Freemasonry: Men of honesty or a brotherhood of crime?

Pope Leo XIII wrote that the ‘ultimate purpose’ of Freemasonry was ‘the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced, and the substitution of a new state of things in accordance with their ideas, of which the foundations and laws shall be drawn from mere naturalism.’

Freemasonry: Men of honesty or a brotherhood of crime?

When it comes to works of charity, after Christian churches of all denominations, perhaps no other group prides itself on the long list of beneficiaries who owe it a debt of gratitude for generous support more than the Freemasons.

They claim, indeed, that they have no other objective than the brotherly support of their fellow man. They claim to bear charity toward all and to strictly require of their members adherence to virtue and the Masonic code of upright moral conduct.

What ought an objective viewer to make of such claims? Are the Masons a charitable brotherhood, as they make themselves out to be? Or is there something else behind a facade of love for fellow men and the poor? What of the many accusations of organized criminal activity? What of the national and international investigations of murder and the like involving Freemasons? What of their alleged involvement in the revolutions of the past few centuries?

Affected appearance of honesty

In the first magisterial condemnation of Freemasonry, In Eminenti, Clement XII accused the Masons of “affecting an appearance of natural honesty.” If Masonry is indeed an affected appearance of honesty, it would be good to see what lies beneath the Masonic show of brotherhood and charity, both to expose the lie and avoid becoming its unwitting victim.

What will be presented here is drawn from the testimony of Freemasons themselves, gathered and assessed in the course of two in-depth investigations carried out in England in the latter part of the twentieth century and published in two works titled, The Brotherhood, 1983, by Stephen Knight, and Inside the Brotherhood, 1989, by Martin Short.

The former largely consisted in direct accounts of in-person interviews with Freemasons in England. The revelations of corruption within various parts of British society – especially the police – that Knight’s book made public, prompted the Masons to engage in a PR rebuttal campaign that saw a flurry of radio talks, press conferences, and informational brochures.

According to Martin Short, writing after these events transpired, the Masons, in their efforts to garner public approval following the publication of The Brotherhood, went so far as to open a permanent exhibition at Freemasons’ Hall in London in 1986, “telling the official history of the English Craft. On show were portraits of kings and princes who were Masons, an ornate Masonic throne, a Grand Master’s apron, the symbolic tools of Freemasonry, jewels, regalia and silver-ware, Masonic theatrical bills and proof of the brotherhood’s charitable works.” Again, in a PR video titled The Freemasons, “brothers old and young, public school and working class, white and black, talked of good citizenship, morality, fellowship and charity… The film showed Masonry’s good works for the aged, sick, orphaned and widowed, and its gifts to non-Masonic causes.” (Martin Short, Inside the Brotherhood, 20-21).

However, as Short notes:

All the Craft’s offensive artefacts had been kept from the public gaze. There were [sic] no Tyler’s sword to fend off intruders. There was no hoodwink to blindfold initiates, no poniard or dagger to thrust against their breasts, and no rope or cable-tow to loop around their necks, all symbols of the traditional fate awaiting any Mason who betrays the brotherhood. There was no human skull as used in the Knights Templar ritual, and no ‘Sacred and Mysterious Name’ of God, composed (according to the Royal Arch ‘Mystical Lecture’) of the names of three pre-Christian deities, some with satanistic overtones. (Short, 21)

Facade for corruption

In spite of the Grand Lodge’s efforts to appear honest, investigations into Masonic doings reveal both the organization and condoning of criminal activity. On the matter of responsibility for the criminal deeds of Freemasons, if the Lodge claims to be a “system of morality,” then even prescinding from the guilt of organized crimes perpetrated by its leaders, charges against members are rightly laid at its door. Short articulates this logic well:

Because Masonry claims to be a system of morality, any Grand Lodge bears some responsibility for its members offences, whether they commit them as Masons or as citizens of a wider community. It has the power to expel offenders, but if it rarely exercises this power—however strong the evidence or numerous the ‘criminals’—outsiders have every right to condemn the institution as a whole… It is the application of the time-honoured legal principle that a corporation or association may be held responsible for the actions of its employees or members. (Short, 26).

As Short details:

The Craft’s claim to be a ‘moral’ society gave it some appeal, although one cannot believe that eighteenth-century man was keen to have morality stuffed down his throat at the lodge mid-week when on Sunday’s he endured fire and brimstone in church. He may have been more attracted by a realization that this honorable facade could provide cover for less honorable activities: not moral but malign, not social but self-serving… Although lodges might claim to inculcate Masonry’s ‘peculiar system of morality’, they could easily become cells of intrigue, self-advancement and corruption. Such potential exists in lodges to this day. Indeed, the rituals at each degree legitimize a certain malevolence towards outsiders. (Short, 50).

A look at the texts of these rituals reveals the grotesque, immoral, and criminal nature of the penalties invoked, should a Mason betray his oath of secrecy.

Short describes a man’s entry into Masonry, into the 1st degree of Entered Apprentice, as follows:

Throughout the formal history of English Freemasonry, until 1986, the blindfolded, bare breasted and noosed candidate has had to place his hand on an open Bible and ‘solemnly swear’ to observe these vows: ‘Under no less a penalty… than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root, and buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark, or a cable’s length from the shore, where the tide regularly ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, or the more effective punishment of being branded as a wilfully perjured individual, void of all moral worth, and totally unfit to be received into this worshipful Lodge… (Short, 51).

Upon admittance to the 2nd degree of Fellow Craft, should the candidate betray his oath of secrecy he submits himself to “‘having my breast laid open, my heart torn therefrom, and given to the ravenous birds of the air, or devouring beasts of he field as a prey.’” (Short, 51).

For the 3rd degree of Master Mason, betrayal condemns a man to “‘being severed in two, my bowels burnt to ashes, and those ashes scattered over the face of the earth and wafted by the four winds of heaven, that no trace of remembrance of so vile a wretch may longer be found among men, particularly among Master Masons.’” (Short, 52).

The gruesomeness of the penalties invoked is incredible. The most horrible kind of deaths imaginable are concocted for the sake of binding men to utter secrecy. That men would be willing to say they will suffer or inflict such things is itself revealing of the moral character to which such a society inclines its members.

In 1986, the Grand Lodge in England changed their rituals so that the penalties, instead of being spoken within the oaths, were pronounced elsewhere in the ceremony by the Lodge Master. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that they have been retained in all their gruesomeness.

Masonic preferment and vengeance

Not only are members of Masonry advanced through the most gruesome blood-oaths imaginable, placing murder before the minds of candidates as the foreknown consequence of the betrayal of the Lodge’s sacred secrets, but their founding documents direct members to perform what is perhaps the most common accusation raised against the Lodge: Masonic preference. Perhaps less well-known is the Masonic vengeance that runs as its counterpart, also present at the beginning of Freemasonry.

Taking occasion from the medieval guild instruction that stone-masons should provide work for fellow stone-masons, even if strangers, James Anderson applied the dictum of preference to all trades of fellow Freemasons when he rewrote the Constitutions for English Freemasonry in 1723: “You are not charged to do beyond your ability; only to prefer a poor brother [a fellow mason] that is a good man before any other poor people in the same circumstances.”

According to Short:

Anderson took this principle [preference of a mason over a non-mason]—honourable enough when confined to one medieval trade—and broadened it into a standing order to all ‘speculative’ Freemasons [the name distinguishing modern Freemasons from the medieval stone-masons] to favor each other over non-Masons. Thus did the Craft’s best-known scriptwriter twist the rules of the cathedral-builders into a binding code of preferment, partiality and mutual aid. (Short, 56).

Short points out that Anderson’s instructions about the “brotherly love” of Lodge members “appears to mean that while a Mason’s duty to a brother is limited so as not to damage his own interests, it is boundless in every other respect. Also, in obliging Masons to defend a brother’s interest, Anderson puts no limits on the damage or slander they may inflict on non-Masons.” (Short, 56).

The little-known background to Anderson’s Constitutions is the fact that Anderson’s father, James Anderson Sr., was a Mason of the Aberdeen Lodge. The severe penalty in Aberdeen for members who refused to pay fines imposed by the Lodge, and who sought relief before a civil judge, was the economic ruin of such men. The entire Lodge would present themselves to the judge to declare the offender a perjured man, and would subsequently exclude him from all economic partnership, bringing him to ruin.

Short comments on this Masonic hostility in Aberdeen that set itself above the law:

The Aberdeen Constitution reveals a society motivated less by ‘sacred duties of morality’ than by retribution. Here was no ‘union between good men and true’ but a gang ready to destroy another member who sought a fair hearing elsewhere. These folk are driven not by ‘purity of conduct’, ‘compassion’ for the ‘errors of mankind’ or the ‘pleasing bond of fraternal love’; for them relief and truth are restricted to a very small circle, beyond which it is acceptable to tell co-ordinated lies to achieve the economic ruin of others. (Short, 57-58).

In the new 1723 Constitutions for English Freemasonry, in place of expressly approving the vengeance dictated in his father’s Lodge, Anderson Jr. inserted the legend of the murder of Hiram, the mythical builder of Solomon’s Temple who refused to reveal a secret password to three apprentices. The re-enactment of his murder constitutes, even to today, part of the ceremony for the conferral of the degree of Master Mason. (Interestingly, in the re-enactment, Hiram is not only murdered but brought back to life in the new Master Mason, in what may very well be understood as a Masonic replacement of Christ’s death and resurrection). In any case, the weaving together of the themes of murder and the betrayal of secrets certainly shapes the Masons cult-like outlook on the world and the moral judgments of preference and vengeance.

As Short writes, “When James Anderson Jnr wrote his English Constitutions he shrewdly did not express the lust for vengeance manifested by his brethren in Aberdeen. Yet, simultaneously, in Freemasonry’s rituals vengeance was sanctified with the insertion of a new legend which would transform the Brotherhood’s entire outlook on the world.” (Short, 58)

Prior to Martin Short’s published assessment of Freemasonry, in a substantially long series of interviews with English Masons, Stephen Knight had chronicled example after example of Masonic preference and corruption, particularly within the British police.

In one such interview, a professed Mason, while defending the uprightness of the Lodge as a whole, testified to the innumerable ways that Freemasons could inflict economic ruin on their fellow citizen. As Knight records:

Masons can bring about the situation where credit companies and banks withdraw credit facilities from individual clients and tradesmen, said my informant. Banks can foreclose. People who rely on the telephone for their work can be cut off for long periods. Masonic employees of local authorities can arrange for a person’s drains to be inspected and extensive damage to be reported, thus burdening the person with huge repair bills; workmen carrying out the job can ‘find’—in reality cause—further damage. And with regard to legal matters, a fair hearing is hard to get when a man in ordinary circumstances is in financial difficulties. (Knight, 147)

After conducting an extensive investigation, Knight called on British civil authorities to launch an independent enquiry into the matter of Masonic corruption among the police, and collusion between officers and criminals who were found to belong to the Lodge. “An independent enquiry into Freemasonry in the police,” he wrote, “should be initiated at the earliest possible moment. Even though the majority of the police are not corrupt, it is clear that corrupt police can and do use Freemasonry to effect and further their corruption.” (Knight, 113)

According to the court testimony of a police informant named Michael Gervaise, in the case of a three-and-a-half million-pound silver bullion robbery, “certain officers were Freemasons. Certain criminals belonged to the same Lodge. There were eight or nine officers in the same Lodge as the people involved in the silver bullion robbery.” (Knight, 114) The informant testified that the police had forewarned the criminals of their impending arrest. As a result, one of the robbers fled and was never traced.

Papal judgment

The final word on the moral character of the Masonic Lodge I leave to Leo XIII, who in Humanum Genus taught very clearly the pernicious nature of Freemasonry, not only in relation to the Church but also with regard to the peace and right order of civil society. In words no less true today than when first written, Leo warns:

With a fraudulent external appearance, and with a style of simulation which is always the same, the Freemasons, like the Manichees of old, strive, as far as possible, to conceal themselves, and to admit no witnesses but their own members. As a convenient manner of concealment, they assume the character of literary men and scholars associated for purposes of learning. They speak of their zeal for a more cultured refinement, and of their love for the poor; and they declare their one wish to be the amelioration of the condition of the masses, and to share with the largest possible number all the benefits of civil life. Were these purposes aimed at in real truth, they are by no means the whole of their object.

Moreover, to be enrolled, it is necessary that the candidates promise and undertake to be thenceforward strictly obedient to their leaders and masters with the utmost submission and fidelity, and to be in readiness to do their bidding upon the slightest expression of their will; or, if disobedient, to submit to the direst penalties and death itself. As a fact, if any are judged to have betrayed the doings of the sect or to have resisted commands given, punishment is inflicted on them not infrequently, and with so much audacity and dexterity that the assassin very often escapes the detection and penalty of his crime.

But to simulate and wish to lie hid; to bind men like slaves in the very tightest bonds, and without giving any sufficient reason; to make use of men enslaved to the will of another for any arbitrary act; to arm men’s right hands for bloodshed after securing impunity for the crime – all this is an enormity from which nature recoils. Wherefore, reason and truth itself make it plain that the society of which we are speaking is in antagonism with justice and natural uprightness. And this becomes still plainer, inasmuch as other arguments, also, and those very manifest, prove that it is essentially opposed to natural virtue.

For, no matter how great may be men’s cleverness in concealing and their experience in lying, it is impossible to prevent the effects of any cause from showing, in some way, the intrinsic nature of the cause whence they come. ‘A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor a bad tree produce good fruit.’ Now, the masonic sect produces fruits that are pernicious and of the bitterest savour. For, from what We have above most clearly shown, that which is their ultimate purpose forces itself into view – namely, the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced, and the substitution of a new state of things in accordance with their ideas, of which the foundations and laws shall be drawn from mere naturalism.

(Article by Raymund Maria republished from

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