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


Monday, November 27, 2023

Grand Priory of America (CBCS) Tries To Halt Texas Educational Lecture

by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATED - Wednesday, November 29, 3:55PM: An earlier version of this post wrongly identified Bryan Leroy Hill as the current Great Prior of the Grand Priory of America. He was succeeded in office by Allan Surratt. I've also made corrections to Roberto Sanchez' Masonic record. Both errors were mine alone, and I apologize for any confusion they may have caused.

MW Roberto Sanchez is an extremely energetic and dedicated Texas Freemason, and has been for more than two decades. If you regularly attend Masonic Week outside of Washington DC, you might very well have met him. In addition to his Texas membership, he's also a Past Grand Master and the sitting Grand Chancellor of the Gran Logia del Estado de Mexico (Grand Lodge of the State of Mexico). He served as Master of Gray Lodge 329 in Houston back in 2011, and was part of a group determined to provide a high-quality lodge experience to their members. Since then, he’s gained an international reputation as a popular speaker, and served as an officer in several appendant organizations. 

Back in 2006 WB Sanchez, along with Gray Lodge's Past Masters Lex Leckie and Greg Weisinger created what they hoped would become an American equivalent of the English Prestonian Lecture. It was named after the lodge's charter Master, Alfred Stephens Richardson. Roberto was an early speaker, and it continues through today. Gray Lodge's A.S. Richardson Lecture is usually held at a hotel or restaurant, and some of the top Masonic authors and historians have been invited to speak there over the years. (2011 must have been a lean year, as they invited me.)

This year will be the 15th annual A.S. Richardson Lecture, and the speaker will be Alun Thomas-Evans, a fascinating U.K. Mason who is well-versed in the history, development and philosophy of countless esoteric organizations, some related to Masonry, and some not. He will be speaking about the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte (in English, the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City, or CBCS, using its French initials), the Rectified Scottish Rite, and a closely related body known as the Waite Order (named after Arthur Edward Waite, who is a topic all by himself). The event is to take place on December 1st at the Embassy Suites in the Energy Corridor in Houston ($80 apiece, in case you’re interested deadline for tickets is Thursday, November 30th). CLICK HERE to register through Facebook. Act fast. 

Now, longtime readers here may or may not remember over a dozen years ago when a dispute over this obscure, invitational, Masonic-related side organization most commonly referred to as the CBCS blew up into a national and international Masonic food fight. It was a mess. A BIG mess. This was truly Masonic minutiae of the most arcane kind, and to fully understand what was going on at the time took lots of explanation (here are some old links in case you really want to wade into this morass, or see the cheat sheet below). 

Well, just in case you thought the whole ugly, stinky mess finally died out, it’s back again.

Now it seems that Allan Surratt, the current Great Prior of the Grand Priory of America (the U.S. wing of the CBCS) has sent a letter to the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas demanding that the A.S. Richardson Lecture be blocked because of its subject matter. It seems that the GPA doesn’t want anyone to even speak about their organization and its various related topics, and they are demanding that the Grand Master shut it down.

Only a tiny problem with making such a demand: the Grand Lodge of Texas has a swollen rule book that’s the size of the last Dallas phone book: it’s more than 500 pages long, which may be a sad record for US grand lodges. Texas Masons over the years have inserted reams of new and ever more tediously minute regulations into their Masonic code, and a big section of it deals with appendant and other Masonically-related organizations operating within their jurisdiction: the Grand Lodge must approve every single group that requires their participants to first be a Freemason. Every such group must petition the Grand Lodge of Texas for recognition, and must be approved by a vote of Grand Lodge. If it ain’t listed in their Code by name, it ain’t recognized in Texas. And it doesn’t matter how many Past Grands, 33rds, Sovereign-Thises-and-Thats, or Big Name Celebrity Masons happen to belong to it. It’s just like getting backstage at the Taylor Swift concert. You gotta be on the list, or the exit door is that way. And the Grand Priory of America (CBCS) isn’t on the list. 
It seems its storied and privileged officers and members never bothered to ask over almost 100 years. Whoops.

The Great Prior’s other objection is that WB Alun’s lecture will be talking about other versions of the CBCS and its related bodies outside of the US that the GPA isn’t part of.


The Great Prior of an unrecognized Templar-related organization that’s spent more than a decade and untold thousands of dollars in lawsuits defending their lineage, sovereignty and exclusivity in order to remain a tiny invitational supper club (“because them 33rds let in too much riffraff)” never got around to getting recognition in Texas, which is the home to several of its very own high-profile officers, members and – interestingly enough – attorneys. They include Reese Harrison, Michael Wiggins, and Brian Dodson – all Past Grand Masters of Texas. And the GPA doesn’t want anyone talking to Texas Masons about ANY un-recognized CBCS body, even though they themselves aren’t recognized in Texas, either.


The good news is that, as of Wednesday, November 29th, the Grand Master is apparently siding with the lodge in this little imbroglio, and was unmoved by the GPA's demand. The lecture will go forward.

If you don't know anything about this mess (or tried to put it out of your mind), here’s the cheat sheet on the history of this long tale of woe and misery: 

  • Portions of the European CBCS/Rectified Scottish Rite rituals and origins involve the Knights Templar, and have done so since the 1700s; 
  • The Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar (GEKT) found the GPA to be infringing on their sovereignty over all US Masonic Templary, in part because their charter clearly states that the CBCS is a Templar organization; 
  • The American wing of the CBCS – the Grand Priory of America (GPA), organized in the 1920s - promised by the 1930s not to work their Templar degrees or ever publicly claim they were Templars; 
  • The GPA stopped conferring the degrees and became a tiny, invitational, exclusive dinner club for Past Eminent Grand Masters of the KT and celebrity Masons; 
  • By 2000, officers of the GPA began representing themselves on foreign visits as a Templar organization, and protested that US Masons were receiving CBCS degrees in England, France, Belgium and elsewhere, violating their “exclusive” status - GPA would not permit CBCS members who joined European Priories to attend their meetings and would not honor their credentials; 
  • GEKT declared that the GPA was again illegally violating THEIR sovereignty; 
  • The GEKT's GM William H. Koon received a warrant from a French CBCS body to create their own American Grand Priory, and subsequently suspended existing GPA members who refused to drop their “old” GPA membership; 
  • Lawsuits more lawsuits and counter-lawsuits flew like bats out of a belfry; 
  • GPA leaned heavily on the Conference of Grand Master Masons of North America to withdraw recognition agreements from the GEKT and shut down all US Templar Commanderies; 
  • ME Grand Master Dixon of GEKT reluctantly shut down its “new” CBCS Priory; 
  • A decade later, GM Nelson of the GEKT acted to remove any holdover language from their regulations, reinstate the suspended GPA members, and finally put this quagmire to rest. (Knightly News from 2021 Grand Encampment Triennial
  • His immediate successor attempted to reverse that action, incurred the wrath of a weary mass of KT members, and got removed from office in an almost unprecedented action. (As the Sword Turns: Called Conclave Removes Templar Grand Master Michael B. Johnson

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Arizona Anti-Mason Posts Videos of Degree Rituals Taken Surreptitiously

by Christopher Hodapp

Following the statement last week from the Vatican reaffirming the Church's longstanding prohibition of Masonic membership for Catholics, the usual platoon of online anti-Masonic wing-nuts came tumbling out onto the Intertubz to post and re-post all the usual anti-Masonic tropes and conspiracy allegations. Most are easy to ignore, or simply dispense with by citing factual information, if anyone wants to bother wasting that much time and breath. (I've got a whole book dedicated to telling the true facts about this fraternity - not that the antis care to believe it.) But one person in particular on X-formerly-Twitter has generated a lot of discussion among Masons themselves — not out of offense or anger or indignation, but out of sadness, more than anything else. 

A self-touted "traditional Catholic influencer", "undercover journalist" and "whistleblower" called Kyle Clifton has been gleefully circulating videos of private Masonic ceremonies he claimed to have shot with a hidden camera after having joined a local lodge. Images on his posts and other clues quickly pointed to his location as Arizona. 

Lodge tylers everywhere should be familiar with his face and background, in case he turns up in your neck of the woods. That's his profile picture, depicting him with the Arizona state flag, but looking for all the world like he's sporting a radiant, holy halo of sanctity (or more correctly, smug sanctimony). 

On his various social media pages he sports an 'America first' ball cap - perhaps he missed the details that America's first president and scores of other founding luminaries who created the Declaration of Independence and hashed out the Constitution were Freemasons. But more of his absurd phobias and errors anon.

On Tuesday this week the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Arizona, MW George Rusk, issued a statement concerning this incident and verifying the source as an Arizona Mason:
"One of our members has posted on social media videos of our ritual. This is a breach of trust and a violation of his obligation to the craft. He took an oath and could not keep it. The information he posted is not unknown to the internet; a simple search will find something similar. But his posting did expose him as someone who cannot be trusted more than it exposed our Fraternity.

"The Grand Lodge is investigating this incident and will act upon the results according to the Arizona Masonic Code and legal advice from Grand Counsel. I request that you refrain from spreading any rumors, but if you have direct information about the posting send it to the Grand Secretary.”

This may come as a shock to those breathless readers of InfoWars and other sites that have been celebrating Kyle's puerile little incident all week, but our Masonic rituals are scarcely a Big Secret. And that's been true for a very long time. But Masons value our privacy every bit as much as Kyle, his fellow RadCaths, the staff of InfoWars and its audience all do. 

Exposés of Masonic ritual have existed since about ten minutes after the organization of the premiere grand lodge in London in 1717. When Samuel Pritchard's Masonry Dissected was published in 1730, the printer couldn't keep it in stock, it sold so fast (likely more to Masons themselves than the general public, to be used for learning their degree work). When the Nazis goose-stepped their way into Paris and began identifying French Masons, they shot an anti-Masonic propaganda film that exposed the ritual of the Grand Orient de France. In the Internet age, videos of Masonic ritual – either photographed surreptitiously, or recreated by former Masons themselves – have been circulated before. And fully typed-out Masonic rituals themselves have been posted on the web since at least the 1980s. Masonic "secrecy" has never really been about hiding our initiatic rituals from the outside world, and the various attempts to embarrass us or somehow make us apoplectic over being "exposed" don't really give us fitful nights fretting about it.

There's a certain aspect of these incidents that's always been comical. On the one hand, many comments responding to Kyle's videos have been soaked with the usual allegations of soul-destroying spookiness, Devil-worship, Satanic symbols, along with a raft of offensively anti-Jewish rhetoric, claiming the rituals are anti-Christian blasphemies and that Masons are really just evil Jews or their willing henchmen in the whole "global domination" fantasy. 

Young-shaver-me-lad and "undercover journalist" Kyle alleged in his posts, "The masonic oath & penalties are sworn over, essentially a Jewish Talmud. The 3 lamps are illuminated to mock our Holy Trinity." Such accusers believe Masons to be all-powerful, world-controlling, bald-headed, cat-stroking super villains. On the other hand, the same commenters go on to say the whole thing is a bunch of silliness, giggling over a group of middle-class guys engaging in bad acting and spouting mumbo jumbo. Puffy flyover-country Protestants who secretly pretend to be Moloch-worshiping Old Testament Hebrew priests.

So what are we – malevolent, all-powerful evildoers, moronic dupes, or suburban backyard vaudevillians? I'm confused.

Of course, Kyle himself seemed more preoccupied with the colossal prank he was pulling than in actually paying any attention to the ritual and lectures he went through when he joined. If he actually looked at the book that he took his own obligation upon, I'll bet fifty quatloos and a groat that it was a King James Version of the complete Holy Bible, and not the "Jewish Talmud" (which would be a neat trick anyway, since the last complete Talmud I saw a couple of years back filled ten large hardback volumes and about two feet of bookshelf real estate – and Masonic altars aren't usually that big). Or perhaps he mis-typed and meant the Tenach, the Hebrew origin of the Old Testament. 

In any case, it appears that he never bothered to discover that his very own version of the Bible (presuming he actually owns one) also includes the Old Testament. A subsequent video he shot depicts a large family heirloom-type King James Bible on the lodge altar, customized as a gift for Freemasons with introductory pages explaining many biblical passages and unfamiliar archaic terms that appear in Masonic ritual. It's not any sort of bizarrely edited or abridged "Masonic Bible," which he would know if he had actually checked the full text and table of contents. But perhaps he's just unfamiliar with reading Biblical text. If he had, he'd know there's an awful lot it has to say about deceivers.

The one sure thing about two-faced people is you can't trust either one. By posting these videos, Kyle exposed far more about what sort of man he really is. He clearly lied from the moment he expressed a false interest in joining, knowing his church of choice prohibits Masonic membership. In most cases, a potential candidate asks a friend or co-worker known to be a Mason if he can join — so Kyle knowingly and wittingly lied to that friend. Every step he took was deliberately deceitful, and at multiple times in his degrees he was asked ifhe was willing to proceed or withdraw. He clearly believed his deceit was just fine because he was really in the service of righteousness. . . or something. 

In light of that, who in their right mind would ever trust him now? Who'd hire him as an employee, knowing that he lies on applications, can't be trusted to keep anything private just because he was asked to do so, and makes up his own version of situational ethics? What boss would have him? What friend can ever trust him? What spouse would ever believe him? 

The truth about Masonic secrecy ever since the very beginning of the fraternity is that it's about honor. In the end, everything civilized human beings do requires honor, because your word has got to be your bond. Civilization depends on it. If you say one thing but do the opposite, society will eventually get the message and turn its back on you. If you can't keep something as dumb and trivial as a handshake or a password a secret simply because someone asked you to, how can you be trusted in anything else you say or do?

Zealous people determined to tear down Freemasonry for their own religious purposes will never be convinced that quite literally millions of Masons from 1717 up to today would never voluntarily join – and stick with – anything that was evil, sacrilegious, nefarious, or remotely ‘satanic’. Among the millions of men who have become Freemasons over three centuries have been thousands of devout Christian clergymen, and possibly hundreds of Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, and countless other priests and leaders from among the world’s major religions. To believe that those men in particular would have any desire to belong to an organization that openly or surreptitiously engages in activities that propagate the worship, glorification or veneration of Satan – or any other spiritually evil entity of any stripe – is a completely unhinged delusion. Masonic ritual encourages every man to study his own faith, to participate in his own religion's congregation, to consult the ancient texts deemed to be holy by his own religion to find his path to eternal salvation. That includes Kyle. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor are we a path to a glorious resurrection and afterlife. And we've never claimed to be.

This is a fictional, spooky movie, boys and girls - not a Masonic meeting.

The fraternity occasionally has attracted men who really are hunting the spooky-ooky dressing up in black robes, chanting backwards in badly conjugated schoolboy Latin, burning incense and sacrificing the big-breasted blonde virgin on the altar stuff they've seen in moldy old 60's Hammer horror films (usually led by Christopher Lee). If they actually get as far as going through the very real Masonic degree rituals, they're bitterly disappointed to find out that we really aren't raising the dead and worshipping some hoary old demiurge after all.

Once the dust settles, Kyle will doubtless be expeditiously expelled from the fraternity (if he hasn't already quit or been booted out by his lodge and the grand lodge). And, contrary to what his cheering "I've exposed the Masons!" audience might childishly believe, that will be the sum total of the "penalties" he will suffer. Because, as he was doubtless told during his degrees, those "bloody penalties" he was "threatened with" during the "Masonic blood oaths" are purely symbolic, and have been from the start of the fraternity. Actually, they were rooted in what began as disfiguring penalties in medieval Europe, which prevented a man's body from being buried in the consecrated ground of a churchyard. 

Catholic churchyards, I might add.

Monday, November 20, 2023

November 25: Tri-State Degree Exemplification in Dayton, Ohio

by Christopher Hodapp

This coming Saturday, November 25th, all Master Masons are invited to join the Grand Lodge Officers of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana for the annual Tri-State Degree Exemplification at the magnificent Dayton Masonic Center. The Grand Lodge of Michigan will present the Entered Apprentice; Ohio the Fellow Craft; and Indiana the Master Mason degrees, using each jurisdictions' degree rituals (and yes, there are differences).

Work begins at 1:00PM Eastern Time, and tickets are not required. Following the work, everyone is welcome to join the Grand Lodge Officers from all three jurisdictions for refreshment and fellowship until 6:00 PM.

The Dayton Masonic Center is located at 525 W. Riverview Avenue in downtown Dayton, Ohio.

Take note that your grand lodge must be in amity with the Grand Lodge of Ohio for this event, as it is in their jurisdiction. Attendees need to bring their current dues card and their own Masonic apron.

Saturday, November 18, 2023


by Christopher Hodapp


I'll be speaking next Wednesday, November 29th at the Grand Lodge of Connecticut's 5th District Blue Lodge Council. When I originally posted this event, I had thought it was to be at Unity Lodge No. 148 in New Britain. However, the venue has changed. It will be Wednesday evening at the East Street Eatery at Farmingbury Hills Golf Club, located at 141 East Street, Wolcott, Connecticut. 

The event will be hosted by Wolcott Lodge No. 146. Dinner will begin at 6:30PM and the program will begin at 7:30PM. Dinner: $20 contribution. Reservations required due to limited seating. Please make all reservations via the BLC email address: BLC5Reservations@gmail.com

For further information, contact: WB Steve Gorman, Secretary BLC5 at 860.916.1162 (cell/text) or by email at roughashlar@ctfreemasons.net

Click to enlarge

It's been quite a few years since I've been in Connecticut, and I'm truly looking forward to being there. I've actually had the pleasure of speaking in their 5th District at New Britain's Unity Lodge twice before - first in 2008, and again in 2018. So they've got no one to blame but themselves for inviting me a third time. It's not like they weren't forewarned.

Barring any undue mischief by the airlines, I'll have books with me in case anyone wants a copy disfigured by my usual childish, illegible scrawl.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Vatican Reaffirms Ban On Masonic Membership: Catholic Masons Shrug

by Christopher Hodapp

(This story has been slightly updated 11/16/23 12:56PM to include an excerpt from the Vatican News explaining the origin of the DDF's position on Masonry.)

The Roman Catholic Church has officially issued a doctrinal letter this week re-affirming its longstanding ban on Masonic membership among its global flock, but Catholic Masons pretty much remain unmoved by the restriction.

In the letter released by the Vatican's Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) dated November 13th and signed by Pope Francis and DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández, it is stated that "Active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is prohibited, because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry." 

The Rome headquarters of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith (Photo: Vatican News)

The DDF is responsible for interpreting the Church's Canon Law when questions and disagreements arise over the application of the rules.

According to official Vatican state media, the letter was a response to a bishop from the Philippines who was alarmed by what he sees as a growing number of Freemasons in that predominantly Catholic country, and wanted to know how to respond pastorally. The DDF statement cites a 1983 declaration, originally issued by the late Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, stating that Catholics "in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion." 

The November 1983 declaration was published shortly before the new Code of Canon Law entered into force. The 1983 CIC replaced the Code of Canon Law published in 1917; among the new features noted – by some with satisfaction, by others with concern – was the absence of an explicit condemnation of Freemasonry and excommunication for those affiliated with it. Both had been present in the earlier Code. The Declaration, signed by the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the Secretary of the Congregation, Archbishop Jérôme Hamer, and approved by John Paul II, reiterated that Catholics affiliated with Masonic lodges are “in a state of grave sin.”

Ratzinger would go on to become Pope Benedict XVI, who was widely regarded as extremely conservative in his views. But according to this new communication, it appears that sentiments haven't changed in the Curia.

Click to enlarge

The letter states that:

“Membership in Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines; it involves not only those who are formally enrolled in Masonic Lodges but, more generally, a large number of sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced that there is no opposition between membership in the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges . . . On the doctrinal level, it should be remembered that active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry.”

That the famously liberal Pope Francis would now reaffirm his predecessor's opinion on Masonic membership some 40 years after Ratzinger's weighing in on the matter is an exceptionally disappointing blow to the hundreds of thousands of Catholic men around the world who are Masons and who don't regard the fraternity as irreconcilable with their faith in any way. 

By contrast, the same office said last week that transgender people can be baptized, serve as godparents and act as witnesses at Catholic weddings. The two issues aren't at all related, but Vatican watchers have long conjectured that Pope Francis would make dramatic changes to Canon Law like permitting married priests and nuns, homosexual weddings and other radical alterations to the rules and traditions of the Church. For him to stick with the ban on Masonic membership, of all things, seems out of character for him.

Freemasonry was first condemned by Pope Clement XII back in 1734, just 17 years after the formation of the Premiere Grand Lodge of England. For another 200 years Popes continued to issue papal bulls and encyclicals against the fraternity, sometimes more from a political power viewpoint than a religious one. Language specifically forbidding Freemasonry to Catholics (along with Kiwanis, Rotary and other associative fraternal organizations with secular memberships) was enshrined as a part of Canon Law from 1917 until the enormous revisions of the Second Vatican Council were adopted by 1965. The Church wrongly asserts that Freemasonry is its own "naturalistic religion" that promotes "indifferentism," and that its rituals deliberately ape religious ceremonies and offers a path to eternal salvation through a doctrine of merely doing good works on Earth. It regards Masonic use of the term "Great Architect of the Universe" as a deistic concept and opposes any notion that a person can be pleasing to God regardless of his religion. It's not an unusual position for any large denomination to take to protect its spiritual turf rights by claiming its path is the only way to salvation, but  it's a woefully mistaken interpretation of what the rituals of regular, recognized "Ancient Craft Masonry" actually say.

The Vatican II revisions of the 1960s stripped out the specific names of groups that had been ruled off limits in 1917, and just generically banned groups that actively were anti-Catholic. While French-derived "continental Freemasonry" really has espoused anti-Catholic sentiments and actively promoted "free will" and lobbied for strict secularism in France's national laws, such Masonic groups are shunned as "irregular" by English/Scottish-derived grand lodges that make up the vast majority of what is called "regular, recognized" Freemasonry all over the world today. In addition, the Scottish Rite "higher degrees" that first came out of France in the 1700s and were revised in the U.S. by Albert Pike in the late 1800s did contain a Knights Kadosh ritual that condemned both monarchial and papal "tyranny" which were seen as interfering with free will in men. Such a point of view hardly convinced the Church's authorities to ever look kindly on the fraternity.

A March 28, 2023 article on the Union of Catholic Asian News website reported on the Masonic questions coming out of the Philippines: 

“We thought the Catholic Church’s teachings have changed. Since several participants in the synod were Freemasons, we thought the Church has relaxed the rules on its membership and its participation in activities of the Catholic Church,” Quezon City parishioner Gloria Buencamino, 43, told UCA News on March 26.

Buencamino claimed some “extraordinary” ministers who helped the priest distribute communion during Mass in their parish were also Freemasons.

“In our parish alone, we have two of them and they were delegates to the Synod on Synodality. They are good and pious Catholics. Personally, I was surprised to see the CBCP has released the pastoral guidelines,” Buencamino added.

But the bishops’ commission clarified that “nothing has changed” and asserted that those joining Masonry will incur canonical penalties.

“Yet, given the sensitivity and delicateness of the issue in the Philippine setting, it has also shown ‘openness,’ in the exercise of pastoral circumspection, towards Catholics who may have unwittingly in good faith sought membership in Masonic associations with the best of intentions,” said the commission chairman, Bishop Jose R. Rojas of Libmanan.

It should be understood that Masonic grand lodges don't ban Catholics from joining - the restriction has always been a one-way street. Masonic membership only requires a man have a belief in God or a Supreme Being, and perhaps an associated belief in a spiritual afterlife (depending on the jurisdiction – each grand lodge jurisdiction can be slightly different). No one should be asking you your specific religious denomination as part of the petitioning process, apart from being able to accommodate your religious requirements when our ceremonies involve an obligation taken on a volume of sacred law that's specific to your beliefs. A lodge isn't a church, and your private beliefs regarding your personal relationship with the Almighty are seen as just that – private.

Because of that policy, lodges and grand lodges don't keep records and statistics tabulating the specific religious practices and denominations of their members, but recent voluntary polling shows that as many as 23% of U.S. Masons may be Catholic. If true, that works out to about 230,000 Catholic Masons in America alone. And if that holds true globally (just making a supposition), there may be a million or more Catholic Masons worldwide. In countries where the Catholic population is much higher than in the U.S. (as in Central and South American nations and the Philippines) the percentages are most probably even higher. Obviously, these men aren't letting their church get away with telling them their fraternity is irreconcilable with their faith when they know that to be demonstrably false. Quite the opposite — Freemasonry encourages each Mason to study and support his own religious institution and its traditions as part of a well-rounded individual, while respecting the personal beliefs of others. 

Oddly enough, Pope Francis issued an encyclical just last year called Fratelli Tutti ("All Brothers") which called on the world's political and religious leaders to create a new, ecumenical, "universal brotherhood" to help overcome Mankind's differences. 

Some excerpts included:

Paragraph #6. It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women. “Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together”. Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.

Paragraph #8. “It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we can contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity.”

Paragraph #46. We should also recognize that destructive forms of fanaticism are at times found among religious believers, including Christians; they too “can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned”. How can this contribute to the fraternity that our common Father asks of us?

Paragraph #95. “Love also impels us towards universal communion. No one can mature or find fulfillment by withdrawing from others. By its very nature, love calls for growth in openness and the ability to accept others as part of a continuing adventure that makes every periphery converge in a greater sense of mutual belonging. As Jesus told us: “You are all brothers” (Mt 23:8).

Paragraph #254. “I ask God to prepare our hearts to encounter our brothers and sisters, so that we may overcome our differences rooted in political thinking, language, culture and religion. Let us ask him to anoint our whole being with the balm of his mercy, which heals the injuries caused by mistakes, misunderstandings and disputes. And let us ask him for the grace to send us forth, in humility and meekness, seeking peace.” 

Paragraph #272. “As believers, we are convinced that, without an openness to the Father of all, there will be no solid and stable reasons for an appeal to fraternity. We are certain that “only with this awareness that we are not orphans, but children, can we live in peace with one another”. For “reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity”.

Paragraph #277. “The Church esteems the ways in which God works in other religions, and “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines which… often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women.”

Paragraph #281. “A journey of peace is possible between religions. Its point of departure must be God’s way of seeing things. God does not see with his eyes, God sees with his heart. And God’s love is the same for everyone, regardless of religion. Even if they are atheists, his love is the same. When the last day comes, and there is sufficient light to see things as they really are, we are going to find ourselves quite surprised.” 

Paragraph #287. “He [Christ] wanted to be, in the end, “the universal brother” … May God inspire that dream in each one of us. Amen.”

To Catholic Freemasons around the world last year, such a proposed ecumenical assembly sounded mighty familiar, and many held out hope that this pontiff would finally drop restrictions on their already-existing "universal brotherhood." But obviously not. Of course, to the 'Militant Catholics' wing within the Church that has hated Francis from the day he was elected, last year's encyclical was clear proof to them that he's really a not-so-secret Jesuit Freemason anti-pope out to destroy the Vatican from within. Or something.

Of course, there's so much anti-Francis sentiment among traditional Catholics around the world, it's possible this anti-Masonic statement was nothing more than damage control on his part. In any case, Pope Francis' agreement with the anti-Masonic position is not a hopeful one for Catholic Masons who want the Church to loosen its stiff-necked rules on the subject. Telling Catholics the world over that they can't belong the largest, oldest, and best known fraternal organization that does exactly what the "universal brotherhood" Francis described last year just is not going to have the effect Rome is hoping for. But most Catholic Masons don't seem to be losing much sleep over it. 

Myself? I sleep like a baby.

Amen in aeternum.

Monday, November 13, 2023

'Dinner With A Civil War Soldier' in Gettysburg Next Sunday

by Christopher Hodapp

If you are anywhere near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania next weekend, consider attending historic Good Samaritan Lodge 336 on Sunday night for their 2nd annual Dinner With A Civil War Soldier. The lodge is located at 7 Lincoln Square (right on the town square downtown).

Photo from my visit in November 2010. 

From their Facebook page announcement:
Good Samaritan Lodge 336 will host its second annual Civil War Dinner on Sunday, November 19 at the Lodge on the Square. Presentations from our Civil War guests will begin at six o’clock. Dinner will be served at 6:30. Dessert and additional presentations will follow. 

Dinner will be prepared by our chef from a Civil War era cookbook. Choice of meat will be venison loaf or pigeon (we will substitute Cornish game hen, as the bird used historically is difficult to source), plus potatoes and vegetables, with pumpkin pie for dessert. Enjoy hot mulled cider, and try traditional hard tack, if you dare.

Come hear the stories of:
  • Elizabeth Thorne, who while six months pregnant, buried nearly 100 soldiers at the Evergreen Cemetery.
  • Pvt. Sherwood, from Co. K, 2nd Division, 5th Corps, the Pennsylvania Reserves, who returned home to fight.
  • Daniel Skelly, a teenager who witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg and the aftermath.
  • Cpl. Chester Judson, 24th New York “Orange Blossoms,” who fought at Gettysburg.
  • Cornelia Hancock, a nurse tending to the wounded at Gettysburg.
  • Nicholas, a newspaper man from New York City observing the war and reporting back.
  • Dr. Jelks, a Confederate physician with the 26th Georga, who treated the injuries of the war.
  • Cpl. J.R. Bennet, 6th New York Independent Battery, an artillery soldier killed in battle.
Seating will be limited, and the cost is $50 per person. The dinner and program are open to non-Masons, and there are still spaces left as of today. To make reservations, CLICK HERE

Good Samaritan Lodge has an interesting past, and I quite literally stumbled upon a meeting there after the Veteran's Day weekend when I came though Gettysburg in 2010. The lodge was originally chartered in 1824, was dissolved just 8 years later in 1832 during the Anti-Masonic period, and re-chartered in 1860, on the eve of the U.S. Civil War.

On July 1st, 1863, war reached Gettysburg and its population of 2,400 when some 170,000 troops converged on the town and began three days of horrific fighting and bloodshed. Almost a third of the two opposing forces became casualties: 7,058 dead, 33,264 wounded, and another 10,790 missing. As many as 18,000 of the soldiers at Gettysburg may have been Freemasons, and numerous stories of Masonic kindness extended to an “enemy” Brother on the field of battle were recorded. Shooting from afar at opposing forces is impersonal — enemy troops are simply masses of faceless, nameless soldiers. But when distances closed and the fighting became one-on-one between individual men, countless Masons remembered their duty to another Brother. This didn't mean engaging in treason, or "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" — but it did (and does) mean treating each other with honor and compassion and charity in a way people aren't much taught these days.

As you first enter the battlefield area and approach the Visitor's Center outside the cemetery, you'll find the famous "Friend To Friend" statue that was erected by the Freemasons of Pennsylvania. It depicts the famous incident when Confederate Major Lewis Armistead lay dying from a Union soldier's bullet, and the brethren of Samaritan Lodge were instrumental in having it installed there.

From their website:

Prior to the war, Major Lewis Armistead and Captain Winfred Scott Hancock served together in the 6th US Infantry in California. They were friends and Masonic Brothers. At the onset of the war, Brother Armistead would resign his commission and join the Confederacy, whereas Brother Hancock would remain with the Union. 

At Gettysburg, now a brigadier general, Armistead would lead his brigade in the famous Pickett’s Charge against the Union center on July 3rd. Hancock, now a major general and commander of the Union II Corps, was stationed right at the point of attack. Armistead would iconically place his hat on his raised sword to rally his men as they approached the Union line. Shortly after breaching the line, Brother Armistead was mortally wounded. He called out for his friend, Brother Hancock, who was nearby. Unfortunately, Hancock was simultaneously injured and removed from the field.

Captain Henry Bingham, Hancock’s chief of staff and a Mason, attended to the fallen Armistead. Armistead entrusted to Bingham his personal belongings, including his Masonic watch and the Bible he had taken his Oath and Obligation upon, to be given to Hancock in the hope the items would be given to his wife. Armistead died shortly thereafter. Hancock, upon his recovery, delivered the items to his Brother’s wife as asked.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

December 15-17: Masons To Celebrate Boston Tea Party's 250th Anniversary in Grand Style!

by Christopher Hodapp

(From the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Facebook page. As an old ad guy, I have to say I really like their tag line: "Same Men. Different Times." CH)

The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts has partnered with the Massachusetts Sons of the American Revolution and the Dr. Joseph Warren Foundation to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. From December 15 through the 17th, Freemasons and their families will be joining us from across the country, and we hope you will also. 

54 Grand Jurisdictions have been invited to join us.

Friday, December 15, 2023
(Open to the public)
A Historic Tavern Tour has been created in collaboration with Revolution 250, which is an organization that the Massachusetts Historical Society created to support the commemorative events leading up to 2026. 

(Open to Freemasons, their families, and invited guests)
If visiting from another jurisdiction, attend St. John's Lodge's annual installation. St. John's Lodge was chartered in 1733 and is the oldest lodge in the Western Hemisphere. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023
(Open to the public free of charge)
We will host a world-class speaker symposium at the Grand Lodge beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m. Through the generosity of our event sponsors, we can provide the events to the public at no cost.

  • 8:30-9:10-Dr. Brooke Barbier "Radicalizing John Hancock: The Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party."
  • 9:15-10:00-RW Walter Hunt "Freemasonry Before the Revolution"
  • 10:15-11:20-Boston-Lafayette Lodge of Perfection performing "Treason to the Crown"
  • 11:30-12:15-Dr. Jayne Triber "Brother Revere: How Freemasonry Shaped Paul Revere's Revolutionary Role"
12:15 -1:00 Break for Lunch
  • 1:30-2:00 -Dr. William Fowler "A Fireside chat with famed author Dr. Fowler."
  • 2:00-3:00 -JL Bell "How Bostonians Learned to Talk about the Destruction of the Tea."
  • 3:00-4:00 -Dr. James Fichter "Tea: Consumption, Politics, and Revolution, 1773–1776."
  • 4:00-5:00 -Dr. Ben Carp "Teapot in a Tempest: The Boston Tea Party of 1773."
There will be guided tours of the Grand Lodge from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. The Grand Lodge will also have several rare artifacts on display for you to view. 

(For Freemasons and their families)
There will also be opportunities to attend a group tour of a few local historic locations. The historic sites set prices for tours.

Following the symposium, Freemasons can join a procession with the Grand Master from the Grand Lodge to the Old South Meeting House, then to the Boston Tea Party Museum. Retracing the steps of our forefathers 250 years ago. (Registration will be $10 per Brother and include a commemorative apron for the event).

Sunday, December 17, 2023 
(Open to the public)
The Grand Chaplains will lead a non-denominational ecumenical service at the Grand Lodge at 10:00 a.m.

Following the service, there will be a celebratory brunch with the Massachusetts Sons of the American Revolution. Tickets will be $50 and limited to 150 people. This will be held in the Grand Master's Banquet Hall. 

To purchase custom swag, please visit this link and order now. Purchases will not be available on the day of the event. The store opens on November 1

The event's registration link is available now at https://massfreemasonry.org/250th/

For all questions and concerns, contact the 250th Committee at 250committee@gmail.com

Ancient & Accepted Rite for England and Wales Drops Trinitarian Christian Requirement

by Christopher Hodapp

The Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales (what American Masons know as the Scottish Rite) announced a significant policy change in its jurisdiction this week. Following a National Conference of Inspectors General, a letter was issued Friday stating that they are removing their longstanding requirement for petitioners to specifically declare a belief in Trinitarian Christianity.

This is an important change in this jurisdiction's membership prerequisites. Prior to this, the requirements for Masons seeking membership in the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales were as follows: 

"All candidates for membership of the Ancient and Accepted Rite under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Council for England and Wales must profess the Trinitarian Christian faith and have been Master masons for at least one year in UGLE, or have joined a lodge under UGLE from a recognized Grand Lodge."

Friday's announcement reads, in part:

Members in England and Wales are often surprised to learn that almost no other Supreme Council around the world imposes any religious restriction on membership. Most Councils have never had a Christian restriction, and those that once did have almost all long since removed it. Furthermore, unlike many other Orders of Freemasonry which are Christian throughout the world, the Ancient and Accepted Rite is almost completely Universal in its nature and content. Even within the system as practiced in England and Wales, the only one of the 33 degrees with any significant Christian content is the 18°.

Nonetheless, after considering the matter in great detail over many years, the Supreme Council remains adamant that it would be inappropriate, given the foundational identity of the Rose Croix degree as a Christian working within this jurisdiction, to 'de-Christianize’ the ritual of the 18°, which we all know and hold in such high regard. Our ritual is fundamentally reflective of the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and it would, in the Council's opinion, not be appropriate to remove or 'water down' the Christian character of the degree.

However, the Supreme Council is equally convinced that the Order's current stance fails to reflect the Christian—and Masonic—need to be loving towards all and to treat one another with equity. To that end. the Council has come to the unanimous conclusion that the requirement to profess the Trinitarian Christian faith should no longer be a requisite of admission to this Order, which strives to be reflective of a modem, inclusive society. In the Council's view, to remove the restriction is the Christian thing to do. There are many good people prevented from experiencing the Higher Degrees of Freemasonry, who would enjoy membership and who would be assets to our Order; there is no reason why they should not join if they wish, provided they are willing to strive to uphold the Christian ideals of faith, 
hope and charity exemplified by the life and teachings of Jesus, so beautifully represented in the 18°.

As alluded to in the letter, the traditional Rose Croix 18° as it is worked in the majority of Scottish Rite jurisdictions today is founded upon Christian imagery and symbolism — events in the life of Christ are used as an allegory for its lessons of monotheistic universality and the importance of Faith, Hope, and Charity. 

In many Scottish Rite systems around the world, the 18th is the culmination of the first half of the Rite's degrees, and it can take many years to attain that level outside of the U.S. It's not uncommon for many Scottish Rite members in certain jurisdictions to never rise above the 18th — their degrees are taken one at a time, in order, often months (or even years) apart. This dramatically differs from the U.S. where a candidate generally becomes a full 32° Scottish Rite Mason in a single day or weekend. 

Albert Pike's post-Civil War revision of the 18° for the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite in the U.S. kept the original structure and allegory of the Rose Croix degree that had originally come to America from France through Etienne Morin as part of the hauts grades making up the Rite of Perfection. (Refer to the Francken Manuscript for this early version.) While it tells the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Pike removed the original degree's obligation to live a specifically Christian life and accept all of the tenets of Christianity. He felt such an obligation violated the most basic Masonic principles of universality and tolerance. So he kept the story, but reworked the obligation of the degree.

The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite in the U.S. took a bit longer to remove the specifically Christian obligation from the 18°. In the degree, Jesus of Nazareth is the Exemplar, and any monotheistic believer can confidently take the obligation. 

The NMJ's website explains their own current version of the 18° (as revised in 1941 and later, in 1964) this way:

In 1941, Sovereign Grand Commander Melvin M. Johnson appealed to revise the 18° so it could be better suited for men of all faiths. He said: "This is the heart of what the Rite seeks to inculcate in its degree of Rose Croix, this common faith. (That good will overcome evil) When the battle is won, Freemasonry’s greatest secret – secret only, because the world will not learn it – will be secret no longer for then humanity will find peace in brotherhood."


[T]he Knight of the Rose Croix of H.R.D.M (Heredom), relays the life and death of Jesus. The allegory is based on the New Law he declared at the Last Supper: the law of love, which all men everywhere may understand and practice. His teachings exemplify the universal principles of life and encourage candidates to be virtuous, endeavor to eliminate vice, and practice tolerance and love. Upon the doctrine of Universality, the 18° should be interpreted by each Brother according to his own faith.

While Craft Lodge Freemasonry has been historically non-sectarian in its membership requirements since at least 1717, there are several Masonic-related appendant organizations that a Freemason can join that do have a specifically Trinitarian Christian requirement. These include the Knights Templar, the Masonic version of the Rosicrucians (SRICF), the Red Cross of Constantine, the White Shrine of Jerusalem, and more. The Supreme Council 33° for England and Wales has been unusual by having such a requirement, since no other Scottish Rite jurisdiction does.

Just as a bit of background, in May 1801, the first Supreme Council 33° for the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite was opened in Charleston, South Carolina, and eventually became known as the Southern Jurisdiction of the USA. It was followed by France (1804), Spain (1811) and the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the USA (1813). Ireland (1826) was the sixth, England and Wales (1845) — receiving its Patent from the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction — was the eleventh, and Scotland (1846) the twelfth. There are now independent Supreme Councils in over 60 countries.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Attorney for Accused Murderer of Texas Mason May Claim Client's "Mental Incompetence"

by Christopher Hodapp

The suspect arrested in the murder of a Freemason outside of the Masonic Hall in McAllen, Texas last July attended a hearing Monday in which his defense attorney asked the trial  judge for more time to research his client's mental competency. 

Julio Diaz, 35, of Alamo, Texas is accused of shooting Brother Robert Wise, 55, on July 10th as he was leaving McAllen Lodge 1110's officer installation ceremony. Security video showed a man resembling Diaz pull into the parking lot in a Chevy SUV, approach Wise, and open fire. Holding the gun in one hand and a phone in the other, Diaz recorded the incident and posted it on his social media account.

Upon hearing the shots outside, members came running out of the hall and spotted Diaz leaving the scene.  Police were immediately called, and Robert was found  in the parking lot next to his truck, with multiple gunshots to his face. He was rushed to a local hospital where he later died.

Photo: KRGV-TV5

A friend of Diaz reported him to police after the video had been posted online, and Diaz admitted to him online he had shot Wise.

In court today, Diaz' attorney Lennard Whittaker Molina asked the judge for an investigator, saying more time was needed to go through his client's medical records because he isn't sure if Diaz is competent for trial. From the KRGV-TV5 website:

The defense said Diaz has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and he had other diagnoses from Mexico. The judge asked if there were any documents stating that Diaz was mentally incompetent, and the defense said not yet. The defense and prosecution are both working to get Diaz psychologically evaluated before the trial starts.

Diaz' murder trial is now scheduled to begin January 22nd.

Photo: McAllen Lodge 1110 Facebook page

Brother Robert Wise left behind his wife, five children, and eleven grandchildren, along with brothers, sisters, numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

Diaz also faces a separate arson charge from an earlier incident when he had previously tried to set the McAllen lodge hall on fire back in September 2022. According to the filing in that case:

Diaz threw a brick through the doors of the Masonic Lodge in September 2022, poured gasoline on the floor and lit a piece of cardboard on fire. 
The complaint states a nearby surveillance camera recorded the incident.
Diaz admitted to his role in that fire after McAllen police arrested him in connection with Wise’s death.

Authorities obtained Diaz’s camera and found evidence that [also] linked him to a February 2023 fire at the Masonic Lodge in Weslaco, the complaint stated.

When he was arrested and questioned back in July, sources familiar with the investigation said that Diaz believed Masons are "devil worshiping Illuminatists." A Facebook commenter said Diaz had previously posted anti-Masonic comments on social media, claiming the lodge "had put a curse on him."