I was recently asked this question: “Do Freemasons stay friends with a criminal who has been excluded from Freemasonry?”
First and foremost, Freemasonry is an organisation we choose to belong to and, as with any organisation, there are rules and guidelines to follow. However, who a Freemason befriends is entirely up to his/her own personal judgement and conscience. For example, should a Freemason have been excluded for rape, murder or other such heinous crime, it would be very unlikely that any Freemason would wish this person to be named among his/her friends.
As stated above, members of our fraternity choose to become Freemasons. However, it is not so simple as to just ask 1, as it must be able to be proven that you are worthy of membership. First and foremost is that an applicant must not have a criminal record, also:
- The applicant must not be seeking any financial gain from membership
- The applicant must never have been found to have been dishonest or disgraceful
- The applicant must never have been disciplined by any trade or other tribunal
- The applicant must not be awaiting any such proceedings against him/her
- The applicant must always obey the laws of the land where he/she resides
- and finally, the applicant must have freely and voluntarily requested membership and not have been coerced in any way against his/her will
We do, of course, rely on the integrity of the candidate’s proposer and seconder to be certain that their proposal is a worthy and trusted candidate for Freemasonry.
During the ceremony of Initiation, we take an obligation to the fraternity. Before taking this obligation every candidate is assured that there is nothing in this obligation (vows) that is incompatible with his own civil, moral or religious duties; he/she must then consent freely before entering into this obligation. In the obligation that we promise to support our brethren in many ways, however, such crimes as murder, treason, felony and all other offences contrary to the laws of God and the ordinances of the realm are at all times forbidden; a Freemason must always act within the law.
As crime among Freemasons is extremely rare (non existent in Neptune or neighbouring Lodges in the 33 years I have been a member), I have no example of how members might react to a fellow Freemason who has become a criminal. I am certain that this would depend upon the nature of the crime but I suspect that they would act as I would and exclude such a person from their lives. However, should the perpetrator of a crime be remorseful, I am sure it is the nature of all Freemasons to support that person back to living a life of decency, but it is unlikely that he/she would be accepted into Freemasonry ever again.
Despite what rumours may imply, Freemasons have no authority (or inclination) to inflict punishment, that role belongs, of course, to the authorities of the land where the crime was committed. It is, and always will be, outside of the remit of Freemasonry to punish anyone other than exclusion from the Fraternity.
Crimes of morality, for example, having an affair with a Brother’s wife, is treated equally severely within Freemasonry as any criminal act, the Brother will be excluded as this is against the obligation all Freemasons enter into.
A Second question was put at the same time, “Is there any follow up in his social life like in Rotary, lions, etc… but why?”
I have no knowledge of Rotary, Lions or any such organisation other than Freemasonry.
However, within Freemasonry, once any brother has been excluded, Freemasons no longer have any responsibility to him whatsoever, thus he is usually completely forgotten as the unworthy individual he/she has become. At the conclusion of his/her obligation is a reminder that ‘on the violation of any of them’ [the obligations] ‘he/she will be branded as a wilfully perjured individual, void of all moral worth, and totally unfit to be received into any such society.’
Crime of any kind is not tolerated within the Freemasons’ Fraternity, as it is the sole aim of Freemasonry to make good men/women better. So only good men/women are accepted and they are expected to remain as such and hopefully become even better.
Once again may I remind the reader that there are clandestine lodges around, and some of these have criminal intent and, as stated, criminality within Freemasonry is never tolerated. Also, a regular Freemasons would never engage with any clandestine Freemason. As any man/woman can ask to become a Freemason, there is no reason nor place for an organisation to claim to be Masonic if honest and law abiding. Freemasonry is open to all law abiding citizens so, if your intensions are to act within the law at all times then there is no reason to be coerced into a clandestine lodge. Everyone can become a regular Freemason simply by asking of a Brother. So, there’s no reason for any clandestine Freemasons at all, is there.
But, as you see, it is not so easy to become a Freemason but, as most people are honest and law abiding, most, if not all, applications succeed. I wonder just how many clandestine masons would pass our test?
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
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