Comment on the Book "Is the Order of St John Masonic".

Author: Wathen, Fr James F.
Is the Order of St. John Masonic.
Tan Books, Rockford Illinois.
Year of Publication:

In 1972, Fr James Wathen had written the book "The Great Sacrilege" Tan Books 1972, critical of the "New Mass". Not alone in his criticisms, Fr Wathen found an unusual route to circumnavigate Church authority so he could continue to offer the old Latin Mass.

Book Order details:

Mr Patrick Henry Omlor (a traditional Catholic) had published a Journal "Interdum", and in lieu of the Summer issue of 1972, he had published a booklet by a Dr. Julio Pro "Knights and Daze" which accused the "Knights of St John" headquartered in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania (a self-styled Order with an invented pre-history) inter alia of being Masonic. The fact was that Dr. Pro had not done his homework, and on that issue had been wrong .
There is an irony in all of this - more recent knowledge has revealed that Charles Pichel (Chancellor of the Shickshinny Order) had used the records of an earlier organisation to provide proof of his organisation's claimed foundation in the USA at the beginnings of the twentieth century. The earlier organisation had been founded as a quasi-masonic Order connected to the British Orange Lodges and their "Black" Knights! - and that later a surviving part of that organisation subsequently joined the Pichel Order.

see; Formhals, Robert Willard Yates. White Cross : Story of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, with particular emphasis on the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller since 1964 under Royal Charter of Peter II, King of Yugoslavia. Sanghals Publishers, Camarillo, California, USA, 1979.
However the Pichel Order had shed all traces of the quasi-masonic past, and was certainly not masonic. Thus this fact does not provide any defence for Dr. Pro.

Fr Wathen's book "Is the Order of St John Masonic" defends the Pichel Order from Dr. Pro's unjust criticism. However in addition it allowed Fr Wathen to produce an apologetic for the Pichel Order as being the historic successor to the medieval crusading "Order of St. John of Jerusalem",  labelling the Roman Catholic successor to the Crusading Order as being the "Papal Order of Malta".

The route taken in the apologetic is typically "pichelian" and is in reality a repackaged version of Pichel's book of two years earlier, but with added new material.
see; Pichel, Thourot. History of the Hereditary Government of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Maltese Cross Publishers, Shickshinny, Pennsylvania 1970.

By partially quoting certain historic documents and ignoring a vast number of other documents (essential to any accurate historic picture), Pichel makes the Russian Grand Priory surviving in Russia to be the surviving Order (the whole Order and not just a Russian branch) - and the Roman Catholic Order - SMOM (Sovereign Military Order of Malta) becomes in Pichel's writings, an imitation Order.

The question might be raised - how does a Russian led Order then become American based and led? The Pichel myth is that in the late 1800s/early 1900s, Russian Hereditary Commanders worried about revolution took the "Order" to the USA for safety! The first part of the thesis mis-uses historical sources, and the second uses fragments of real early 20th Century documents (belonging to the Malta Knights of the Orange Lodge foundation) and overlays a mythical Russian foundation. For the latter part of his mythical history, Pichel had the advantage of some knowledge of the tradition of the Paris group of Hereditary Commanders, who had continued the Russian Grand Priory into exile in Paris in 1928.
see; Taube, Professor Baron Michel de. L'Empereur Paul I de Russie, Grand Maître de l'Ordre de Malte, et son Grand Prieuré Russe, Paris 1955.
Pichel used the information about the 1928 group, and then invented an earlier western Russian tradition dated to 1908 - twenty years before the Paris foundation. Whilst there is very real evidence of the 1928 group in Paris, and that the Paris group negotiated with SMOM from 1929 to 1932, no information emerged until the late 1950s/early 1960s about an alleged 1908 foundation, and the alleged subsequent organisation, leading to Pichel's chancellorship. The earliest attested document is the Incorporation of Pichel's Order in 1956! An earlier alleged incorporation in 1911 at Trenton, New Jersey cannot be found in the records at Trenton.
Despite the lack of any real evidence of a 1908 Russian foundation, Fr. Wathen accepted this date (see pages 63 and 72).

It seems that the concoction of half-truths woven together by myths provided a credible story for those who needed it to be true !

It is a fact that in the historic Order of St John of Jerusalem was granted by papal dispensation freedom from control by the local Bishops. However this could not mean, the Order had freedom of control from the Papacy - if the papacy giveth - the papacy can take away! The work of the Order's historian Vertot is mentioned in Fr Wathen's book, and yet a thorough reading of Vertot's history reveals that the papacy had ultimate control!
As a tridentine Catholic, Fr Wathen was impressed by the claims of Pichel, and heaps adulation on Pichel to a sycophantic level
"Mr. Pichel .... is unquestionably the world's most able authority on the history of the Order during this period". The period under discussion on the page of that quote (p 23) is that of the time of Paul I of Russia.
Wathen saw Pichel's "OSJ" as being the real historic Order, and accepted Pichel's claims that the Priests of the "Order" (Pichel's Shickshinny Order) were canonically exempt from control by local Bishops. This is just what was needed. Add a traditional Catholic organisation on to the Pichel Order - and as far as Fr Wathen was concerned you have a safe haven for tridentine rite Catholics - with legitimate historic dispensations from local control!

On page 70, Wathen records that the Pichel "Order" (which he equates with the medieval historic Order) is;

"A canonically independent Order: In order that it might accomplish its work, the Popes in the first generations of the Order's existence lavishly endowed the Sovereign Order with many unique privileges, among the more notable of which is canonical immunity from the authority of local ordinaries (who are bishops usually).
It will do no good for anyone to deny that such a privilege was possessed because all treatises on the Order bear witness to this fact. The Order has never failed to recognize the preciousness of this endowment and seldom in its history has this been more essential to its. purposes, and at the same time more resented by its enemies, than during this present era. By virtue of this immunity the Order will continue to set up priories which will become asylums for the true Faith and the truly faithful.

This is precisely the course of action Fr. Wathen took. Under his guidance the following Priories were set up:
Priory of Saint John The Apostle, Brenton, Tennessee; Priory of Saint Michael The Archangel, Midland, Texas; Priory of Saint John the Baptist, Louisville, Kentucky; Priory of The Holy Family, Union, Kentucky; Priory of Saint Joseph, Greenwood, Indiana; Priory of Our Lady of Sorrows, Altamonte Springs, Florida; Priory of Saint Paul, Evansville, Indiana; Priory of Saint Athanasius, Palmyra, Maine.

Fr. Wathen had gained a very keen layman who supported the tridentine Catholic cause - John Grady. In 1982, following the loss of Pichel and other Leaders in the Shickshinny Order, who had been close to Fr. Wathen and John Grady, Grady sought to create what would have been essentially an autonomous branch of the Shickshinny Order, by way of a license to use the Corporation's trademark (The Shickshinny Order had incorporate status from 1956). Although this was refused, Grady continued independently and in 1991 the breach was complete by Grady being elected the "75th Grand Master".

The mythical beginnings as given by Pichel (i.e. being established in the USA in 1908) was confirmed in a history leaflet written by Grady and published in 1991
see; Grady, John, The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Association of Family Commanders and Herditary Knights of Saint John, Benton, USA 1991.
and continued to be held by the Grady Order as late as 1997;
see; The Malta Year Book, De La Salle Brothers Publications, Malta, 1998, page 403 - the details will have been submitted late 1997. The Grand Masters are given as; 1913 Grand Duke Alexander; 1967 C.William Edelen 72nd; 1976 Robert Paterno 73rd; 74th not given; 1991 John Grady 75th!
However in 1997, Pichel's history, uncritically adopted by Fr. Wathen's book was either forgotten (amnesia?) or ditched.

In 1997, Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy who claimed that he was a Russian Hereditary Commander, joined the Grady Order. Troubetzkoy although of the genuine Russian tradition had wandered from mimic Russian Order to mimic Russian Order - always taking with him his title of "Lieutenant Grand Master"!  i.e. Prince Serge Troubetzkoy had been Lieutenant Grand Master in the Pichel Order 1966-1969; then in the King Peter Order 1969-1971 (which owed its beginnings to the Pichel Order); then as leading a splinter group of the King Peter Order 1971-1980; then in other Self-Styled Orders, with a very brief sojourn in an Order led by Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy (The Orthodox Order of Knights Hopsitaller St John of Jerusalem), but ended up as being the Lieutenant Grand Master of the Grady Order circa 1997 until his death 5th January 2001.

Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy had never been a member of the Paris led Russian Grand Priory as headed by the Hereditary Commanders, although his older brother Prince Nikita, had been a member. The Prince Troubetzkoy who was entitled to be a Russian Hereditary Commander was a distant Cousin.

For a brief period (as noted above), Prince Sergei had been a member of the New York group of Russian Nobles who claimed to be Russian Hereditary Commanders under the Grand Prior, Count Nicholas Bobrinskoy. The point of departure was over Prince Serge Troubetzkoy's continued use of the title he had taken from "Order" to "Order" of Lieutenant Grand Master! The Russian Grand Priory ever since the days of Emperor Alexander I, had always accepted that the Catholic Order contains the Magistracy of the Order.

By the late 1990s, it had become apparent to many that Pichel's mythical history had been discredited. With Troubetzkoy supporting Grady, the mythical history of Pichel could be by-passed, and the Grady Order trace its lineage via the historic Paris Group (not that Prince Sergei Troubetzkoy had been a member, but his brother had!!), erroneously dated to 1922! Also the new myth relied upon the fact that Sergei Troubetzkoy was, what he said he was, an Hereditary Commander!
see; Grady, John, A tragic error, in The Independent, Malta April 2001
The article above refers to a twenty page history, which is a revision of the 1991 seven page history noted above
see: Grady, John, Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller, The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem - Knights Hospitaller, Benton, USA 1999.
In the latter revised history, no longer is Grand Duke Alexander, the first Grand Master to follow Paul I in 1913, the Order having been established in the USA in 1908 (page 5 of the 1991 history), instead John Grady is the first Grand Master since 1798, during the Order's reconstitution 1984-1991 in the USA (page 15 of the 1999 revised history). The survival of the Order is via the Corps de pages (a Military School which under Paul I had taken on some of the traditions of the Knights), and the Hereditary Commanders, specifically via Prince Serge Troubetzkoy! No attempt is made to show any connection between the School de pages and the Grady "Order", and the only "link" was via Troubetzkoy, who had wandered from self-styled Order to self-styled Order, in reality representing no one but himself, but trading on the fact he claimed to be an Hereditary Commander of the Russian tradition. Even if Sergei had been the eldest son, and had inherited the title, an Hereditary Commander cannot act on his own. Otherwise there is a potential for 23 Orders of St John (from the fact that there were originally 23 Hereditary Commanders in the period 1799-1805)- plainly a nonsense!
In fact the expert in pre-Revolutionary law was Baron Michael de Taube, Professor of Law at St Petersburg University, and first minister in the Emperor Nicholas II Foreign Office, and a member of the Council of the Empire. He wrote that the Russian Grand Priory was "represented by THE ASSEMBLAGE of direct descendants of the first Hereditary commanders" or more accurately in French "représenté par L'ENSEMBLE des descendants directs de ses premiers commandeurs héréditaires" - in other words by the Hereditary Commanders as a whole - the ensemble.

See Item 7.
Prince Troubetzkoy's support for the Grady Order was attested by a document issued by the "Order", and published in the Malta Year Book in 2000 and 2001.
See; Declaration of Prince Serge Troubetzkoy in favour of the John Grady Order.

One factor to note is that the notion of Hereditary Commanders in the Pichelian tradition, (of which the Grady Order is a part) becomes meaningless. In the Russian tradition proper, it was only under a reigning Emperor, that such Commanderies could be created. In the Pichelian tradition the self styled Orders could create their own "Hereditary Commanders"
see; The Constitution of the Grand Priory of America dated May 17th 1912, pages 8 and 15.
The Grady Order in like manner could create its own "Hereditary Commanders" - of an Hereditary Knight of Justice the Constitution of Grady's Order states; "... he has been raised to the status of Hereditary Knight by virtue of outstanding personal character and nobility, and unusual commitment and service to the Order".
See; The Constitution of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusaelm, Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusaelm, Benton 1991, Section 17.2
Thus in the Grady Order, the status of "Herditary Commander" has no meaning in terms of past pedigree!

Many people who support the Wathen/Grady "Order of St John", I suspect do so, on the pragmatic basis, that they can continue to participate in the old Latin Mass, said at the Priories of the Order. They will in many ways be unaware of the rewriting of their history in a fashion worthy of George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four". The past literature in the Priories of the "Order" may or may not have been purged, but still available from the Tan Books is Fr Wathen's book "Is the Order of St John Masonic". However, the reader would need some knowledge of the Pichel Order and its filiants to understand the shift in history made in the publication of the 1999 version of the Grady Order history.
 Perhaps John Grady has taken to heart George Orwell's dictum "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past" - Chapter 3, Nineteen Eighty-four.

One thing is for sure as a religious truth - deception is in the tradition of the devil - the great deceiver! (The Gospel of John 8: 44).

The Reverend Dr Michael Foster.

NOTE: By the designation "Grady Order" is meant the Order of St John, of which John Grady is Grand Master - to distinquish this Order from the many many other Orders of St John, also led by "Grand Masters".

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