Knights of Malta insist ouster over condom scandal was legal

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The head of the embattled Knights of Malta says lawyers have confirmed he followed the rules in ousting a top official over an old condom scandal that has led to a remarkable showdown between the ancient Catholic lay order and the Holy See.

In a Jan. 14 letter to the order's members, Fra' Matthew Festing insisted he was only protecting the Knights' sovereignty in refusing to cooperate with a commission appointed by Pope Francis to investigate the ouster.

Festing also sought to discredit Francis' commission, saying there were "serious accusations of a conflict of interest" involving three of its five members.

Albrecht von Boeselager was removed as the order's grand chancellor following revelations that its charity branch distributed condoms in Myanmar under his watch. He has appealed to the order's courts.