The Mysterious recent events surrounding the Sovereign Military Order of Malta took a strange and unexpected twist in the beginning of January when, in the middle of a bitter feud over the suspension of one of its members, Pope Francis allegedly tossed mention of Freemasons in the mix. As strange as it may seem, there appears to be some historical context that might shed some light on the situation.
According to a January 7 article in the National Catholic Register, written by the stalwart Edward Pentin, on November 10, Cardinal Burke met with Pope Francis, who “made it clear to Cardinal Burke that he wanted Freemasonry ‘cleaned out’ from the order, and he demanded appropriate action.” In all news reports on the matter, this is THE primary source for any mention of Freemasonry with regard to the Sovereign Order of Malta. It was a very strange, and seemingly out of place comment. However, there is some historical significance to consider, and remember … we are examining Freemasonry in this context only because Pope Francis is said to have mentioned it.
A little over 700 years ago, there was a rather tense rivalry between the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller (currently known as the Knights of Malta). Some accounts of the rivalry suggest that the two knightly orders even came to blows while stationed together in Palestine.
In the very early 1300’s, King Philip IV of France found himself steeped in debt to the Knights Templar. At that time, the Templars reportedly had assumed a considerable amount of wealth and were in position to make financial loans through their holdings. Because King Philip owed the Templars large amounts of money and couldn’t pay, he began to circulate rumors, unjustly and falsely accusing them of all sorts of abominations, such as heresy and sodomy. In 1312, under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V issued the Papal Bull Vox in Excelso, formally dissolving the Knights Templar. Shortly thereafter, he issued the Bull Ad providam, which transferred the majority of the Templar’s assets over to the Knights Hospitaller.
This brief historical sketch sets the stage for Freemasonry’s entrance on the scene. The Freemasons claim (illegitimately) the Knights Templar as part of their lineage. The truth is, after the Knights Templar were dissolved, the Order ceased to exist. It was finished. There was no continuation of the Order after Clement V dissolved it. Be that as it may, the Freemasons, nonetheless, claim the Knights Templar as their own. Regardless of whether or not the Templars continued to exist in secret, later to come back in the form of Freemasonry is immaterial. What is important to understand here is that because the Freemasons claim the Templars as part of their lineage, they have also adopted the legendary, emotional baggage associated with the betrayal of the Order.
33rd degree Freemason Albert Mackey wrote the “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences” in 1873. In his entry on the Knights of Malta, Mackey wrote:
“The rival brotherhood of the Templars was abolished by a pope and a King of France, and what of its revenues and possessions was saved from the spoilation of its enemies was transferred to the Hospitalers. There had always existed a bitter rivalry between the two Orders (Templars and Hospitalers), marked by unhappy contentions, which on some occasions, while both were in Palestine, amounted to actual strife. Toward the Knights of St. John the Templars had never felt nor expressed a very kindly feeling; and now this acceptance of an unjust appropriation of their goods in the hour of their disaster, keenly added to the sentiment of ill will, and the unhappy children of De Molay, as they passed away from the theater of knighthood, left behind them the bitterest imprecations on the disciples of the Hospital.”
As can be seen in this one passage, the Freemasons, through the legend of its association with the Knights Templar, holds the Knights of Malta in contempt. This feeling of bitterness and anger is even agitated and ritualized in one of the higher degrees of Freemasonry.
The 30th degree of Freemasonry is called the degree of the Knights Kadosh, which translates from Hebrew to mean “holy” or “consecrated.” This degree is directly assocated with the Knights Templar, so the Mason who enters into the 30th degree is indeed considered by the secret society to be a Knight Templar. Mackey explains in the Masonic Encyclopedia that “The Kadoshes, as representatives of the Templars, adopt the Beauseant as their standard.” The Beauseant is the black-and-white banner of the Knights Templar.
We must be clear here, we are ONLY bringing up Freemasonry and their beliefs because Pope Francis allegedly did, and we are attempting to make sense of what this could mean. In no way are we establishing the existence of a Masonic conspiracy with regard to recent events surrounding the Knights of Malta, but because it was brought up, it must be examined as a piece of the overall puzzle as it relates to the case at hand.
The entire Masonic initiation rite for the Knight Kadosh is a rite of vengeance for the dissolution of the Knights Templar and the death of the Grand Master, even to the point of stabbing a skull wearing a papal tiara, representing Pope Clement V, and a skull wearing a crown, representing King Philip. According to the Complete Ritual of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the Grand Master explains the mysteries of the skulls to the candidate. Here’s what he says:
“In almost all of the rituals of this degree, nothing but vengeance is spoken of. But this is an allegory without meaning, for this degree contains all the philosophy of our sublime institution, which is nothing more nothing less, than the actual result of our Three Puissant Grand Master’s philosophy, and philosophy discountenances vengeance. Virtue alone and good examples, patience in energy in opposing evil can ensure triumphs. In this, no more than in the preceding degrees, have we to avenge the death of Hiram Abiff, (Just a side note … Hiram Abiff is a mythical hero in Freemasonry introduced in the lowest degrees) or even the slaughter of the Knights Templar, and the murder of their Grand Master. And if the ceremonies of this degree recall to our mind the catastrophe resulting in the overthrow of an illustrious order, it is true nevertheless that the commemoration of the bloody tragedy of the 11th day of March 1314, has not for its object to perpetuate ideas of vengeance against its perpetrators, which would be absurd and anti-masonic, but to make us feel the necessity of union, the better to resist tyranny and unmask imposture, and ultimately substitute both, even by force of arms, if necessary, the reign of liberty, equality and fraternity.”
It is impossible to say, without direct and confirmed evidence, in what manner Freemasonry is at work with regard to the Knights of Malta. What we can say is that:
- Pope Francis allegedly mentioned Freemasonry with regard to the Knights of Malta.
- Freemasonry claims a connection to the Knights Templar, whose assets were transferred to the Knights of Malta in 1312.
- The Freemasons have an entire initiation ceremony dedicated to revenge for the destruction of the Templars.
Whatever the case, what we can say for sure is that there is much more to this story than is being reported.