Were the Knights Templar Abolished?
The question a Knight Templar hears often when explaining the Order is, “But didn’t the Pope abolish them?” The answer is “no” for the reasons below.
On Friday, 13 October 1307, government officials throughout France unsealed envelopes containing orders to arrest all members of the Knights Templar on shocking charges, backed up by Papal Edict, of heresy, homosexuality, and idol worship. Five years later, at the Council of Vienne in 1312, Pope Clement V issued his bull of suppression of the Order.
So, did the Pope then have the authority to disband the Knights Templar? He did not, because the Pope did not create them; the Knights Templar existed on their own for eleven years before the Pope officially gave them ecclesiastical recognition.
The Order originates from 1118, after the successful capture of Jerusalem in the First Crusade. Joining together to protect Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, nine French crusader knights led by Hugues de Payens took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. King Baldwin II gave the Templars his palace on the south side of the Dome of the Rock. For the next eleven years they grew and continued their job of protecting pilgrims.
The Catholic Church officially endorsed the Knights Templar in 1129 at the Council of Troyes. So all the Pope had authority to do was remove his formal ecclesiastical recognition of the Order because he did not create them. Thus, the Knights Templar still exist today as they did for their first eleven years, without official Catholic Church recognition. Unlike Medieval times, lack of Catholic Church recognition is not necessary for thousands of organizations like ours that do good works independent from the Church.