Wednesday, March 25, 2009

French Freemasons vs. The Pope. Again.

While one group of Masons keeps arguing that there's no conflict between Freemasonry and Catholicism, another group steps in to stir the pot and prove otherwise.

During his recent African trip, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his opinion that condoms were not the best means of AIDS prevention, preferring the teaching of abstinence. Doctrinally for Roman Catholicism, a proper stance I suppose, but one that calls to mind a metaphor about escaped horses and the pointless gesture of closing barn doors after they're gone. Still, not exactly what U.S. Masons would say was in their purview. But not so in France.

According to Blog Maconnique, the Grand Orient of France, the Feminine Grand Lodge of France and the French Federation of La Droit Humain responded with a statement:

These Masonic Obediences signatories express their amazement and outrage at the irresponsible position held by Pope Benedict XVI against the use of condoms as a means of AIDS prevention.

On the occasion of his first trip in Africa, Benedict XVI cannot ignore the particularly tragic devastation that this disease brings the peoples of this continent, especially among children, and are systematically raised by the WHO, UN - AIDS and all NGOs in this field.


A fair position, and one I don't disagree with. But most regular, recognized Masonic organizations would never presume to make such a public pronouncement. The Grand Orient of France, on the other hand, frequently takes public and well publicized positions on government and religious topics. France is a Catholic country, and I'd venture a guess that a substantial percentage of the Grand Orient's members are Catholics. But the GOofF is no stranger to being on the opposite side of the Vatican's views. The Grand Orient of France touts itself as being more open minded than other French grand lodges, allowing atheists to join their lodges. Yet, taking this sort of stance gets between its members and their own private beliefs.

All of which begs the question: what the hell is their fraternity doing getting involved in political and religious matters? If the United Grand Lodge of England or a US grand lodge tried making such statements, the members would run the Grand Master out of town. Regular, recognized Masons forbid mixing religion, politics and Freemasonry for a very good reason.

12 comments:

Stijn R.A.J. Calle said...

The G.O.d.F. transgresses the 'division of church and state', by critisizing the pope for speaking on a religious matter concerning african catholics. Freemasons do not have to believe what he says, but catholics do, if they want to stay catholic. They should stick to their own, and stop preaching their liberal gospel to people who do not want to be freemasons.

San Diego Freemason said...

With all due respect, Freemasonry was, in the beginning, a revolutionary society, one that had to remain secret because of the persecution it endured from tyrants, and the Church.

At a time when slavery was legal and it was acceptable to kill people for their beliefs, Freemasonry was subversive in it's teachings of Free-thought, religious, and political freedom, and the brotherhood of man.

If it had just been a social club, or a charitable organization, there would have been no persecution. Freemasonry has a purpose other than being Odd-fellows in aprons.

That mission is to fight injustice, ignorance, and intolerance. To unite people of conscience around the world.

When Freemasons need to keep their membership secret, and are opposed by a large segment of society, then they are truly practicing Freemasonry.

Chris Hodapp said...

San Diego Freemason wrote:
"When Freemasons need to keep their membership secret, and are opposed by a large segment of society, then they are truly practicing Freemasonry."


Words can't describe how much I disagree with that viewpoint.

Yes, Freemasonry has a mission. To improve the world one mason at a time, to teach him to practice faith, hope, charity, toleration and brotherhood. But you sure as hell won't change the world with ten guys marching around in their socks in somebody's living room claiming "their" Freemasonry is right, and everybody else's is wrong.

San Diego Freemason said...

Dear Brother Chris,

I am not affiliated with the GOUSA, and the remark about several individuals in their socks is not relevant to what I was talking about.

In England, Freemasonry took a different path than on the continent. When faced with persecution, they turned over their membership lists to the State, and accepted a member of the Royal family as their GM.

On the continent,as well as in Latin America, and parts of Africa, Freemasonry followed a different course.

Masons were jailed, sometimes tortured, and killed, in Spain, Austria, Italy, Portugal, etc.

Masons were in the forefront of revolutionary societies such as the Carbonari. Teachings, such as religious freedom, were anathema to the Catholic Church.

In World War II, Masons were thrown into concentration camps by the Nazi's and the fascists. After the war they were persecuted by the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

The point that I am trying to make is that Freemasonry took two different paths, the Anglo-American, and the Continental. In the US, and England, Freemasonry became, in the eyes of the general public, a business men's club, and charity.

In the rest of Europe, Freemasonry was considered subversive, and involved with revolution. During this time, the Atheist issue never came up.

In the 19th Century, when Masons such as Garibaldi, and Juarez were leading revolutions, all of the Continental/Grand Orient lodges, still required a belief in Diety.

From an historical perspective, we can see two different types of Freemasonry evolved. The Anglo-American type says that they represent the original Freemasonry.

The Liberal Freemasonry, which is the majority of Continental, Latin, and African says no, they are. This was long before the Atheist/Believer issue.

I still believe that Freemasonry should be in the vanguard of the struggle for human rights. Would any mainstream lodge involve itself in the issue of freeing Tibet from Communist China? Participate in an AIDS awareness march?

There are so many areas that we, as Freemasons can try to make a difference.

From what I have seen, those within the Masonic community that do not want to be part of a social club turn to esotericism as an answer. I don't think that Templarism, Rosicrucionism, the occult is what Freemasonry is about.

I know that I have been long winded, thank you for indulging me.

Sincerely,

Peter Yancey
Secretary
Lodge Intrepid
Orient of Los Angeles

The Palmetto Bug said...

Peter said: "I am not affiliated with the GOUSA...

It would have been better to say, "I am no longer affiliated with the GOUSA."

Chris Hodapp said...

San Diego Freemason wrote:
I still believe that Freemasonry should be in the vanguard of the struggle for human rights. Would any mainstream lodge involve itself in the issue of freeing Tibet from Communist China? Participate in an AIDS awareness march?


My problem is that I don't belong to a lodge because of the Grand Lodge's stand, one way or the other, on a political or social issue. No, mainstream Freemasonry has no desire or reason to take a stand on Tibet or AIDS. That's not their job. Anglo-Saxon derived Freemasonry intentionally distances itself from these types of issues for good reason. My job, as an individual Mason, is to inform myself on the issues that affect society and do what I think is right to either change them or live with them. Masonry helps give me the skills to approach making that individual judgement for myself. But I sure as hell don't want it to make those decisions for me.

If my grand lodge were to issue a position paper saying, "We are against lynching illegal aliens," it's probably fair to say all of its members (with a few maniacal exceptions) would get behind it. But if it were to say "Freemasons are against flag-burning," you might get some dissenters. If it were to say, "Freemasons are against children wearing religious medals or headscarves in school," (as the Grand Orient did in France), I'm guessing you'd have a major revolt on your hands.

(Am I making sense here?)

I'm well aware of the very different path Freemasonry embarked upon in Continental Europe, starting in the early 1700s, and it diverged not two, but even three or four ways (which is where the mystical and Rosicrucian influences came from, and even the Weishaupt/Illuminati-inspired political activists). And I suspect there will always be this divide in philosophy because of the very different society that existed (and still exists) in Europe. And I can't argue with the fact that the Grand Orient is the largest Masonic obedience in France, and was very successful at expanding across France's colonies in Africa and the Middle East. But I just don't see mainstream US Freemasons being interested in a fraternity that speaks against religious and political division in the lodge, but engages in such practices in public.

Of course, Americans don't really like world cup soccer, either...

Chris Hodapp said...

The Palmetto Bug said...
Peter said: "I am not affiliated with the GOUSA...

It would have been better to say, "I am no longer affiliated with the GOUSA."


Doesn't matter to me one way or the other. I've said all along, if any of these groups can come back in five years and show me they've built a better brand of Masonry, I'll be the first to applaud them. I get no glee from seeing schisms, fights, resignations and breakaway battles within the GOofUSA, because it only divides the whole fraternity even further. I'm a big tent guy, and think Freemasonry has expanded and succeeded because it has elastic walls. I'd much prefer to see a wide variety of lodges under the mainstream banner than to see clots of angry, disillusioned brethren go into the wilderness and start their own grand lodges with three buddies.

That said, PLEASE let's not turn this thread into a GOofUSA ranting thread.

San Diego Freemason said...

Brother Bug,

Sorry if I used incorrect grammar in my posting.

Brother Chris,

Thank you for allowing me to post on your blog. I appreciate your opinions and respect them.

Peter

Etienne Roesch said...

Answers to a few things, from a French Brother belonging to both the Gd Orient of Switzerland and the Gde Loge de France - mainly to Brethern Chris and Stijn.

With all due respect to everyone..

Bro Chris: A fair position, and one I don't disagree with. But most regular, recognized Masonic organizations would never presume to make such a public pronouncement. The Grand Orient of France, on the other hand, frequently takes public and well publicized positions on government and religious topics.

A fair, responsible and sensible position, I agree.
But, even the Gde Loge Nationale de France - presumably a "regulary, recognized Masonic organization", ventures once in a while into making public statements of the sort, though on their own as they often (not always) don't want to be seen as affiliated to the "more liberal" masonic bodies.

Bro Chris: France is a Catholic country,

Untrue. There is no official religion in France.

Bro Chris: and I'd venture a guess that a substantial percentage of the Grand Orient's members are Catholics. But the GOofF is no stranger to being on the opposite side of the Vatican's views. The Grand Orient of France touts itself as being more open minded than other French grand lodges, allowing atheists to join their lodges. Yet, taking this sort of stance gets between its members and their own private beliefs.

First, the main message from the GODF (which hasn't changed from day one) is that disagreeing with the Vatican is not being against catholics, for one is a governing body and the other is a matter of personal Faith. Therefore it doesn't "get between" the members and their beliefs.
Second, you said you don't disagree yourself with their common statement, .. are you a Catholic? If so do you feel you are in opposition/disbelief with your Faith by disapproving the Pope's declaration?

Bro Stijn: The G.O.d.F. transgresses the 'division of church and state', by critisizing the pope for speaking on a religious matter concerning african catholics.

I am not sure you entirely understood the concept of "laïcité" as defined in the original law separating church and state in 1905: the aim of this law was (and still is) to ensure the state (eg the Republic Psdt imposing a particular religious to the country) would not get into religious matters and vice-versa (eg the Pope telling the Republic Psdt what to do).

Bro Stijn: Freemasons do not have to believe what he says, but catholics do, if they want to stay catholic.

.. which is exactly what French people in general, and the GODF in particular have been disliking for hundreds of years.

Bro Stijn: They should stick to their own, and stop preaching their liberal gospel to people who do not want to be freemasons.

This is obviously a private statement, which you are entitled to. However, my brotherly advice to you would be to get your hands on a book of French history covering the 16 to 20e centuries.

Kind and Brotherly regards,

~Etienne

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

Gallic Masonry, in its various incarnations, long ago decided to depart from several of the principles of Anglo Masonry, particularly with regards to involvement in politics and religion. The French Masons simply play by different rules than the English Masons and their Masonic descendants. It is simply something to be endured.

Where the recent GOdF action is relevant to Anglo Masonry, especially including American Masonry, is in the impression that it leaves with the Vatican that Freemasonry is anti-Catholic. From the Vatican, America is far, far away, and France is right next door; the fact that half the world's Freemasons are American, and thus in a land where Freemasonry stays out of politics and religion, is less salient to the Vatican than the fact that the French Masons criticize the Pope.

I wish that the Vatican took a more nuanced view of this, as this would help the cause of the many American Catholic Masons who are in a difficult position with their parishes.

Incidentally, Br. Etienne, when Br. Chris says "France is a Catholic country," he is speaking from a demographic perspective, not a legal one.

Chris Hodapp said...

Yes I was. Thanks Mark.

Etienne Roesch said...

Bro. Mark: Incidentally, Br. Etienne, when Br. Chris says "France is a Catholic country," he is speaking from a demographic perspective, not a legal one.

Bro. Chris: Yes I was. Thanks Mark.

Ah okay, I agree then!

FYI, in 2006, 65% of the French population considered themselves of the Catholic Faith, whereas 4.5% of those actually went to church more or less regularly. Not sure what proportion would say they agree and follow the Pope in every way. For what it's worth, my experience would lead me to bet on a very small number. As I tried to convey earlier (see also reasons hinted by Bro. Mark), French Catholics tend to make a strong difference between their Faith and their obedience to the Pope.

http://www.ifop.com/europe/analyses/Analysesurlecatholicism%20pourLaCroix-Août2006.pdf

Incidentally, I recently moved from Switzerland to London, and came to be very interested in how brethren around the world do things. I gather that the main difference you note between French and American/English Masonries involve 1) religion and 2) an explicit involvement in societal and political matters. Right? I realise this topic is beyond the scope of this thread and certainly do not want to begin a big debate.

Kind and Brotherly regards to you, Brethren of the new continent.

~Etienne