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The Old Catholic Plot Against JFK

Six decades after John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, is there anything more to say about the assassination of the nation’s first Catholic president?

It was a question I longed ignored…until I couldn’t. When my research led me to the bizarre world of “wandering bishops,” it finally became just too tantalizing.

I had stumbled upon an Old Catholic plot against the president.

Jim Garrison’s “Odd Sects”

Readers might recall Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991), starring Kevin Costner as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, to date the only prosecutor to seek a conviction related to the assassination (Clay Shaw, a New Orleans businessman, was acquitted on charges of conspiracy).

What attracted and stumped Garrison was a collection of eccentric individuals who considered themselves “bishops” in “churches” linked by apostolic succession to the Old Roman Catholic Church. Garrison came to believe such churches were intelligence fronts. There were no congregants. No church buildings. Consecrations and excommunications were common.

The Catholic Church has a name for these rogue clerics who have appeared throughout Christian history: episcopi vagantes, “wandering bishops.” This aspect of Garrison’s probe was entirely left out of Stone’s film. It is an area into which few assassination researchers dared venture.

But if any ever wondered if there existed a connection between the president’s Catholicism and his assassination, this avenue proves that connection. I believe this world unlocks the real motivations and perpetrators behind an assassination that irrevocably changed the course of the country.

So let’s first examine a bit further what Garrison called these “odd sects.”

The independent Catholicism movement rejected the primacy of the Roman pontiff, particularly the Chair of Peter’s claim to papal infallibility as defined at Vatican I. The official history of the Old Roman Catholic Church prefers to date its origins to the 18th century, when the diocese of Utrecht broke from the Vatican following accusations from the region’s Jesuits that the Jansenist heresy was alive and well. The archbishop of Utrecht was suspended, and Rome, having dissolved the diocese, recognized Utrecht as mission territory. Of course, the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, the mother church of the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht, viewed themselves as the true Catholic Church, neither schismatic nor heretical.

Splitting off from Rome’s authority, the Old Catholic Church developed and formed its own subsects. It mutated with Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy, sometimes freely blending characteristics of theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, New Age practices, and the occult. This hybrid of multiple, if improbable, beliefs later became dubbed the “Independent Sacramental Movement.” What was central to the clergy of these churches was apostolic succession. Since these schismatic offshoots also included breakaway bishops validly consecrated in the Catholic Church, these men were highly sought by dubious clerics to become consecrated as bishops of their own church. With such an honor, they had the power to ordain their own priests, consecrate their own bishops. This abuse was rife for those with criminal intent: one could hide in plain sight as a cleric, and the public would be none the wiser to the true intention of the man wearing the collar.

But how did the cabal that stymied Jim Garrison find refuge in such a world?

“It is our sacred duty to preserve the white race of Jesus”

The fog begins to clear in the unlikely personage of David Ferrie (played by Joe Pesci in JFK). In the mid-1950s, Ferrie was Lee Harvey Oswald’s mentor in a Louisiana chapter of the Civil Air Patrol. But Ferrie was from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where we both attended the Jesuit high school St. Ignatius and the Jesuit college John Carroll (albeit sixty-five years apart). Ferrie attempted to become a diocesan priest but he was emotionally unstable. His inner demons only grew as time went on, particularly in the 1960s when he was obviously steeped in cloak and dagger activities related to gun running, flying planes into Cuba, working for New Orleans Mafioso Carlos Marcello, and carrying out subversive activities for a former FBI special agent, Guy Banister.

One of David Ferrie’s mugshots

While Ferrie did not achieve his dream as a Catholic priest, his love for ritual found an outlet in the Old Catholic Church — namely, the Byzantine Primitive Catholic Church, Old Catholic Church in North America. This obscure church-in-name-only was a bastion for those like Ferrie: men on the fringes of society who delighted in esotericism and Gnosticism, who saw themselves as initiates of a secret society. This delusion went so far as to the creation of a phony chivalric order: they were the reborn Templar Knights, long suppressed by the pope centuries ago.

All this might sound harmless, if not for the sinister motivations behind the delusion.

Guy Banister ran a New Orleans private detective agency. A number of men like Ferrie rotated in and out of the office. Behind a front of rabid anti-Communism, the agency had another purpose: to interfere with the slow-going but inevitable process of desegregation. The 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, deemed segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Speaking at a rally in Northern Louisiana in 1957, state Attorney General Jack Gremillion “asserted that Communism is behind the integration movement.” The rally was sponsored by the White Citizens Council of Claiborne Parish. Guy Banister himself was deeply bonded with the Greater New Orleans Chapter of that racist group. Furthermore, Banister testified before the Louisiana Joint Legislature Committee on Subversion in Racial Unrest; that hearing concluded integration was Communist-backed.

Such was the goal of Banister and others: if integration could be successfully depicted as a Communist plot, the whole issue might be dropped across the nation. And “the Southern way of life” would then be maintained, and the purity of the white race retained. However, once President Kennedy introduced the Civil Rights Act in June 1963, backed by his attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy, and championed by activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the threat of permanent desegregation was imminent. Clearly, something would have to be done before that bill saw the light of day.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, under Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel, supported the Kennedy administration’s enforcement of school integration. This did not sit well with a certain faction of New Orleans Catholics, including Guy Banister’s secretary and mistress, Delphine Roberts.

“If the White South and other true American conservatives sit idly by and watch, the Negroes — led and guided by Socialists-Communists directed by the Kremlin and backed by the Kennedy Brothers — will succeed in overthrowing our Republican form of government by default,” Roberts wrote in a letter to the Shreveport Journal editor in July 1963.

Roberts also participated in a number of protests against her own archbishop. Protesting desegregation outside St. Patrick’s Church during Sunday Mass, Roberts held a sign that read: “Jesus was born of the house of David. — Of pure white stock in Judea — A white country — it is our sacred duty to preserve the white race of Jesus.”

This is telling language, of the Christian nationalism sort. It reveals the “theology” behind the white supremacist: Christian Identity, championed by preachers Rev. Wesley Swift and Rev. Gerald L.K. Smith, who taught that the true Jews were actually northern European, and thus Jesus was white. Racism and anti-Semitism were unifying themes for those who populated the Banister orbit — Ferrie and Roberts included.

“I’m suffocated by the n*****s and Jews,” Ferrie once said.

Christian Identity was a component that linked the network of those Old Catholic micro-churches with Guy Banister’s cabal. Following the trail of wandering bishops at the root of the fringe church in which David Ferrie achieved consecration reveals a cohort of believers in Christian Identity/British Israelism. Further uniting this eclectic group was a major common interest: the occult.

The legacies of Freemasonry, Madame Blavatsky, Theosophy, Rosicrucianism and Aleister Crowley come together in the lineage of bishops that ultimately take us to David Ferrie, and thus Guy Banister and his relationship with the radical right. Integral to all of this was William Bernard Crow, alias Mar Basilius Abdullah III, who maintained a correspondence with Crowley. Grand Master of the Apostolate of the Holy Wisdom and author of such books as History of Magic, Witchcraft and Occultism, which listed hypnotism as an occult science. Hypnotism, of course, looms over the assassination milieus of JFK, MLK, and RFK. Crow was a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church. In 1944, Crow and Crowley authored “Manifesto of the Gnostic Catholic Church.” Gnosticism, the ancient belief of “secret knowledge,” also hovers over the killings.

Combined with these occultic themes are those of the radical right: themes of supremacy and privilege that occupied Christian nationalists, Klansmen, and the John Birch Society. Indeed, present in this group of bishops was JBS member Bishop Frederick Charles King, a New Orleans native and “Prince of Vilna and all of Byelorussia.”

Another adherent of Christian Identity, a follower of Rev. Swift and also a Klansman, was one Joseph Milteer of Georgia. Unfortunately for the JFK plotters, Milteer liked to talk. Two weeks before the assassination in Dallas, Milteer was recorded by a Miami police informant, Willie Somersett.

Somersett: Well how […] do you figure would be the best way to get him?

Milteer: From an office building with a high-powered rifle, how many people [room noise — tape not intelligible] does he have going around who look just like him? Do you know about that?

Somersett: No, I never heard that he had anybody.

Milteer: He has got them.

Somersett: He has?

Milteer: He had about fifteen. Whenever he goes anyplace they [not intelligible] he knows he is a marked man.

Somersett: You think he is a marked man?

Milteer: Sure he does.

Somersett: They are really going to try and kill him?

Milteer: Oh, yeah, it’s in the working.

A few moments later in the conversation:

Somersett: Boy, if that Kennedy gets shot, we got to know where we are at. Because you know that will be a real shake, if they do that.

Milteer: They wouldn’t leave any stone unturned there’s no way. They will pick up somebody within hours afterwards, if anything like that would happen just to throw the public off.

Previously Somersett observed the intensity over Catholic school integration in the Archdiocese of New Orleans when he was sent there by the FBI in November 1960. He joined the Citizens’ Council and surely rubbed elbows or was a handshake away from Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Delphine Roberts, Leander Perez, and Jackson Ricau. Perez and Ricau were excommunicated along with Roberts by Archbishop Rummel for opposing integration.

Leander Perez was a devout Catholic with ties to both Milteer and Guy Banister. Somersett claimed Perez was a “financial backer” of JFK’s assassination. On Tuesday, November 26, Somersett told Miami Police Milteer said, “A lot of Catholics are just as much against Kennedy as anybody else. There was probably a lot of Catholic money that helped get him killed.” [All of this is detailed in perhaps the best book on the assassination: General Walker and the Murder of President Kennedy by Jeffrey Caufield, M.D.]

America’s Deepest Scar

How could it be that Catholics themselves wanted to oust President Kennedy, especially since the end goal of this radical right network sought to form a new party, neither Republican nor Democrat, but one that would unabashedly return America to its “true roots”: a segregated country catering to its white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant population? Why would Catholics want to advance such a vision?

Guy Banister, Delphine Roberts, Leander Perez, Jackson Ricau, and David Ferrie were all Catholic, to varying degrees. Even Lee Oswald’s closest relatives, the Murrets, were Catholic. And it is critical to note that the assassination of the president occurred during the second session of Vatican II. Yet not all Roman Catholics concurred with Pope John XXIII’s mission for the ecumenical council. Broadly, the Banister cabal viewed JFK and the Kennedys in the same way they viewed Pope John: upending ancient Catholic practices and teachings in favor of updating the Church.

Having found refuge in the complex web of the independent Catholic movement, and spurred by the extremist views of Christian Identity and white supremacist believers, Guy Banister’s cabal manipulated Lee Harvey Oswald in such a way — as Joseph Milteer predicted — that would make it appear Oswald and Oswald alone carried out the killing of the president. “I’m just a patsy!” Oswald infamously exclaimed in his final hours.

According to Somersett, the next phase of the plot was to shift blame for Kennedy’s murder on the Jews. “It now becomes the solemn duty of every true red-blooded American to seek, find, expel, drive out from our country every traitor be he Zionist Jew, Communist, or what have you,” Joseph Milteer and friends wrote the day after the assassination, signing the note “The International Underground.”

And so, when Jack Ruby descended on the scene as the murderer of Lee Oswald — a silencing which certainly did not come as a surprise to Joseph Milteer — Ruby’s later fixation about Nazism, a government overthrow, and fear of a progrom against the Jews (Ruby, born Jack Rubenstein, was himself Jewish), could not be dismissed as the ramblings of a madman. There is compelling evidence Ruby knew who was really behind the assassination.

It became my estimation if a government coverup existed, it was not to hide its own guilt but to suppress this truth about the assassination of John F. Kennedy: that it was motivated by racism, deep-seated hatred for a president who knew he did not do enough in his first two years of advancing civil rights and was now moving forward with the sweeping Civil Rights Act. He was bolstered by his own civil rights-minded brother, RFK, and had the support of the leading civil rights activist of the time, MLK. That the plotters were largely based in the South reinforced the primacy of segregation and opposition to integration that propelled the conspirators. That people in 1963 would rather cling to the myth of the lost cause of the South and romanticize the antebellum South rather than help unite the country at such a pivotal moment only tragically shows how slavery was and remains America’s deepest scar.

While the goal to assassinate the Kennedy Brothers and Dr. King was achieved, the victory was a Pyrrhic one. The Civil Rights Act was admirably pushed through by LBJ in 1964, even if it cost his own Democratic Party the South for generations. And enduring interest in the assassination of President Kennedy sixty years later will eventually force the truth to be revealed, for a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Finally, recall the cabal’s belief that they were the Knights Templar reborn, silly as it might seem. But secret societies have nothing but long memories. And so it should come as no surprise that the date Pope Clement V issued Pastoralis praeeminentiae, his papal bull disbanding the Templars, was November 22, 1307.

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