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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Italian Masons Fight Anti-Masonic Political Foes


I'm not sure how seriously the average American Mason really takes it when I say that Brethren in other countries are badly discriminated against and are often under siege—frequently from their own governments.

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.


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.

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.

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).


3 comments:

  1. Italian brethren tell me it is not helpful in the midst of their difficulties to have England branding them as unrecognized since it casts a pall in the minds of the non masonic public. "There must be something wrong."

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  2. Kudos to Chris for trying to bring some clarity. Our Italian brethren can use our help with raising awareness and fight back against all those foes (Church and State) that keep shedding a negative light on our ancient and honorable institution.

    I agree with Paul that it's about time that UGLE review its decision after the P2 scandal (also misunderstood and negatively exploited by detractors) and give their recognition back to Grande Oriente d'Italia (est. 1805), the oldest and largest Fraternity recognized by 200 Worldwide Regular Grand Lodges.

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  3. Contrary to the widespread impression of Solomonic integrity, the UGLE is not lacking in prejudices and politics in its policies -- pace the treatment of India, Greece, or France. For example, when it has served to decree that Buddhism and Hinduism in all their complex varieties have a Grand Architect that meets landmark specifications, that did and does fit the UGLE needs in the old Empire and present Commonwealth as any other finding would totally isolate its overseas lodges. In the case of France, the nineteenth century recognition wars certainly reflected nationalism as much as theology. Recognizing grand lodges that discriminate against men of color or gays makes less sense than all these anomalies and the harmful Italian debacle.

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