"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

Friday, September 05, 2008

Grand Orient of France Rejects Women - For Now

The Grand Orient of France held its annual communication in Lyon this year, and major change was in the air. A 59 year old cardiologist from Marsailles, Lambicchi Pierre, was elected Grand Master, succeeding Jean-Michel Quillardet (above), who served in the position for the last three years.

But the biggest issue at the meeting was not agreed upon—namely, the question of whether or not to allow Grand Orient lodges to initiate women. The nearly 1,100 delegates voted on the subject seven times,, before at last opting to bump the issue to next year's Congress. The result is that the Grand Orient remains a men-only fraternity for at least another year, and the eight GO lodges that initiated women in 2008 were suspended for their actions (although they are allowed to continue operating while they appeal the decision). There is some concern within the organization that suspending the lodges could land the Grand Orient in court on charges of discrimination.

The Grand Orient of France is the largest Masonic body in France, but is not recognized by mainstream and Prince Hall grand lodges in the US, nor by the United Grand Lodge of England, as regular. The Grande Loge Nationale Francaise is the grand lodge overwhelmingly recognized by Anglo Saxon-derived Freemasonry.

The French press covered the meeting here, and here.

A couple of updates from other articles.

• The Grand Orient of France claims 50,000 members in approximately 1,200 lodges.
• Five lodges were suspended that initiated female Masons in the last year, not eight (stories seem to differ, but seem to settle on five). Their future will be voted on next September.
• The new Grand Master Pierre Lambicchi (above) has two daughters in their thirties, one of whom has "joined the Masonic movement". He has expressed no opinion on the matter publicly.
• The Grand Orient of France regularly takes public stands on political issues. The Grand Master is known politically to be a Socialist, and wants the fraternity to take a public position against a French criminal record database called EDVIGE, which compiles personal information; and he seeks the fraternity to have a dialogue on the question of euthanasia.


  1. I wouldn't say they reject women. From what I understand they have female organizations that initiate women. And women can sit in lodge with men.

  2. Women visitors in other obedience's with whom the GOdF is in amity are welcomed. It is the same all over continental Europe for most. Only the UGLE set up bodies do not allow female visitation.

    We will see the GOdF inter-grate soon. It is the right thing to do i the 21st century. We will see this happen all over Th world as the male only system continues to loose numbers do to increasing irrelevancy.


  3. The GO has a very real concern about court action, largely because of new European Union "discrimination" rules. And if it is anything like what happened in the US with Elks and Eagles lodges, once they made the catastrophic error of allowing women to be initiated into their male-only lodges, the camel's nose is under the tent flap as far as courts are concerned.

    EU bureaucrats clearly have too much time on their hands, as can be clearly noted here.

  4. Catastrophic error? Nice to know that you think of equality of the sexes in that way Mr.Hodapp.

  5. BC wrote "Only the UGLE set up bodies do not allow female visitation."

    That would be the vast, and by far overwhelming majority of Freemasonry the world over. The GO is the largest obedience in France, but let's not overstate its position or its influence. Or, for that matter, the acceptance of female Masons within its lodges. Their Congress did not accept this, and did, in fact, suspend the lodges that admitted women.

    Outside of the US where the OES (albeit very imperfectly) took over the role of co-Masonry and feminine Masonry, the rest of the world does have mixed gender and female lodges that have co-existed since the 1730s. They have remained separate by choice.

    BC wrote: "We will see the GOdF inter-grate (sic) soon. It is the right thing to do i (sic) the 21st century. We will see this happen all over Th (sic) world as the male only system continues to loose (sic) numbers do (sic) to increasing irrelevancy."

    The GOdF may very well allow female members in the future—it's their group, they can steer it as they see fit. But male-only Masonry is hardly irrelevant, and if you studied history and demographic trends you'd understand the numbers game. Allowing women to join Masonic lodges will scarcely give the fraternity more relevance than it already has, any more than it would make the Girl Scouts more relevant to allow boys to join and hawk their cookies.

    And I dare say, we will most assuredly NOT see this happen all over the world.

    French society is very different from US, Canadian, or British society, which is why the Grand Orient lodges that have already been at work in the US for decades have never been anything but a tiny group, usually in large cities like New York and Washington. Likewise with their female counterparts, the Grand Orient-sponsored George Washington Union lodges. They have a perfectly fine organization, they practice Masonry their own way, and they frankly haven't had much interest in worrying about whether the mainstream calls them clandestine or not. But they are scarcely a threat to mainstream Freemasonry in North America. And until the Grand Orient of the USA survives a few years, grows, and proves they have a better way to build a fraternity, they too will remain little more than a curiosity. That's not a slam, it's just a fact.

    The Masonic landscape is littered with the bodies of literally hundreds of groups that started as schisms or side degrees and collapsed. The internet makes it easy to look and sound big and impressive to the outside world, but I think we've all had friends in high school who were capable of inventing lofty organizations, printing spiffy letterheads, passing out business cards, and trying to look awe-inspiring. With free software and a few hours, a website can look every bit as impressive as General Motors, even if the group backing it up meets in mom's basement and has internecine fights over who was supposed to pick up the pizza.

    I just do not believe Grand Orient of France-style Freemasonry will ever catch on in North America, largely because of the very different social forces at work. That's not whistling in the graveyard. US, Canadian and UK-style Freemasonry is the 4 million pound gorilla in the fraternity, and male-only rules are at the very core. Change that, and it isn't Freemasonry anymore, just as it isn't Freemasonry if you remove the requirement of a basic, personal belief in a Supreme Being. What you create by removing those items may be a perfectly wonderful, satisfying, honorable and exciting organization. But it isn't Freemasonry.

    This very battle has raged in France for quite a long time, just in case you thing the male-only, faith-requiring Grande Loge de France and the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise just roll over on this stuff.

  6. BC wrote: "Catastrophic error? Nice to know that you think of equality of the sexes in that way Mr.Hodapp."

    That's right. I'm a big, dumb, old fashioned, 'konk 'em on the noggin with a club' caveman.


    It was catastrophic because once they opened the doors and ended their existence as a male-only group, they couldn't go back when they tried to rescind the policy, as far as the courts were concerned.

    This has nothing to do with equality of the sexes. We are a private, social club. Should the courts be forcing the Knights of Columbus to allow Scientologists to join their ranks, or the B'nai B'rith to hand membership cards to Catholic nuns? Should black college fraternities be forced to admit white members? Or, to carry this to its most absurd notion, should the Knights of the White Camelia be sued to let blacks, Catholics and Jews attend their picnics? Neither am I a big fan of girls on football teams or Hooters being forced to hire men to dress in halters and butt floss.

    Courts are big, stupid truncheons that get used to beat the crap out of common sense, mostly because modern society has pitched manners, civility and good citizenship out with our carefully separated recyclables. Suing somebody to FORCE them to socialize with someone else they don't care for is a lousy way to change the community.

  7. "It is the same all over continental Europe for most."

    No, that is not true amongst the regular jurisdictions--and not all are "UGLE set up".

    Please tuck your revisionism back under your skirt.

    Thank you.

  8. Sorry, I forgot to sign the last post.

    S. & F.,
    --Rex S.

  9. It is a big can of worms that they will deal with in their own way. Regarding the GO model in the United States, well, we will just have to wait and see. For those that are not involved in the Grand Orient of the United States it will always be nothing more than a curiousity. That will remain true if it wildly successful, only mildly so, or if it falls flat on its face.


  10. Zut allors! You mean to tell me that the beacon of Masonic perfection - the be-all, end-all of progressive masonry is not initiating women?

    You must be joking? Why, this recent decision could make them subject to being labeled "haters." Next thing you know, they'll prohibit ferrets in lodge!

    Ok, sorry - but seriously - you're on the money. Once you open the door - particularly in the EU where the government cares about so much for so many - you'll be hard pressed to ever shut it again. And we shouldn't put on airs - it could easily happen here too, starting right down the road in WV...


  11. FYI: I am a member of B'nai B'rith. I have been for going on 15years. You don't have to be a Jew to be a member, Nor do you have to be a man. My local Chapter is right around 50/50. So yes, a Catholic nun could join.

    A men's "social club" eh? Man, I hope it is more than that. I personally would have zero interest in a "mens social club." Wooo hooo!

    I am all for male only, female only and mixed Freemasonry. That type of decision should be up to the individual lodge to decide IMHO.


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