Continental Freemasonry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Continental Freemasonry, otherwise known as Liberal Freemasonry,[1] Latin Freemasonry,[2][3] and Adogmatic Freemasonry,[4] includes the Masonic lodges, primarily on the European continent, that recognize the Grand Orient de France (GOdF) or belong to CLIPSAS, SIMPA, TRACIA *[1]*, CIMAS, COMAM, CATENA, GLUA, or any of various other international organizations of Liberal, i.e., Continental Freemasonry. The larger number of Freemasons, most of whom live in the United States–where Regular Freemasonry holds a virtual monopoly–belong to Masonic lodges that recognize the United Grand Lodge of England and do not recognize Continental Freemasons, regarding them as "irregular".[5][6]

Two branches of Freemasonry[edit]

Freemasonry has two branches "not in mutual regular amity":[7]

  • the Anglo/American "Regular" tradition of jurisdictions, typified by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), and the various Grand Lodges in the United States.
  • the European "Continental" tradition of jurisdictions, typified by Grand Orient de France(GOdF), and the various Grand Lodges in France, with varying and shifting amity.

In Latin American countries, Continental Europe and much of Africa the GOdF-style or European Continental Freemasonry predominates,[8] although those nations may also have smaller Grand Lodges and Grand Orients that are part of the “Regular” tradition.

History of the schism[edit]

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.[9] 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"[10] and the Grand Lodge of Louisiana strictly excluded blacks and those of mixed race. The initial schism was not unanimous in the U.S.; many American Grand Lodges continued to recognize the GOdF well into the 20th century.[9]

1877 schism[edit]

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."[11][12] 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[edit]

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 GOdF required belief in God from 1849 until 1877, and then reversed its position.[10][13][14]

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. Instead, the Masonic Constitution is often used in replacement.

Political discussion in the lodges[edit]

Another difference between Continental and Anglo-American Freemasonry is that political discussion is allowed in Lodges following the Continental tradition, while it is strictly banned in the Anglo-American tradition.

Relationship with the Catholic Church[edit]

Continental Freemasonry has been concentrated in traditionally Catholic countries and has been seen by Catholic critics as an outlet for anti-Catholic disaffection.[15] Many particularly anti-clerical regimes in traditionally Catholic countries were perceived as having strong Masonic connections.[2]

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.[16] 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.[17] According to one historian, Masonic hostility continued into the early twentieth century with the Affaire Des Fiches[18][19][20] and, according to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State[21][22] 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[23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

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."[26]

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.[27][28]

Continental Freemasonry across the world[edit]

Continental style Lodges exist in most regions of the world. Throughout Continental Europe, Latin America, most of the Caribbean and most of Africa, they are the predominant tradition of Freemasonry, while in the United States of America, the British Commonwealth, and those nations colonized by these powers they are virtually non-existent.

Latin America and the Caribbean[edit]

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, both Continental and Anglo-American, conservative jurisdictions exist but Continental style Masonic Bodies predominate. In Brazil, for example, the largest and oldest Masonic body, the Grande Oriente do Brasil is recognised by Anglo-American jurisdictions. Nevertheless, when its membership numbers are compared to the members of all of the Continental style Masonic Bodies, it remains a minority.[29]

In many Latin American countries, the Masonic split has mirrored political divisions. Rivalry between two factions in Mexican Freemasonry is said to have contributed to the Mexican civil war.[30]

Continental Europe[edit]

A masonic medallion issued by the Masonic Lodge "Vistina – La Verite" in Skopje, North Macedonia. The lodge is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient of France.


Continental style Freemasonry originated in France and its members make up the overwhelming majority of Freemasons in the nation. 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.[31]

Other European countries[edit]

Continental style Freemasonry is prevalent in most of the continent (as its name suggests), although there are smaller numbers of members following the Anglo-American tradition in those nations also.[8][32] Liberal Continental Freemasonry is present in the majority in most European countries. However, in Germanic states, Anglo-American and Swedish Rite traditions predominate.

North America[edit]

Although some Continental style organizations exist in the United States of America, they are a tiny minority there and have substantially larger (but still minor) numbers in Canada. In Mexico, however, Continental Freemasonry dominates. These Grand Lodges, Grand Orients and Masonic Orders usually belong to international organizations such as CLIPSAS, SIMPA, CIMAS, COMAM, GLUA, TRACIA and others.

Within the United States of America there are scattered Masonic Orders and Grand Lodges, such as the Honorable Order of Universal Co-Masonry,[33] the George Washington Union (GWU),[34] the Omega Grand Lodge of the State of New York,[35] and Le Droit Humain,[36] that belong to the Continental or Progressive Universal Tradition. The Women's Grand Lodge Of Belgium (GLFB or WGLB),[37] and the Feminine Grand Lodge of France[38] also have liberal lodges in North America.


Continental Freemasonry holds the majority in some nations, especially in French and Portuguese speaking areas (but is minority in English speaking areas). It tends to originate from the French, Portuguese and Belgian former colonists. African leaders such as Pascal Lissouba of the Republic of the Congo belong to Masonic lodges allied with Continental Freemasonry.[39]


  1. ^ "History: Its Ideas". Grand Orient de France. Archived from the original on 15 November 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2010. This new concept of Freemasonry - of Absolute Freedom of Conscience which was born on the "Convent" (Annual General Meeting) of 1877 and whose gave birth to a new form of practise in Freemasonry which is called Liberal Freemasonry.
  2. ^ a b Johnston, Charles (24 February 1918). "Caillaux's Secret Power Through French Masonry" (PDF). The New York Times Magazine. p. 71. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 September 2021. Retrieved 1 August 2013. So far does this militant atheism of 'Latin Freemasonry' in France go,…
  3. ^ Glazier, Michael; Hellwig, Monika K., eds. (2004). The modern Catholic encyclopedia (Revised and expanded ed.). Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press. p. 330. ISBN 9780814652190. OCLC 56421949. Nevertheless, the Vatican, with its long experience of Latin Freemasonry, has not altered its opposition to and disapproval of all brands of Freemasonry
  4. ^ "Introduction". Belgian Freemasonry. Archived from the original on 31 July 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2011. …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;…
  5. ^ Hodapp, Christopher (5 September 2009). "Grand Orient of France Votes Against Women Members". Freemasons For Dummies. Archived from the original on 25 April 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  6. ^ Hodapp, Christopher (18 January 2011). "More Squabbles in the Irregular World". Freemasons For Dummies. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  7. ^ Bauer, Alain (Winter 2013) [2002-07-27]. "Address to the 2002 California Masonic Symposium". Ritual, Secrecy and Civil Society. 1 (2): 52–60. Retrieved 26 July 2022 – via Joomag.
  8. ^ a b Pieyns, René (1999). "3. De universele vrijmetselarij" [3. Universal Freemasonry]. Het rijke maçonnieke leven: handboek van de jonge vrijmetselaar [The Rich Masonic Life: Handbook of the Young Freemason] (in Dutch). Brussels: Fonds Marcel Hofmans. pp. 12–26. OCLC 902130885. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  9. ^ a b Bessel, Paul (1996). "U.S. Recognition of French Grand Lodges in the 1900s". Heredom. Scottish Rite Research Society. 5: 221–244. Archived from the original on 10 April 2006.
  10. ^ a b Denslow, Ray Vaughn (1954). Freemasonry in the Eastern Hemisphere. Trenton, Missouri. p. 170. ISBN 9781428639881. OCLC 17829032.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ "Observatory of Freedom of Conscience: White Book of "Laïcité"". Grand Orient de France. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
  12. ^ "Can Freemasonry be Secular?". La Loge Hiram, GOdF, London. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008.
  13. ^ Moore, Ernest R. (1939). "The World War Period (1915-1919)". History of Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F.&.A.M. (PDF). Vol. 3. Grand Lodge of Iowa. pp. 46–52. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 September 2015.
  14. ^ Proceedings. 75th Annual Communication, Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F.&A.M. Ottumwa, Iowa: Grand Lodge of Iowa. 1918. pp. 25–29.
  15. ^ Whalen, William A. (27 June 1985). "The Pastoral Problem of Masonic Membership". Catholic Culture. Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archived from the original on 9 June 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2022. 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
  16. ^ Gruber, Hermann (1910). "Masonry (Freemasonry)" . Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. (Footnote 163 cites the Circular of the Grand Orient of France thus: Masonry, which prepared the Revolution of 1789, has the duty to continue its work
  17. ^ Gruber, Hermann (1910). "Masonry (Freemasonry)" . Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. VII. Outer work, thus: 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
  18. ^ Franklin, James (2006). "Freemasonry in Europe". Catholic Values and Australian Realities. Connor Court Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 9780975801543. OCLC 1155224329.
  19. ^ Larkin, Maurice (1974). Church and State after the Dreyfus Affair: The Separation Issue in France. pp. 138–141. ISBN 9780333147030. OCLC 1047673785.
  20. ^ "Freemasonry in France". Austral Light. 6: 164–172, 241–250. 1905.
  21. ^ Gruber, Hermann (1910). "Masonry (Freemasonry)" . Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. VII. Outer Work. 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....
  22. ^ Goyau, Georges (1967). "France". New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 135. Retrieved 26 July 2022. 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.
  23. ^ "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
  24. ^ "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).
  25. ^ "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)
  26. ^ "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.
  27. ^ 15. Are Freemasons anticlerical?, Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium
  28. ^ Good Catholics Should Not be Masons Archived 29 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Fr Adrian Beck, Catholic Herald, 11 April 2009
  29. ^ "MIT Freemasonry webpage". Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  30. ^ Whalen, William J., "Freemasonry", hosted at from New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, pp.132–139. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  31. ^ "Organization - Ordre Maçonnique Mixte International Le Droit Humain". Ordre Maçonnique Mixte International le Droit Humain. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  32. ^ "The Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium". Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  33. ^ "Universal Co-Masonry".
  34. ^ "George Washington Union". George Washington Union. Archived from the original on 17 March 2022. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  35. ^ CLIPSAS member list Archived 25 May 2012 at
  36. ^ The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain
  37. ^ Grande Loge Féminine de Belgique and Montréal in Québec Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Feminine Grand Lodge of France Archived 28 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ Wauthier, Claude. Africa's Freemasons – A strange inheritance, Le Monde diplomatique, September 1997. Retrieved 15 August 2008.

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