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

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Sunday, January 22, 2023

Arizona PGM Jeff Carlton Killed in Traffic Accident

by Christopher Hodapp

Arizona's Masonic family has received more tragic news this weekend. Grand Master Jim H. Baker has reported that Past Grand Master Jeffrey Carlton, 33° and his wife Moira were involved in a serious vehicle collision on Friday. MWB Carlton was killed in the accident and Moira is currently in critical condition in the ICU.

The Grand Master requests everyone to keep the Carlton family in their prayers.

MWB Jeff Carlton (photo) served the Grand Lodge F&AM of Arizona in 2012-13, and Moira Carlton is the Immediate Past Grand Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star in Arizona. 

In 2003, he was elected Master of Kingman Lodge 22.*
And in 2008, Jeff served as the Master of the newly formed Rex R. Hutchens Research Lodge No. 5 (U.D) located at the Kingman Masonic Temple. 

I have been told that the family has asked that people please refrain from contacting them at this time, as they are devastated and overwhelmed by this terrible tragedy.

This story will be updated as more information is made available.

*An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated he had been Master of Kingman Lodge in 2013.


Members to Grand Master: The Eyes of Texas Masons Are Upon You


by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: The original version of this story contained editorializing on my part as to the speculated motives for bringing charges on the floor of the annual session during installation. I have had some clarification of what transpired since the story first broke and have removed my original, erroneous suppositions. My apologies for misinterpreting why it happened. Bear in mind that my initial objection was – and remains – over the theatrical aspect of bringing charges in the presence of wives and families on a public YouTube broadcast, which I still believe was improper.

The Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM's annual session was held this week in Waco, Texas, and new grand officers were elected and installed. Outgoing Grand Master Brad Billings has been succeeded by MW G. Clay Smith, Grand Master for 2023.

An attempt was made on Saturday to deny installation to the elected Grand Junior Warden, James Rumsey. Just as the new Grand Master, G. Clay Smith, prepared to proceed with the installation ceremonies for the incoming grand officers for 2023, he was handed a sheet of charges to be brought against the incoming Grand Junior Warden. A public video of the event (which has since been removed from YouTube) showed Smith immediately stumbling through a previously prepared, scripted acceptance of the charges he had just been handed.

Curious. This was clearly not exactly spontaneous.

According to multiple sources, charges had originally been filed against Rumsey during the tenure of GM Billings (I've since been told what those charges were about, and the incident was recorded on security cameras at the Scottish Rite). Despite clear video evidence, GM Billings 
dismissed them without action or trial. 

The timing on Saturday was cleverly planned: the “new” charges were handed to Grand Master Smith immediately after he was installed as GM, but before the rest of the installation ceremony started. The move was purportedly a last-ditch, Hail Mary attempt to block Rumsey’s installation after he was overwhelmingly elected to the GJW position. 

A point of order was immediately raised by outgoing GM Billings, objecting to the fact that the new GM could not accept said charges during the installation because the assembled representatives of the state’s lodges are themselves “the Grand Lodge” when it is in session: it is up to the assembled Grand Lodge to accept charges during that meeting, and a GM can only act in its stead when the session is closed.

The Grand Lodge session was officially at refreshment for the duration of the installation, and this attempt at scuttling the new GJW played out in the presence of wives and families, while a video camera publicly broadcast everything on YouTube. That, in my opinion, was a terribly improper way to handle the situation. 

GM Smith declared that the matter would be dropped for the moment, to be discussed in Executive Session instead, and the installation of Rumsey proceeded without further interruption. 

The supportive roar of the crowd was thunderous.

My understanding of Texas code is that charges against a Mason in that jurisdiction must be presented at the Stated Meeting of his lodge, where they are read and accepted. The lodge Secretary then forwards them to the Grand Secretary's office, where they are presented to the Grand Master for his decision to accept them or not. If accepted by him, they then become official charges and can proceed to a trial.

Tweetbook, Snaptwit and Facespace and other (anti-)social media lit up all weekend with comments from Texas Masons who are double-plus-un-pleased by this little drama. This may be a bumpy year in the Grand East of the Lone Star state, and it started to hit chuckholes before it even officially started.

Friday, January 06, 2023

UPDATED: Celebration of Life For Illus. Rex Hutchens 33° January 22, 2023


by Christopher Hodapp

The Grand Master of Arizona has officially announced that a Celebration of Life for Rex Hutchens will be held January 22nd, 2023 in the Red Room of the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral, 160 S. Scott Avenue, Tucson, Arizona, beginning at 1:00PM.

CLICK IMAGE ABOVE TO ENLARGE.



UPDATED SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2023, 3:45PM

Rex Hutchens' obituary has been posted on the Arizona Daily Star website HERE.

It reads, in part:

Rex Richard Hutchens passed away on December 17, 2022, at the age of 80 years. Rex is survived by his loving wife of 52 years, Cheryl; his children, Jonathan, Kimberley; grandson, Michael; his brother, Dwaine (Rose) Goodwin of Missouri and his sister, Moria Zimbicki of California; and numerous nieces and nephews.
 
Rex lived an extraordinary life. Born in November 1942 in Glendale, Oregon, Rex later lived in California, Oklahoma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New York City, Pittsburgh and, for the last 53 years, in Tucson. Upon graduating from Mendocino High School in California in 1961, Rex entered the military where he taught at the Army Information School in Oklahoma and began his academic career with night classes.
 
After discharge, Rex continued teaching at The American Schools in Karachi, Pakistan and Kabul, Afghanistan. Rex graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Pittsburgh. His Master's and Doctorate Degrees were completed at the University of Arizona.
 
For 50 years, Rex and his wife Cheryl owned and managed numerous real estate investments in the Tucson and Phoenix areas to which Rex brought his business acumen. When not engaged in Masonic activities, writing, teaching and business ventures, Rex was a motorcycle and sports car enthusiast with an affinity for Corvettes.
 
Rex never limited his quest for knowledge nor his willingness to share his knowledge. He was in his element when assisting others in increasing their knowledge and honing their communication skills. Rex was a voracious reader; his curiosity was near boundless. Having travelled to dozens of countries and having amassed a personal library of more than 25,000 non-fiction titles, Rex was, indeed, a Renaissance Man!

 In 1982, Rex was drawn to Freemasonry. In the ensuing forty years, he became a world-renowned Masonic leader, scholar, teacher, and author. Rex became a 33rd Degree Mason in 1989 and in 1995 received the Grand Cross, the highest honor which the Southern Jurisdiction reserved for the most exceptional and extraordinary services. Most recently, Rex was appointed Deputy of the Supreme Council for Arizona. He truly experienced one of the most amazing Masonic journeys in the history of Freemasonry.

 Rex forever enjoyed engaging with his many friends. He always welcomed a game of chess with friend Tim Allen. His adventures included trips to Panama and Peru with friend Randy Stern and a trip to Prague with friend, Peter Reardon. Since 2019 Rex's passion was designing and creating a unique library at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Tucson with fellow Mason, co-designer and good friend, Bob Kille. Bob will lead the effort to move Rex's vision for the library to fruition.

 A celebration of Rex's life will be held at the Scottish Rite Cathedral,160 S. Scott Avenue, Tucson on Sunday, January 22, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. Rex's family extends an invitation to all whose lives Rex has touched, whether within Freemasonry or the community. Donations in Rex's memory may be made to the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral Foundation toward completion of his beloved library. 

Arrangements by DESERT SUNSET FUNERAL HOME.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Confirmed: Grand Master of Cuba Defects to the U.S.

Grand Master Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal (Facebook)

by Christopher Hodapp


I received a message from a Brother in Texas last week alerting me that the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba had just defected to the United States. He and his wife traveled to Mexico, purportedly on vacation, and crossed into the U.S. at the Texas border where they requested asylum. The Grand Lodge of Florida provided financial assistance to the couple, and they were helped locally by officers from a lodge in Brownsville, Texas. 

They will be staying with relatives in the U.S. while getting settled.

The story was confirmed this week. The Grand Lodge of Cuba issued a statement yesterday saying he had "abandoned his mission" and "escaped" to Mexico. And the now-immediate Past Grand Master himself – Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal (photo above) – issued a long, public letter explaining his reasons for resigning his position from the Grand Lodge, and for leaving Cuba behind.

For obvious reasons, his name was withheld from the message I received. But just as I sat down today to post it, the following article appeared today on the Translating Cuba website, translated by Regina Anavy. 

Cat's out of the bag now, so I'm not breaking anyone's trust by posting his name.

From: "The Grand Master of the Freemasons of Cuba Denounces a ‘Coup d’état’ of Cuban Counterintelligence"

Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal, second on the left, 
along with José Ramón Viñas Alonso, first on the right, 
and two other master masons, at an event in Veracruz, Mexico. 
(Facebook/José Ramón Viñas)


14ymedio, Havana, 3 January 2023 — Master Freemason Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal, leader until Tuesday of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, reported in a public letter the reasons that led him to quit his position and leave the country. Signed in the “Greater East” of the United States, a country where he has applied for asylum with his wife, and addressed to his temporary substitute, Armando Guerra Lozano, the letter denounces the infiltration of State Security into the Cuban Masonic leadership and his intention, for several months, to remove himself from his post. 

On Tuesday, the Grand Lodge of Cuba published a circular in which it explained that Alfonso Vidal had not returned from Mexico, where he was a guest of the Freemasons of Veracruz, and described his escape as an “unexpected and masonically regrettable event.” 

From the United States, the former Grand Master defends himself from those who accuse him of “abandoning his mission” and recalls that he was elected as a representative of the Cuban Freemasonry in an “unquestionable” ceremony from the legal point of view, in addition to pointing out that at no time did he violate the Masonic principles of succession, as say the Masons infiltrated by State Security, he alleges. He clarifies that he is leaving because of the impossibility of fulfilling his duty, as defined by the Masonic statutes, with the “total transparency, autonomy and necessary freedom.”
The position of Grand Master, assumed at the moment by Armando Guerra Lozano — in accordance with Decree 634, the last one signed by Alfonso Vidal — carries the responsibility of remaining in the position until the celebration of a partial election during an extraordinary session of the Masonic directors. 

However, says Alfonso Vidal, there is a faction related to the Government of Havana within the Grand Lodge, managed by counterintelligence officers, which intends to place in office — in violation of the legislation, he says — a candidate favorable to the regime.
“I am aware that my dismissal from office was being orchestrated through an Extraordinary Session in order to create a fictitious circumstance for Deputy Grand Master H. Fernando González García to illegally occupy the position,” Alfonso Vidal denounced in his letter. 

González García, according to the Grand Lodge circular, was also abroad, but will return, they say, on January 5. The former Grand Master suspects that his return is motivated by that goal. 

Alfonso Vidal considers that the special circular of the institution — initialed, in fact, by his substitute — was out of place and manifests a “total contempt for the Masonic Legislation,” in addition to manipulating his decision not to return to Cuba and labeling his attitude as “bad.” To say, moreover, that they had not communicated with him in the last two weeks is not a “coherent motivation” to assume his resignation without a document issued by the former Grand Master himself. 

“What was the ’serious abandonment of the position and functions entrusted’ if all witnesses can attest that I participated in every day of work in our friendly power [the Mexican lodge]? They don’t have an honest answer, I know,” he says. 

The former leader of the Freemasons questions those who try to effect what, in his opinion, is a “coup d’état,” with the intervention of counterintelligence agents of the regime “who claim to be Freemasons.” “Everyone and each of those who find themselves signing, looking for support, trying to win the support of representatives, lodges, opinion leaders, who spent days trying to send me an intimidating message, all are collaborators and perpetrators of the crime of treason to Freemasonry and will pay,” he denounced in his letter. 

The extensive document also describes in great detail the “attacks” on Cuban Freemasonry in recent months, and relates them to the active work of several of its members in denouncing government repression during the protests of July 11, 2021 and those of the summer of 2022. 

He mentions, for example, the open letter to Díaz-Canel sent by Master José Ramón Viñas Alonso, in which he offered “his opinion on the call for confrontation between Cubans that made everything worse,” earning him pressure from State Security to make a retraction. 

Another case is that of his predecessor in the position of Grand Master, Ernesto Zamora, who refused to attend a meeting with Díaz-Canel from which they intended to exclude José Ramón Viñas Alonso, whom the authorities had “regulated*” shortly before, preventing him from traveling to the United States. 

And finally, in December 2021, Alfonso Vidal recalls, the regime considered intolerable the intervention of Grand Speaker Luis Steve Ocaña in which he invited Cuban Freemasons to get involved in politics. 

“When one is elected to Grand Master it’s not all that one imagines it to be, with the pressure that it represents to be in charge of the fraternal destiny of more than twenty thousand brothers. Obstacles appear that one has to overcome,” Alfonso Vidal said in defense. 

“The fact that the Sovereign Grand Commander [José Ramón Viñas Alonso] became a nuisance for the Cuban Government and the organs of repression, and seeing that he received in many cases expressions of support that were not only Masonic but also from outside the order, State Security went on a mission to take him out of the middle,” he explained. 

The short-term intention, says Alfonso Vidal, was to force him, as Grand Master, to expel Viñas Alonso from the order “under some pretext.” He also said that he had mentioned this situation to Viñas Alonso on a trip they made together abroad — once their ban was lifted — “because I did not consider it safe to do so inside Cuba.” 

Faced with his refusal to accede to the pressures of counterintelligence — an individual who identified himself as Poll made more than 70 intimidating phone calls in one day — Alfonso Vidal made the decision not to go out without company. In addition, he received several police summonses, in which an officer told him that for more than 40 years State Security has been working on Cuban Freemasonry with its infiltrators. 

Fernando González García, the current Deputy Grand Master who will return to Cuba on January 5 “running to comply with orders” is one of those agents, in the opinion of the former dignitary. Other members of the Masonic leadership are part of the “conspiracy” against José Ramón Viñas Alonso, he says: Ernesto Zamora, whom he accuses of having apologized to the Communist Party for his opposition to Díaz-Canel, and the current treasurer of the Great Lodge, Ernesto Navarrete, who “is a policeman,” and who he suggests is managing the Masonic funds in an irregular way. 

Taking advantage of a business trip to a lodge in Veracruz, he and his wife decided to request political asylum in the United States, alleging that they have suffered systematic harassment by State Security in its “masonic hunt.” His son, however, remains in Cuba. For his part, says Alfonso Vidal, José Ramón Viñas Alonso — the main objective of counterintelligence — is “resisting harassment.” 

*Translator’s note: “Regulated,” as the term is used by the government, means forbidden to leave the country.


Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Grand Master of Cuba "Abandons His Mission" and "Escapes To Mexico"


by Christopher Hodapp

The Grand Lodge of Cuba announced yesterday that Grand Master Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal did not return to Cuba from Mexico after taking a trip to Veracruz, Mexico he made with his wife.

Using terms like "escaped," it would seem that he may have defected.

From "The Leader of the Cuban Freemasons Escapes in Mexico, Reports the Grand Lodge" on the Translating Cuba website, translated by Regina Anavy:

Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal was elected to the position in March 2022. (Facebook)

14ymedio, Havana, 3 January 2023 — The Grand Lodge of Cuba reported on Monday that Grand Master Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal did not return to Cuba from Mexico after an institutional trip he made in the company of his wife. The leader of the Cuban Freemasons had received an invitation from the Grand Lodge of Veracruz and was to return to the Island on December 21, but “abandoned his mission,” according to a special circular from the Cuban Masonic board.

Before embarking on the trip to Mexico, Alfonso Vidal temporarily delegated his functions as Grand Master in Armando Guerra Lozano, Grand Master of Ceremonies, in order to “be absent from the national territory” at the invitation of Mexican Freemasons.

“During the activities related to his trip, communication with the elected Grand Master was lost,” the statement stays. “Since that moment, attempts to communicate with the Brother have been unsuccessful, which denotes a tacit resignation from his position, also constituting a serious total abandonment of his position and entrusted functions.”

The leadership assures that it does not know the current whereabouts of Alfonso Vidal and his wife, and describes the fact as “unexpected and masonically regrettable,” while guaranteeing that it will not have a negative impact on the work of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, which has, they affirm, “the ability and determination to continue our work and for which we know of the the willingness of all Cuban Freemasons.”

Another high-ranking Masonic dignitary, Deputy Grand Master Fernando González García, was abroad when he heard of Alfonso Vidal’s escape. The statement says that he “has announced his return” for January 5.

The letter, signed by the acting Grand Master Armando Guerra Lozano, and by Grand Secretary Carlos Alberto Pírez Benítez, has circulated on several digital platforms linked to Freemasonry in Cuba.

Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal had been elected Grand Master of the Great Cuban Lodge in March 2022 and was already serving as treasurer of the institution. His election, carried out by the Masonic Parliament, was held after several postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Translated by Regina Anavy