To the editors:
Cecil Adams' column of 3-11-88 belied its title. What he provided was not The Straight Dope on Masonry but rather a rehash of tired old slanders against a commendable institution. Considering the size of your circulation, that was patently unfair.
Had Mr. Adams done even the most basic research (e.g. one trip to Kroch's & Brentano's) or had he talked to one active Mason, he would have found that we are far from being pagans. The Holy Bible is open and reverenced at every meeting, our initiates are sworn upon it, our prayers and recitations are either based upon it or directly quoted from it. We call God the Great Architect of the Universe, or just the Deity, because we wish to avoid sectarianism between those who say God, and those who say Yahweh, Allah, Jah, or other names. We do not worship anyone but Him (Her?), nor are those antique deities mentioned by Adams (Baal, Osiris, etc.) ever mentioned in any lodge ritual. How else could we number so many Christian priests, ministers and bishops among our fellows? As for Jahbulon, I never heard of him.
Yes, the Catholic Church once condemned us. Did Cecil notice that they've rescinded that rule a few years ago? They condemned us because we hold all religions in equal respect, which was heresy to the pre-Vatican II mentality. Are some of our doings secret? Sure. But consider this: another all-male group holds membersonly meetings at which they swear an oath of secrecy. It's called the College of Cardinals.
Mr. Adams mocks our hand grip signal. Does he know its origin or the history we perpetuate by it? Apparently not. What's the next target, the sign of the Cross?
Mr. Adams accuses us of favoritism in business. Isn't that a variation on the old charge that the Jews "take care of each other," or the blacks work only for the interests of fellow blacks? Come on, Cecil!
Mr. Adams attests we are in favor of atheism. Does he know that atheists are specifically banned from Masonry, and at one point in the ritual are called "stupid"?
Mr. Adams hints that we are in some way subversive. Does this include the Founding Fathers of the U.S.A., the 13 or 14 Presidents who were Masons, and the present senators and Congressmen among us? Is the Illinois Masonic Hospital an evil institution? How about the Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children? Or perhaps the Scottish Rite fund for research into a cure for schizophrenia?
Alright, then, is Masonry useful or not? Well, we're an ancient institution to encourage personal morality by the use of Biblical references and the symbolism of architecture, motivated in all by our common brotherhood under the same Father. "On the square," Cecil, refers to the fairness with which we are expected to act (confer the phrase "on the level" in ordinary parlance), not to some secret, extrasocietal duty.
Would that Mr. Adams had bothered to treat the Masons with similar fairness. I request a withdrawal of his slanders.
Brian L. Leo, 32nd degree
Chaplain, Triune Lodge #422
AF & AM, Lansing
Cecil Adams replies:
You'll recall, Brian, that I said the average Mason would be shocked by the accusation that he was a pagan. Just wait till you get to the 33rd degree and find out the truth.
The name Jahbulon is mentioned in at least one old book of Masonic rituals I've seen. I'll grant that different lodges may use different rites.
The Catholic Church has not rescinded its condemnation of Freemasonry. In 1981, to counter widespread confusion on the subject, it declared that "canonical discipline regarding Freemasonry remains in force and has not been modified in any way, consequently neither excommunication nor the other penalties envisaged has been abrogated."
The question of Masonic favoritism has long been debated. I offered no firm, conclusions on the matter. The organization has many good works to its credit, but its penchant for secrecy will always invite suspicion.