‘Dictator Pope’ author expelled from Order of Malta

By Dan Hitchens,  19 November, 2018

Henry Sire has been expelled for his strong criticisms of Pope Francis, but plans to appeal

The historian Henry Sire has been expelled from the Order of Malta after writing a book which heavily criticised Pope Francis.

Sire was suspended in March, when the Order set up a disciplinary commission. His book, entitled The Dictator Pope, criticised Francis’s interventions in religious orders, and said the Pope had introduced doctrinal ambiguity, following the programme of the “St Gallen mafia” who brought about his election. Sire also claimed the Vatican was increasingly dominated by corrupt churchmen, while officials with integrity lived in fear of the sack.

The book divided opinion: some reviewers praised the book as an accurate portrayal, while others said it was inadequately sourced and guilty of irreverence towards the Pope.

Now, the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre, has decreed that Sire be expelled, as his book is “gravely offensive and disrespectful to the person of the Holy Father” and his conduct “gravely incompatible with his membership of the Order”.

Sire has defended the book as a necessary warning to the Church, saying that he hopes it will help the cardinals at the next conclave “to avoid making the same mistake”. In a statement following his expulsion, Sire said that he wrote his book “for the good of the Church, in defence of the Faith and in obedience to the duty of a Christian to witness to the truth”.

But the decree of expulsion says that, while canon law recognises a right to public commentary on the Church, it also says that such commentary must show “reverence” to “pastors”, and be “attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons”. The decree says Sire overstepped the mark.

The expulsion was immediately followed by disagreement about whether due process had been followed.

In a statement, Sire said the expulsion was “illegal because it side-steps the procedures and principles laid down in the Order’s own legal Code.” He claims that, while he exchanged letters with the commission, he was never summoned to a hearing, and no witnesses were named.

A spokesman for the Order told the Catholic Herald that “The Disciplinary commission invited Henry Sire to come to Rome to defend himself, something he never did.”

Sire rejected this claim, saying that “At no time was any mention made of a hearing before a tribunal of the Order at which I was expected to be present.

“My lawyer and I answered in full all the requests for a defence made by the disciplinary commission, and did so within the deadlines stipulated. It is a complete falsehood to imply that I have failed to satisfy my obligations in the procedure initiated against me.”

In a follow-up statement, the spokesman for the Order said that “the President of the Disciplinary Commission offered Henry Sire the possibility to be audited before the Disciplinary Commission. It is a matter of fact that Henry Sire never used this possibility.”

Sire and his lawyers intend to appeal against the judgment, “through the courts of the Order and if necessary to the Holy See,” according to a statement.