Funny handshakes all round, as the League of Militant Godless head for Brussels

Here’s an interesting vignette from EUobserver:

Brussels is to hold an EU summit with atheists and freemasons in the autumn, inviting them to a political dialogue parallel to the annual summit the bloc holds with Europe’s religious leaders.

While the EU is a secular body, the three European presidents, of the commission, parliament and EU Council, alongside two commissioners, on Monday met with 24 bishops, chief rabbis, and muftis as well as leaders from the Hindu and Sikh communities. The annual dialogue, which has taken place since 2005, is for the first time this year made legally obligatory under Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Hey, I remember Article 17. I remember the perpetually angry Terry Sanderson waxing wroth about this requirement for a dialogue, and characterised it as proof that the EU was being overwhelmed by the forces of theocracy. I worry about Terry’s blood pressure, if Eurocrats having an annual cup of tea with bishops and rabbis has this sort of effect on him.

Under pressure from Belgium, which constitutionally protects and financially supports humanist organisations as well as churches, the EU has been forced to hold a mirror-image summit, but of atheists, scheduled for 15 October.

Those wacky Belgians, eh? Not just them, either – we may mention Britain’s own DCLG granting a £25,000 subsidy to the British Humanist Association to give lectures on religious tolerance under the “Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund”. Would it be facetious to wonder about separating atheism from the state? Perhaps it would. Anyway, I have a bit of a soft spot (only a bit of one, mind) for the good old BHA – they don’t have the foam-flecked, swivel-eyed aspect of their deadly rivals the NSS – so we’ll let that pass. So let’s get to what is annoying the atheists:

However, in a move that perplexed and annoyed humanist groups, the EU atheist summit will also welcome under the rubric of ‘non-religious groups’, the Freemasons, the secretive fraternal organisation, according to commission spokeswoman Katharina von Schnurbein.

Why is this perplexing? If the Belgians could stiff-arm the Eurocrats into having a summit with atheists, one presumes the Masons were invited to placate the Masonic-controlled government of Italy. And let’s face it, it can’t be any sillier than having Berlusconi at a European Council. Always assuming that Berlusconi himself isn’t one of the Masonic delegates, which he may well be.

According to the commission’s Ms von Schnurbein, Brussels views the Freemasons as a “community of conscience interconnected throughout Europe,” and “a form of humanist organisation.”

She dismissed concerns that while churches and atheist groups are free for anyone to join, membership in the Freemasons, a private organisation of men, with some separate Grand Lodges for women, is by invitation only and requires initiation fees and an annual subscription.

I think Ms von Schnurbein has a point. I’ve rarely been in a church that didn’t have a collection, and if you want to be in the National Secular Society you have to send nineteen quid to Terry Sanderson. Moreover, many religious denominations – the orthodox Jewish community comes to mind – have very strict procedures for allowing people to join.

So the question is whether Terry and Keith, those valiant opponents of public money funding anything vaguely religious, will sign up for a jolly in Brussels at the EU’s expense. Well, of course they will – they do plenty in Europe as it is. And it does mean their campaign to stop hospital chaplains bringing comfort to the sick can be rolled out on an international scale. I suppose one has to salute their chutzpah.


  1. weserei said,

    July 22, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Freemasons are humanist in the history-of-ideas sense of the term, but necessarily not in the BHA sense. Traditionally (and this is still the case for most Masonic orgs as far as I can discern) you have to believe in a God to be a Freemason, and participation in organized religion is encouraged. (For instance, it’s the Catholic Church that’s against Catholics being Freemasons whereas Freemasonry is totally OK with Freemasons being Catholics.) It’s sort of like a traditional 12-step group in that respect.

    Odd all around.

    • shane said,

      July 22, 2010 at 3:28 am

      Continental Freemasonry – which is considered ‘irregular’ by the Grand Lodge of England – doesn’t actually require its members to believe in God, and has a long history of anti-Catholicism.

      Enrolling as a Mason was actually a laetae sententiae excommunicatable offence under the 1917 Code of Canon Law. This penalty was unwisely abolished by the 1983 Code.

      • policraticus said,

        July 22, 2010 at 8:07 am

        Actually Shane, I beg to differ the penalty of laetae sentitiae excomm ceratinly does remain in place for Catholics as clearly laid out in the rescript below of 1983.



        It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church’s decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous Code.
        This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance in due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.
        Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.
        It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981 (cf. AAS 73 1981 pp. 240-241; English language edition of L’Osservatore Romano, 9 March 1981).
        In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.
        Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983.
        Joseph Card. RATZINGER

        but here’s a thing…. who was behind the famous statement by the Nordic Bishops Conference in the early 70s misinforming Catholics that they could in good conscience be Freemasons? Archbishop Bruno Heim of course who was the Apstolic Nuncio at the time to Scandanavia. Not a hugely influential part of the Church you might think… but then Heim gets ‘rewarded’ for this by being transferred by the Masonic-friendly Secretariat of State to be Apostolic Delegate to Gt Britain where he was responsible for most of the remnants on the GB episcopal bench today. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how Heim’s masonic-friendly influence steered the Catholic Church in E&W and Scotland to become the unimaginative and as John Paul II said after his visit in 1982, ‘so unapostolic’ place that it is today. But then he was following in the footsteps of his predecessor in GB, Archbishop Cardinale who had held secret talks with Planned Parenthood whilst an official at the SoS in the 1960s. Funny how he too was ‘rewarded’ with the appointment to the ‘Sceptred isle’. And then of course we mustn’t forget deal old Cardinal Heenan who had more than one private meeting with a Grand Master of the Lodge to reassure him that he would suppress any Catholic pamphlet or publication that spoke of the Lodge in England as anti-Catholic.
        But hey don’t take my word for it. Here is the extract from a lecture to the Grand Lodge of France in 1972:

        “. . . I wrote to Cardinal Heenan explaining that the
        pamphlets (I know them well) are both defamatory and
        inaccurate and begged him to use his authority to get them
        removed. I also sent him a copy of my talk on Freemasonry
        and the Roman Catholic Church, expressing my eagerness
        to see peace restored between the Craft and the Vatican,
        and asked for an appointment when we might discuss these
        matters. Cardinal Heenan replied, and in regard to the anti –
        Masonic pamphlet he promised that ‘. . . if, as I suspect, it is
        misleading, I shall see that it is withdrawn.’ He also asked
        me to arrange an appointment through his secretary, and I
        went to Archbishold’s House, Westminster on 18th March,
        1968. I could not have prayed for a kinder or more
        sympathetic reception.


        “I first explained that, as a Jew, I had high hopes from the
        ecumenical movement and, as a Freemason, the evidence
        of wider tolerance in the Roman Catholic Church had been a
        source of great joy to me. His Eminence replied: ‘Yes, your
        letter to me was quite an extraordinary coincidence because
        I am deeply interested in the whole matter, and have been
        for a very long time. I shall show you a picture later on.’ Our
        talk ranged over many aspects of the subject.

        “He told me that he would be reporting direct to Rome on
        Masonic matters, and he asked me a number of questions
        on side degrees and other bodies and their supposed
        connections with the Craft. (I later replied on eight sheets of
        typescript with a collection of official printed documents, all
        of which were subsequently taken by him to the Holy See.)

        “The highlight of our conversation arose when I emphasized
        how important it must be to draw a sharp line between the
        kind of Freemasonry recognized by the U.G.L. of England
        and the atheistic or anti – Christian Grand Orient type. I
        urged that the Church of Rome could safely take the English
        standards as a yardstick for distinguishing between ‘the
        good and the bad,’ and I added – ‘but what we really need is
        an intermediary to convince your authorities.’ He answered:
        ‘I am your intermediary.’

        “Then he led me into an adjoining council – chamber, a
        lovely room, and showed me ‘the picture,’ a large oil painting
        of Cardinal Manning’s last reception. It depicted the dying
        Cardinal seated on a settee, his face grey and haggard,
        speaking to several frock – coated men nearby, while the
        whole background was filled with similarly clad figures. It
        was a ‘portrait’ picture of famous men with a chart below
        giving their names.

        “His Eminence pointed to one heavily-bearded man leaning
        over the settee in the group surrounding the Cardinal, and
        asked: ‘Do you know who that is?’ I pleaded ignorance and
        he pointed to No. 3 on the chart. ‘No. 3,’ he said, ‘is Lord
        Ripon; you know he was a Grand Master and he resigned
        from Freemasonry in order to become a Roman Catholic.’ (I
        did know, indeed.) His Eminence continued: ‘You may not
        know, perhaps, that after he resigned he used to say that
        throughout his career in Freemasonry he had never heard a
        single word uttered against the Altar or Throne. Those
        words have always remained strong in my memory and so
        you can understand how eager I am to help.’

        “Cardinal Heenan very kindly gave me another interview a
        few weeks later, when I was accompanied by a senior grand
        officer. It was a most promising conversation because His
        Eminence was on the eve of his departure for Rome when it
        was hoped that all these matters were to be discussed at the
        highest levels; but we were advised beforehand that ‘the
        mills of God grind slowly.’ And then, almost without warning
        ‘The Pill’ exploded in Rome, and now we may have to start
        all over again!

        “I have told you all this, brethren, because I believe with all
        my heart that the Craft has much to gain from a
        reconciliation with the Church of Rome. Consider how
        valuable it would be if at the very least, we were able, at one
        stroke of the pen, to change millions of former enemies into
        friends. . . .”

      • shane said,

        July 22, 2010 at 6:22 pm

        policraticus, I agree that Freemasonry is still condemned by the Church and that enrolling as a Mason is an objective mortal sin, but that rescript doesn’t impose excommunication for Catholic Freemasons. Canon 2335 of the 1917 Code explicitly did (“those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church….incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See”); this was carried over as a ferendae sententiae penalty in Canon 1374 of the 1983 Code: “One who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or moderates such an association, however, is to be punished with an interdict.” The only excommunicatable penalties are those that are stated explicitly.

  2. policraticus said,

    July 22, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Coming soon to a blog near you…

  3. Jerryboy said,

    July 22, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Why don’t they have open dialogue days with reps from those faceless old reliables, the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, Opus Dopus and of course the Trilateral Commission? I’d sure love to see the considered worldviews of these outfits placed on the record. Peter Sutherland’s alter ego might have a funnier side than his official bureaucrat ego.

  4. Phil said,

    July 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Would it be facetious to wonder about separating atheism from the state?

    No, just trollish and stupid. (Show me a state that endorses atheism and only atheism and you’ll be on stronger ground.)

    I don’t know about Catholics, but Evangelical Prods have historically got very worked up about Freemasonry. I remember a friend (who I think had just been to a talk) telling me that the Masons let it be known they venerate a Supreme Being and leave it to be assumed that they’re talking about the right one, whereas in fact they worship something called Jebulon, which we can assume is one of the names of the other guy.

    And… here you go:

    At the end of the initiation for the Royal Arch degree, the initiate has the lost name of ‘God’ whispered to him, which is ‘Jebulon.’ Mackey in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry said that “Freemasonry is not Christianity” and indicates that this name actually represents a composite of the names of the sun god of three religions: ‘Jah,’ the Syrian form of Jehovah; ‘Bel,’ which is Baal; and ‘On,’ the Egyptian sun god. J. D. Buck (32nd degree) wrote in Mystic Masonry (1925): “The only personal God Freemasonry accepts is humanity in toto … Humanity therefore is the only personal God that there is.” Their Masonic philosophy is that God is whatever you want him to be and is referred to in general terms as the ‘deity’ and the ‘Great Architect of the Universe’, but in higher degrees he is identified as a force of nature, usually the sun.

    Does that sound like the kind of people you want running the Rotary Club?

  5. Policraticus said,

    July 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    180 years ago former US President John Quincy Adams, commenting on Freemasonry said it was “vicious in its first step, the initiation oath, obligation and penalty of the entered apprentice degree”. He opposed the oaths because they are extra judicial and contrary to the laws of the land; violate Christ’s precept “to swear not at all”; impose a commitment to keep undefined secrets unknown to the person swearing the oath; impose a penalty of death for violation of the oath; and prescribe a mode of death that is “cruel, unusual and unfit for utterance from human lips.”

    The religious beliefs of Albert Pike should be considered as they are found in the instructions issued by him on July 4th 1889 to the 23 Supreme Counsels of the World. “We worship God, but it is the God that one adores without superstition. To you, sovereign, grand inspectors general we say this, that you may repeat it to the Brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees.” “The Masonic religion should be by all of its initiates of the high degrees, maintained in the purity of the Luciferian doctorate. If Lucifer were not God, would Adanoi, the God of the Christians, whose deeds prove his cruelty, profanity, and hatred of man, barbarism, repulsion of science, would Adanoi and his priests calumniate Lucifer?” Yes, Lucifer is God and unfortunately Adanoi is also God …. for the absolute can only exist as two Gods …. The scientific reality of the divine dualism is demonstrated by the phenomena of polarity …. that is why the intelligent disciples of Zoroaster, as well as, after them, the Gnostics, the Manicheans, and the Templars, have admitted, as the only logical metaphysical conception, the system of two divine principles fighting eternally, and one cannot believe the one inferior in power to the other. Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy and the true and pure philosophic religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adanoi, but Lucifer, God of light and God of good, is struggling for humanity against Adanoi, the God of darkness and evil.”

    At the time of this declaration, Pike accepted simultaneously the positions of Grand Master of the Central Directory of Washington, Grand Commander of the Supreme Counsel of Charleston, and the Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry. He is looked upon today as the foremost literary genius of Masonry and is best known for his famous work Morals and Dogma which can be found in every lodge.

  6. Craig said,

    July 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    >> Traditionally (and this is still the case for most Masonic orgs as far as I can discern) you have to believe in a God to be a Freemason, and participation in organized religion is encouraged. <<

    Yes, Freemasons are expected to believe in *a* god, but I'm not sure about them being encouraged to follow organised religion. Isn't the only real requirement that a Mason be a deist – believing in any kind of universal spirit which can be totally impersonal in nature? AFAIK this resembles the view of many of the French revolutionary leaders, that there is "A Supreme Being", just not necessarily the Christian or Islamic supreme being. Of course I could be wrong on any of those points.

    • Ned said,

      July 22, 2010 at 7:54 pm

      I think you may be confusing ‘the requirement to be a deist’ with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation not Freemasonry per se

  7. Doug said,

    July 22, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Neither Freemasonry nor the Catholic Church but international socialism. Remember Marxism Splinty?

  8. shane said,

    July 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    The Catholic Encyclopedia’s take on Freemasonry:

  9. July 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I spent a good part of today being given a tour of the United Grand Lodge of England with my class from Berkeley (I’m teaching them about revolutions, and, well, you know). Anyway, their central bunker is like a Gaumont cinema, and their anterooms seem only to reference establishment types. Did you know they had pneumatic hoovers in 1927? and an incredible amount of soundproofing behind the three tonne doors depicting various (all male) characters including a non-blind justice and a hooded prudence?

    It’s no wonder Irish/British cardinals fall for them; I suspect they reach out in Eccleston Square, as they always have, and wish for the marble and brass that are ninety per cent of what you touch when you wander around Old Queen Street.

    The Masons are on an outreach, splinty. Apparently, they are just a fraternal charity dedicated to Greeks who drew lines and had the grace not to do sums, and the incredible mosaics on their ceiling just confirm that. Some of them seem to think that they are Jewish, on the basis that this conference on anti-masonry they’re organising in October suggests that the Protocols-fraud of the Okrhana was somehow directed at them.

    My sarcasm-laden advice to you is to move along, there is nothing to see there, and particularly don’t look at their desperation to find some royal or other to install as a Grand Master before it is too late (the princes are having none of it, apparently). They’re quite keen on Prince Michael once the ‘other’ Prince Edward is done, but I guess that’s like wanting to replace the B-Team with the relegated subs.

  10. July 22, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Oh, and by the way, everyone in UGLE who isn’t a front person sounds like Michael Caine. Parse that.

  11. Andrew Coates said,

    July 23, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Splinty seems have forgotten his Trotskyist antecedents.

    There is a long association between the ‘Lambertist’ (Pierre Boussel) current and secularist Freemasonry in France – through the hard labour in the fields of Force Ouvrière. Though, as one would expect, the Parti Socialiste has a lot stronger links with them.

    The Grand Orient de France does not impose religious belief as a condition of membership.

  12. johng said,

    July 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Well on secularism the French left is just seriously fucked up as any fool knows. I think its interesting how being the inheritors of the most seriously radical bourgois tradition can screw up socialists.

  13. Andrew Coates said,

    July 23, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Johng, please feel free to generalise wildly on the basis of the Lambertists think (well below 1% in the last Presidential elections) onto the entire French left.

    It restores my faith in the SWP: credo in spiritum sanctum Callinicumque.

  14. Craig said,

    July 24, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    >> Neither Freemasonry nor the Catholic Church but international socialism. <<

    Does repeating empty slogans make "socialism" come any sooner? The Left and in particular the far Left seem to have a fondness for them.

  15. Lobby Ludd said,

    July 24, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I’ll own up. I do not understand all this Catholic stuff. I used to understand CofE stuff when I was at school, not that it mattered.

    I’d like to know more about the power of the (Roman) Church in Ireland. Reading this blog and its concern with the curious under-politics of the church, makes me even more ignorant.

    I’m a simple soul. What’s with all this Catholic stuff?

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