World Rift grows between Pope Francis, ancient Catholic order

22:40  11 january  2017
22:40  11 january  2017 Source:   FOX News

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It reflects the debate between bishops and cardinals from across the world at both Synods held in Rome over the past two years. The Pope has not changed Catholic doctrine, as some had hoped, but he does open the way for greater devolution within the Catholic Church on issues such as communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics . Likewise, some liberals will be bitterly disappointed that there is not a greater welcome for gay Catholics - something Pope Francis was never likely to deliver.

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Strains between Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church’s traditional wing have erupted into the open with leaders of a millennium-old lay Catholic order publicly telling the pope, in effect, that he has no authority to meddle in the order’s affairs.

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Chaput, who will host Francis at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year, was responding to the “Who am I to judge?” response from the pope when asked about gay Christian men and women that has set off considerable commentary. He was representing a growing concern among conservative Catholic clergy who are beginning to openly question the pope ’s tack on such family issues. The open question is whether a rift will continue to grow between the pope and American church leaders between now and then.

Pope Francis is increasingly driving a wedge between conservatives and the Catholic Church. The magnetic pope has sparked new enthusiasm around the world for the church and has flexed his political muscles internationally, most recently by helping to engineer a new relationship between the United States and Cuba.

The conflict between the papacy and the Knights of Malta, a 1,000-year-old lay order, is the latest example of an apparently widening breach between Francis and a group of progressive European bishops on one side and conservatives, including an American cardinal, on the other side. What is now an open conflict was rumbling last year after the pope issued an “apostolic exhortation” that appeared, to some, to loosen church teaching on whether civilly remarried Catholics may take Communion.

The conflict with the Knights of Malta began after the order’s Malteser International aid group distributed condoms in Myanmar to combat HIV/AIDS. Church teaching prohibits using contraception. Albrecht Boeselager, the order’s third-highest-ranking official and the one who oversaw the aid group, was held responsible for the condom distribution and was asked on Dec. 6 to resign.

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He refused, saying he had been unaware of the distribution and terminated it as soon as he learned of it. In response to Boeselager’s refusal to resign, the order’s leaders began a disciplinary action against him, stripping him of his office and suspending his membership in the Knights.

Both the order’s spiritual patron, Cardinal Raymond Burke, and its chief executive, Grand Master Matthew Festing, said the dismissal was “in accordance with the Holy See,” according to the Tablet, a Catholic newspaper in Britain.

However, on Dec. 12 the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, wrote to Festing denying that the pope did not approve of the dismissal, the Tablet said. The letter also said Francis was forming a five-member commission to investigate the matter.

Parolin told an Italian newspaper, Il Messaggero, that the Knights were faced with an “unprecedented crisis.”

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On Tuesday evening, the order issued a statement declaring that it would not cooperate with the Vatican’s investigation and saying the papal commission was “legally irrelevant.”

On the surface, the wrangle pits the Vatican against a prestigious order that employs about 25,000 medical personnel and some 80,000 volunteers in 120 countries to give medical aid to impoverished peoples and offers assistance to victims of natural disasters, according to the National Catholic Register.

But the wrangle also brings to the surface opposition to Francis from the church’s conservative wing, one of whose leaders is Burke, the U.S. cardinal. Francis removed Burke from his powerful position as the Vatican’s supreme court justice.

Conservatives say that the real source of the conflict with Boeselager stems from his allegedly having overseen -- for years -- the distribution of condoms for disease prevention and family planning while he was in charge of the Knights international relief efforts from 1989 to 2014.

One Catholic group recently came to the Knights’ defense with a report that concluded that under Boeselager’s leadership the order distributed oral contraceptives. Last month that group issued a compilation of what it said was a pattern of violating the church’s teaching on contraception.

The composition of the pope’s commission, which had its first meeting Jan. 5, also troubles conservatives, who say its members are allies of Boeselager.

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America will be judged "by its concern for the poor"“At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding far-sighted and united political responses, I pray that our decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide,” he wrote.

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