitia.

Now, as widely reported in both the Catholic and secular press, the Order has dismissed Albrecht von Boeselager as Grand Chancellor of the Order on account of his disgraceful involvement in condom distribution through its charitable medical service operations. The dismissal was with the approval of Cardinal Burke as the Order’s spiritual patron.  Moreover, as reported by the Catholic Herald: “On November 10, [Francis] had a meeting with the order’s patron, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who serves as an intermediary between the Vatican and the order. At the beginning of December, according to sources within the order, the Pope wrote Cardinal Burke a letter asking the order to take action against any possible cause of moral scandal.”

In response to a decision that Francis himself seemed to have encouraged, however, Francis has decided there must be a five-member special commission — composed almost entirely of Boeselager’s allies — to “investigate” Boeselager’s dismissal.  That is a very curious action, given that the Order has the status of a sovereign nation entitled to discipline its governing members as it sees fit. And, accordingly, the Order has politely advised Francis that this is none of his business and that his “investigation” is “irrelevant.”

So what is going on here? After nearly four years of this pontificate, the answer should be clear enough.  Connect the dots:

•  Burke is removed from the Congregation for Bishops.

•  Burke — along with numerous other cardinals during the Synod — opposes Francis’ attempt to undermine the constant teaching of the Church, affirmed by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, that under no circumstances can someone living in an adulterous “second marriage” be admitted to Holy Communion without ceasing the adulterous sexual relations.

•  Burke is sacked as head of the Signatura and made patron of the Order of Malta.

•  Burke continues his loyal opposition while attached to the Order.

•  Burke is removed from the Congregation for Divine Worship along with all of its other members save Cardinal Sarah, who is left in isolation.

•  The Order dismisses Boeselager as Grand Chancellor after receiving a letter from Francis appearing to encourage the action.

•  In a scandal-ridden Church arrayed vastly before his papal gaze, Francis immediately focuses his attention with laser-like precision on the dismissal of Boeselager and empanels a five-man commission, dominated by Boeselager’s friends, to “investigate” this relative kerfuffle as if it were some sort of ecclesial emergency.

•  It was Burke who approved Boeselager’s dismissal.

In sum, Cardinal Burke is in the crosshairs yet again, as Francis evidently discerns that he has yet to land a kill shot. Even the normally staid Catholic Herald seems to have developed a sense of smell regarding the way Francis operates:

For some observers, the whole thing cannot be a coincidence. They argue that discrediting Cardinal Burke is the real goal of the inquiry. Some even theorise that the Pope had that in mind from the start. It would not be the first time that the Pope has intervened against someone perceived as unsympathetic. After Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s liturgy chief, invited priests to celebrate Mass facing east, he was publicly rebuked and his department was overhauled. The John Paul II Institute, seen as too conservative, had its leadership replaced.

“In the last few weeks, the seasoned Vatican-watcher Marco Tosatti reported that the Pope was replacing members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) who were too attached to traditional teaching – and that, when asked for an explanation, Francis said: ‘I am the Pope, I do not need to give reasons for any of my decisions.’

“Michael Brendan Dougherty, senior correspondent of the American magazine The Week, reports that the Pope is also looking into removing child abuse cases from the oversight of the CDF – and allegedly moving them to friends of his who are more lenient in how they deal with some abusers.

So what do the Knights of Malta affair and Cardinal Müller’s retreat on Amoris have in common?  The answer should be completely obvious by now:  the Bergoglian master plan to remake the Church according to his will.