I’ve been asked a question relating to honour, especially when this comes to marriage, sex and a liberal life, cohabiting (unmarried man and lady living together) and children. Questions such as these when addressed to me are always related to the attitude of Freemasons, and initially my answer is that all of the above relate to morality, and morality sits high in the teaching of Freemasonry. However, much of the opinions formed over this subject really belong to our world’s varying cultures and religious faiths.
To become a Freemason the candidate is expected to have high moral standards, but as Freemasonry extends throughout the world, the term “high moral” is dependent upon the nature of a culture and predominant religion (or religions). So firstly, a Freemasonry’s view of morality, which for individual members is most probably already covered by the society and religious faith he/she follows. So, when it comes to Freemasonry, we’ll take a general view that could apply anywhere.
The word “honour” is used on numerous occasions during the ceremonies of the 3 degrees in Freemasonry, especially in the first degree Initiation ceremony and in the third; it usually appears in the form of “as a man (or woman) of honour.” It is applied during the obligation in the third degree with respect to protecting a brother’s honour and “carefully preserve it as my own” and it goes without saying that this applies equally to his/her family. Most importantly, however, in the ceremony of initiation, at the beginning of a Charge (Emulation Ritual) that is recited to the new brother/sister has these words:
“and honourable it must be acknowledged to be, as by a natural tendency it conduces to make those so who are obedient to its precepts”
and concludes thus:
“I am led to hope you will duly appreciate the value of Freemasonry and indelibly imprint on your heart the sacred dictates of Truth, of Honour, and of Virtue”
When these three words are spoken all will place their hand on their heart as each word is spoken. This not only emphasises the importance of these three words, but that they are come from the hearts of all true Freemasons.
However, this emphasis on honour within Freemasonry has nothing at all that relates specifically to marriage, with the exception of honouring your Brother in Freemasonry, his wife, sister or child.
In life in general, society through their faith, or their society’s laws, usually wish to make a commitment to the person with whom they fall in love with and have chosen to spend their life together. For example, the strictly religious in society, be they Freemasons or not, sanctify marriage, especially within the Roman Catholic faith, where marriage is one of the sacraments governing their faith. For the Roman Catholic, when a man and a woman marry they make their vows, not only to each other, but also to God. In the marriage ceremony that I underwent in the Church of England, the last words of the vicar are “For those that God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” But the difference between these two Christian faiths is that, should in time their marriage fail, the one of the Church of England may divorce and remarry, but for a Roman Catholic this is unacceptable.
It is also unacceptable in a Roman Catholic viewpoint for a man and a woman to cohabitate, but that is perfectly acceptable in Western societies in general, even to the point of bringing up children. However, I understand that this is unacceptable in some other cultures. However, it is allowed in some societies but having children is forbidden in these cohabiting relationships to the point that the child’s birth cannot be registered; the sins of the parents are bestowed upon the child. This behaviour was also present in western societies many years ago, but no burden, stigma or chains should be placed upon any innocent child.
I venture here on the aspects of the marriage ceremonies in Britain (this most likely applies to all western civilisations). In addition to a church marriage ceremony, there is also a civil ceremony too, and in Britain this applies to all but the Church of England (where the vicar is seen as a registrar.) So for a Roman Catholic, a registrar must be present to witness the legal documents required for the contractual part of the ceremony, this rule also applies for all marriages in the USA.
So, we have two basic marriage ceremonies, religious and civil. However, in recent years many in western societies recognise that there are, apparently a few other gender types of which a man or a woman can come under. For those who fall in love and wish to marry someone of the same sex, this would be totally unacceptable in the Roman Catholic faith and many others too. When a law in England called “The Marriage (same Sex Couples) Act was passed in 2013, the Church of England (and other Protestant faiths) requested an exemption, which was granted. The Church of England’s Church Law (Canon Law), being the State Church, is also part of English law, hence the need to be exempted from this 2013 Act of Parliament. This aspects of this law was later granted to different sex marriages (men and women) as some considered that to have a special law for gay and other gender couples was unfair to those who wanted to make use of this uniquely different approach to falling in love and wishing to spend their lives together.
Confused? Me too, but I was asked the question ad have done my best at answering it. Now let’s relate honour with respect to all the above confusion. It is not being dishonourable when the word is applied to the marriages mentioned above, as it is part of British law, and a Freemason must be loyal to the laws of the state or territory that give him/her its protection, being his nation of birth or one that he/she has chosen and that has accepted him to reside there.
That just leaves the last part of the question, promiscuity. In general this is frowned upon by those with high moral standards, but it certainly isn’t illegal here in the West. One reason that it is frowned upon is that children could be born through such promiscuous behaviour, and that child may not find the love that those born into a stable relationship would hope to find. In this country “unwanted” children are cared for by the state, and the lucky ones will be adopted or fostered, while the others will find themselves in a children’s home (hostel) where they will be well cared for, but may not find that love that is present in a loving relationship; it is an unfortunate consequence that they will carry with them a life long stigma of having not been wanted by those who parented them, their natural parents, simply because of the result of that single evening of lust.
To sum up then, a candidate for Freemasonry must be seen as having high moral standards by his peers before he can be accepted to partake in any Initiation ceremony, but as morality may differ in many parts of the world, these high morals will also differ. Freemasonry, being universally spread over the four corners of the world, will fit in and honour the culture of that land.
So the moral here is not to judge others by the standards you understand before you have walked in their shoes and understood theirs.
These articles are written and researched 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 or Provincial Grand Lodge.
© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved