Not long ago, I wrote a column here about the consternation among the Knights of Malta because of former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams‘ nomination to the historic Catholic order. The Knights are entrusted with the task of guarding the faith of the Catholic Church (among other things) and Mr. Williams’ advocacy on behalf of abortion and gay rights was seen as pretty antithetical to all that. Anonymous letters went out to myself and other media raising the alarm.
Just today I learned that the mayor has withdrawn his application via a source who sent me the following missive by Noreen Falcone, president of the Federal Association of the Order of Malta, one of three U.S. branches. My source was piqued that Mrs. Falcone blamed the whistleblowers for Mr. Williams’ withdrawal, not the state of Mr. Williams’ qualifications (or the lack thereof, depending on your point of view).
I called the Knights’ local office for comment this afternoon. Although they’re not denying the existence of this letter (which is below for your perusal), my calls haven’t been returned either.
- Julia Duin, religion editor
Dear Knights and Dames of the Federal Association,
There has recently been considerable discussion, unfortunately not always enlightened, about the process of admission to the Federal Association of the Order of Malta, in general, and the application of one candidate in particular, Anthony Williams. Mr. Williams has advised the Board of Directors of the Federal Association that he has withdrawn his application. As President of the Federal Association, I must, however, comment on several aspects of this candidacy.
As Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta, we are asked to recite daily the prayer of the Order. In it, we promise to practice and defend the Catholic, the Apostolic and the Roman faith against the enemies of religion and we promise to practice charity toward our neighbors. We also hope to learn “ from the Holy Gospel a spirit of deep and generous Christian devotion.” It is important for each of us to remember this responsibility as we review this matter.
The reaction regarding the application of Mr. Williams, much of it the outgrowth of anonymous feeding of incomplete information to Internet sites, has neither been fair to him as an individual or to his sponsors. It is also inaccurate in its characterizations of the admissions process into the Order of Malta. Moreover, the manner in which this has occurred has ultimately worked to the detriment of the Federal Association, the Order of Malta and its members and reflects a lack of understanding of the admissions process.
All applicants must successfully complete an 18-month period of formation before consideration for admission into the Order. Acceptance into formation means only that the candidate has met an initial threshold for admission to the Order of Malta. The individual will still be subject to additional examination to determine whether the candidate should ultimately be approved by our Board of Directors and the Sovereign Council in Rome. During this period, the applicant is required to participate in several of the Order’s spiritual activities and hands-on volunteer projects with the poor and the sick to ensure that he or she is fully acquainted with the mission, history, spirituality, and works of the Order. In addition during this period, the Federal Association also conducts its own assessment of the applicant’s degree of commitment to the spirituality and works of the Order. Only if the candidate meets all the requirements of the year of formation, including the evaluation of the candidate’s fitness to join, will the Federal Association’s Formation Committee send the individual’s name to the Board of Directors for its consideration. If the applicant is approved by the Board, his or her name is then sent to the Sovereign Council of the Order for final approval. Until the Sovereign Council votes to admit a candidate into the Order and then the candidate is invested into the Order, he or she is NOT a member of the Order of Malta.
Rather than bring their concerns to the attention of the Board of Directors or the applicant’s sponsors, certain members of our Association chose to air their concerns about this candidate through the Internet and by sending anonymous letters to two Washington newspapers. In the future, in fairness to the privacy concerns and reputations of candidates, a member with concerns about a particular applicant should bring those attentions to the President and the Board rather than first airing them anonymously in public. To do otherwise will result again in a needless embarrassment of the individuals involved and the Federal Association.
In the future, we should invoke the Holy Spirit to aid us to act as Knights and Dames in the spirit of the lay religious order whose daily prayer reminds us “to practice charity towards my neighbors” and promote “all that may benefit the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.”
With confraternal regards,
Noreen R. Falcone