What is Freemasonry? A religion? Looks like it. There are Masonic temples and altars and lodges, with chaplains invoking a Supreme Being, ‘the Architect of the Universe’. Yet Masons deny they are a religion. The Craft is rather supporting religion, they state. Hhhmmm...like the rope supporting the hanged man? Pope Clement XII accused Masons of being ‘depraved and perverted’. If they were not in love with darkness they would not fear the light, Clement argued, meaning Masons’ notorious cult of secrecy. So the Pope excommunicated them. Without in the slightest stopping the ‘Brothers’ from plotting and scheming.
Masonic rituals are not reassuring. Bloodcurdling oaths are compulsory. Breaking them may entail having your throat cut across, tongue torn out by the root, then be buried in the sand of the sea, at the low ebb. Or perhaps your breast will be cut open, heart torn out and devoured by wild beasts. Or you’d be severed in two parts...enough. Little wonder a parishioner told me that ‘those oaths gave me regular nightmares’. At last he gave up the Craft. Faith and strength in Jesus Christ helped him to do that.
Unlike the Catholic Church, the Church of England has blissfully been in bed with Masons since their beginning. Many bishops and clergy have joined. Out of snobbery and desire for male networking, sure, but also, to be fair, because English and Scottish Freemasonry were never overtly anti-Christian. Still, the General Synod of the Anglican Church in the 80s commissioned a report on whether you could be both a Christian and a Mason. It concluded that there were ‘a number of very fundamental reasons to question the compatibility’ of such joint membership. Of course, it made not a sausage of difference to anything. No bishop or dean resigned from the Craft. Anyway the General Synod is a laugh, why bother?
The name of Jesus Christ never occurs in Masonic ceremonies. (Nor indeed that of the Prophet Muhammad...) Instead the peculiar name ‘Jahbulon’ is inscribed on the Holy Royal Arch, the altar which is the high point of this bizarre cult. It is unfortunate that ‘Jahbulon’ hides the word ‘Baal’. A heathen Semitic deity, whose worship was anathema to Hebrew prophets like Elijiah. An epic contest on Mount Carmel is told in the Bible. Elijiah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest, unmasks them and then proceeds to exterminate them. So much for Jahbulon.
What is the purpose of Freemasonry? The ‘Brothers’ swear it is charitable and benevolent. Critics brand them a historically subversive and antireligious organisation, aimed at destroying traditional principles and hierarchies. Did they prepare the way for the French Revolution? (Maybe you like that!) Certainly, many of the Young Turks who undermined the Ottoman Caliphate were Masons. But so were Islamic reformers like Muhammad Abdu in Egypt and even the great Shaikh Abd-el-Kader. Were they aware of what lay behind the benign facade? Conspiracy theorists contend that the Masons were like termites, corroding the foundations of sacred institutions and disguising their true identity in the symbolism of ancient bodies, like the Knight Templars. An Order whose charter was drawn up by St Bernard of Clairvaux, the greatest militant mystic of the Middle Ages. If true, fiendishly clever ruse...
In England the Grand Master of Freemasonry is the Duke of Kent, a cousin of the Queen. Prince Philip also is a member but not Prince Charles. Don’t know about Prince William – I hope he steers clear. The symbiosis of Monarchy and Craft is long-standing and no one seems bothered by it. I have no doubt many socialists and radicals have also rolled up their trouser leg and shared in the fun and perks. The word ‘Establishment’ looms large in all this. (Judges, police and the Law also teem with Masons.) Freemasonry is definitely not a game for the poor and the marginalised, I think.
In all my parishes I knew there were Masons. Three times I was invited to join – one whilst chaplain at the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey – great honour, eh? Politely, I demurred. For doctrinal reasons but also for matters of taste. To speak plainly, the ‘Companions’ were a bunch of boring old farts. Would a brilliant blade like the priest have wished to waste his time with such a dreary gang? No way.
I wonder what led Pope Francis to list the Masons amongst the dodgy lobbies about. Are there masons even in the Vatican? I would not at all be surprised. An Italian ‘Vaticanologist’, Sandro Paternoster, has written about some of the weirdest cabals at work there. But, remember, Pope Francis, despite the affable and humble appearance, is a Jesuit. A deep one. He knows what is going on. Shadowy powers, beware! A Man of God is after you!