This week we’re joined by Jason Ward and talk about the Order of Malta, the 116th Congress, invocations in Alaska, Bishops praying, and more.
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Dustin’ off the Degree – The Order of Malta
Catholic orders are a bit bizarre to us nowadays, but that’s because the concept is very old and many of the orders are just as old. It all dates back to the Crusades with knights having their orders and the monks and priests who took the Crusade also forming military orders. One such is the Order of Malta, or as it’s formally called the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta founded by Blessed Gerard in Jerusalem in 1099. The Knights Hospitaller as they were often called are best known for being the most brutal of the crusader armies and eventually figuring out that by creating medical facilities they could help heal soldiers so they wouldn’t need to rely on so many new recruits. Later generations of the order would go on to found the first hospitals in Europe and are why there is such a connection between the Catholic church and hospitals.
After the Arabs finished their conquest of the Crusader states the Order moved its headquarters to the Island of Malta and ruled it from 1530 until 1798, technically that rule was under the Kingdom of Sicily until 1753 when they declared independence. In 1798 they were driven out by Napoleon when he conquered the Island and by 1820 most of their land holdings in Protestant countries in Europe had been ceased which fractured the order.
Numerous treaties throughout the 19th and 20th century has recognized them as a sovereign entity, equal to a sovereign state. This has resulted in them having two buildings in Rome that are extraterritorial, meaning Italian law does not apply. They have diplomatic relations with 110 countries, issue passports, coins, and stamps, enter into treaties, and hold permanent observer status in the United Nations, and a military.
There currently 13,500 knights, dames, and auxiliary members. Until the 1990s knight status required a noble lineage. They also employ 42,000 medical professionals and have 80,000 volunteers spread across 120 countries. They are not only a major provider of medical services across Europe and other parts of the world but one of the largest relief agencies that assist with natural disasters and wars. Most of their 1.5 Billion Euro annual budget is provided by the EU, European governments, and the United Nations.
According to Pew 71% of US adults identify as Christians, well in the new Congress that was just sworn in 88.2% of Congress is Christian. The good news is this is down two and a half points from the last congress. Of note, there is still one person in congress who is unaffiliated, the now Senator Kyrsten Sinema, there are now 18 who refused to answer the question, up from 10 in the last congress, and the number of Unitarians has doubled from 1 to 2.
It’s also worth noting that all but two Republicans are Christians, those two are both Jewish. The entirety of the remaining 21.8% of non-Christians in congress are Democrats. Also only Christians and Jews are over represented in Congress, all other major religions and people of no religion are under represented with the unaffiliated the most underrepresented.
When Mike Pence swore Kyrsten Sinema into the US Senate, she placed her hand on a book of laws that she checked out of the Library of Congress which contains the texts of the both the US and Arizona constitutions.
After a Satanist gave the invocation for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Alaska they changed the policy to only allow invocations from members of approved religious associations. They were sued, lost, chose not to appeal, and closed up the policy. Their calendar for 2019 is now almost full and a majority of the spots are filled by non-Christians, including Baha’i, Wicca, Pastafarians, Satanists, and non-believers.
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