The American Chapter of the Order of the Crown of Thorns – part 2

++Wadle et alA group of clergy of the American Catholic Church including Archbishops Lowell Paul Wadle and Percy Wise Clarkson at St Francis, Laguna Beach, c. 1937.

The Wadle years

st francisArchbishop Lowell Paul Wadle (1900-65) became a bishop in the Apostolic Christian Church, an entity that had formed in schism from the American Catholic Church, and was consecrated for that office on 31 August 1930 by Justin Joseph Andrew Boyle (also known as Robert Raleigh) (1887-1969). However, before long, Wadle had joined the American Catholic Church proper and became auxiliary to Percy Wise Clarkson at Laguna Beach, California. Clarkson, who had been deposed from the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church for his Theosophical beliefs, built the Church (also Cathedral Chapel) of St Francis-by-the-Sea (pictured right, c. 1940) at 430, Park Avenue, on land immediately adjoining St Mary’s Episcopalian church. This church soon became the focus of a very successful public ministry. When Clarkson died in 1942 the Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles officiated at his funeral and Wadle succeeded him as Primate of the American Catholic Church, the position he would hold for the next twenty-three years. He devoted himself entirely to his work in the church, without following any secular profession, and supported by his wife, who was a physician.

American ChapterFor Wadle, it was possible to be both orthodox and esoteric in his beliefs, and as well as Theosophy, he was active in Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism. His membership of the Scottish Rite and Lodge of Perfection, as well as of the Rose Croix, caused him to regard the liturgy of the Order of the Crown of Thorns (the Rite of Perfection) as the fulfilment of some of the obligations and aims of those traditions.

Wadle was also instrumental in efforts both to unify the bishops of the independent sacramental churches and to create an Ecumenical Apostolic Succession. Initially, this resulted in the American Concordat Exarchate of America and Federation of Independent Catholic (and later, Orthodox) Churches between Wadle, Archbishop Antoine Aneed (q.v.) and Archbishop Edgar Ramon Verostek of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church, entered into on 30 September 1944 on which occasion all bishops involved exchanged consecrations subconditionally and appointed Aneed as Exarch and Patriarch-President of the Federation. Wadle had also previously been consecrated subconditionally by Verostek on 7 December 1941. On 23 August 1945, Wadle further exchanged consecrations with archbishops Aneed, Charles Hampton, Henry Joseph Kleefisch and Wallace David de Ortega Maxey.

On 1 January 1946, Exarch Aneed formally re-established the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of San Luigi installing Prince-Abbot Edmond I as Archbishop of San Luigi, Grand Master of the Order of the Crown of Thorns and additionally appointing him as Titular Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in the Byzantine Universal (Catholic) and Orthodox Church of the Americas. On this occasion, Prince-Abbot Edmond I was consecrated subconditionally by Aneed assisted by Wadle and Kleefisch.

wadleOn 21 July 1947, Wadle exchanged consecrations with Matthew Nicholas Nelson, who in August 1949 would become Archbishop of the Province of the West in the Apostolic Episcopal Church. Wadle succeeded Nelson in this latter office on 7 April 1951, being installed by AEC Primate Maxey, and also succeeded Maxey as Patriarch of Malaga in the Catholicate of the West under Mar Georgius of Glastonbury (q.v.) On 13 April 1953, Mar Georgius seceded from the Catholicate, dissolving its Indian corporation, and terminated intercommunion relations with Wadle. In November 1957, by which time Mar Georgius had revived his mission, Wadle travelled to England in order, as he said, to confer upon Mar Georgius the validity of his successions, but declined to enter the sanctuary upon finding women present there.

During the 1950s, the private friendship between Wadle and Prince-Abbot Edmond I began to bear fruit and the two of them formulated a plan that would bring together the Bricaud heritage of the American Chapter of the Order of the Crown of Thorns with its proper parent body, the Grand Magistry of the Order. The chosen means was for Wadle’s auxiliary bishop, Hugh Michael Strange, to be Prince-Abbot Edmond I’s successor. In this way, the divisions would be healed and the esoteric elements of the Order reconciled with their headship. Strange, who had been Secretary of the American Chapter since March 1952, was appointed officially as heir-designate and granted the title of Count de l’Estrange within the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi.

Wadle corpUnfortunately, these plans did not produce the anticipated result. During the later 1950s, the future Prince-Abbot Edmond II, then Msgr. George Lyman, who Prince-Abbot Edmond I had known from his childhood, began to exert increasing influence within the administration of San Luigi. Lyman was soon at odds with both Wadle and Strange, and Strange concluded that he could not work with Lyman. In order to put an end to this increasingly heated situation, a meeting took place in 1960 at which Prince-Abbot Edmond I, Wadle, Strange, Aneed, Verostek and others were present, and this resulted in a formal union being entered into between Prince-Abbot Edmond I and Wadle. The two exchanged pectoral crosses to mark this occasion, both of which are preserved today in the San Luigi Archive. A proviso of the agreement was that Strange would step down as heir to San Luigi. This concordat was violently opposed by Lyman, particularly given his exclusion from the proceedings. However, soon afterwards, Lyman was appointed as heir to San Luigi by Prince-Abbot Edmond I and succeeded him as Prince-Abbot Edmond II on 16 February 1962.

None of the work of the American Chapter survived Wadle’s death in 1965. The non-profit corporation established by Wadle on 4 February 1946 (following an earlier 1935 foundation) and entitled The American Chapter Of The Seminary And Orders Of L’ancienne Abbaye-Principaute De San Luigi was acquired by Prince-Abbot Edmond II in 1971 and absorbed into the general administration of the Abbey-Principality.

The present day

During 2014, the extensive archival holdings that were once located at Laguna Beach were transferred to their present repository elsewhere in the United States. Of these, numerous liturgical items and documents with relevance to the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi and the Order of the Crown of Thorns have since been restored to its custody and now form part of the San Luigi Archive, which is described elsewhere on this website. A number of these items had been obtained from the estate of Prince-Abbot Edmond II through the offices of the late Fr. James Gillespie, KOCT. In addition, research in the archive has enabled the most important aspects of the spiritual heritage represented by the American Chapter to be reunited with its parent body, most significantly consisting of the Rite of Perfection, which is now celebrated regularly within our jurisdiction.

In July 2014, following due investigation, Msgr. Jean and Mme. Eugénie (Mother Angelique Sophia) Bricaud were formally glorified by the Abbey-Principality and their names inscribed into the Abbey-Principality’s Calendar of Saints, with their joint feast-day being celebrated on 24 February.