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French News Online: Père or Frère? Freemason Priest Excommunicated

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French News Online

Père or Frère? Freemason Priest Excommunicated

July 19, 2013.

Story: Ken Pottinger

Tags: Freemason, Pascal Vesin, Roman Catholic Church, Ste Anne d’Arly-Montjoie

A curious clash between French Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic Church has emerged after the ex-communication of a well-liked Catholic priest in the Megève, Haut Savoie because he joined the Freemasons while remaining an active parish priest.

The dismissed clergyman, Pascal Vesin, has just set out on a pilgrimage to Rome on foot from the Alpine fastness of his Ste Anne d’Arly-Montjoie parish to seek a papal explanation and “denounce the injustice I have been subjected to”.

His church superiors, in the shape of the Bishop of Annecy, Mgr Yves Biovineau — acting at the behest of Rome — reportedly defrocked him because of his membership of the Grand Orient de France (GODF). According to Le Figaro he became a member in 2001, five years after he was ordained in 1996.

The dismissal which the Bishop’s office reportedly described as “medicinal”, could be reversed if the priest gives up his membership of the lodge.

The priest earlier defended his right to be a Freemason on the basis that what he did in his free time was his own private business. “Other Frenchmen take up paragliding in their spare time, I took up Freemasonary… but I’ve been treated worse than a paedophile as a result,” he told l’Express magazine (July 10 2013, No.3236 print edition only).

The 43-year-old priest, son of local farming stock (Neuvecelle) born and raised a Catholic, joined the priesthood aged 19, and has reportedly revitalised the Church’s work in the parish. For this reason his unusual fate has angered and disturbed an area of the Alps with strong Christian traditions.

Speaking to François Koch of l’Express hours before he packed his belongings, vacated the priest house where he has lived for the past nine years and set off on his planned 900-kilometre walk to Rome — set to take 6 weeks — the upset priest said: “I have been the victim of a diktat. A few centuries ago I would have been burnt at the stake as a heretic.”

Indeed writes François Koch “the Bishop of Annecy’s justification for the ‘temporary excommunication he described as for ‘medical reasons’, likens membership in a Freemasons lodge to an illness, a radicalised anti-mason discourse that surprises most observers.

“For generally speaking, relations between the Catholic Church and the Freemasons have long been smoothed over and church followers in the 21st century no longer view Freemasons as the ‘priest-eaters’ they once might have done”.

Nevertheless continues the writer, “old ghosts clearly continue to haunt the presbytery. The statement from the diocese justifying the action taken against Pascal Vesin says ‘a Freemason is led to consider and judge everything from the point of view of the masons…without even being aware they are doing so’ “. From this point to one that holds the GODF to be a sect practising mind control, is just one short step”.

When asked Alain Fournier, vicar general of the Annecy diocese said that an ordained priest certainly has the right to a private life provided “he does not take part in activities that are not permitted… the Freemasons take up his time, we don’t pay him (a salary of 1100 euros a month) for that”, he said.

Challenged as to whether he had been living a double life Pascal Vesin said: “Not at all. Freemasonry was not a mistress hidden from my legitimate wife, the Church. I am unaware of any competition or schizophrenia.”

Ordained in 1996 aged 26, after military service in the Alpine Brigade he, helped by a friend Gerard Denglos, set up the Julia et Lorena association providing assistance to Romanian orphans. Denglos told l’Express that in 2000 during a conversation between the two men, the priest had confessed he wanted to join Denglos’ lodge. Both Denglos and his lodge grand master tried to dissuade the priest, warning of the risks he faced vis-a-vis the church and tried instead to steer him towards the Grande Loge Nationale Française where belief in God is required of all members.

The priest refused however and was initiated into the Geneva lodge in 2001. Despite no evident changes in his work as a priest he was eventually denounced to church authorities in a move that shocked many of his parishioners.

For the priest was regarded locally as “a progressive, a sportsman, a man who instilled a fresh enthusiasm for the catechism into local college students through his spaghetti dinners and tours of Mont Blanc, one who had revitalised church-based preparations for marriage and brought discouraged parishioners back to the church with new enthusiasm. He even had to stop some of them from recording his inspiring sermons saying he did not want to be regarded as an evangelical guru.”

But says l’Express, the last straw for vicar general Alain Fournier appears to have come with the “mariage pour tous” campaign which set the Socialist government against conservative and church backed groups across France on the issue of legalising homosexual marriage.

For says the magazine, Pascal Freemason had been allocated the task of reading out to his lodge in Thonon les Bains, near Geneva, the GODF circular in support of gay marriage. “I told the lodge members that we are Freemasons — emphasis on free — in a free lodge and all are entitled to their own opinions”, the priest said.

But in his vicar’s eyes Pascal priest committed cardinal sin when later he opposed the distribution among his parishioners of a tract hostile to gay marriage.

The Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith sanctioned the priest on March 7 2013 conveniently during the hiatus between the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of his successor Francis.

The Roman Catholic Church has long condemned membership in Masonic societies. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated this in 1983 holding that Masonic principles “have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church … The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion,” a declaration signed by the future Pope Benedict said.

The diocesan dismissal of the errant priest refers to “the incompatibility of the freemasonry principles in terms of faith and its moral demands”. Reacting to this statement and the expulsion, Jose Gulino the Grand Master of the GODF said it was “a retrograde decision that reminds one of the Inquisition”.

The tensions in France between the Catholic Church and the GODF have a long history.

In recent months Le Point, L’Express, and Figaro Magazine have all written long features about the Grand Orient de France – slogan “firmly advancing society” — which is generally regarded as being of the Left, and which counts many politicians among its members, including many in the ruling Socialist Party. Sophie Coignard writing in Le Point, published a survey of Freemasonry in France, under the title “Freemasons, the invisible hand.” All three articles go into great depth about alleged links between masons, politicians and a number of recent scandals, power plays and general lever-pulling. Full details can be found at these links: Figaro; Le Point.

Further Reading:

Freemasonry in France, Belgium (E.U.), Monaco and French Africa