The Order of Malta defended its procedure, saying that Sire's superior had been 'involved'

Henry Sire, who was this week revealed as the author of the Dictator Pope, has said that his suspension from the Order of Malta is illegal.

The Order released a statement on Wednesday announcing Sire’s suspension, describing his book as a “vile attack against the Pope”.

“Following the press articles reporting the name of the author of the book The Dictator Pope, the Grand Magistry of the Order of Malta has taken the decision to suspend Henry Sire, author of the book and member of the Order of Malta,” the Order said.

“The provisional suspension from membership has immediate effect and an investigation is being launched.”

However, Sire says that the suspension is “wholly illegal” under the Order’s own rules. As a Knight who belongs to no particular priory, his superior is the Grand Commander, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein.

But Sire said the process had been initiated by the Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, “with the consent of the Lieutenant of the Order. The laws of the Order stipulate that such a proceeding has to be initiated by my superior, who is the Grand Commander, and he has not been involved.

“Moreover, the superior has to initiate the process without communicating with the Grand Chancellor. These requirements have been comprehensively ignored.”

Sire added: “It is also ironical that these illegalities have been committed by the Grand Chancellor, who ousted the Grand Master a year ago by protesting at the supposed illegalities of his own suspension.”

A spokeswoman for the Order of Malta told the Catholic Herald that the Grand Commander had indeed been involved. “The disciplinary procedure was agreed together with the Grand Commander who is Henry Sire’s religious superior,” the spokeswoman said. “A motu proprio decree was issued by the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Fra Giacomo Dalla Torre, who also nominated a committee tasked with investigating the matter and – in case – putting forward disciplinary sanctions.

The spokeswoman said that although the Grand Chancellor had been involved, he had not “initiated the process himself”.

The spokeswoman said that Fra Dalla Torre had “provisionally” suspended Sire, pending the decision of a committee. The Order’s own laws say that the Grand Master can set up a “special disciplinary commission” to investigate a member, who can be suspended in the meantime.

The disciplinary hearing must take place in “absolute secrecy”, says the Constitutional Charter and Code.

In January last year, Fra’ Matthew Festing stood down as Grand Master of the Order of Malta at the request of Pope Francis – an act unprecedented in the Order’s history. Many observers said the request was linked to Festing’s suspension of Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager for his alleged role in a condom distribution scandal.

The Dictator Pope was originally released last year on Kindle, under the pseudonym Marcantonio Colonna. Regnery Publishing, who revealed the author’s real name earlier this week, are releasing a revised and updated version next month.

Sire tweeted today that it had been “a rather hectic week” but that “Happily, my suspension from the Order has been botched”. He also thanked his “many critics for doing so much to propel my book to global bestseller status”.