At first blush, the thread between the Crusades, Napoleon Bonaparte and a hospital serving AIDS patients in Harlem within the Nineteen Eighties appears thin. But each period, person and place are a part of the millennial-long construct as much as John Dunlap’s vocation. A partner at a Recent York law firm, Fra’ Dunlap was appointed by Pope Francis because the lieutenant of the grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta on June 13. Fra’ Dunlap is one in all the few professed religious of the Order of Malta and is the primary North American to steer the Order in such a capability. (The title “Fra’” is a contraction of “Frater” and is used as a prefix for a small variety of Knights of Justice within the Order of Malta who’ve professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and are treated as “religious” under canon law).
Founded through the Crusades in 1099, the Order of Malta is each a spiritual order obedient to the pope and a sovereign government that maintains international relations with 120 countries. The Order rose to prominence over the centuries, eventually ruling the island of Rhodes and, subsequently, Malta. The Order of Malta’s government was forced from Malta by Napoleon in 1798 and officially entered into exile. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Order found refuge within the Papal States and under the Holy See. The twentieth century saw the event of the Order’s international charitable arms.
A partner at a Recent York law firm, Fra’ Dunlap was appointed by Pope Francis because the lieutenant of the grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta on June 13, 2022.
Along with the 13,500 knights, dames and chaplains of the Order, there are 95,000 everlasting volunteers and 52,000 employees, most of them medical personnel, engaged within the charitable works of the Order in 120 countries. From Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem to the Global Fund for Forgotten People to annual pilgrimages to Lourdes with the infirmed and support for refugees, the disabled and the poor, the Order has one in all the most important humanitarian footprints on the earth.
Fra’ Dunlap involves this position at an important moment within the lifetime of the Order.
In 2017, Pope Francis encouraged the Order to start a strategy of constitutional reform, which has been complicated by the deaths of two grand masters (the principal authority throughout the Order), the sudden death of essentially the most recent lieutenant of the grand master (a position equal in power to that of the grand master save for the honorifics) and the removal of the pope’s initial special delegate to the order, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who’s currently facing corruption charges in a Vatican court. These reforms are supposed to institute a constitutional and leadership model that may allow the Order of Malta to flourish within the twenty first century.
Pope Francis’ latest special delegate is Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, and negotiations on the Order’s constitutional reform have raised questions regarding sovereignty, the character of the Order and the connection between the federal government of the Order and the Holy See as a legal entity.
Founded through the Crusades in 1099, the Order of Malta is each a spiritual order obedient to the pope and a sovereign government that maintains diplomacy with 120 countries.
Fra’ Dunlap’s introduction to the Order and his discernment of a spiritual vocation began while volunteering with AIDS patients on the Cardinal Cooke Medical Center in Harlem within the mid-Nineteen Eighties.
“I’m a cradle Catholic from Ottawa and was all the time quite religious, but I went to Recent York and, while there, was introduced to a knight of Malta who got me involved within the Order,” Fra’ Dunlap told America. “They began me at a hospital in Harlem, and I’ve been there every week for the last 30 years—that’s where my vocation got here from.” He was admitted to the Order in 1996.
The overwhelming majority of knights and dames of the Order make commitments to the Order, but only a select few select and are approved to enter into the total religious lifetime of the Order and commit themselves to the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity.
“There was a knight in Washington, Fra’ James Michael von Stroebel, who said, ‘Why don’t you’re taking vows?,” Fra’ Dunlap said. “And I entered right into a serious time of prayer and discernment and determined that I used to be ready and that that is what God wanted me to do.”
“As a spiritual, I keep the hours and attend Mass day by day. Particularly, Our Lady of Philermo, the patroness of our Order, could be very near my heart.”
“It’s a distinct type of vocation since you stay on the earth and also you keep working,” Fra’ Dunlap noted. “As a spiritual, I keep the hours and attend Mass day by day. Particularly, Our Lady of Philermo, the patroness of our Order, could be very near my heart.”
Fra’ Dunlap held quite a few leadership roles over the past decade. But lieutenant of the grand master—a position vacated by the late Fra’ Marco Luzzago, who died suddenly on June 7—is essentially the most senior position within the Order, and one which shall be critical in its future shape and governance. The lieutenant of the grand master is answerable for legislative measures not covered by the Structure, promulgates government acts, manages financial assets and ratifies international agreements.
Fra’ Dunlap sees his latest role as one other opportunity to make use of his skills as an attorney to serve the Order. “This position is a distinct variety of service than I started my time with within the Order, however it is a service to the Order [through which] I’m hopefully furthering service to the sick and the poor, which is on the core of our mission.”
His appointment is extraordinary within the sense that the lieutenant of the grand master is traditionally elected per the constitutional charter of the Order. Fra’ Dunlap, nonetheless, received his appointment directly from Pope Francis.
“I feel that the Holy Father’s appointment of me as lieutenant of the grand master would speed up the reform efforts, from a practical perspective,” Fra’ Dunlap said.
“I feel that the Holy Father’s appointment of me as lieutenant of the grand master would speed up the reform efforts, from a practical perspective,” Fra’ Dunlap said. “Fairly than spending months electing a latest lieutenant, we will proceed these efforts and return the Order to regular work sooner.”
While the reform effort has been lower than smooth over the past five years, Fra’ Dunlap is committed to seeing it through as a matter of necessity. “The reform effort is supposed to modernize the Order. We’re too few Fra’s right away to cover the expansion of the Order. We’ve to handle overlapping jurisdictions of authority. We’ve to amend the best way we elect the grand master. And we have now to work out how we recover representation from areas where the Order has never been before, for instance, from somewhere in Asia.”
Considered one of the most important questions across the constitutional reform concerns the necessities of nobility for leadership. “Our Structure needs an updating. There’s nobody who really even qualifies to be grand master anymore in keeping with the Structure. They require 450 years of nobility on all sides of the candidate’s family.” Fra’ Dunlap himself is an exception to the rule—lieutenants of the grand master are held to the identical noble requirements, and Fra’ Dunlap’s circle of relatives record of nobility only goes back several many years.
“The tremendous growth of the Order within the twentieth and twenty first centuries has been principally within the Recent World,” Fra’ Dunlap said. “Most of those folks do not need noble lines or, in the event that they do, they don’t look them up. I don’t have any problem with different grades within the Order, but I don’t think we will have [nobility] as a prerequisite to a position.”
“We are going to all the time be a Roman Catholic religious order under the pope,” Fra’ Dunlap said. “There’s absolute confidence about that.”
Then there are questions across the structure and powers vested within the leadership of the Order. “Some have suggested that the grand master be treated more as a constitutional monarch and empower the grand chancellor [a quasi-prime minister],” Fra’ Dunlap said, “and others have suggested strengthening the role of the grand master.” On the very least, it’s a work in progress and the consultations have been extensive.
Fra’ Dunlap is frank and clear eyed about his role on this process. “We’re working it out. My role right away is to get all sides talking,” he said. “Because the Holy Father noted to me, ‘Bring peace, John.’ Hopefully we will get a Structure together that everybody can agree on moving forward with after which we will go ahead and elect a latest grand master.”
Questions have also been raised in regards to the relationship between the Order as a sovereign entity and their religious obedience to the papacy. Fra’ Dunlap looks at this as a rare instance of collaboration between the Holy See and the Order but says certain hallmarks of the Order will remain unchanged.
“We are going to all the time be a Roman Catholic religious order under the pope,” Fra’ Dunlap said. “There’s absolute confidence about that.” He also reaffirmed that the Order’s status as a sovereign entity shall be unchanged and that it’ll proceed to represent itself and make its own decisions as a global legal personality.
Within the meantime, along with guiding the reform efforts, Fra’ Dunlap sees his duty as continuing to support and promote the charitable and non secular endeavors of the Order. “For instance, the work that the Order is doing in Ukraine is incredible. We’ve helped almost 450,000 refugees in a wide range of ways,” Fra’ Dunlap said. “The assistance that we have now received from governments and folks—[it] has been heartwarming to see a lot goodness.”
At the tip of the day, Fra’ Dunlap believes that this 1,000-year-old Order, obedient to the pope and sovereign unto itself, will proceed to satisfy the needs of the subsequent millennium in service to the poor and in defense of the Catholic faith.