Knights of Malta refuse to assist "irrelevant" papal probe

The Knights of Malta, the ancient Catholic lay order, is refusing to cooperate with a Vatican investigation into the sacking of a top official over a condom scandal — and is warning its members to toe the line if they do.

In a statement Tuesday, the Knights called Pope Francis' investigation legally "irrelevant" and aimed at limiting its sovereignty. It insisted that the Dec. 8 ouster of its grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, was an act of internal governance that in no way involves religious superiors.

Boeselager was suspended after he refused a demand by the top knight to resign over revelations that, under his watch, the order's charity branch distributed tens of thousands of condoms in Myanmar.

Boeselager was told the Holy See wanted him axed — something the Vatican has denied.