"Masonry’s adherence to closed-door ritual may intrigue conspiracy theorists. Its diminishing ranks and relevance may cause smiling feminists to say, Knock yourselves out, boys. And its taste for pompous honorifics and ornate regalia may conjure images of solemn men with arms interlocked: Laurel and Hardy meet Babbitt."
Oh, my sides.
Barry characterizes the fraternity as "grand high exalted mystic boobery." I suspect he would be rankled at a fellow columnist who characterized his own Catholic faith and practices in a less than respectful manner, but I guess you can't pass for a hip sophisticate in Manhattan unless your columns contain the right amount of high-sounding cynicism - nothing new about that. His regular column, The Land, is a weekly romp across America, an assembly of "human interest" tales, allowing Park Avenue New Yorkers to peer at the rest of us oddities out in flyover country over their Ketel One vodka gimlets. Unfortunately for Barry, the Algonquin Round Table stopped taking new members long ago.
Now that I've sufficiently flogged the messenger, there's no getting around the situation that West Virginia Masonry's dirty linen has made the nation's "paper of record."
Note that the Grand Master of West Virginia pointedly did not respond to the questions of a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter. Stonewalling might have worked on thorny topics for a couple of centuries. But the internet, combined with new interest in Freemasonry, is shining a light up the fraternity's skirts and exposing our shortcomings to the public.
Then there was the matter of race. The Ancient, Free and Accepted lodges in West Virginia not only have no black members, they maintain no contact with the state’s separate and predominantly black Masonic fraternities, called Prince Hall lodges. “It’s not just nonrecognition,” Mr. Haas says with frustration. “It’s hostility.”
In October 2006, at the annual statewide meeting of the Grand Lodge in Wheeling, when his tenure was about to end, Mr. Haas presented a bloc of amendments designed to modify rules that no longer made sense (if they ever did). For instance, since lodges in other states had black members, he proposed the radical idea that “qualified visiting brethren may not be excluded from attendance if race is a factor.”
The changes, called the Wheeling reforms, overcame significant resistance and were passed by a close vote. Mr. Haas then handed his gavel to a successor, who promptly set aside the reforms on procedural grounds.
We wanted more members, greater visibility and renewed interest in Masonry.
Well, we got it.