Defense of the Faith

Mission Statement

In the first seven centuries of the life of the Order, the meaning of defense of the faith (tuition fidei) was simple: defense by military force against those who sought the destruction not only of the Catholic faith, of Christendom itself, but all of European civilization, and ultimately the submission of the world.

Today, the charism and duty of the Order have changed. The broader meanings of tuitio provide a guide to fulfillment of that duty in the modern world by the members of the Order: guard, defend, protect, uphold, save, regard, look at, maintain. It could also imply nurture and witness.

On the feast of our founder Blessed Fra’ Gerard, October 13, 1997, Pope John Paul II referred to the Order’s mission to “defend the faith” saying “defending the faith often means, especially in our time, defending the great values that human reason without the light of Revelation risks misunderstanding in their integral and radical nature. These are for example human dignity, the nature of the family and the fundamental right to life.”

A previous Cardinalis Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi, reminded us that in today’s secular world we are often confronted by those opposed to the very foundation of our faith; and we really do need to understand our faith if there is any hope of upholding it.

Our Defense of the Faith Committee assists members to carry out the first of the two promises they make at investiture and repeat daily in the Prayer of the Order: “be it mine to practice and defend the catholic, the apostolic, the Roman faith…

The Committee aims to do this by first of all encouraging our members to participate more frequently in public and private prayer and devotions, where our relationship with God has every potential to approach a whole new dimension. Second, it facilitates educating the members about their faith and about contemporary issues challenging Catholic beliefs in order to strengthen their ability and resolve to defend the Catholic Faith individually. This will also help them be better citizens by keeping in mind the Church’s teachings when fulfilling their civic duties.

An Excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Faith and understanding

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived".28 So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit."29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind".30

28 Dei Filius 3: DS 3008.

29 Dei Filius 3: DS 3009.

30 Dei Filius 3: DS 3008-10; cf. Mk 16:20; Heb 2:4.


Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America Copyright © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.  Used with Permission. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica copyright © 1997, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Defense of the Faith Programs: A Guide

The dual charisms of the Order are defense of the faith and care of the sick and poor.  The regions of the Federal Association are well-known for their activities in service to the sick and the poor, but regional programs for the defense of the faith are less numerous and less well-known, according to a survey conducted by the Defense of Faith Committee.  In order to encourage regional defense of faith programs, the Committee has prepared the below guide. It provides a very detailed template for regions to follow in order to mount a successful program.  The Committee hopes that the regional Hospitallers especially will find this step-by-step program to be helpful, although the guide is written for any member of the Order or group to propose defense of faith programs.  Regional Hospitallers should feel free to disseminate the guide widely.

By means of the below guide, the Committee hopes and prays that regional defense of faith programs will grow in number and become more widespread.

Please click here to access: "Defense of the Faith Programs: A Guide".

Articles Commissioned by the Defense of the Faith Committee

Physician-Assisted Suicide? Why Not

by John Keown, MA, DPhil, PhD, DCL

The campaign to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and voluntary active euthanasia (VAE) is one of the greatest threats to human life in developed countries.

In the US, PAS is now legal in six states (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Montana) and the District of Columbia. In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a right to PAS and to VAE, and in 2016 the Canadian Parliament enacted legislation to accommodate that ruling. In November 2017 the State of Victoria, Australia, enacted legislation permitting both. The Netherlands has permitted both since 1984, Belgium since 2002, and Luxembourg since 2009.

The campaign is particularly strong in the US. Bills to permit PAS are repeatedly introduced in state legislatures. Attempts have also been made to persuade state supreme courts that state statutes or constitutions permit PAS. It is only a matter of time until another attempt is launched in the federal courts to establish a right to PAS under the US Constitution; previous attempts were rejected by the US Supreme Court in 1997.

The need to resist this campaign could hardly be more important or urgent.

The Defense of Faith Committee commissioned this article by renowned scholar John Keown, MA, DPhil, PhD, DCL, who is the Rose Kennedy Professor at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, to alert the members of the Order about this trend and to provide two key arguments against PAS and VAE.  The Committee urges each member to read this article and to combat the spread of the legalization of PAS and VAE.

Please click here to read the article by Dr. John Keown titled "Physician-Assisted Suicide? Why Not". 

Genocide of Christians in the Path of ISIL: An Interview with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

By Nina Shea, DM

On March 17, for only the second time in American history, the secretary of state officially designated an ongoing genocide.  Secretary John Kerry declared that Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shi’a Muslims, are suffering genocide at the hands of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIL, ISIS and Islamic State). A few days earlier, a unanimous House of Representatives had resolved to also condemn as genocide the violence against these Christians and other minorities, and a unanimous Senate did the same on July 7.

The U.S. designation followed mounting appeals by the Catholic Church. Last July, Pope Francis had been the first to bring world attention to the fact that “our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus”. He called it “genocide,” emphasizing, “I insist on the word.” In mid-February, the Holy Father, in an historic joint statement with Russian Patriarch Kirill, had asserted that Islamist extremists are waging a religious persecution so severe that “whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.”  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and several lay groups had also denounced this genocide.

Nowhere does the term genocide obtain more than in Iraq and Syria, where Christian communities have been devastated through targeted killing, hostage-taking, rape, forcible conversion, deportation and the systematic destruction of their churches and monasteries. While overall casualties among Iraqis and Syrians of all religious backgrounds have reached staggering levels due to the region’s conflicts, genocide is the gravest of human rights crimes and demands specific attention. Judge Edward Damich, chair of the Federal Association’s Committee on the Defense of Faith, and I had the benefit of meeting Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., at Federal Association headquarters on March 7 to discuss this crisis. 

The cardinal, a regular and long time traveler to the Middle East, had recently returned from Iraq, where he had spoken with Christian leaders and refugees.  At age 85 and retired, he remains indefatigable. With a reputation as one of the American bishops most engaged with issues of world peace, he has been a strong advocate for social justice and refugees. He has been a peripatetic church ambassador for many years, often sent on missions around the world by Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. State Department. 

Since 2012, the Order of Malta has been active in helping Christian, Muslim and other communities in the Middle East, mainly through its worldwide relief agency, Malteser International.  Currently, the Order is working with partners in northern Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and northern Iraq, providing medical and health care at refugee camps.  

Please click here to read the article by Nina Shea titled "Genocide of Christians in the Path of ISIL: An Interview with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick". 

Defense of Faith Speakers at the Annual Meeting

2016: Paul Clement

Current Challenges to Religious Liberty

The Defense of Faith Committee of the Federal Association was pleased and honored to have Mr. Paul Clement speak on current challenges to religious liberty at the DOF Program at the Annual Meeting, October 14, 2016.  This article identifies some of the themes touched upon by Mr. Clement; the expansion of these themes, however, is completely the work of this author and should not be attributed to Mr. Clement.

Please click here to read the full article.

2017: His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC


The Defense of the Faith program, now very much a part of Investiture Weekend, was first added to the agenda in 2010, with Cardinal Wuerl was the first presenter. He returned to speak in 2017, about the role of clergy and laity in the formation of conscience in today’s culture and society. 

Please click here to read his speech.