John L. Allen Jr.: Myanmar’s drama isn’t a Vatican soap opera, but a suffering church

(Crux) One perennially frustrating dynamic of Western attention spans is that we tend to focus on other people and places only when they intersect with our concerns, not theirs. Myanmar, also known as Burma, is currently a good example of the point.

It’s a southeastern Asian nation of roughly 53 million people, around 80 percent of whom are Buddhist but with important Christian and Muslim minorities. Two stories out of Myanmar recently have obvious Catholic relevance, and it’s depressing to contemplate which one has had, by far, the greater traction in the West.

The first pivots on the Knights of Malta, and a showdown between the order and the Vatican under Pope Francis.

The drama began on Dec. 8, 2016, when the order decided to oust Albrecht von Boeselager, the group’s chancellor. Since then, Pope Francis announced the creation of a panel to look into the situation, the Knights initially rejected its authority due to their status as a sovereign state, and the Vatican reaffirmed its determination to forge ahead.

Shortly thereafter Francis asked Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing to resign, declared Festing’s recent acts of governance “null,” and said he would appoint his own overseer. Last Saturday the Sovereign Council of the order accepted Festing’s resignation and vowed to cooperate with the pope’s intervention.

The most-ventured explanation for why von Boeselager was dumped is that on his watch, a charitable program run by the Knights became involved in a condom-distribution scheme in Myanmar. Do an internet search for “Catholic” and “Myanmar” and you’ll be off the races, drawn into discussions about tensions in the Church pivoting on the Pope Francis v. Cardinal Raymond Burke, progressives v. conservatives, Germans v. Anglo-Saxons and Italians, etc. [More]