Monday, April 14, 2008

A Violation of Masonic Law

Reading the recent post at Audi, Vide, Tace has raised some interesting questions in my mind concerning how Masonic law applies to people who hold Dual Membership between Grand Lodge jurisdictions.

In the post, a Mason from Kentucky holding dual membership in a New York Lodge was charged with visiting a clandestine body when he attended a PHA meeting in Iraq.

In the eyes of Kentucky (or at least one individual from Kentucky) their rules of recognition supersede the rules of the Grand Lodge of New York, when the Mason concerned is outside the territory of both Grand Lodges, and presumably even within the territory of the GL of New York. I think on the surface it would seem somewhat reasonable to expect the Brother to hold the most conservative practice between the two sets of constitutions and edicts from the Grand Lodges. However, upon deeper consideration, I see a grave problem:

In my state it is a violation of Masonic law to intentionally deviate from the ritual adopted by the Grand Lodge. If I held dual membership between states, I would likely be a member of a Lodge under a Grand Lodge whose rules also include some similar stipulation. If I were then assisting in opening, closing, or degree conferral at my "new Lodge" I would undoubtedly be deviating from the ritual as specified by my home GL, in order to accommodate the ritual put out by the second GL. The most conservative interpretation of the law, where I would not be in violation of either rule would require me to abstain from all ritual entirely. Obviously, this would not be acceptable. The real answer is that when in the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge, do the ritual as that Grand Lodge does. It is so obvious what the correct interpretation is in the case of ritual, why is visitation any different?

In my Masonic obligations I promised (I paraphrase, here) to uphold the laws and rules of the Lodge of which I am a member, and also to support the constitution and edicts of the Grand Lodge under whose jurisdiction I reside, so far as they come to my knowledge. This is a curious situation indeed. It means that I am to uphold the laws of my Lodge (or Lodges? It's left ambiguous in the case of plural membership), but more explicitly, that I am to support the constitution--not of the Grand Lodge from whom my Lodge received its charter--but rather, the one under whose jurisdiction I reside. This would seem to imply that as I move from place to place, I am obligated to the rules of the (regular) Grand Lodge in that area, and explicitly not to the rules of any other Grand Lodge -- unless the laws of the Lodge of which I am a member require me to do so.

I am aware that in other jurisdictions the obligation has a slightly different connotation in relation to which Grand Lodge is given allegiance.

Moving to a different imaginary example, what if Speculative Lodge #1 was in an area that didn't recognize PHA, and John Q. Mason, who was raised in Speculative Lodge #1, received dual membership in Example Lodge #2 which made him an officer, and Example Lodge #2 had an annual visitation, mandatory for officers, to their "sister Lodge", PHA Lodge #3. Would John Q. Mason be neglecting his duties as an officer of Example Lodge #2 if he did not attend PHA Lodge #3 with his brethren? Further, what if he received a summons to appear at PHA Lodge #3?

"In Ancient times no Master could be absent from the lodge, especially when warned to appear at it, without incurring a severe censure."

I think it is most important, that when we are put in a situation where we may pass judgment on another brother, that we do not wrong him out of the value of his Masonic membership by making harsh judgments. The American York Rite has, in fact, more than one degree where the legend involves this very lesson of not being too hasty or quick to judge, which we would do well to take to heart.


grailquest said...

Some very good thoughts.

This case has also filled my thoughts these past days. I think there has been a tendency to paint it black/white: It's simply a question of breaking one's Obligation, so there must be charges, maybe a trial, certainly explusion. But I think, no: It's GL politics, and they should put some thought into how to deal with this situation, and no be so quick to sharpen the axe.


Justa Mason said...

You now know why some Grand Lodges—including all of Prince Hall Masonry, incidentally—do not permit dual membership.

Having no idea of the exact wording of the obligation in question, as such vary, I have no way of knowing whether someone has broken it. And it's not my call anyway.

Justa Mason

Wayfaring Man said...

Thanks for the hat tip.... Man, that post and the comments that followed it caused a real ... storm. I'm not sure what to believe about the situation... either we have a brother craving Masonry who takes advantage of what he can find in a war zone, or, we have a brother deliberately giving the stink-eye to a mainstream grand lodge....

Either way, feelings run high on both sides of the issue. I think Munkholt is right...more thinking, less shooting would be better.