Attack on Freemasons
As you all know, under the rules of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, there is no discussion on the topics of religion or politics, in Lodge, as each Brother is entitled to hold his own views in the privacy of his own home. However in Lodges, all Brethren meet as equals and treat all their Brethren as equals, with no distinctions of race, faith, wealth, age or political affiliation.
Formal Grand Lodge Freemasonry traces its history from the early years of the eighteenth century, and shortly after its arrival on the scene it attracted the attention of the churches. Initially it was the Catholic Church who had concerns about their members taking vows and making voluntary obligations, which, as they saw it, came to mean that their members were keeping secrets from their Father Confessors. However over the years many separate faiths, have raised an assortment of varied and different concerns about aspects of Freemasonry. However it would be fair to say that the only common thread in all of these concerns is a general unease with Freemasonry over our stated policy of treating everyone as equal. Most faiths would hold the belief that their membership is special – indeed in many ways, they all see themselves as The Chosen Ones.
Our most recent attack was published in the Presbyterian Herald (Ireland) in May 2013, and caused much annoyance and disappointment to Masonic Brethren, members of that faith. Since then there has been a few Brethren, who have responded in writing to the Herald. Tonight, I want to draw your attention to the letter sent in by Wor Bro Chris McClintock, one of our better known Masonic authors, and a communicant member of the Presbyterian Church. We are particularly grateful to Wor Bro Chris for his permission to publish this letter, which will be found below:-
I write, as an ordinary Freemason, in response to the recent article about Freemasonry in the Presbyterian Herald by Kelvin McCracken.
Freemasonry is not for everyone. Though in Ireland its membership is overwhelmingly Christian it is not a Christian organization, but then nor is it Muslim, Hindu or Jewish - it is simply non-denominational. It is unlikely, then, to appeal to a fundamentalist Christian. Its purpose is to promote uprightness of character and instil moral rectitude and charity in its membership using archaic symbols and rituals which are centuries old. This much it shares with mainstream religions, and maybe because of this those of a more pious bent perhaps project more on to Freemasonry than is there. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor does it have its own God - one of the most common misconceptions about the Craft.
Freemasonry is simply non-dogmatic. Very specifically and unashamedly so. Though each member on entry is required to profess belief in a supreme being, there is no enquiry into the nature of that man’s belief. It is a personal issue between him and his maker, and the Craft has no wish to influence his belief in any way. It simply exhorts him to be the best follower of his chosen god he can be, be he Christian, Jew, Muslim or whatever. There is no worship of any sort in the Craft, and our archaic rituals, and the penalties referred to in the article, are merely allegories - not truths. As allegories the individual member is left to draw his own understanding from them - to encourage him to contemplate his own mortality in his own way.
God is not given a specific name in our rituals, an obvious necessity that enables a member who is Christian to sit in fraternity with members of every other faith in the world without ever feeling better or less than them. The lack of a single name is used by fundamentalists to claim that some demonic power that cannot be publicly named must stand at the head of the Craft. What nonsense! God is referred to in various, general ways simply to permit us to admit members of all creeds and not alienate any of them. This will, of course, set dogmatic fundamentalists of any faith against us, for understandably they believe other faiths are in error and that their particular path should not be placed on a par with others. Not having its own religious message however, Freemasonry can and does treat all equally - and it can do so only because it uses no name for god exclusively.
It is, of course, the prerogative of the fundamentalist not to belong. Mr. McCracken obviously falls into that category. We can see this when he explains why he left the Craft... ‘I started to be uncomfortable with the teaching during initiation that, “to maintain the unity of the Lodge we do not discuss religion or politics,” as these are two subjects on which men can never agree. The outcome of this was that I was placing myself in a situation where I could not share my faith. Ultimately, this led to my resignation from the Order in 1987.’
Given his outlook, which he is perfectly entitled to have, I believe he certainly fits into the category of those whom Freemasonry is not for. Where I do not agree with him is that he feels it acceptable to then blacken the names of good men because he is prejudiced against those who are not like him. Indeed I don’t see why your magazine, as the public face the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, feels it acceptable to publish and thereby endorse his words, and so demonize such a large body of Irishmen, many of whom are good attenders at their Presbyterian churches and in many cases are the backbone of them. Is it really your desire to drive them from the church? If the Irish Craft was anti-Christian you would have been right to publish the article. If our Fraternity offered Presbyterians another way of attaining salvation outside the Church and suggested to its members that they become less attached to their faith, then again of course you would be right to publish it. But we are neither. We are not anti-Christian in any way, indeed if any member was to speak ill of any faith as a Freemason he would likely be expelled immediately. Not only is Freemasonry not against any church but the Order goes further, and actively encourages its membership to attend their churches and play a full part in them. Freemasonry is therefore not deserving of this calumny, but your publishing of this article from the small but vociferous minority that Mr. McCracken represents endorses the view that it is.
Mr. McCracken even makes our charity-giving sound unwholesome. He writes that until the last 25 years or so our monies raised were focused inwardly rather than outwardly. He puts this down to the Order realizing this was bad for the perceptions of the Craft and that we now raise money for outside agencies simply for the look of the thing. How dare he adopt such a repulsively arrogant stance? He is either remarkably ignorant of the Craft’s charity work after his many years a Mason, or is selectively forgetful in his article.
In the 1800s the Irish Craft built two schools in Dublin to educate the children of disadvantaged Masons or of those who died young, and maintenance of those schools lay at the core of its charitable work. Should we be embarrassed that we looked after our own in those times of genuine hardship? I think we should be embarrassed had we not. The simple fact is that much of what used to be provided for in the way of assistance is now taken care of by social services and everyone today gets an education. The girls’ and boys’ schools were closed in 1972 and 1980 respectively, no longer serving a need. It is since the rise of state care that the charity giving that has always been a focus of the Order has been diverted to help the community at large. In the year 2008, for instance, Irish Freemasonry held its third "Grand Master's Festival of Charity" during which it raised £600,000 for the three non-Masonic charities, The Samaritans, The Northern Ireland Children's Hospice and the Laura Lynn Children's Hospice Foundation. Sufferer’s from Alzheimer’s Disease, too, are benefitting from a recent appeal which raised £500,000 to supply ambulances, helplines and other facilities to ease the plight of sufferers and their carers throughout Ireland.
That Mr. McCracken can besmirch such generosity in an unpleasant, petty and vindictive way by claiming that Freemasons only do it to look good is outrageous and cannot remain unchallenged. Not only Freemasons, but those outside the Order who can see this injustice for what it is should demand he retract his words immediately. Is the biblical notion of not judging lest you yourself be judged not relevant any more? ‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own?’
He refers at the beginning of his article to his disappointment that a resolution passed by the General Assembly some twenty years ago about Freemasonry has not been acted upon. That resolution, in his words, ‘disapproves of communicant members of the Church being involved in Freemasonry.’ That would refer to me then. Might I suggest that the reason this resolution was never followed up was because the General Assembly of twenty years ago was swayed on the day to such a conclusion by the rhetoric of its fundamentalist contingent, but that in the cold light of day the ordinary membership later thought better of it and simply let the matter fade. I certainly hope so. As both a Freemason and a Presbyterian the article penned by Mr. McCracken did not embarrass me as a Mason - but it embarrassed me as a Presbyterian - and I imagine there are many like me in Ireland.
Mr McCracken’s article concludes with his fervent prayer that every Presbyterian minister take a stand against the idolatry of Freemasonry and that every Kirk Session be free from its influence. All I can say is that the Presbyterian Church, and probably every Kirk Session in Ireland, would be very much the worse for the loss.
Chris McClintock - An ordinary Freemason. Coleraine.