There it was on a Masonic website. On August 28, the Scottish Rite Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, meeting in Chicago, was going to confer one of its highest degrees on 235 members who were elected last year. "More than 2,000 thirty-third-degree Masons and their ladies from 15 northeastern states are expected at the meeting," said the website -- referring to the general conference, which lasted the better part of a week.
The August 28 event would have gone unnoticed but for a minor detail: the "impressive" ceremony took place in the Merle Reskin Theatre at DePaul University.
DePaul is supposed to be a Catholic institution and the Church leaves no doubt about its position on Masonry: one of official condemnation.
And so we are at this time when bishops accept awards from Masons and Catholic facilities are rented to them and Masonic emblems are on cars in church parking lots and few realize what occurs in this organization that some believe is similar to the Elks or Moose Lodge or even the Knights of Columbus when in fact it goes beyond that into the realm of dark mystery.
Such is brought into sharp focus by a powerful new book, Masonry Unmasked, by John Salza, a book worth mentioning not only because it is well-written and extremely informative -- a book that, without histrionics, or overwrought conspiracies, tells you everything you need to know about the Masons, their structures, and their beliefs -- but also because Salza, a lawyer, is a Catholic and also a former Mason himself.
Recommended? Highly. "An insider reveals the secrets of the lodge" says the subtitle, and indeed he is the first Catholic known to write a major book after leaving the secret organization.
Initiated as an apprentice Mason in 1996 in Wisconsin, he advanced to Master Mason and thirty-second degree in the Scottish Rite, along with membership in the Masonic organization called the Ancient Arabic order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or "Shriners." He was about to be elected "Worshipful Master."
A Catholic? How could a Catholic not know it is wrong?
"During my tenure, I frequently heard my lodge brothers comment on the Catholic Church's position on Masonry," writes Salza. "While the Church had once opposed Catholic membership in Freemasonry, so I was told, it had reversed its position and now had no objections to the fraternity.
"Just to be certain," adds the lawyer, "I called my parish priest and asked whether I could be a Mason, assuring him that I saw nothing in the lodge incompatible with my Catholic faith. Although he hadn't studied the matter, he too indicated that the Church had no objections to my membership in Masonry."