Continental Freemasonry, also known as Liberal Freemasonry, Latin Freemasonry and Adogmatic Freemasonry, includes the Masonic lodges, primarily on the continent of Europe, that recognise the Grand Orient de France (GOdF) or belong to CLIPSAS. The majority of Freemasons belong to lodges that recognise the United Grand Lodge of England and do not recognise Continental Freemasons, regarding them as "irregular".
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Two branches of Freemasonry
- the Anglo/American "Regular" tradition of jurisdictions, typified by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), termed Grand Lodges
- the European "Continental" tradition of jurisdictions, typified by GODF known as Grand Orients, with varying and shifting amity
In Latin countries, the GODF-style or European Continental Freemasonry predominates, although they also have Grand Lodges and Grand Orients in "regular amity" with the UGLE and the worldwide community of Grand Lodges that share regular fraternal relations with the UGLE. Most of the world, accounting for the bulk of Freemasonry, follows the UGLE style more closely, although minor variations exist.
History of the schism
There are several reasons for the schism in Freemasonry, and why it persists. The first instance of derecognition occurred in the United States shortly after the American Civil War. In 1869, the Grand Orient de France (GODF) recognized a Masonic group in Louisiana which was not recognized by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana (GLL). This was seen by GLL as an invasion of its jurisdiction, and it withdrew its recognition of GODF. At the request of GLL, several other American Grand Lodges also withdrew recognition. There is evidence that racial motivations may have played a part in this derecognition. The GODF had recently passed a resolution stating that "neither color, race, nor religion should disqualify a man for initiation" and the Grand Lodge of Louisiana strictly excluded blacks and those of mixed race. The initial schism was not unanimous in the US. Many American Grand Lodges continued to recognize the GODF well into the 20th century.
The schism widened in 1877 when the GODF changed its constitutions to allow for complete religious "Laïcité". While the Anglo-American tradition had long required candidates to acknowledge a belief in deity, the GODF removed that requirement, stating that Laïcité "imposes that all men are given, without distinction of class, origin or denomination, the means to be themselves, to have the freedom of choice, to be responsible for their own maturity and masters of their destiny." In sum, the GODF would admit atheists, while the lodges in the Anglo-American tradition would not. The United Grand Lodge of England then withdrew its recognition, and declared the GODF to be "irregular." As other jurisdictions tended to follow the lead of either GODF or UGLE, the schism widened.
Background on the belief in Deity
There is some debate about when Anglo-American Freemasonry began requiring a belief in Deity. It may have dated from the earliest days of Freemasonry: the Regius Manuscript, the oldest known Masonic document dating from 1425–50, states that a Mason "must love well God and holy church always." James Anderson's 1723 Constitutions state that "A Mason is oblig'd by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law, and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine."
The difference was not limited to the requirement in belief. Following the 1877 changes, the Grand Orient also removed all references to the Grand Architect of the Universe from its rite, and removed the Volume of the Sacred Law (which in France was the Bible) from its ritual. These elements had been present in French freemasonry before 1849.
Relationship with the Catholic Church
Continental Freemasonry has been concentrated in traditionally Catholic countries and has been seen by Catholic critics as an outlet for anti-Catholic disaffection. Many particularly anti-clerical regimes in traditionally Catholic countries were perceived as having strong Masonic connections.
The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia credited Freemasonry for the French Revolution and its persecution of the Church, citing a claim made in a document from the Grand Orient de France. The Encyclopedia saw Freemasonry as the primary force of French anti-clericalism from 1877 onwards, again citing official documents of French Masonry to support its claim. According to one historian, Masonic hostility continued into the early twentieth century with the Affaire Des Fiches and, according to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State can be credited to the Grand Orient de France, based on Masonic documents.
In Italy, the Church linked the anticlerical and nationalist secret society, the Carbonari, to Freemasonry and blamed the anticlerical direction of Italian Unification, or Risorgimento, on Freemasonry. Into the 1890s the Church would justify its calls for Catholics to avoid dealings with the Italian state with a reference to the state's supposed "Masonic" nature.
Mexican Freemasonry was also seen as following the pattern of Continental Freemasonry in other Latin-speaking countries, viewed as becoming more anti-clerical during the nineteenth century, particularly because they adopted the Scottish Rite degree system created by Albert Pike, which the Catholic Church saw as anti-clerical.
Even as late as 2005, the president of Spain's Union of Catholic Professional Fraternities blamed the anti-clerical measures of the Socialist government on a "tremendous crusade by Masonry against the Church."
Freemasons attached to the more mainstream branch of Freemasonry, affiliated with the United Grand Lodge of England and the 51 US Grand Lodges, have often claimed that the anticlericalism of the Continental Branch of Freemasonry is a "deviation" from proper Freemasonry.
Continental Freemasonry across the world
Continental style Lodges exist in most regions of the world. In some countries they are the predominant variant of Freemasonry, while in others they are a distinct minority.
Throughout Central and South America, both Continental and Anglo-American jurisdictions exist but Continental style Grand Orients predominate. In Brazil, for example, the largest and oldest Masonic body, the Grande Oriente do Brasil is recognised by Anglo-American jurisdictions.
Continental style Freemasonry originated in France and remains the largest presence there. The Grand Orient de France is the largest Masonic jurisdiction, with the Grande Loge de France (also within the Continental tradition) second in membership. The third largest Masonic body is the Anglo-American style Grande Loge Nationale Française. The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain founded in 1893 has 32,000 members in more than 60 countries.
Other European countries
Continental style Freemasonry is prevalent in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain, although there are rival bodies following the Anglo-American tradition. It is present, but not in the majority, in most other European countries. In Germanic states, Anglo-American and Swedish Rite traditions predominate.
Although some Continental style organizations exist, they are a small minority in North America.
- "This new concept of Freemasonry – of absolute freedom of conscience... born in the "Convent" (Annual General Meeting) of 1877 and gave birth to a new form of practise in Freemasonry which is called Liberal Freemasonry." Grand Orient de France. archived 23 January 2010.
- "So far does this militant atheism of 'Latin Freemasonry' in France go," (Johnston 1918, p. 71).
- "Nevertheless, the Vatican, with its long experience of Latin Freemasonry, has not altered its opposition to and disapproval of all brands of Freemasonry" (Glazier & Hellwig 2005, p. 330).
- "which are convinced that the social, moral and intellectual liberation of men and women will be the result of an unending struggle against dogmatic limitations, sectarian forces and ideologies that violate adogmatic freemasonry;" from the Belgian Freemason website. archived 17 July, 2011.
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- U.S. Recognition of French Grand Lodges in the 1900s Archived 10 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Paul Bessel, published in Heredom: The Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society – volume 5, 1996, pages 221–244
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- Iowa Proceedings 1918, pp. 25–29.
- Liberal Freemasonry Archived 31 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine – fm-fr.org
- "Everyone knows that the Grand Orient Lodges of Europe and Latin America have been anti-clerical from the start. For the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to advise Catholics against joining these Grand Orient Lodges would be like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People advising blacks against applying for membership in the Ku Klux Klan", William Whalen, The Pastoral Problem of Masonic Membership
- "Masonry, which prepared the Revolution of 1789, has the duty to continue its work" (Gruber 1910, VII. Outer Work footnote 163 cites: the Circular of the Grand Orient of France, 2 April 1889,
- "French Masonry and above all the Grand Orient of France has displayed the most systematic activity as the dominating political element in the French "Kulturkampf" since 1877" (Gruber 1910, VII Outer work).
- Franklin 2006, p. 9 (footnote 26) cites Larkin, Maurice, Church and State after the Dreyfus Affair, pp. 138–141: "Freemasonry in France", Austral Light, 6: 164–172, 241–250, 1905
- "In truth all the 'anti-clerical' Masonic reforms carried out in France since 1877, such as the secularization of education, measures against private Christian schools and charitable establishments, the suppression of the religious orders and the spoliation of the Church, professedly culminate in an anti-Christian and irreligious reorganization of human society, not only in France but throughout the world" (Gruber 1910, VII Outer work).
"From the fall of the MacMahon government in 1877 to the start of World War II, Masonic politicians controlled the French government. They passed anticlerical laws designed to restrict the Church's influence, especially in education" (New Catholic Encyclopedia 1967, p. 135).
- "It also links Freemasonry with the Society of the Carbonari, known as the "Charcoal Burners", who at that time were active in Italy and were believed to be a revolutionary group" (McInvale, Reid (18 June 2013), Roman Catholic Church Law Regarding Freemasonry, Texas Lodge of Research, retrieved 1 August 2013
- "Masonry has confiscated the inheritance of public charity; fill the void, then, with the treasure of private relief" (Pope Leo XIII (1999), Custodi di Quella Fede (Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on 8 December 1892), Eternal Word Television Network, p. Para 18).
- "As the 19th Century went on, Mexican Masonry embraced the degree system authored by Albert Pike and grew ever more anticlerical, regardless of Rite" (Salinas E., Oscar J. (Senior Grand Warden-York/Mexico) (10 September 1999), Mexican Masonry – Politics & Religion, archived from the original on 15 June 2011)
- "The president of the Union of Catholic Professional Fraternities, Luis Labiano, said this week a "tremendous crusade by Masonry against the Church" exists in Spain." Spanish Catholic organization blames Masons for “tremendous crusade” against Church, 27 September 2004, Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
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- Usage of 'Anglo-American' (1)
- Usage of 'Anglo-American' (2)
- Usage of 'Anglo-American' (3)
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- Lodges in New York City Archived 29 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, San Francisco Archived 30 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Los Angeles Archived 22 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Washington DC Archived 29 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine and Montréal in Québec Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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- Hodapp, Christopher (5 September 2009), Grand Orient of France Votes Against Women Members, Freemasonry for Dummies blog
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