Unrecognized and Self-Styled Orders
Unofficial Chivalric Orders
The appearance of a number of private associations which profess to be "Orders of Chivalry" is not a modern phenomenon. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries several of these organizations emerged, encouraged by the interest in chivalry inspired by writers such as Sir Walter Scott. Sponsored by one individual who often used an invented title, these included the "Order of Saint Joachim", the "Order of Saint Hubert of Bar", a false "Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem", the "Order of the Temple of Jerusalem" (one of several "rediscoveries" of the supposed secret Order) and the Order of Saint George of Burgundy. All were short-lived.
Many other self-styled Orders came and went during the course of the next century and a half and, while most of them failed to survive the lives of their founders, a few still flourish today. As the superior of all Catholic religious Orders, The Holy See was particularly troubled by the increasing number of such bodies.
In the early 20th century, The Holy See issued statements condemning such "Orders" and listing the principal examples of bogus Orders.
The founders of such "Orders" hoped to satisfy the ambitions of persons anxious for recognition, but whose personal standing or religious affiliation may have made them ineligible for membership in a genuine order. Their motives were varied -- financial, vanity, sometimes to inflate a questionable social position, and perhaps even to support a genuine charity!
A romanticized view of history has often made it easier for these organizations’ members to accept outlandish claims. (The sponsor of one Order claimed to be a representative of the Cosmic Masters from other planets in our solar system, while another established the first "International Authority for Terrestrial Operation of Galactic Powers Task Force".)
The most troubling of the self-styled Orders are those that assume the name, badge, and adopt the history of an internationally recognized Order of Chivalry. Many members today are sincere, respectable people deluded into believing that they are receiving a real "honor" and persuaded that, through their membership, they are supporting a worthwhile charitable institution.
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta and the four members of the Alliance of Orders of Saint John are indeed engaged in important charitable work and humanitarian activities, but it is particularly unfortunate that there are a number of extant organizations which have assumed the name and style of "Order of Saint John". When the machinations of one of the self-styled "Orders" are exposed (sometimes following criminal activities by one of their sponsors) there is an inevitable reflection on the name of Saint John that may injure the recognized Orders. The latter have made a concerted effort to publicly disassociate themselves from these organizations and, to this end, have formed a Committee on the Orders of St. John that constantly updates the shifting allegiances between the different groups and attempts to warn the general public against them.