Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another Shot Fired in the Rectified Rite USA Battle


I've never been one to advocate one grand lodge ganging up on another. I was against it when GLs attacked the GL of Minnesota back in 2001 and 2002. I'm against it whenever someone suggests acting against southern GLs over Prince Hall recognition. And I'm still against it. It's one thing for a grand lodge to exercise its powers and prerogatives within the confines of its own borders. It's something else entirely when it tries to flex its muscles and demand another grand lodge to knuckle under.

A Mason was denied entrance into his own annual communication today, not because he had violated rules of his own grand lodge, but because a visiting Grand Master from another jurisdiction claimed his GL would withdraw recognition if the Brother in question was allowed to enter. And so, the Brother's own Grand Master complied, and barred him from entering his own session. Why? Because the Brother is a member of the new Grand Priory of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America (CBCS), and the visiting Grand Master issued an edict over the formation of the Grand Priory. At what point does that give a visiting Mason the right to tell another Grand Lodge which of its own members it can admit into its own grand lodge session? If the visitor has a conflict, he should be the one sitting out under a palm tree on the white sandy beach, not the dues paying member who has broken no rules within his own jurisdiction.

Members of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the US have NOT sat in, nor are they members of, clandestine lodges. And the Brother's own Grand Lodge has not issued any opinion on the Grand Priory of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the US.

If I have misunderstood the incident, I will happily correct this entry. But if it happened the way it was described, this represents a new low in the battle between the factions in the CBCS/Rectified Rite debate.

The Rectified Rite degrees are far too philosophically and spiritually beneficial to be locked out of the US because the GSA's model was to be nothing but a dinner club for 30 or so men who think the rest of Masonry lets in too much riff raff. Those on both sides of the issue can drag personalities into this if they wish, but it is really a clash of philosophies, between those who want the CBCS to be the ne plus ultra clique of elite Masonry, versus a unique Christian variant with a fascinating history and a huge body of ritual and commentary that deserves to be shared. The one way brings it to a dead end, while the other is another step on the path of seeking Masonic light. I sort of thought we were all hunting the latter rather than the former. And the one thing this fraternity has no shortage of is dinner clubs.

Background:
Freemasons For Dummies: Washington, Oregon and the Grand Encampment
Freemasons For Dummies: 2011 Report: Commission on Information for Recognition
Freemasons For Dummies: Grand Priory of the Reformed and Rectified Rite of the USA
Freemasons For Dummies: Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite of the United States of America


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UPDATE on May 20th


I have modified this entry a couple of times, as there has been much controversy over just which Grand Lodge made the objection. The Brother who was excluded from the meeting was told one story by his DGM, but others have stepped up to say the players have been misidentified. It has taken on a decidedly "Rashomon" vibe.

My purpose is not to besmirch anyone's name or reputation, or to question anyone's description of the events of the day. My purpose for posting this incident is to point out the madness of threatening withdrawal of fraternal relations over an incident like this, and the collateral damage inflicted on brethren when GMs start swinging their authority around outside of their own jurisdictions.

My apologies to anyone who was misidentified or hit with shrapnel. But the end result was that the Brother who flew thousands of miles to visit his own annual communication, at the invitation of his own incoming GM, was turned away, and he was the most damaged party here.

Oregon, Washington, and now reportedly Idaho and Oklahoma, either have or are considering taking action against the Grand Encampment over this tempest. The only real victims will be the thousands of Knights Templar in these states who will get caught between the grinding wheels. It's why the Commission on Recognition should have stayed out of this in the first place. The Commission historically had never dabbled in appendant body minutiae before, but just by bringing up the matter, the Commission put a live grenade in the hands of GMs who sometimes feel the compulsion to pull the pin first and ask questions later. And that's a damned shame.

15 comments:

Ashton said...

I have to confess I am mystified by this whole thing. I stood sideline to a conversation and listened to Bro. Pete Normand explaining this to someone else a couple of months ago, but I think I was left more confused than understanding the real issue.

Makes me wonder if the Grand Lodge of Texas will ultimately follow the same path, and if they do, does that put me and my fellow Commandery brothers on shaky ground?

John Benton said...

@Ashton

I highly doubt the GLoT will revoke recognition of the Grand Encampment. I literally just got home from the awards banquet of our 158th Annual Grand Conclave, and Grand Master Carnes was there as an honored guest. The York Rite of Texas and the GLoT, so far as I can tell, are on excellent terms.

KSigMason said...

I'm appaulled that the Grand Lodge gave into a visitor over it's own member! What kind of message does that send to the Brethren, and voting members, of that jurisdiction?

I want a peaceful resolution but at the expense of a Grand Lodge conceding to demands and string arm tactics.

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

The behavior of the unnamed Grand Lodge in question is abominable. No Mason should be barred from attending his own Grand Lodge session because he is doing something that is opposed by a different Grand Lodge, but that is not opposed by his own. It is just that simple. It is just a matter of straightforward Masonic jurisprudence, entirely aside from the matter of the appendant body in question.

Thank you for bringing this matter before us all.

MP said...

This is about what I expect for how GLs kowtow to the AASR over appendant bodies.

Frankly, I think GLs should get OUT of having approved lists of appendant bodies - if the body doesn't confer the Craft Degrees, it shouldn't be the business of the GLs.

Tom Accuosti said...

The behavior of the unnamed Grand Lodge in question is abominable.

And personally, I'd be questioning if it were actually legal.

We have GL sessions in Conn. The GL opens (and watching our GL officers, all from different lodges, do ritual together is, umm, interesting), then we go to "noon", and let in all the speakers and other visitors who can't participate in a regular opening.

Chris Hodapp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Hodapp said...

Brother S. Brent Morris tried to post the following, but some technical annoyance blocked it:

As reluctant as I am to call you a "Dummy" (OK, OK, OK, so i've done it a
few times before), I think you're getting on thin ice when you argue that a
Masonic organization "deserves to be shared." It's as if you're trying to
assert some sort of "Masonic eminent domain."

The Royal Order of Scotland has a rather limited membership, but it's
rituals are important in understanding the evolution of the "high degrees."
Is it important enough that it "deserves to be shared"?

What about the Red Cross of Constantine? Only 32 or so Royal Arch Masons in
Maryland can be members. Are its rituals interesting enough and its
membership restricted enough that it deserves to be shared?

Back in the late-1800s/early-1900s the Rite of Memphis got sufficiently
crossways with grand lodges that many gave Memphis the equivalent of the
NCAA death penalty. Then a few years ago, some Masons asserted more-or-less
that Memphis was too "important" to be killed and should be resurrected.
Would the "Hodapp Doctrine of Deserving Sharability" support overturning
this legislation of GLs?

If someone wants Masonic rituals with a fascinating history and a huge body
of ritual and commentary, then let them write them or get a charter from a
group with those attributes. I don't like the idea of expropriating someone
else's rituals just because they deserve to be shared.

Brent

Chris Hodapp said...

Brent,
Your point is well taken, even if I don't have to like it. :) But my sentiments, however inelegantly phrased, are my own, and not the reasoning of the Grand Encampment. They didn't expropriate someone else's ritual. They received a charter from a Great Priory, whose pedigree can be traced to a perfectly legitimate source.

Now, do I wish they had gotten it from a source closer to the Swiss fountainhead? Of course I do, because anyone who messes around in France is tap dancing on a regularity minefield.

Chris Hodapp said...

No Brent, the more I think about it, the more I disagree with your post.

The Royal Order of Scotland and the Red Cross of Constantine are lousy examples, and the only similarity to this discussion is their limited size. And they've got comparatively nothing on the GPA in that regard.

You said, "If someone wants Masonic rituals with a fascinating history and a huge body of ritual and commentary, then let them write them or get a charter from a group with those attributes."

Write their own? Really? I'm shocked you would suggest such a thing, given the massive wealth of material assembled by the Rectified Rite over the last two centuries. And as has been amply pointed out, the GEKTUSA did get a charter from a group with those attributes. The various French RER bodies represent somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 members (depending on which Priories you want to count), and have not confined the RER degrees only to a rarified clot of bling chasers. There are conflicting factions in Switzerland that argue over which model to pursue, but the more open and enlarged RER is growing in England as well. That battle there was played out between the RER with the Waite Charter that limited itself to less than ten members, and the newer Priory of England and Wales that went for an independent charter and dropped the size limitation.

Interestingly, the two Priories co-exist in England, with two very different philosophies. That could have happened here, but the GPA refused such an arrangement.

I'm not, as you say, clamoring for Masonic eminent domain because some degrees are just too darned interesting to hoard. But the two versions of the RER system of propagation—thoughtful expansion vs. stockpiling titles for the Very Very Extra Important—are being hammered out in Europe. The GEKTUSA has simply sided with giving U.S. Templars the chance to explore a more esoteric and spiritual variation of a Templar order that has a long heritage. We can argue all day long about whether their charter came from a questionable source. But I come down on the side of more Masonic light for us all, not less. How do we improve by intentionally hiding knowledge from ourselves, especially when the justification comes down to a pissing war over personal piques and grudges?

James said...

For the sake of argument, I'm going to presume the recognition issue will ultimately be worked out. I'm still reserving judgement on the new group until I'm convinced that it isn't going to be merely a slightly enlarged version of the very thing they are supposedly railing against. There are literally thousands of GE members all over the country who would love to have those degrees conferred on them.

My understanding is that there are going to be eight prefectures in the entire country. I suspect they will have a limited membership as well. I also note that the initiation fee was $700 and that the annual dues are $100. That's a lot of money for a group that meets a couple of times a year at most and far beyond the means of ninety-five percent of Freemasons. I do understand that they are very early in the game and that these things take time, but I remain quite skeptical about the prospect of the new order doing much more than seating a few more for dinner than the old order.

Chris Hodapp said...

James, I will simply say that dinner was not on the agenda...

James said...

Fair enough, Chris. I almost hesitate to respond to this because it's going to sound like sour grapes and jealousy and that is not the intent. I couldn't have accepted had I been invited. I'll also admit that I have no idea what the plan of the organization is and that it's very possible that my concerns will be alleviated. I'll just use your own words. If the GPA is for the very, very extra important and the new RER is for the very extra important and well-heeled, what has really been accomplished? I hope these degrees are made available to the average brother in search of more light as they apparently have been in France and England.

Mike said...

I have to admit that I am disappointed with the Grand Encampment. First, I question why an order that has its own problems would divide its attention by tacking on a warrant for another set of degrees in the first place. But beyond that I am disappointed that they chose to form a rival body without taking every care that they were meeting every standard in the process. While this will likely all work out in the end, the problem need never have occurred.

While not trying to sound like one of those who opposes all change, sometimes we must be careful that the pace of change does not go faster than the machinery of our system can handle. As someone who has been involved in traveling to another country to receive degree work so that it could be imported to the United States under a new warrant, I understand the joy of that experience and why several brothers sought to do that in this case. But, I also understand that starting another order here should be done through a process that proves legitimacy and recognition BEFORE admitting members under the newly issued warrant.

The rush to bring in members at Masonic Week barely a month after the leaders of this new order had received their degrees and warrant is what has precipitated this problem. Had the GEKTUSA received it warrant and given the Grand Lodges time to review the matter and then address any concerns before admitting members under that warrant, this would not be blown up to the proportions it is now. A wait of one year to bring in the initiatory class may seem like an inconvenience, but if doing so would allow the machinery of masonry to turn without incident then it would be well worth it.

Those who know me know that I sometimes push the envelope in our Craft. Some may even say that I have crossed the line from time to time. That I think this process was a bit too cavalier with the rules might be a sign.

Of course, my opinion might be biased because I wouldn't touch French Freemasonry with a 10 foot pole because it is usually replete with issues and I don't like the idea of starting another version of a rite in the same jurisdiction just because you don't like the way the original one is being run. All the explanations and justifications ring hollow to me. I know they have a certain logic you have explained, but when it comes down to it a rival body was created in the same geographic area because some people didn't like the way the original was being run.

Lastly, I think James makes a good point. As one of those who travels to receive degrees and spends more on dues and fees than most people spend on a year of car payments, I recognize the fact that many of these orders are beyond the reach of many. While this rival version may have many more members than the original, it will likely still remain limited and exclusive as a result of both distance and expense. It is not as though these degrees are being rolled out by the Grand Encampment to the Grand Commanderies and down to the local level to learn and confer. They will not be so easily accessed and will remain invitational. The invitation to the rival version may be easier to get, but as James points out, it will still be limited and not sharing the light will all those interested. It seems like a whole lot of hubbub for some degrees that some people will be invited to get in some locations at a time when the GEKTUSA is facing declining interest in the three orders it already controlled.

Darth Apple said...

I have to agree with James.
it doesn't sound like this order
has a very good chance to grow in membership other than those whom
are rich, and you won't be invited
unless you are in their peer group.
why only eight prefectures for all of the USA ? with these limitations specifically money,
will be a restriction to good masons whom could not participate
even if invited simply because of a dollar.
the corner stone of masonry is taking a good man and making him better.

William E. McCurry 32° AASR P.M. P.H.P. P.I.M. P.E.C.
Secretary Abbeville York Rite
Abbeville, S.C. 29620