John Moynihan Tettemer

One of the more interesting men ordained as a bishop by Leadbeater was John Moynihan Tettemer (1876-1949).

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“For 25 years John Tettemer lived behind the cloistered walls of one of Catholicism’s most austere religious orders. As Father Ildefonso he rose to the Church’s loftiest heights, finally becoming Consulator General of the Passionist Order at the unprecedented age of 38.

A confidant of Popes, a brilliant and respected teacher, his future promised greatness. Yet he abandoned it all, breaking through the monastic wall to total insecurity as a middle-aged child in harsh realities of another world he had barely known.

John Tettemer left because his life as a monk was no longer tenable. He had suffered a loss of intellectual innocence for which the Church’s anciently reasoned responses no longer sufficed: “My conscience forced the decision upon me.”

Here is the unforgettable story of the birth, growth and death of a monk — and the “rebirth” of a man secure in his mind and free in his own conscience.”


Tettemer’s partial autobiography, “I was a Monk”, does not refer to his reception into the Liberal Catholic Church, nor to his ordination as a Bishop. A brief account of both events is found in: John Tettemer “A Bishop’s Pilgrimage” in “Communion” (Sydney) 1980.

Tettemer also offer an appraisal of Leadbeater’s important to Christianity: John Tettemer “C.W. Leadbeater: His Influence on Christianity” “The Liberal Catholic” February, 1927.

In 1928 Tettemer married Ruth Elizabeth Roberts (1905-1982), the niece of Leadbeater’s personal physical and wealthy benefactor, Dr Mary Rocke, who had brought her to Sydney to be spiritually developed by Leadbeater. Ruth one of the girls who lived at The Manor in the 1920s. She travelled widely with the group of Theosophists accompanying Krishnamurti, who was rumoured to be in love with her. Both Tettemer and his wife seem to have followed Krishnamurti following his dissolution of the Order of the Star in the East.

Tettemer was ordained a bishop at Sydney in 1926 by Leadbeater, assisted by F.W. Pigott, I.S. Cooper and G.S. Arundale. He was thereafter essentially an inactive bishop, and had a career in America playing small roles in cinema productions.

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See: John Tettemer  “I was a Monk; the autobiography of John Tettemer” edited by Janet Mabie, with a foreword by Jean Burden and an introduction by John Burton New York, Knopf,1951; reprinted Natl Book Network, Re-Quest Books,1981


Digital version available on-line at:;view=1up;seq=11




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