Not so with the Grand Orients of France and Belgium. The largest obedience of Masons in France is unrecognized and considered irregular by the overwhelming majority of the Masonic world, and this week's news provides ample explanation why. The European press is reporting that "the Masons" are hoping to open a bureau in Brussels to "to lobby against the rising influence of religious organisations in the EU institutions."
Martin Pascal on lesoir.be reports that the Grand Orients of France and Belgium, and mixed gender Le Droit Humain Freemasons are attempting to exert new influence on government in the European Union. See La reconquista des francs-maçons:
In 2008, Marcel Conradt, Freemason and parliamentary assistant to the Socialist MEP Veronique De Keyser, denounced the assault of “religious lobbies and sects” on Europe. Their objective: influence legislation and decision makers, especially MEPs. Around 80% of the national legislation of member states is developed at the European level. The author described the influence of the churches, but also cults such as Scientology or the Raelian movement, and urged the secularists to maintain a Europe that would leave God out of politics.
Marcel Conradt is the author of Le cheval de Troie. Sectes et lobbies religieux à l'assaut de l'Europe (The Trojan horse. Sects and religious lobbies to conquer Europe). Of course, the biggest villain in the piece is the Catholic Church. I'm guessing the growing influence of Muslim groups in Europe barely get a mention.
The article continues:
Jean-Michel Quillardet, former Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, outlines the transformation undertaken by Freemasonry throughout Europe.
Today, what concerns unite international Freemasonry and European institutions?
In 2008, for the first time, we’ve managed to get a meeting with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. There was the Grand Orient de France, the Grande Loge féminine de France, the Droit humain and the Grand Orient of Portugal. We told him that apart from its Christian roots, Europe owed much to the philosophy of Greece and Roman, to the humanism of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. We also obtained representation for Masonic obediences and those in defense of secularism in the Bepa (Editor’s note: the office that advises the President and the Commission on politics), which had previously only been for religious and spiritual groups. When we organized an international masonic gathering in Athens in 2008, Barroso had written us a message about the importance he attached to the contribution of masonry to the history and integration of Europe. This is for us is recognition within the intellectual landscape. Nevertheless, there difficulties remain in spreading the secular message, and more importantly, churches are still very much present … A great battle must still be waged [un grand combat doit encore être mené].
With what means?
Within the Grand Orient of France, we created a small organization that is in charge of organizing Masonic obediences throughout Europe.
We are looking toward a federation among obediences. But there are two major challenges: to speak with one voice, and abandon the culture of secrecy. How?
It is in effect difficult to unite because there are many obediences, who possess a strong spiritual current, which lag behind on societal issues and in particularly on secularism - not to mention the Grand Lodge of France. The Grand Lodge of France is a little shy. I’m not sure what the position is of the Grand Lodge of Belgium. But still, when we see what can be achieved together the Grand Orient of France, Belgium, Portugal … or when we observe what has occurred in Greece, the former Eastern bloc, the Maghreb, Lebanon and Israel, it is noteworthy that liberal and non-dogmatic masonry is still a strong current. We need the Masonic obediences to become political in the best sense of the word; that beyond the current partisanship they can discuss secularism and express disagreement with governmental decisions.
Some among you say that a European Masonic federation will not come soon…
The International Masonic assembly was created in Strasbourg in 2007. Subsequent meetings were held in Greece and Turkey. In 2010, it will be in Portugal. The Masonic obediences have been united to this view. I am optimistic.
When can we expect to see in Brussels a bureau representing Masonic ideas and interests?
I think we will one day create a general delegation of masonry and, with this, free thinking in European institutions. It is possible politically, but more difficult financially, because we have far fewer resources than the churches.
What would be your first battle?
Beyond the fight for secularism, there is a battle to wage against communitarianism in society. Europe is influenced by the Anglo-Saxon conception of the relationship between religion and state, as well as multiculturalism. Now we must impose the universalist conception of the Enlightenment, which involves spreading the notion of European citizenship before the Jew, the black, the North African, homosexual, heterosexual, etc. One must come to understand that what unites us is a certain idea of man regardless of descent.
"Now we must impose the universalist conception of the Enlightenment?" That's quite a jump from Anderson's Constitutions:
I. Concerning GOD and RELIGION.
A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ‘tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance.
Nowhere in regular, recognized Freemasonry is it incumbent on the fraternity to impose anything on anyone, not the least of which a "universalist conception of the Enlightenment." Grand Orient Freemasonry has a long reputation of getting entangled with governments, especially in French colonies when administrations were made up of G.O. Masons. Allegations of Masonic membership requirements in many African governments today are commonplace.
Unfortunately, few outsiders make the distinction between Grand Orient Freemasonry, and the rest of the Masonic world, and we all get tarred by the same brush.