Appendix I: (Volume I)
Proof of Nobility as a Requirement in the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta for certain Grades of Membership
Modern civilization inevitably views anything associated with the aristocracy as being a case of unwarranted privileges incompatible with progress and liberalism. In order to properly appreciate the original and continuing requirements for proofs of armigerous descent, one needs to examine the actual requirements of Christian service demanded of the medieval knights:
This Order required from its recruits devotion to a life of religious duty and not privileges. In addition it demanded a rigorous military training and discipline. The recruit had to be, therefore, not only a man of a religious vocation but a soldier as well, who was called upon to defend Christendom and take part in sorties and expeditions (called caravans) against Islam. Therefore, membership of this Order, whatever its privileges, carried with it the honour of, in all probability, being wounded, mutilated, killed in battle, or, what was perhaps worse, being made a prisoner of the Turks or suffering actual martyrdom at their hands. But, as if this were not enough, their particular Order formed a nursing service – for these were the Knights of the Hospital. Until Florence Nightingale was able to bring a new conception to nursing, it was considered through Europe loathsome occupation, demeaning to all of high rank and gently born.
Consequently, to limit this Order to those of high birth was the practical application of Christian doctrine, that the rich and privileged had great duties imposed on them, and they must stoop in all Christian humility to the lowest of occupations.
In the high days of chivalry, although the Order was restricted solely to those of noble birth, such a restriction was not one of privilege, except in the special nobelesse oblige sense, of the privilege to serve humanity.
Therefore, that this Order should have restricted admission to nobles only was highly beneficial, both in its moral implications, and by reason of the service which these men performed for Christendom.
It can thus be seen that the requirements for armigerous descent for entrance into the Sovereign Order had a particularly Christian twist: The Sovereign Order was to be a vehicle for the noblest and best-born in Christendom to serve and protect the whole society in true humility, following the example of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles. The concepts behind the requirements for such proofs are as valid now as they were in the great days of chivalry:
[I]t will, therefore, be seen that they had a sound moral foundation, carrying with them the ideal of service by the best born for the community as a whole. They were not a form of preserved privilege, and were in fact a more desirable test for knighthood than the possession of great wealth or political power which, today, is more usually looked upon as a necessary foundation for admission to the average state order.
From a moral and ethical point of view it is, therefore, highly desirable that proofs of nobility should be maintained, if only to set a limit upon the privileges which unbridled wealth and political power can confer.
Plutocrats should not be allowed to buy their way into the Order of Malta: At this point if that happened it would degrade itself into being a Catholic Order of Babbitts.
If ignoble plutocrats, businessmen, and babbitts should be admitted – to recruit contributions – they should remain at all times “Master Knights” and should under no circumstances – irrespective of their wealth or the amount of their contributions – be admitted into the nobiliary ranks of the Order of Malta: Some considerations should remain beyond the capacity of plutocrats to purchase – no matter how much they might offer to acquire the cachet of nobility.
Unfortunately, today one often thinks of nobility (membership in a recognized established family) in the capitalist conception that associates wealth with privilege and freedom from obligation to the public. This concept is quite rightly condemned. Moreover, liberal capitalism itself, “so used to enjoying power without undertaking corresponding obligation, does not readily tolerate any order of society which is closed to it, and which cannot be bought by its money.” This is the real reason behind much of the criticism of the Sovereign Order’s maintenance of its traditional high standards of admission.
However, the great orders of chivalry, such as the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Sacred Military Order of Constantinian St. George, cannot be accused of obliviousness to modern conditions, as they will admit to service in their Orders any man of sterling qualities, who for reasons of true merit as a Christian, is worthy of being confirmed as a knight:
Of course, with the changing conditions of life arising from the alteration of the nobiliary structure of society, there was a need, once so much power had passed into the hands of the capitalist classes, to allow of capitalists entrance into the orders of chivalry in such cases, where by reason of merit, they deserved to be associated with them, and this has been done in some of the nursing orders of Chivalry, such as those of St. John, Malta and Constantinian St. George.
Under no circumstances should plutocrats be permitted to “buy their way” into the nobiliary ranks: The rank of “Master Knight” is more than sufficient for ignoble plutocrats and crass Babbitts. But such conceptions of merit are, and should be, different from the “merit” that comes from the decorations of many state orders both in Britain and abroad. This type of merit is far removed from the ideals of chivalry and are, more often than not, the conferring of a style or title on some man merely because he has done well for himself.
It should be noted that the term “nobility” is far less restrictive than the Anglo-American conception of the term usually leads one to believe. In Scotland and on the Continent, anyone who possesses a coat-of-arms traceable to any of the original (urdael) recognized families or to a later grant of arms by a monarch or traditional republic is considered to be of the untitled nobility. Only in England and America does the term “nobility” carry with it the connotations of a title. Thus, a person who is able to trace his lineage back to a grant of arms is noble for the purposes of admission into the Sovereign Order. This opens the ranks of the Professed Knights of Justice to a far greater number of people than might be popularly imagined. Under the 1959 Decree No. 4398 of the Sovereign Council of the SMOM, it is possible for the lesser antiquity of one armigerous line to be compensated by the greater antiquity of another, and it is even possible to obtain a dispensation from some of the nobiliary requirements.
In this connection, the 8 December 1956 creation of the special class of Knights of Obedience, which has no nobiliary requirements other than irreproachable Christianity, opens every office – save that of the Prince-Grand Master (who by Canon Law must be a Professed Knight) – to any person of sterling personal qualities inspired with a true desire to serve mankind through the venerable traditions of the Sovereign Order. The Knights of Obedience take a special vow of obedience to their superiors in the Order coupled with a complete personal devotion to the Word of God and the teachings of the Church. The existence of the class of Knights of Obedience thereby invalidates the arguments of those unfriendly to the Sovereign Order due to its historic nobiliary traditions.
To be completely honest about this entire subject, it should be realized that the opposition to the nobiliary traditions of the Sovereign Order comes not from the poor, the lepers, the wounded and war refugees whom the Order so nobly serves, but from ignoble plutocrats, social climbers, Babbitts, and the chic liberal intellectuals who feel affronted because they are so excluded!
None of these excluded persons possess any true Christian humility or desire to render service, but they oppose the nobiliary traditions of the Sovereign Order through pride – either out of a desire to “sport” the decorations of the Sovereign Order on a social occasion or because they are mentally threatened by an organization that does not hold their secular humanist, egalitarian beliefs. This is actually quite hypocritical as both groups secretly believe that society should be governed by either nouveaux riches or an intellectually elite politburo of academicians, self-styled illuminati, and litterati. In sum, both would merely substitute the traditional aristocracy for one composed of themselves.
To proletarianize the Sovereign Order or other knightly service Orders by abolishing the nobi1iary qualifications would serve no useful purpose other than salving the egos of ignoble plutocrats, Babbitts, social climbers and the liberal intellectual elitists.
If the nobiliary qualifications were abolished, the nobles might regard them as baubles to be bought, but the latter would simply continue their hostility to them as they do to all institutions based on the Christian faith. The spectacle of the admission of such persons would edify no one and would undoubtedly lead to the diminution of the vast charitable works of these Orders (other than those likely to be printed in newspaper “society” or gossip columns) and to their eventual destruction, undoubtedly to the glee of liberal intellectuals. Therefore, to preserve the usefulness and utility of these Orders of chivalry, it is necessary to maintain membership in them as a true religious vocation of noblesse oblige:
It might well be that some democratically-minded contemporaries might wish to criticize these Orders for the maintenance of the traditional proofs of nobility. To “democratize” the Orders, and so make them plebeian, in an age in there are plenty of opportunity for service in other directions where proofs of nobility are not required, would be mistaken sentimentality and a grave mistake.
The whole ideal of the Order would be vitiated by such ideas, for the conception has always been that those of the highest nobility should, through these Orders, find a path to service for their fellow men, and their religion. It is the true vocation of noblesse oblige. Remove the obligation for proofs of nobility for the knighthoods of justice, and no longer will these Orders be an imprimatur of nobility – and so, they will steadily decline in their vocation of service, and the more this decline becomes marked, the less useful are they to mankind, and the more nobility becomes a selfish social privilege without any moral obligations attached to it. Therefore, it does not serve the well-being of society, that an Order, specifically created in the first instance to be served by the nobility for the benefit of the community, should cease to be recruited from that class. Especially is this the case, when, despite the qualification of proof of nobility, at the same time no man of merit, whatever his origins, is excluded, since he can always be admitted as of grace.
With respect to the modern value of the European aristocratic tradition (noblesse oblige) upon which the philosophy of chivalry is predicated, we dare to observe that great value indeed was found in it by Pope Pius XII in his address, “Con Vivo Gradimento” to the Roman Nobility on 9 January 1958 (see the Spring 1958 issue of the magazine, The Pope Speaks). In this important address Pope Pius vindicated the value of the aristocratic tradition in the Twentieth Century:
The Pope noted that the aristocratic status of the nobility “imposed on you special duties for the advancement of the common good.” With respect to the challenge that the modern era presents to traditional institutions, Pope Pius XII declared that, “changes in ways of living can be fitted in harmoniously with the traditions represented by noble families,” and he strongly urged the nobility “to adapt yourselves courageously to the new circumstances, while fixing your gaze on the Christian idea, the true and indelible mark of genuine nobility.”
Pope Pius emphasized that his aim in making such recommendations to the nobility was, “to help your houses to preserve their heritage of ancient glories, to make certain that the society to which you belong will receive the solid contributions that you are still in a position to make to it.” In the face of modern challenges to traditions, Pope Pius pointed out that the, “long-standing family traditions:” of the nobility have handed down to them “the heritage of virtue and of talent,” and he urged the nobility to demonstrate to the other classes the particular values of the aristocratic tradition: “things like your  unshakable strength of character,  your loyalty and devotion to worthy causes,  our tender and generous pity towards the poor and the weak,  your delicacy and prudence in handling difficult and serious matters,  the personal prestige that goes with being heirs of noble families and that enables you  to persuade people without oppressing them,  to gain others to our side without using force,  to prevail over others, even rivals and opponents without humiliating them.”
Pope Pius told the nobility that, “the use of these gifts and the practice of religion and civic virtues are the most convincing answer you can give to prejudice and suspicion, for they reveal the inner vitality of your spirit.” The result is that “a large part of society has preserved a proper respect for traditions and still prizes a lofty demeanor, provided it rests on a real foundation.” Pius XII cautioned against modern attacks on the moral, religious, and cultural values that had been steadfastly defended by the nobility:
The tradition of your nation with regard to these values must be defended and kept sacred and inviolable, and safeguarded against the attacks of germs that tend to destroy it, no matter where they come from. Attempts to strike a blow at this tradition are not a sign of progress, except in the direction of destruction, and they are an attack on the honor and dignity of your nation.
Concluding his address, Pope Pius enjoined the nobility to continue to defend in the future, as they had defended in the past, the irreproachable religious and moral traditions they stood for:
May the profound respect for tradition which you are cultivating and which you intend to use to make your mark in society, help you to keep these previous treasures [their religious and moral traditions] alive in the hearts of the people. This can be the loftiest social function of the nobility today; certainly it is the greatest service that you can render to the Church and to the nation.
Thus, there is a great moral and religious value in the European aristocratic and chivalric tradition that is totally unappreciated by either capitalism or the 1789 French Revolution, from which the secular principles of progress, liberalism, and modern civilization are derived.
Indeed, the aristocratic philosophy of chivalry is diametrically opposed to that of liberal capitalism (which goes far beyond the natural law right to private property). The latter is a materialistic philosophy that regards the state as a non-moral organization in which the ruling capitalistic class, based solely on wealth, devotes itself to lust of power, an easy life, and conspicuous consumption. Suffice it to say, the philosophy of liberal capitalism, set forth below, has little use for the aristocratic spiritual and moral values cherished by chivalry:
What this society demands is initiative, alertness, daring, speculation, a sharp legalistic mind, and a jealousy for all the rights of the individual. What it does not favor is charity, unselfishness, social restraint, contemplation, fidelity to ethical ideals; these traits do not pay. It is economic thinking that controls it; it is the virtues useful on the market that count.
[Its] ideal and this measure are material success, market values, money. The ideal of youth is not the statesman, the pater patriae, but the successful money-maker or the corrupt politician, without social responsibility, as also the business executive without responsibility but to the impersonal capital interests.
. . . [W]hat is meant here is that the economic values and the practical virtues that pay are the decisive thing. Material success alone is what counts. Men are measured by these things first and are pardoned many wrong acts if they but succeed. Wealth, material wealth, however acquired, is the measure. If it is acquired honestly, that is well and good, but it is not absolutely necessary. Hence this kind of society develops in its sociology an evolutionist theory of the survival of the fittest that of course is non-moral and has no room for the unselfish virtue of charity. Thus this society has, as its adequate philosophy, positivism and pragmatism where the measure of truth is efficiency and where ethics is utilitarian.
Thus, liberal capitalism has little use for chivalry, because its values do not pay in terms of dollars and cents. Chivalry, in turn, questions the utilitarianism and pragmatism of liberal capitalism (though not the right to private property) and its vulgarization of society in the quest of the almighty dollar. Chivalry is, thus, convinced that all external technological and social progress and all the machines of mass education do not change human nature. They do not trust in the sovereignty of the masses; history tends to agree. There are much fewer successful long-term republics than there are successful long-term monarchies. The masses are not masters of themselves; therefore to hand the government over to them can be the dissolution or ruin of culture and order. The masses have no dignity, and, therefore, can have no gift of distinction; they can be an easy prey of faithless and selfish demagogues who lead them into anarchy.
These conservative thinkers take Aristotle’s definition of democracy literally; it is a degeneration of politeia. This attitude loves the soil and the forests, the farms and the old small towns, the guilds of the Middle Ages. It is suspicious of the multimillionaires and the crowded industrial cities and the vast uniform masses of labor unions and the power of their bosses. It is distrustful of the many mass organizations before which the individual is not less impotent than he was earlier before the power of the absolute prince. It does not admire the machines and the machine-produced mass civilization, and its literature.
Being aristocratic in its origin (in the sense portrayed by Pope Pius XII), chivalry is more concerned with things of the mind and of culture than is liberal capitalism with its lusts for profits. Chivalry believes that man has a more important function in this world than merely to make money. The purpose of man is to build a Christian civilization which through time will lead him unto eternity. This process of building a civilization produces culture in the aristocratic Aristotelian sense of the term. It is this Christian culture whose values chivalry embodies and that it defends from the alien forces of progress, liberalism, and the modern civilization that would destroy it:
Culture is not the mass civilization of a mass production era. Culture is the old families, the high standards of professions. Culture is the wisdom and the learning transmitted from generation to generation, something valuable in itself, not a tool for more profits. Culture is a continuous toilsome effort to build fences around the moral values against the threatening vandalism in men. Culture must be wrung from death and destructive forces in men. Culture demands the strenuous vigilance of the fathers and mothers in each generation; it can live only in a solid, stable order. It cannot be “made” like machines and “founded” like manufacturing corporations. It grows slowly. As a lasting order, culture is more than a sum of quickly made and quickly changed laws. Time, not as a mere addition of single years but as duration, that is the proof of institutions, not their quickly acquired and as quickly lost popularity. Time is, therefore, an honor for political institutions. There is wisdom in De Maistre’s remark that time is the prime Minister of Providence. It is time as duration that is a sign of the legitimacy of an institution because thus is shown approval by a long line of generations. (emphasis added)
Above all else, chivalry defends the Church as the living embodiment of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Although non-Catholic sovereigns bestow knighthoods for service to the state, the philosophy of chivalry is quite Catholic in many ways.
Indeed, Protestant knights who truly understand chivalry are always favorably disposed to the Church, and there was always friendly ecumenical contact between Protestant and Catholic knights long before the present ecumenical movement began with the Second Vatican Council. In Catholicism, a knight is an ideal layman and a Christian gentlemen in the sense depicted by Pius XII. His moral claim to aristocracy lies more in the realm of his noble Christian conduct than it does in his lineage. Politically, chivalry is clericalism seeking the implementation of the Gospel precepts, taught in the social encyclicals of the Pope, in order to build a truly just Christian society. In this it opposes both liberal capitalism and socialism. Chivalry thus has no use for a “Sunday Christianity” which demeans the Church to a vehicle for social respectability and fails to practice Christianity in real life. To chivalry the Church incorporates all those values worth living and dying for:
The Church is the continuous admonition that there are higher values than profits and material pleasure. The Church’s doctrine of original sin makes man aware of the precariousness of material progress, of the weakness of his nature; it shows the impossibility of the autonomy of the individual, and the futility of all attempts to surrender the public and moral order to the selfish free interests of free individuals. The Church, the protector of the family, stands high in the conservative mind because the latter values the family more than it does the liberty of the individual or the power of the state.
Although diametrically opposed to socialism, chivalry nonetheless questions the values and methods of liberal capitalism. Liberal capitalism is not truly “conservative” as it, like socialism, is one of the fruits of the French Revolution. With its utilitarian ethics and pragmatic methodology, liberal capitalism is not conservative in the sense of preserving the Christian culture and traditions built by the Church and defended by chivalry. Like socialism, liberal capitalism regards these values as “irrelevant.” In the words of V. I. Lenin, a liberal capitalist “would sell me the rope to hang him with if he could make a profit by doing so.” Chivalry thus believes that the social evils created by liberal capitalism would be best remedied by restoring traditional Christian institutions and building a just Christian social order based on the social encyclicals of the Pope:
The conservative mind dislikes capitalism that denies that the absolute factory monarch has any social responsibility for workers. To the conservative, capitalism has substituted the master-servant relation, surrounded and permeated by mutual trust, loyalty, and responsibility, for a cold labor contract supposedly regulating the sale of labor power between free individuals. In the end, extreme capitalism can subject the laborer to a cruel and irresponsible rule of the profit motive of corporate money-power.
The conservative mind spurns the egalitarian propositions of capitalism because it contends that capitalism, in spite of assumed democratic equality, produces by no means equality but a hideous economic hierarchy based on mere economic success without regard to moral values. It points out that democracy, as the fertile soil of capitalism, is only an illusory trapping for the inhuman tyranny of capital instead of the benevolent paternal rule of a monarch responsible to divine and natural law. Never has liberty existed more securely than under a pious king.
Seen from this European Christian point of view, liberal capitalism is not conservative as both its proponents and detractors are fond of claiming. A better word for it is crony capitalism as it has been corrupted. Nowhere is capitalism more limited (without its actual abolition) than in the traditional aristocratic Christian monarchy where the rights of the workers to social justice is supported by the Crown and the chivalric nobility of the land though perhaps more in the form of guilds of artisans than in mass impersonal trade unions. Both liberal capitalism and communism have their roots in the French Revolution: the former emphasizing the atomistic individualism of the Revolution – “Liberte;” the latter emphasizing the sovereignty of the masses in the Revolution – “Egalite.” Both emphasize equally the conspiratorial aspect of the Revolution – “Fraternite.” Chivalry, the culmination of the aristocratic tradition, upholds Christ’s Justice as well as His truth. It defends the right to private property as derived from the natural law while at the same time upholding the rights of the poor to economic justice. It would regulate any conflict between the two through the mechanisms provided in the papal social encyclicals.
Is there thus value in chivalry? Neither a liberal capitalist nor a socialist would find any. However, a Christian would. True and unadulterated chivalry is simply Christianity in practice.
 Lt. Col. Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, The Heraldry of the Knights of St. John, 1956, pp. 109-110.
 Ibid., p. 112.
 Ibid., footnote 109, pp. 110-111.
 Ibid., Gayre and Nigg, pp. 111-112.
 Ibid., pp. 19-20.
 The Pope Speaks, vol. 5, 1958, p. 114.
 Heinrich A. Rommen, The State in Catholic Thought, 1945, pp. 341-342.
 Ibid., p. 494.
 Ibid., pp. 493-494.
 Ibid., p. 495.
 Ibid., pp. 494-495.
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