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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Levant Preceptory at Indiana York Rite Class This Sunday 1/28

Levant Preceptory will present the of the Order of the Temple at Angola Lodge No. 236 in Angola, Indiana this Saturday, January 28th, 2017 for the Grand Master's York Rite Class.

Here is the schedule for the day's events:

Saturday, January 28, 2017
Grand Master’s York Rite Class for Indiana

08:00 AM Registration and Coffee
09:00 AM Royal Arch Degree
10:45 AM Royal Master Degree
11:30 AM Select Master Degree
12:00 PM Lunch 
  1:00 PM Order of the Red Cross 
  1:45 PM Order of Malta (Short Form)
  2:30 PM Order of the Temple

Angola Masonic Lodge
35 S. Public Square
Angola, IN 46703-1926

Driving Directions

Mike Anderson  

Levant Preceptory technically operates under the existing Charter of Raper Commandery No. 1 by authority of both the Grand Commandery of Indiana and the Grand Encampment of the United States, but we draw our volunteer Knights from all over Indiana, and occasionally even surrounding states. We are dedicated to excellence in the performance of the ritual and Indiana's tactics for the conferral of the Order of Temple, in a manner that will have the greatest emotional impact upon the aspirant. We have been invited to perform throughout Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.
We have no dues or formal structure, aside from choosing our Director of Work and our experienced inspector from within our active ranks. Our fellow Knights are, however, required to provide their own period equipment, which is available from several online resources. We can provide that supply information for you upon request. But far more important, our members are expected to learn their parts to perfection in word, and meaningful, powerful delivery. We adhere to proper Indiana tactics. 
Other groups are appearing all over the country attempting to recreate our success and impact on aspirants by simply buying period costumes. Anybody can buy clothes and props. That is NOT the key to what we do, and never has been since we began in 2007. Costumes are mere stagecraft, and if all a group does is dress differently, but still muddles through degree conferrals, it has achieved nothing meaningful. The true key is setting a consistantly high standard of excellence that will not be compromised, which is why we attract the very best Templar ritualists in the state - some of whom who might have otherwise departed their Commanderies in disappointment. 

If you are committed to that excellence as well, consider taking part in our activities.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

6th UCLA Masonic Conference: 300 Years of Freemasonry 3/4/17

The 6th International Conference at UCLA will be held on Saturday, March 4th, 2017. This year's conference is entitled 300 Years of Freemasonry: Its Meaning as Its Founding and Today.

As part of its collaborative partnership with the history department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Institute for Masonic Studies presents an annual International Conference on Freemasonry on the UCLA campus. Open to students, historians, and members of the general public, these events seek to educate and inspire scholars of the craft.

Saturday, March 4
8:30 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Grand Horizon Ballroom, UCLA
$30 Conference registration/$20 Optional catered lunch

On June 26, 2017, Freemasons throughout the world will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the first grand lodge in England – considered to be the landmark date from which the fraternity’s origins are measured. Although the values and rituals established by the earliest Masons are still at the heart of Freemasonry, it is an ever-evolving craft that has been inspired and transformed by the societies to which it has expanded as the years passed. Freemasonry has endured for centuries, but it remains a living craft that is handed down from generation to generation of good men seeking a more enlightened existence.
* Explore the foundation of the first grand lodge: Is the 300th anniversary historically accurate, or is the "history" we ascribe to based on legends handed down through the ages?
* Learn how a religious revolution sparked the fraternity's embrace of religious diversity, subjectivity, and rationalism.
* Study the Masonic rites in 18th century France, how they affected candidates, and how these historic ritual experiences reflect upon today's rituals.
* Discover how studying Freemasonry and government in early Mexico may offer insight into Masons' incentives to protect democratic societies.
* Gain a better understanding of how Prince Hall Masonry has come to be recognized throughout most of the United States.
Presenters include:
Said Chaaya, Ph.D. is a historian of the modern Middle East. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the UCLA History Department's Freemasonry and Civil Society Program.
Kenneth Loiselle, Ph.D. is a historian of 18th-century France with a particular interest in the history of Freemasonry. Loiselle is an associate professor of history and international studies at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and an affiliated researcher at the Center for the Contemporary and Modern Mediterranean at the University of Nice in France.
Andrew Prescott, Ph.D. is professor of digital humanities at the University of Glasgow. From 2000-2007, he directed the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield. He has also served as a librarian and archivist at the University of Wales Lampeter and as head of the Digital Humanities Department at King's College in London.
Cécile Révauger, Ph.D. is professor emeritus of English studies at Bordeaux Montaigne University in France. She is the author of five books which have been translated into multiple languages, including, "Black Freemasonry: From Prince Hall to the Giants of Jazz, Inner Traditions," 2016. She is also the director of "Monde Maçonnique" - a collection on Freemasonry.
María Eugenia Vázquez Semadeni, Ph.D. was a visiting professor at the UCLA History Department from 2010 to 2016. She has published several articles and book chapters on Mexican Freemasonry, the origins of the political party system in Mexico, and the formation of public opinion.
Susan Mitchell Sommers, Ph.D. is professor of history at St Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. She is the author of "Parliamentary Politics of a County and Its Town: General Elections in Suffolk and Ipswich in the 18th Century" (2002) and "Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry" (2012). 

Register at the website HERE.

On the plus side, it's good to see Andrew Prescott and Susan Mitchell Sommers there with their new research that poses new questions and presents uncovered evidence about the founding of the Premier Grand Lodge of England, questioning the 1717 date.

On the negative side, it's disappointing that Cécile Révauger is being given more respectability than she deserves. I've seen and heard her in person with her open, contemptuous dismissal of anyone questioning her unsourced and/or questionable suppositions and conclusions. Her answer when questioned (by a HIGHLY respected, published, and eminently qualified fellow PhD several years ago in Scotland) about an unsupported and just plain wrong statement that formed a portion of her presentation was a dismissive wave of the hand and the sentence, "It is a well known fact." 

Dr. Oscar Alleyne's blistering back and forth exchanges with her in the most recent issue #34 of the Journal of the Masonic Society, following his scathing review in Issue 33, only reinforce my own (admittedly surface) personal observation of her methods. She makes too many superficial, cultural and 'historical' declarations and errors masquerading as sophisticated pronouncements to be taken seriously as a researcher regarding Prince Hall and African-American Freemasonry. Unfortunately, her book will become a future reference for academics for no other reason than the fact that no one else more rigorous or qualified than a white French woman filled the gaping void on the subject of an American, male organization within a minority community, that demands far deeper understanding of a complicated social relationship. That's a damn shame. 

I know this all sounds like jealous or misinformed whinging from a hack who writes For Dummies books, but I've read many of the same resources she has, and the scholars who questioned her have, too. So, while I really wanted to recommend her book, if only out of desperation for a scholarly treatment of the subject, I just can't in good conscience do it, and I am not happy that she's being trotted out for events like this, both in the US and internationally. It would be like me trying to publish a book striving to be the definitive text about the cultural and historical implications, causes, and effects of Laïcité based on what "everybody knows" and reading the Introduction to a Lonely Planet Paris tourist guide book.

Another disappointment is that John Hairston is not included in the lineup for the Conference, in light of his own new documentary research about the formation of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Unlike Révauger, his book really IS rigorous and important. But perhaps the speakers had been set in place before his book came out late last year. And I suspect John doesn't have enough respectable letters after his name for such a tony venue. I CAN recommend his work HERE: Landmarks Of Our Fathers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Verity Lodge in WA: Freemasonry and Catholicism 1/27

For some odd reason, the last week or so has had more than the usual share of stories come up regarding Freemasonry and Catholicism. As a result, over on Facebook, Brother John Hurst called my attention to a related presentation going on out on the West coast at the end of this month.

On Friday, January 27th, 2017, Verity Lodge 59 in Kent, Washington will host a presentation by WB Vincent DiGiulio: Freemasonry and the Catholic Church - What Caused the Schism? 

Vincent is a Mason and a Catholic, and when he became a member in 1972, he was challenged by his local bishop to find the source of the longstanding dispute between the Church and the fraternity. He was subsequently permitted access to the Vatican Library to research the subject, and self-published his collected historical findings in a book available on Amazon's CreateSpace. (It is a sad side effect of Amazon's print on demand service that such books of any length are expensive, not through greed of the author, but usually just because of the printing process.) In addition to his Masonic membership, he is also a member of the Knights of Columbus. So, papal bulls, canon law, and opinions notwithstanding, he has obviously come to grips with the controversy enough to remain active in the Church and Masonry, and still sleep well at night.

The event at Verity Lodge will begin with a Festive Board at 6:30PM ($10 per person), followed by the Stated Communication at 7:30PM, during which WB DiGiulio's presentation will be made. Visiting Master Masons are welcome to attend. The lodge is located at 805 Smith Street, Kent, Washington. For more details, click the graphic above to enlarge it, or visit the lodge website HERE.

For the most recent scholarship on the Church's official position and current canon law prohibiting Masonic membership by Catholics, please have a look at Deacon John J. McManus' 2009 presentation at Gate City Lodge 2 in Atlanta, Georgia. CLICK HERE.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ocean Lodge 89 in Spring Lake Heights, NJ

Back in March 2013, I made a whirlwind trip through New York and New Jersey, speaking at three lodges and the Scottish Rite in Bordentown, NJ. One of those lodges was Ocean Lodge 89 in Spring Lake Heights, NJ. Because of the craziness of the evening, I didn't get a chance to take any photos while I was there, and I always regretted that, because it was one of the most strikingly beautiful lodge rooms I've visited. Memory has faded, but I recall that the Master that evening told me that the lodge room was recently remodeled and redecorated by a group of very dedicated brethren, and their hard work showed. 

Fortunately, a brother has posted some photos on Imgur that show the loving care Ocean lodge's members have taken in their building. See them HERE.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Goat Question

 "Suddenly a loud voice exclaimed, ‘Prepare the Goat!’ and a large black and white goat was led forward. This caused me but little fear, as I had often heard that it was part of the ceremony. I was immediately mounted upon him, and told to hold by his horns, but no sooner had my conductors released their hold upon me, than I found myself thrown upon the floor, the goat having precipitated me over his head; at this a general laugh issued from those in the room."

Ah, the standard, dreaded "goat" question.

It came up over the weekend during a conversation with someone who spotted my Masonic jacket in the grocery. And no, I was not stocking up on milk, bread, and toilet paper for the nonexistent, media-hyped "Icepocalypse" that didn't happen. 

We actually have a DeMoulin Brothers & Company mechanical goat specimen at the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana at Freemasons Hall in downtown Indianapolis, so it was also the subject of comments from the many Masonic visitors we had Saturday. Even plenty of Freemasons wonder just where the Hell this moronic urban myth originated.

I was poking around online tonight and came across my friend William D. Moore's 2007 outstanding article, Riding the Goat: Secrecy, Masculinity, and Fraternal High Jinks in the United States, 1845–1930. Will probably got tired of wondering too, so he went and found out, hopefully laying this damn subject to an exhaustive rest.

Blame the Odd Fellows.
The historical link between fraternal goat riding and witchcraft is troublesome. The mecha- nism by which the concept was transferred from seventeenth-century Europe to nineteenth-century America, if it exists, has not been adequately ex- plicated. Although Thomas A. Foster recently has identified references to sodomy and homoeroticism in an American anti-Masonic satire of the mid- eighteenth century, he does not factor goats into his analysis or indicate that they appear in his sources. Similarly, hoofed and horned ungulates are not featured in the multitude of anti-Masonic writings published in the United States during the 1820s and 1830s. The evangelical and political enemies of early nineteenth-century Freemasonry accused the fraternity of numerous transgressions, but carnality in the form of riding goats did not appear on their lists of indictments.
The anti-Masonic movement of the early nineteenth century had a deleterious effect on fraternal organizations in the United States. Because they were accused of promoting aristocratic and unchris- tian ideals, Masonic lodges all across the country simply stopped meeting. Pressure from evangelicals during these years similarly induced the members of Phi Beta Kappa to transform their organization from a ritual brotherhood into a scholarly society. 
The Odd Fellows, however, who, like the Masons, practiced secret initiation ceremonies, prospered during the 1830s and gained public approval, stat- ure, and membership in the 1840s.23 By 1845, 686 Odd Fellows lodges contained a total membership of 61,853 members and exhibited exponential annual growth. The organization’s success motivated a number of evangelical and radically democratic in- dividuals to publish pamphlets in the second half of the decade decrying what they described as the organization’s sins, errors, and ceremonies.

Anti–Odd Fellow publications of the 1840s con- tain the earliest references to the lodge goat yet located. The anonymous Odd Fellowship Exposed, published in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1845, for example, describes a horrific, if probably inaccurate, initiation process in which the poor candidate’s ce- remonial guides repeatedly utter the menacing phrase ‘‘Secresy [sic] or death.’’ The text of this pamphlet [quoted at the beginning of this post] deserves attention because it provides insight into how the idea of the lodge goat developed over time...
Read the whole article HERE

Then go have a look at the 1916 cartoon, Bobby Bumps Starts a Lodge. All the standard hysterical trigger warnings about cultural stereotypes of the period apply.

(Thanks to the Phoenixmasonry.org online Masonic museum website for hosting the article.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

John Nagy to Speak at Dwight L Smith LOR Saturday 1/14

If you are in proximity to Indianapolis tomorrow, we are well aware of the traditional January "End O' the World" weather predictions that always seem to happen long about now. Yes, we know, this time, freezing rain is predicted across the state in wildly varying guesses. Despite that, this is just a reminder that Indiana's Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D. will hold it's first 2017 meeting tomorrow, Saturday January 14th at 3PM, following the close of the Grand Lodge of Indiana's annual Founder's Day gathering. 

Just remember, our Founders got to Madison. From places like Vincennes. In January. On horseback. Before roads were built. 

Don't drive in anything truly dangerous, but the meeting is certainly going to be well worth venturing out for - especially since the City is starting the salt trucks before midnight tonight.

The meeting will take place on the second floor of Indiana Freemason Hall located at 525 N. Illinois St., Indianapolis, Indiana 46204.

The speaker will be Bro. "Coach" John S. Nagy, who will present The Craft Unmasked (based on his book of that name):
The Society of Free & Accepted Masons, which is better known to the world as The Freemasons, has been in existence for nearly three centuries. Since their official public beginning, they have spread their Craft to every country on the face of the earth, except for within those territories whose suspicious governments outlaw them. Society members include some of the most powerful men of their time. Yet, most do not know what the origin of the organization truly is or how to accurately describe what its members do.
By applying Masonic forensics to existing Craft evidence, Brother John S. Nagy carefully fossicked through and found long ignored Craft Light. His findings lift away the many masterfully placed masks that have concealed Masonry’s true origin since it first became known to the public.
Through his work, The Craft UNMASKED! - The UNCOMMON ORIGIN of FREEMASONRY and its PRACTICE, John invites you into the cleverly hidden world of Freemasonry and reveals the origin of the Society and what its true Craft is. It is history of which even its members remain blissfully unaware, that is, until now.
The Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research is a special purpose lodge under dispensation, created by the Grand Lodge of Indiana, F. & A. M., for the purpose of furthering research and interest in the history, customs, and societal impact of the Masonic Fraternity. Our mandate is to study these areas from a worldwide perspective, but with a particular emphasis on how they have impacted the lives of Masons, their families, and the general public in the State of Indiana. From time to time, the Lodge publishes Perlustration, a compendium of its proceedings.

We welcome all Indiana Freemasons with an interest in research to join the Lodge (dues is a paltry $15) and to submit papers for its consideration.

NOTE: Here's a link to the area weather. As of 2PM Friday, they're saying chance for freezing rain here remains very low until Sunday afternoon, and then only 50%.

Happy Friday the 13th

For all of you friggatriskaidekaphobics out there, Happy Friday the 13th.

Tellers of tall tales blame the fear on the Knights Templar, or maybe just on King Philip IV, because the Order was famously arrested all across France on Friday, October 13, 1307. The story of this genesis of the superstition was trotted out as factual in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code
It should be noted that there is actually a second Friday this year that falls on the 13th, and it is, as luck would have it, October 13th, which will mark the 710th anniversary of the Templars' arrests.

Truthfully, fears of the date Friday the 13th don't really appear anywhere in print much before 1907. In fact, the phobia may have been popularized by the 1907 novel  Friday, the Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson, about a creepy stockbroker who engineers a panic on Wall Street on a Friday the 13th by playing on superstitious fears of the number 13.

Just to be contrarian, some insist that the proper term for fear of Friday the 13th is 

Paraskevidekatriaphobia was a recent term created in the 1990s by therapist Dr. Donald Dossey for fear of Friday the 13th. But the older term is friggatriskaidekaphobia. Friday is Frigga's day. Frigga was an ancient Scandinavian fertility goddess, analagous to Venus, who was worshipped on the 6th day of the week, so I suppose people have gotten frisky on Fridays for a very long time. Hence the term 'frigging' and its frequent substitution for The Monosyllable. Frigga was pegged as a witch by early Christians, and so the 6th day of the week was referred to as the witches' sabbath.

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. Friggatriskaidekaphobia combines frigga with triskaidekaphobia, and first appeared in 1911.

The names of mass murderers Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy all have 13 letters in them, in case you are the kind that worries about such things. And if you are the sort who is really concerned about it, stay the heck away from Sacramento, California, as it contains a street corner at the convergence of 13th Street and 13th Avenue.

For everything you ever wanted to know about Friday the 13th and anything else related to the dreaded number that hotels rarely attach to floors in their elevators, read Nathaniel Lachenmeyer's long out of print 2004 book, Thirteen : the story of the world's most popular superstition.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pope Wants Knights of Malta Purged of Lurking Freemasons

A story appeared today on the website of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN Global Catholic Network) that alleges Pope Francis is worried about Freemasons who may have infiltrated the modern-day Catholic lay organization, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (not to be even remotely confused with the Order of Malta conferred in our own Masonic Knights Templar body). 

See Pope ordered Card. Burke to clean out Freemasons from the Knights of Malta

Better known as the Knights of Malta and the very real inheritors of the mantle of the Crusade-era Knights Hospitaller, it is reputedly the the oldest surviving chivalric order in the world. According to the Wikipedia entry (usual disclaimers duly noted and understood), the order today is comprised of "13,500 Knights, Dames and auxiliary members, employs about 25,000 doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics assisted by 80,000 volunteers in more than 120 countries, assisting children, homeless, handicapped, refugeed, elders, terminally ill and lepers around the world without distinction of ethnicity or religion."

Apparently, the Knights have been rocked by the recent dismissal (or resignation, depending on the source) of its grand chancellor over their distribution of condoms in Africa and elsewhere to prevent the spread of AIDS.

The article by Deacon Nick Donnelly links to a public statement the Pope made in 2015 in which he mentioned Freemasonry only once, and he did not actually link the fraternity to "Satanists." But the article below attempts to make that jump by association and perpetuate the hoary old fables peddled by Leo Taxil in the 1890s. Francis by most accounts is not considered a foolish man, and one wonders why he would credulously repeat the absurd allegation that Freemasons had anything to do with "Satanism." From the actual statement in full context, he didn't really do that. Certainly there have been conflicts between anti-clerical, anti-Catholic Masons - mostly in Europe - but such commentary hasn't happened among U.S. Freemasons since the early 1960s, and then only limited to a single appendant body. Unfortunately, the Church continues the longstanding policy of making no distinction between organizations like the Grand Orient of France, versus regular, recognized Masonic jurisdictions, despite the very well known and well documented differences.

Likewise, the article links to an in-flight interview Francis gave in 2013 in which he only mentioned Masonry a single time, as being allegedly involved in lobbying efforts ("a lobby of masons") regarding social issues. Again, certainly not in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and virtually any other Anglo-Saxon derived jurisdictions. 

Ultimately, it seems that Nick Donnelly has combed the Pope's statements and speeches over the years, desperately hunting for Masonic references of any kind, and found...two.

It has emerged that during a meeting between Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke in November about the scandal of the Knights of Malta distributing condoms and oral contraceptives in Africa, the Holy Father instructed Cardinal Burke to "clean out" Freemasonry from the order. The Holy Father gave this order to Cardinal Burke in his role as patron of the Knights of Malta by papal appointment. 
The Vatican journalist Edward Pentin revealed details of Pope Francis's concerns about the influence of the Freemasons on the Knights of Malta: 
Hopes that the contraceptive scandal would be addressed came on Nov. 10, when Cardinal Burke was received in private audience by Pope Francis. During that meeting, the Register has learned, the Pope was “deeply disturbed” by what the cardinal told him about the contraceptive distribution. The Pope also made it clear to Cardinal Burke that he wanted Freemasonry “cleaned out” from the order, and he demanded appropriate action. The concern was followed up by a Dec. 1 letter to Cardinal Burke, in which the Register has learned that the Holy Father underlined the cardinal’s constitutional duty to promote the spiritual interests of the order and remove any affiliation with groups or practices that run contrary to the moral law. 
Edward Pentin reports that Pope Francis was “deeply disturbed” by the evidence concerning Malteser International's distribution of condoms and oral contraceptives in the Far East and Africa during the tenure of Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, a German Knight of Malta.  Boeselager was dismissed as grand chancellor following an internal investigation by the Knights of Malta. It is not clear why Pope Francis specifically identified Freemasonry as a problem in his response to the evidence presented by Cardinal Burke during the November meeting. 
Pope Francis has previously criticized the destructive influence of the Freemasons and their hostility towards the Church. During his address to young people during his apostolic visit to Turin the Holy Father spoke about "Masonic, hardcore anticlericals and Satanists": 
"At the end of the 19th century there were the worst conditions for young people’s development: freemasonry was in full swing, not even the Church could do anything, there were priest haters, there were also Satanists.... It was one of the worst moments and one of the worst places in the history of Italy. However, if you would like to do a nice homework assignment, go and find out how many men and women saints were born during that time. Why? Because they realized that they had to go against the tide with respect to the culture, to that lifestyle."
It was during his in-flight press interview in July 2013 that Pope Francis first expressed his concerns about the influence of Freemasons on the Church: 
“The problem is not having this [homosexual] orientation. No, we must be brothers and sisters. The problem is lobbying for this orientation, or lobbies of greed, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me." 
2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Freemasonry with the establishment of the first Grand Lodge in London. It is important for Catholics to remember that Freemasonry has a history of plotting against the Catholic Church. During the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Freemasonry St Maximilian Kolbe witnessed Freemason conduct sacrilegious demonstrations in Rome.  In front of St. Peter's Freemasons displayed banners declaring, "Satan must reign in the Vatican. The Pope will be his slave". St Maximilian Kolbe summed up the objectives of Freemasonry: 
"In particular, it aims to destroy the Catholic religion. Their deceits have been spread throughout the world, in different disguises. But with the same goal -- religious indifference and weakening of moral forces, according to their basic principle -- 'we will conquer the Catholic Church not by argumentation, but rather with moral corruption'." (Kolbe -- Saint of the Immaculata, p. 32). 
It is important that during the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Freemasonry that Catholics pay heed to Pope Francis's warnings about the continuing dangerous influence of Freemasonry on the Church.
Donnelley quoting the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe is a pretty disingenuous attempt to shield his ending Comment from criticism, as Fr. Kolbe was beatified, and subsequently canonized, for being martyred in Auschwitz during WWII. He is famously known for sacrificing his own life to save a fellow prisoner from death by volunteering to take the man's place, and was starved to death. It was unarguably a selfless demonstration of his deep devotion to his own faith and principles. However, his newspaper articles before the war in the 1920s and 30s have been severely criticized as both anti-semetic and anti-Masonic, which referred to the spread of communism as part of a Masonic conspiracy by Zionists to take over the world. Scholars of Holocaust era propaganda and publishing differ in their opinions, with many simply acknowledging that Polish society at the time quite openly accepted the claims made by the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion. There is certainly great difficulty separating his conflicting written words from his ultimate personal deeds.

Yes, there are plenty of Catholic Masons in the world. Yes, almost all of them fully realize that Rome's official stance is that such Catholic members are in a "state of grave sin." They also almost entirely understand the flawed reasons for that pronouncement and know there are no conflicts with the faith in their jurisdictions. And they are all aware that Freemasonry is not a monolithic organization, and has not been since it began. The Vatican - or certainly Donnelley - never seem to acknowledge that when making sweeping statements (or encyclicals) about "Freemasons." Masonry has had its share of schisms over the years, but in that regard, in comparison to Catholicism, we're mere pikers.

For the brethren who sent me links to this story today who are afraid Pope Francis has some sudden excitement about pestering Catholic Masons, it should be noted that Donnelley runs his own website called Church Militant. He is based in the diocese of Lancaster, England. So he knows darn good and well the difference between truly anti-Catholic Masons (almost entirely from decades, or over a century ago) who are regarded as irregular and unrecognized, versus the garden variety he finds in Lancaster and the rest of his nation - in fact in all of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, even if he doesn't get to the continent very often. But he obviously has his own agenda to promote, as a search of his site today returned 171 results for the word freemasonry.  

As an aside, if you really desire a slightly more detailed approach to the current scandals about the Knights of Malta and the condom controversy than Deacon Donnelley's (and their mission to save lives first as a matter of priority, instead of strictly following dogma to save souls), try the National Catholic Register HERE. 

UPDATE 1/15/2017:

Wow. Donnelley is on a tear. I have a feeling as we go through the 300th anniversary of UGLE this year he's going to be increasingly shrill. Here's his followup post from Friday on EWTN:

Will Freemasonry's 300th anniversary be as violently anti-Catholic as 1917?

He quotes Kolbe again, who claimed in 1939 that Freemasonry's motto is or was, "Destroy all religion, whatever it may be, especially the Catholic religion.''  

Saint or not, Kolbe swallowed the Taxil hoax top to bottom, four decades after the guy's open confession, and kept perpetuating it, along with the standard crap from the Protocols. If you're going to try to take a swipe at Masons, Kolbe isn't really the guy to use to do it with. He regularly broadsided Jews and Masons in print and in person - right up until the Gestapo hurled him into Auschwitz for being a Catholic. Yes, his death was true martyrdom, but Kolbe was the very embodiment of Niemöller's commentary, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist..."

Donnelley also goes on to quote a large excerpt from an anti-Masonic booklet by Fr. Ashley Beck, who lays out why he believes Freemasonry is "incompatible" with Catholicism. Nothing really new. Just the standard canards that if Masonic lodge rituals and ceremonies are not specifically and overtly Christian, they must therefore be anti-Christian.

Masonic lodges are NOT churches, nor do they pretend to be. They are spiritual neutral ground, and we leave a man's faith to himself. All we ask is that he has some in a higher power. How he chooses to conceptualize or commune with that God is his business, not ours.

I'm seriously not wanting to shine a bigger light on Donnelley's posts than he deserves, and I'm not going to keep doing it and sending traffic his way. It's just two coming in one week of the new year that made him pop up on the radar. It's just worth it for us to stay aware of the kind of stuff being circulated and targeted to Catholics who are our members, or those who may be considering petitioning. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Italian Hacking Scandal Involves Bank and Freemasons

On the heels of the hot national and international news being about computer hacking, which lately seems to erupt in one revelation or another with increasing frequency, there should probably be no surprise that there's a new one in Italy. But what is of interest are the players involved and the European headlines that will doubtless begin flooding the airwaves any second now.

First, the basics from Bloomberg News last night:
Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were among those hacked in a cyber-spying operation that targeted more than 18,000 e-mail accounts, according to a court document seen by Bloomberg.
Operation “Eye Pyramid” revealed cyber-spying of institutions, state agencies, professionals, political figures and business people lasting for years, Italian police said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. Police said two people were arrested: a nuclear engineer and his sister, both living in Rome and well-known in Roman financial circles.
The alleged hackers acted “with the aim of making a profit for themselves or for others,” the court document says. The Italian police inquiry was aided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said the hackers targeted victims in the U.S. and Europe.
Draghi’s e-mail at the Bank of Italy was hacked in the summer of 2016, according to the suspects’ arrest warrant issued by Rome pre-trial Judge Maria Paola Tomaselli. Draghi served as governor of the Italian central bank from 2005 to 2011. An e-mail account belonging to Renzi was also hacked, the document says.

Among the hackers’ targets were oil group Eni SpA, multinational power company Enel SpA and technology company Leonardo Finmeccanica SpA, the court document shows. Political parties, law firms, politicians and ministries were also targeted.
The suspects tried to obtain confidential and sensitive data, especially on banks, at the ECB in Frankfurt and at the Bank of Italy in Rome, according to a person familiar with the investigation, speaking on the condition of not being identified by name.
The two arrested are suspected of obtaining information on national security, serious illegal access to a computer system and illicit interception of computer communications in an investigation led by Rome prosecutors, an Italian police statement said.
Thanks to a wide network of computers infected with malware called “Eyepyramid,” the pair allegedly obtained from a large number of victims “confidential information and sensitive data over many years” which was stored on U.S. servers, according to the police statement.
Italian police, working with the Cyber Division of the U.S. FBI, have seized the servers, it added. The FBI said in a statement Tuesday that the U.S. Justice Department also provided support to the inquiry.
The network targeted individuals who possessed particularly sensitive or strategic data, or “of particular value for those working in specific financial circles,” the statement said.

With all of that background in mind, next recall that Italy has a national nervousness about Freemasons left over from the enormity and seriousness of the P2 lodge scandal in the 1980s, which, in part, involved Italian banking officials with a loudly trumpeted connection to Freemasonry. So, Italians have a built-in radar that snaps to life when something deviously malevolent called "Eye Pyramid" comes to light. Especially since the Grand Orient of Italy's official seal contains that very imagery. And this time, it turns out, there is indeed a very high-profile Masonic connection with this story.

From Reuters:
Giulio Occhionero, a trained nuclear engineer and co-founder of investment firm Westland Securities, used a malware to infect the email accounts so that he could make "investments based on reserved information," Di Legami said. 
Draghi's account at the Bank of Italy, where he was previously governor, and Renzi's personal Apple account that he used while he was prime minister were among those infected by the malware, according to the arrest warrant. Renzi's official email as prime minister was also targeted, Di Legami said.
Occhionero was a high-ranking member of a Masonic lodge, which in Italy are shrouded in secrecy, and among those he monitored was the grand master of the country's biggest lodge, the arrest warrant said.
Occhionero, which means black-eye in Italian, used a customised malware called "EyePyramid", a reference to the all-seeing eye of God like the one depicted on the back of the U.S. dollar bill.
The stolen data was stored in servers in Prior Lake, Minnesota, and Salt Lake City, Utah, the court document showed.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized the servers and will ship them to Italy, Di Legami said.
While most of the hacking appears to have been focused on the email accounts, there was evidence that he had managed to install a keylogger on some computers, allowing him to see every keystroke, the warrant showed.
The investigation began when an infected email was detected in April, 2016, though there is evidence the two had been using the malware to spy since 2010.
Investigations so far show some 18,000 accounts may have been hacked, and some 2,000 user passwords identified.
Email addresses at important corporate law firms, accounting companies, finance police officials, economy ministry officials, Vatican offices, labour unions, and even credit recovery groups were also put under surveillance, according to the warrant.
Despite its name sounding otherwise, the grand lodges throughout the United States all recognize the Grand Orient of Italy (Grande Oriente d'Italia) as regular. (The only two U.S. exceptions to this are the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodges of Colorado and Oklahoma.) However, the UGLE does not, and recognizes instead the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy. There was - and remains - controversy over their decision to do that in 1993. [NOTE: See more information updated below.] Nevertheless, the GO of Italy was established in 1805 and is the largest body of regular Freemasonry in that nation, with more than 22,000 members in 843 lodges.

Freemasonry in Italy has had a tumultuous past, and was banned in 1925 by Mussolini after declared himself dictator. After the war when Masonry was permitted to function again, it was rocked again by the very high profile case of the P2 lodge scandal. The precursor to Propaganda Due lodge was founded in 1877, and was chartered at the end of WWII in 1945 by the Grand Orient. But following allegations of corruption within the lodge, its charter was revoked between 1974-76. Regardless, P2 continued to operate as a secret organization patterned after a Masonic lodge. In the 1980s, it became deeply implicated in numerous crimes and plots, including the collapse of the Vatican affiliated Banco Ambrosiano, the mysterious death in London of Italian banker Roberto Calvi under Blackfriars Bridge, the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli, and other corruption cases involving a nationwide Italian government bribery scandal.

Because of the P2 history still clinging in living memory, nervousness in Europe in general, and Italy in particular, over anything involving Freemasonry in any way stirs up worries. So, this story involving the Grand Master and a 'high-ranking' (whatever in the hell that means) member will doubtless take on something of a life of its own as it proceeds.

UPDATE 1/21/2017:

To confuse matters further, there is also a Grand Lodge of Italy (Gran Loggia d'Italia), established in 1910, along with a handful of other smaller obediences, as well. 

The Masonic history within Italy was and remains confusing. I was incorrect in my details regarding UGLE recognition, and received the following message from Bro. Luis de Matos in Portugal today:
The Regular Grand Lodge of Italy was not founded in 1972, but rather 1993, backed by the UGLE during a period of arrests and investigation by the Italian police known as "Clean Hands", that affected the Mafia and some (though not many) Lodges of the Grand Orient of Italy. At first there was a growing number of Grand Lodges that withdraw the recognition of the GO, but they never extended it to the GL. As the situation returned to normal and severe anti-Mafia measures where introduced, the GO was again recognized by the vast majority of the Regular world.
In 1972 the UGLE recognized the Grand Orient of Italy.
So, in 1973, UGLE and the rest of the regular world were recognizing the Grand Orient. THEN in 1993, UGLE backed and recognized the new Regular GL of Italy and a few (not all) followed their lead. And AFTERWARDS, most of the US GLs went BACK to amity with the Grand Orient again, with the exceptions mentioned above. 

I very much appreciate the correction. 

The eruption internationally over which grand body to recognize in the aftermath of the P2 scandal predated my joining the fraternity by several years, and by the time I started peeking into European Masonry, things had pretty much settled into the current state of affairs. Nobody really talked much about it anymore, outside of muttering "It's political...", and I just never picked though the details for myself.

There is actually a Wikipedia article about Freemasonry in Italy that is helpful (usual accuracy disclaimers apply). It's summation of the most pertinent confusion reads:
The Grand Orient of Italy was recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England on 13 September 1972 (the recognition was transferred to the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy in 1993, although many other regular Grand Lodges continue to recognise the Grand Orient). In 1973, attempts to unite the Grand Orient and the Grand Lodge failed due to the Grand Lodge's acceptance of female initiation. Nevertheless, 200 lodges of the Grand Lodge transferred their allegiance to the Grand Orient. The Grand Lodge, under Giovanni Ghinazzi, continued in its own tradition and continued to prosper.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

UGLE Grand Organist Plays Bowie Hit

The United Grand Lodge of England's Facebook page this morning posted a tribute to rock legend David Bowie, who died a year ago today, kicking off a grisly year for celebrity deaths.
UGLE's Grand Organist Paul Bowen paid tribute to David Bowie last January by playing Life on Mars on the magnificent Grand Temple pipe organ in Freemasons Hall on London's Great Queen Street. 

Freemason and Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman originally played the piece on Bowie's classic album Hunky Dory in 1971.

Monday, January 09, 2017

"What If Freemasonry Disappeared Tomorrow?"

Kansas brethren, take note. 

On Saturday, February 11th, the appropriately named Justice Lodge 457 meeting in Alta Vista, KS will present a special, thought-provoking program entitled, "What if Freemasonry Disappeared Tomorrow?" Certainly a fascinating topic for us all to contemplate, and one that needs to be discussed on occasion in any jurisdiction or lodge, for the sake of periodically examining our own roles in our communities and the world at large.  How we are perceived - by the public, as well as by our own members and potential petitioners - is vitally important for us to examine. Those who fail to plan for the future are surely doomed to extinction, so this program is certainly a timely one.

Justice Lodge is unusual in that it is an affinity lodge. These types of lodges, made up of members who share a profession or hobby or other common interest, are far more generally found in the U.K. than in the U.S. Justice's meetings travel around their state, but they were indeed properly chartered by the Grand Lodge of Kansas in 2011. Justice Lodge limits its actual membership to 45 Master Masons who are past or present Law Enforcement Officers, which include federal, state, county, or city law enforcement officers, federal, state, county, or city corrections officers, and past or present federal, state, county, or city prosecutors. Their members follow a dress code and wear tuxedos, while guests are requested to wear a tuxedo or dark business suit and tie. As a traveling lodge they do not have “courtesy” or communal aprons of their own, so visiting Masons should bring their own apron to wear. Regular Masons in good standing are invited to attend.The tyled meeting will be held at the temple of Alta Vista Lodge 357, located at 707 Main Street, Alta Vista, KS. The program begins at 3:30PM, and will be followed by a Festive Board at Trails Day Café in nearby Council Grove, and the cost is $20. Registration for the event is requested NO LATER THAN JANUARY 31st by visiting the reservation page HERE. (Don't be confused - the reservation page is actually hosted by a different lodge, Hancock 311, as a favor, since Justice Lodge doesn't have a site of its own.) 

Alta Vista is located kind of in the middle of a lopsided triangle between Topeka, Salina, and Witchita (if you squint a little bit and stretch the definition of "triangle").

Oh, I'm sorry. I failed to mention the special guest speaker for the day's event. Silly me. My memory.

It will be former Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, Patrick Carr.

Friday, January 06, 2017

A Bad Start

While 2016 certainly cut a mighty swath through the cultural icons of my youth, now 2017 is not getting off to a great start around here among my Masonic friends. The Celestial Lodge has way too many new members today, and the week isn't even over yet. 

I'm not so hot about the new year at the moment.

John Cooper reported the death on New Year's Day of Bro. Joel Springer, a past president of the Philalethes Society, and Dean of the Fellows of the Society at the time of his death. Bro. Joel served Freemasonry in many capacities, including five years as the Assistant Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California. When I received the news, I glanced over my desk and my eyes landed on a Philalethes Award of Merit handed to me by Joel in 2003, of which I was truly proud. I had only been a Mason for a little over four years, and was surrounded by Masons of whom I was in awe at the time. So, that little piece of paper meant an awful lot to me that day. 

His Masonic memorial service will be held at the hall of Calaveras Lodge 78, in San Andreas, California, on Thursday, January 19, at 7:00 p.m.

On January 2nd, Illus. Gene Lackey 
passed away at the age of 90. Gene was Past Master (1985) and longtime treasurer of Pentalpha Lodge 564 here in Indianapolis. He was a friend to all who met him, and was known far and wide. My understanding is that Gene's Masonic funeral service will begin Saturday, January 7th, at 1PM at Feeney-Hornak Shadeland Mortuary here in Indianapolis. Because so many brethren are expected to take part, the lodge has asked Masons to please bring their own white gloves and aprons if possible.

On Thursday, Illus. James Guffey, Past Master of Millersville Lodge 126 (1994) in Indianapolis passed away. I have I've known Jim almost from the very start of my Masonic life, and many of the Masons who go back to the old Compuserve Masonry Forum may remember him from those early days of the web. I met him at one of my first meetings at Broad Ripple Lodge in 1999. Once we started holding our stateds in the dining room as table lodges under Roger Van Gorden, Jim became a very regular visitor almost every month. 

When we first formed Lodge Vitruvian under dispensation in 2001, Jim was one of our founding members because he believed very strongly in what we were trying to accomplish at that time. In the tumult of 2004-5, he stepped in and served as my Treasurer when we were in dire straits. He only dropped his membership with us after he and his wife moved to Florida. As WB Jeff Naylor observed yesterday, Jim was a good friend who provided kindness and respect at a moment in time when it was in short supply. He truly understood and lived by his obligation with honor. 

Jim's Masonic memorial service will be at 3:00 PM on Tuesday, January 10 at Flanner and Buchanan, 325 E. Carmel Drive, Carmel, IN. A 33rd Degree white carnation ceremony is to immediately follow the Masonic service.

And this afternoon, Billy Koon sent along the terribly shocking news that WBro. Makia Pai died suddenly at the age of 51 yesterday. According to his wife Ann Marie, he went into their bedroom to lay down to rest. When she arrived home from work, she went to check on him and he was cold and not breathing. 

He was a member of lodges in both Hawaii and Pennsylvania, including Fairless Hills Lodge No. 776 located in Fairless Hills, PA. He served the Scottish Rite Valley of Trenton, NJ as Most Wise Master of the Trenton Chapter of Rose Croix in 2015. 

I met Makia in 2010 when he was Commander of his Kensington-Kadosh Commandery 54 in Pennsylvania, and he was a good friend ever since. Over the next couple of years, he went through the fire with a very special group of us. 

A note of sorrow may be addressed to: 
Family of Makia L. Pai, 1018 Wood St., Bristol, PA. 19007-5335

My sincerest and deepest condolences to all of the spouses and families of these four fine men. We need many, many more Masons exactly like every single one of these outstanding and honorable gentlemen with whom I had the privilege of sharing time, however fleeting. I wish to God it had been longer. 

Their brethren do indeed mourn.