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Another Public Relations Disaster For Freemasonry: NY Governor Pataki rejects membership solicitation by Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of the State of New York

"...expect maximum attendance to witness this historic event..."

So Mote It Be...

g and compass


May 13, 2003


I have the distinct pleasure to announce that our Governor the Honorable George E. Pataki has accepted my offer to join our Fraternity and become a Master Mason.

On the cover is a picture of him accepting my invitation at our meeting on June 6, 2002. Pictured also is R:.W:. Kurt Ort, Convention Chairman and W:. William Hetzler, both members of Schiller Lodge in the Ninth Manhattan District. Brother William Hetzler is also the Assistant to the Governor for German Affairs and it was through his effort that the meeting was arranged and the Governor agreeing to be a member of our beloved Fraternity. Governor Pataki has displayed the kind of leadership and quality of men that our organization looks for. That leadership was most evident on September 11, 2001 when he was instrumental in helping to restore calm and committing the total resources of New York State to our city. He activated the New York State National Guard to provide the security for our airports, bridges, tunnels and waterways. I personally met with him at a meeting in New York City that was held for the family of the rescue workers who were missing at the time with my daughter Danielle and everyone commented favorably on the Governor's leadership and support during the World Trade Center disaster.

As soon as I have received the date from the Governor I will exercise one of the prerogatives of a Grand Master and make Governor George E. Pataki "A Mason at Sight" as per Section 216 of our Masonic Law. I will be sending a special announcement to all Lodges and would expect maximum attendance to witness this historic event which hasn't been done in the last 133 years in New York. After his initiation there will be a public ceremony at Grand Lodge in which the press will be invited to attend to announce that the Governor has been made a Mason.

New York Post


Fredric U. Dicker. New York Post.
New York, N.Y.:
May 19, 2003. pg. 016

May 19, 2003 -- FEARING he would commit "a grave sin" in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Gov. Pataki has canceled his plan to join the Masons, The Post has learned. Pataki's induction into Freemasonry - the world's oldest and largest secret society, with members like George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Gerald Ford - had been trumpeted as "historic" and was expected to occur at a formal and secret June ceremony at the historic Grand Lodge in Manhattan.

But the Masons - who received a pre-November election commitment from Pataki to join their organization - are now being notified that the governor, a Roman Catholic, won't be coming, said spokeswoman Lisa Stoll.

A May 13 notice on the New York Mason's Web site is headlined "Gov. George Pataki to become a Mason."

Pataki's expected induction into the Masons stirred an undercurrent of controversy within the Catholic Church, especially among New York Catholics familiar with longstanding church teaching against the Masons.

A recent article in The Wanderer, a conservative Catholic publication, said Pataki's pending induction as a Mason "underlines his estrangement from the Catholic Church, from which he has differences on such major issues as state funding for abortions and homosexual rights."

A formal Vatican ruling, approved by Pope John Paul II and made available to The Post by a prominent New York Catholic, forbids membership in the Masons, declaring, "The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion."

A source said Pataki agreed to become a Mason at the suggestion of one of his on-the-state-payroll "community-relations specialists," William Hetzler, himself a Mason, and the governor was not familiar at the time with the Catholic Church's view of Freemasonry.

"He was asked to join the Masons, but out of deference to his church, the invitation is being respectfully declined," spokeswoman Stoll told The Post.

No comment yet from the Masons.

May 21, 2003



"Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest fraternal organization. Our membership has included 19 Governors of the State of New York, 14 U.S. Presidents, 7 signers of the Declaration of Independence and 9 signers of the Constitution.

"Freemasonry is not a religion; rather it encourages all of its members to practice the religion of their own faith. Freemasonry, both here in New York and worldwide, counts among its active members many Roman Catholics, each of whom, like Masons from all religions, believe in the Brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of a God of their own choice.

"While we were disappointed to learn that Governor Pataki has reconsidered his decision to become a Mason at this time, he will always be welcome to apply for membership at a later date. We respect the Governor for his courageous leadership in the face of adversity following 9/11. We had hoped that his becoming a member would be an honor for him to join our respected organization and be numbered among our ranks of patriots, philanthropists and distinguished leaders in our various communities, as so many others have done before him."


Society traces roots to ancient practices


March 10, 2004

Not since Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia has there been a death in the United States like the one that took place in a Monday night ceremony in a Masonic lodge in Patchogue, according to two historians.

The death of William James of Medford at the Southside Masonic Temple appears to be one of only two in the secret society's more than 250-year history in this country, where it has long been a centrist organization with a membership roster that extends from George Washington through Al Gore.

"To find someone else who was killed in a ritual Freemasonry ceremony, you'd have to go back to the 1740s," said Tony Fels, chairman of the University of San Francisco history department. "I believe an initiate's shirt caught fire, and it caused Benjamin Franklin to leave Masonry for a time."

Society's roots

Freemasonry's modern era started in 1717 with the founding of the first Grand Lodge of England, according to a history of the society compiled by the University of Virginia library. Its roots are in the guilds, or unions, of medieval stonemasons who used secret handshakes and passwords as proof of their status as masters, journeymen and apprentices.

The society's own legends trace its origins to the building of King Solomon's temple and Greek religious practices. Its symbol is a compass and square, with the letter G, which may signify either God or geometry.

Like the Patchogue incident, the death in Franklin's time was not related to an authorized Freemasonry ritual, but was rather a less formal event that went awry, said Steven C. Bullock, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and author of "Revolutionary Brotherhood," a book on Freemasonry's role in forming the American democratic system.

Both Bullock and Fels said they had never heard of a ritual involving a firearm. "In my reading, I have never come across the using of a blank gun, much less a real one. It's always more prosaic. Rustling boxes, stamping feet," Fels said. "There are various sound and tactile effects that are intended to add emotional charge to the rituals."

The intent of noise is not to inspire fear as much as to make the ritual and its accompanying ideas more memorable, Fels said. He said his expertise is in 18th- and 19th-century Freemasonry practices, which are very similar, and in many cases identical, to today's versions.

Many former New York governors were Freemasons, as were U.S. presidents Gerald Ford, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt, said Ronald J. Steiner, a public relations official with the New York Grand Lodge, based in Manhattan.

In March last year, Gov. George Pataki agreed to become a Freemason, though he did not follow through, Steiner said. "First he said, 'Doesn't that involve a lot of rituals?' ... He expressed interest and within a matter of months he changed his mind."

At the time, a Pataki spokeswoman said the governor, who is Catholic, declined "in deference to his church." Church officials historically have objected to an attitude among Masons regarded as anti-clerical.

Its membership

Steiner said there are about 1.5 million Freemasons in the nation and about 67,000 in New York. It is not considered a religion, but a fraternal order, though Steiner said it is compatible with Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other monotheistic religions.

Women may not join, but have a separate group within the Masonic organization, the Order of the Eastern Star. The womens' group has similar secret rituals.

Men are invited to join the Masons based on their good reputation in the community, and those who join often say they did so for its spiritual aspects, which include prayer, and a sense of community, the scholars said.

Freemasonry's basic tenets are brotherly love, caring for the community through philanthropy, and truth.

Each state has its own Grand Lodge, which is the highest authority in its jurisdiction and sets the rules of all individual groups. There are 650 lodges in New York and more than 30 on Long Island, Steiner said. There is no overall U.S. society.

The three levels of Freemasonry are entered apprentice, fellow craft and master mason, with each lodge headed by a worshipful master. In medieval times, stonemasons in Europe who traveled from one city to another, building cathedrals, used secret passwords and handshakes to identify themselves as members of each of these three grades. The secrets were closely guarded because higher grades got higher wages, and that secrecy carried over to the fraternal Freemasons order.

At each of the three initial levels of initiation, a Freemason learns of secret signs, words and rituals, and gives an oath to keep those secret. Those vows also accompany higher levels of initiation, including the Scottish Rite - which involves a guillotine. Dr. Joseph Guillotin, the guillotine's namesake, was a Freemason.

Bullock said he doubted the men who witnessed the death in Patchogue will withhold information from investigators because of vows of secrecy to the organization. The ritual was not sanctioned, and therefore is not covered by their oaths, he said.

Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc.

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