Official Visit to Hudson Lodge No. 77

October 23, 2008

Worshipful Master, Distinguished East,
Past & Present Grand Lodge Officers,
Brethren All

Our popular media has, once more, provided a weeks worth of 'Revealed Masonic Secrets' and 'The Truth Behind ... (you name it)'

This latest wave of excitement about Masonry has largely been caused by Dan Brown and his extremely popular 'DaVinci Code' which had 60.5 million copies in print by May 2006. Although the DaVinci Code does not directly concern itself with Masonry, it piqued the curiosity about all kinds of so called 'Secret Societies.' and triggered an avalanche of books, articles, talk-show topics, and well intended rebukes from our fraternity.

We can, no doubt, look forward to another wave when Dan Brown releases his next book 'The Solomon Key' which will be specifically about Freemasonry. The release date has not been announced yet, but you can already purchase the 'Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key' which promises an exploration of the topics likely to be included in Brown''s upcoming bestseller.�

A number of the presentations aired during the week were produced with the close collaboration of Lodges and Masonic Grand Bodies. I'll leave it to you to judge the wisdom of this.

Anybody who has ever entered 'Freemasonry' into the Google search engine may have noticed that the result is about 2,150,000 found references.

These references can be divided into three basic types: Information for and by Masons (careful; there are regular and irregular bodies), Anti-Masonry, and pure fiction (like the DaVinci code).

Freemasonry, with it's aura of a 'Secret Society' has been under scrutiny from it's very beginning in 1717. Our Ritual warns us already in the charge of the first degree 'not to let your zeal for the institution lead you into into argument with those, who through ignorance, might ridicule it.' We should probably add 'attack' as well.

This evening I want to highlight three events which have influenced the public perception of Freemasonry.

The first is a book by Samuel Pritchard 'Masonry Dissected' which was published in 1730, a mere 13 years after the formation of the first Grand Lodge and eight years before our current system of three degrees was adopted by that grand Lodge. In it we can find the full text of a Masonic Ritual which, although subsequently elaborated and refined, contained all elements of the Craft symbolism.

So, for the first time, the public had a tangible reference to Masonry. It was a phenomenal success at the time and remained in print until the 1800's. Not only did it provide the curious with a look at the 'secret' Ritual, but also that Freemasons no longer had to learn ritual by oral transmission only but now could buy a book and learn it in the comfort of their own homes.

Those who feared Freemasonry or found it incompatible with their religious beliefs now had 'concrete evidence' supporting their arguments.

Eight years after the publication of Prichard's Masonry Dissected, in 1738, Pope Clement XII issued the first papal bull condemning Freemasonry. There would be dozens to follow.

The second significant event is the papal bull issued on April 20, 1884, by POPE LEO XIII, and entitled 'Humanum Genus', which was in it's entirety a condemnation of the Craft.

This encyclical is lengthy and detailed in its aggressive denunciation of all things Masonic. I'll just cite a few lines to give you an idea of its forcefulness in its attack:

Now, the fundamental doctrine of the naturalists, which they sufficiently make known by their very name, is that human nature and human reason ought in all things to be mistress and guide. Laying this down, they care little for duties to God, or pervert them by erroneous and vague opinions. For they deny that anything has been taught by God; they allow no dogma of religion or truth which cannot be understood by the human intelligence, nor any teacher who ought to be believed by reason of his authority.

In this insane and wicked endeavour we may almost see the implacable hatred and spirit of revenge with which Satan himself is inflamed against Jesus Christ.--So also the studious endeavour of the Freemasons to destroy the chief foundations of justice and honesty, and to co-operate with those who would wish, as if they were mere animals, to do what they please, tends only to the ignominious and disgraceful ruin of the human race.

After describing the evils of Masonry, the Pope appeals to clergy and layman alike to take action; and I cite:

We pray and beseech you, venerable brethren, to join your efforts with Ours, and earnestly to strive for the extirpation of this foul plague, which is creeping through the veins of the body politic.

We wish it to be your rule first of all to tear away the mask from Freemasonry, and to let it be seen as it really is.

This good and great work requires to be helped also by the industry of those amongst the laity in whom a love of religion and of country is joined to learning and goodness of life. By uniting the efforts of both clergy and laity, strive, venerable brethren, to make men thoroughly know and love the Church; for, the greater their knowledge and love of the Church, the more will they be turned away from clandestine societies.

This brings me to the third, and possibly the most influential event in the long history of bogous and malicious misinformation that ever came off a printing press.

In 1885 a gifted and prolific author, Gabriel Jogand Pag�s saw in Leo XIII's 'Humanus genus' an open invitation by the Church to mount the greatest hoax in history � and a field for both revenue and the humiliation of the Roman Catholic Church, which he most heartily despised.

After years of bring the propagandist of the 'Anticlerical Society', he pretended conversion, suppressed his books attacking the church. He was promptly absolved from a number of excommunications which had been recorded against him by the Papal Nuncio in Paris, Mgr. di Rende,.

Fired on by his desire for money and the ambition to dupe the church, he produced, under the pseudonym of Leo Taxil, a series of books called Complete Revelations of French Masonry, which attracted great attention in Europe. They were translated into German, Italian and Spanish, and read by hundreds of thousands of people.

In 1881 he had been made an Entered Apprentice, but was soon after expelled from the fraternity because of indiscretions of which he was guilty. With reckless disregard for facts, and unrestrained by his ignorance of Masonry, he gave his extraordinary imaginative powers full play, and with a richness of detail and illustration which was truly remarkable, represented the rites of the craft to be a hideous form of Devil-Worship.

One entire volume he devoted to Female Masons. On this impossible foundation he constructed a shameful edifice of fiction, full of shockingly scandalous and beastly fabrications that were received with delight by the papal authorities, who saw in them perfect justification for the attitude of their church toward Masonry.

Another one of his books, of which two hundred thousand copies were sold at 24 francs a copy, he charged every Mason with being a murderer, in spirit if not in fact. The following translation of a passage from it explains the grounds upon which the charge was made:

"Before a man is admitted to the higher degrees he is blindfolded & taken into a room where a live sheep is lying on the floor. The animal's mouth and feet are secured and it is clean shaven, so that its skin feels to the touch like that of a human being.

"Next to the animal a man is placed, who breathes heavily, feigning to struggle against imaginary enemies. The candidate is given to understand that the sheep's body is that of a disloyal Mason who gave away the secrets of the order and must die according to some ancient law, the candidate being made executioner, as a warning to him.

"Then he is given a big knife, and after some ceremonial is persuaded to 'kill the traitor,' that is, plunge the knife repeatedly into the body of the sheep, which he imagines to be that of an unknown human being, his brother.

"Thus every Mason is a murderer in spirit at least, if not actually, for sometimes treacherous Masons take the place of the animal."

This story brought denials from such distinguished Freemasons as Bismarck, the Prince of Wales, and Emperor William I � which served greatly to stimulate the sale of the work.

Encouraged by the credulity of his victims, Taxil added Spiritualism to his schedule of Masonic practises and beliefs and told of tables floating in the air and turning into crocodiles at Masonic meetings, and for his supposed revelations was honoured by Pope Leo XIII with the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a distinguished mark of the high favour of the Roman hierarchy.

A High Priestess of this Luciferan Masonry was needed and cleverly contrived for the consternation of the Pope and the Public, in the person of "Diana Vaughn." She was said to be the direct descendant of a man to whose embraces the lascivious Venus-Astarte submitted. As a girl she engaged herself to the Demon Asmodeus and afterwards appeared before Satan in Charleston, and was by him consecrated as his Masonic high priestess in the presence of Albert Pike! She possessed supernatural powers, such as the ability to turn herself into liquid and pass through a stone wall, and was a Very Terrible Personage indeed

All these, and scores of other absurdities were published month after month in Paris, and read with avidity in the Vatican. When the Roman ecclesiastical authorities had been sufficiently horrified by Diana Vaughn's deviltry, Taxil caused her to be "converted" as he himself had been. This astounding change in a heart familiar with wickedness was alleged to have been caused by Albert Pike ordering her to Spit Upon & Stab a Consecrated Host in one of the Masonic rites.

Largely as a result of Leo Taxil's voluminous works, one of which has 2,000 pages, the Vatican and its priesthood throughout Europe were aroused to a sense of impending dangers from the fraternity, and an anti-Masonic Congress was called to meet at Trent in September 1896, to which Leo XIII telegraphed his blessing. Its purpose was "to make known to everybody the immense moral and material evil done by Freemasonry to the Church and to society, and to seek a remedy by way of a permanent, international organization against the craft." A thousand delegates from European countries attended, among them being thirty-six Roman Catholic bishops.

For twelve years, Taxil was able to exploit his hoax. With his writings and accusations becoming more and more outrageous, even those who wanted desperately to believe them, expressed doubt. The pressure on Monsieur Jogand-Pag�s finally became so strong that he announced she would appear in the hall of the Geographical Society in Paris on Easter Monday, April 19, 1897.

On that date and at that place he took the platform in the presence of a large audience that had assembled to see and hear Diana Vaughn, formerly the intimate associate of the Devil, now the repentant accuser of Masonry. He made a speech of superb audacity, in which he told his shocked listeners that his conversion twelve years before was a pretence, that Diana Vaughn was a Myth, and that his revelations of Freemasonry were all deliberate Lies, put forth for the sole purpose of playing upon the credulity of the Roman Catholic Church and making its rulers ridiculous in the eyes of intelligent men.

But the damage was done. Contrary to the papal encyclical, which addressed itself primarily to the clergy, Taxil's publications were read by the whole of Europe and had been given credibility by numerous endorsements by the Church and praise by the clergy. Anti-Masonic authors and agitators have � for the last hundred years � freely drawn from Taxil's cesspool.

His writings were maybe not intended to be anti-Masonic and seen by him as a hoax to expose the bias of the Church. It's a sad fact, though, that this kind of publicity always finds an eager audience.

At an interview with the press, Taxil said:

"The public made me what I am, the arch-liar of the period, for when I first commenced to write against the Masons my object was amusement pure and simple. The crimes laid at their door were so grotesque, so impossible, so widely exaggerated, I thought everybody would see the joke and give me credit for originating a new line of humour. But my readers wouldn't have it so; they accepted my fables as gospel truth, and the more I lied for the purpose of showing that I lied, the more convinced they became that I was a paragon of truthfulness."

This is indeed food for thought and I cannot help myself but to wonder how effective our recent endeavours to popularize our fraternity by opening our doors to the public and encouraging and participate in the production of print, audio and video exposures intended to give the inside view of a benign and noble fraternity?

In closing, I want to quote Leo Taxil when he explains how he convinced Dr. Charles Hacks to become a collaborator in his hoax and Dan Brown may have had this quote in mind when he wrote the 'DaVinci Code':

The issue of rituals is far less interesting than recounting adventures as a witness, especially unbelievable ones... Besides, to move good souls best, the narrator must himself be a hero. Now don't worry about denials... should some of them protest, their denials would be without effect, since they would appear to have been made in self-defence."



Current Official Position of the Catholic Church regarding Catholics joining Freemasonry

In general, there has been no conflict between Freemasonry and the Catholic Church in this country. Both organizations have existed in harmony.

While the apparent tolerance of Catholics toward Masonry is encouraging, the � Vatican � and the Conference of Bishops have made determinative rulings by which Catholics at large are expected to abide.

Any possible near term rapprochement between the Catholic Church and Freemasonry appears to have been ruled out by a declaration published in the official Vatican newspaper 'L'Osservatore � Romano' by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (then Prefect of the 'Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith' - now Pope Benedict XVI - 26 November 1983)

"The faithful who enroll in masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive holy communion.�

In an audience (27 November 1983), the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this declaration." Thus, the present pope is on record opposing Masonic membership for Catholics.


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