In February last year, I reported on anti-Masonic activity taking place at the hands of the Italian government (see Italian Government Attempting Anti-Masonic Actions...Again HERE). The Italians keep at it by twisting anti-Mafia laws to use against Freemasonry (in much the same way RICO laws in the U.S. originally designed to fight organized crime got contorted and exploited and expanded back in the early 2000s to prevent anti-abortion protesters from marching in front of Planned Parenthood clinics). This sort of institutionalized anti-Masonry has briefly succeeded before in Italy after the notorious P2 scandal in the 1980s, and in England under then-Home Secretary Jack Straw. It was only stopped by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2009 that decided laws demanding Freemasons turn over their lists of membership or personally declare their membership publicly as a requirement for employment or public office violated Article 41 of the European Union's Convention on Human Rights regarding free association and non-discrimmination against specifically Masonic organizations.
Last year, leaders of the three major Masonic obediences in Italy testified before a Parliamentary anti-Mafia Commission, chaired by a Ms. Rosy Bindi. Bindi insisted that Italy's Freemasons turn over their membership records to her Commission, but Stefano Bisi, Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy (23,000 members in 850 lodges), refused on the grounds of freedom of association and respect for privacy. Antonio Binnie, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Italy (8,000 members, 40% women, with 510 lodges), also refused to comply on behalf of his members. Only Fabio Venzi, Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy (3,500 members with 310 lodges) was willing to comply with the government Commission's demand.
To clarify: the Grand Orient of Italy is the largest obedience in that country, and it is the body that the overwhelming majority of U.S. grand lodges recognize. And as implied above, the Grand Lodge of Italy is the second largest group, a mixed body that admits both men and women, and is not deemed regular by the overwhelming majority of the Masonic world. But in a rarity, the United Grand Lodge of England—from whom many U.S. grand lodges seek clarity and guidance—recognizes the much smaller and newer Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. The U.S. did not uniformly follow UGLE's action, and continues not to do so.
The recent national elections of March 2018 decided 630 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 315 Senators. A center-right coalition emerged between two political parties—the League, and the Five-Star Movement—and they now comprise the majority in both the Chamber and the Senate. As part of their coalition agreement, the two parties signed a "Government Treaty" to share power. And a noteworthy part of that agreement is an Anti-Masonic clause that is believed by many observers to be clearly unconstitutional.
On Monday this week, May 21st, Stefano Bisi (photo right), Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, wrote an appeal to the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, strongly objecting to the coalition treaty's anti-Masonic declaration. He will hold a press conference on Wednesday, and has invited the anti-Mafia Commission's new secretary, Marco di Lello to attend.
In March 2017, the AntiMafia Commission issued a search warrant demanding the turnover of computer servers and hard drives of the grand lodges and the grand orient—not just confined to the two provinces of Italy that were under investigation, but nationwide. Italian Freemasons are well aware from previous experiences just how damaging to their careers and public reputations it can be to have their Masonic memberships publicly declared in the press or other channels of communications. The country still has a strong anti-Masonic sentiment, so this is not a trivial concern.
Bisi has circulated a letter to grand lodges throughout the world to shine a light on this new threat to the Masons of Italy, and can be read below (click image to enlarge).