Despite extreme positions on abortion and same-sex “marriage,” the Washington Post reports that Anthony Williams, a former mayor of Washington D.C., is being considered for membership in the Knights of Malta. However, Dr. Joseph Metz, an officer of the Order of Malta American Association, told CNA that anyone who does not agree with Church teachings will be denied admission.
The Knights of Malta, who earned their name by operating on the Island of Malta for hundreds of years, were created “to care for and nurse the sick pilgrims” during the Crusades. Later on, the order took on a military role defending the holy sites, and today defends the Church through charitable works and apologetics.
In the United States, the order has over 200 different works of ministry by operating homes for unwed mothers and babies, helping the homeless in the inner cities, working in soup kitchens and clinics and visiting inmates in prison.
Williams, a self-described Catholic who served as Washington D.C.’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, has raised eyebrows for his reported application to the Knights of Malta because of several controversial public statements about his support for abortion and gay marriage during his two terms in office.
During his run for mayor of D.C. in 1998, Williams filled out a questionnaire from Planned Parenthood in which he stated his support for legalized abortion, writing, “I support choice.” Williams further communicated the depth of his commitment to his position by promising not to restrict abortion in any way, saying, “I do not support limiting access to safe and medically necessary methods of abortion.”
Williams also told Planned Parenthood that he is opposed to laws that would obligate pregnant women under the age of 18 to consult with their parents before having an abortion.
The former D.C. mayor’s stance on homosexuality runs afoul of Church teaching as well.
In response to a Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance questionnaire, he stated, “As a candidate, I was one of the first to express my support for same-sex marriage.”
A 1998 Gertrude Stein Democratic Club questionnaire also shows that Williams supported a Domestic Partnership law that would “grant adoptions to lesbians and gays.”
Mayor Williams is known for being the first mayor to host a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Summit, which was held at the Greenleaf Recreation Center on April 30, 2005.
According to the homosexual newspaper Metro Weekly, Mayor Williams told summit attendees that he would “combat any effort by Congress to impose any ‘defense of marriage act’ on the city.” "I will fight that to the very end," he said.
In an interview with CNA, Dr. Joseph Metz, the Knights of Malta’s third highest ranking officer in the U.S., reacted to the news that Williams' admission to the Order was being promoted by underscoring the requirements for being accepted.
Dr. Metz explained that candidates must be nominated by other members of the Order that are “practicing members of the Roman Catholic Church.” Candidates must also “follow the Magisterium and the teachings of the Church,” “be willing and able to devote themselves to the works and ministries of the order” and to “witnessing [to] the Faith.”
Dr. Metz said the Order “relies upon members” to nominate others, and they “have very little problem finding the people we can recommend to keep these promises.”
When asked about Williams, Dr. Metz said he didn’t know any of the details, but offered to read from the guidelines on the Admission of Candidates to the Order of Malta: “A candidate must support the Catholic Church’s position on the matter of faith and morals, including being pro-life, opposing abortion, opposing euthanasia, and opposing embryonic stem cell research.”
Additionally, Dr. Metz said, the candidate should clearly know what the Order stands for, and when interviewed, the candidate should clearly explain where they stand.
“So I think that’s a response to our position. I think that it speaks for itself to be a member of this religious order,” he said.
He also explained that an individual that holds any of these beliefs would be “unequivocally ineligible.”
Although membership is a lifetime commitment, Dr. Metz said, “there are rare occasions where members are expelled, but that’s very, very far and few between.”
There is recent precedent for an application being denied. In 2007 the former Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe claimed that the Knights were reviewing his application for Knighthood. The Order rejected McAuliffe’s application, saying, “there is not a single possibility for Mr. Terry McAuliffe, to become a member of the Order of Malta."