Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Knights Hospitaller go Crusading on... or do they?

The best known of all the surviving Medieval Chivalric orders is the Sovereign Military Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta, commonly called the Order of Malta. Their Ambulance Corps volunteers are a familiar sight in many parts of Ireland, and speaking as a colleague in a rival organisation, I have the highest regard for them and their skill, dedication and expertise. About the Sovereign Order itself, I am a little more ambivalent. The highest levels of the Order are, in the strict sense, religious; the Knights of Justice are vowed to poverty, chastity and obedience. (One might prefer that their religious impulse would not take them to the Church of Ireland for a solemn Anglican Eucharist... )The personal moral example of many of them is deeply edifying; one thinks of the late Frà Andrew Bertie. The corporate willingness of the SMOM to spend its members money lavishly on the poor and disposessed (for example, the Afghans after the fall of the Taleban government) is likewise edifying to an exemplary degree. It must also count heavily in their favour, to me at least, when a good friend like Jamie Bogle is a member and when a fine priest like this is one of their Chaplains. The protestations of one of their members (just before this year's Corpus Christi Procession at Harrington St) about the thoroughly religious nature of the organisation rings rather hollow however, when one considers all the evidence.

If ever in the contemporary world a crusade were needed, it would surely be on behalf of the innocent unborn or perhaps the institution of marriage. Yet, sadly, while the Order is very fond of its chivalric heritage and its demand for sixteen quarterings of nobility before a candidate is admitted to knighthood, on these vital battles it has absented itself almost wholly. For instance, the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in London is supposedly a Catholic hospital and moreover a foundation of the British Association of the SMOM. And yet, there is no substantive evidence of its Catholicity in its contraceptive services or abortion referrals. Nor is this an isolated instance, according to Austin Ruse of the justly renowned C-FAM, himself a Knight of Malta. In a 2009 article on The Catholic Thing website he said
in the case of two desperate situations today... where there are real and suffering victims - where the Church stands almost completely alone... under vicious and sustained attack... the Order of Malta, at least institutionally, is largely absent.
Later in that same article he detailed two nominations to the Order of Malta which were far advanced before being stopped; both were of politically influential individuals who would no doubt have been great catches for the Order but for the fact that they actively supported so-called "abortion rights" and "gay marriage". This tendency to curry favour with the great and the good, regardless of their other qualifications or lack therof is not confined to the US Federal Association of the SMOM. In France we find the distressing spectacle of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing wearing the insignia of a Bailiff Grand Cross of honor and devotion of the Sovereign Order of Malta greeting Mmme Simone Veil upon her induction to the Académie française. That same Mme Veil legalised abortion in France, something that not even the execrable ministries of the Third Republic managed, and she did so under the Presidency of none other than M. Giscard d'Estaing. In addition to his service in the Order of Malta, he also served as the principal author of the ill-fated European Constitution - yes, the one that refused pointedly to acknowledge Europe's Christian roots. With Knights like these on the Catholic side, one wonders why we need enemies!

It is not all bad, of course. We saw in 2010 that Sr Carol Keehan, the pro-abortion feral nun who eagerly supported Obamacare was forced off the board of a hospital owned by the Order of Malta. Likewise, there has been an increasing presence of SMOM representatives at the annual Washington March for Life each January. Be those things as they may, and Frà Andrew's efforts at spiritual renewal notwithstanding, the Order of Malta has a long way to go before it truly deserves the accolades that its members and admirers are so eager to bestow upon it.


Petra Romana said...

Are you quite unbiased in this? I see that in your sidebar you promote the rival St John's Ambulance?! A Protestant outfit, it should be noted! The Order of Malta may not be all it could be, but considering the degeneracy of almost every Catholic group nowadays, I should think the O of M is relatively excellent. Also, the new Grand Master is a fine and very conservative man, who is doing his very best to improve things.

Éamonn said...

Petra, I am constrained to ask whether you read the post? I clearly stated that I was (and am) a member of a rival organisation. So no, I am not unbiased but I am a firm admirer of the Order of Malta's Ambulance Corps here in Ireland; I don't know much about the current Grand Master of the SMOM but I fervently admired his predecessor who showed every sign of being a good and holy man. My questions still remain. Ad hominem arguments won't make them go away.