The following are two missives sent to me that illustrate a certain sense of disenfranchisement felt by some. Are they systemic undercurrents or simply the aches and pains of a few who have found themselves on the outside of a here-to-fore inclusive order of craftsmen?
I’ll leave it to you to decide.
The first came in an email which, the sender says, was sent to “practically every member listed in the Grand Lodge [of New York in the New York State] Directory.” To how many this was sent out was not said, but the note to me says it was sent to “voting members or delegates eligible to vote.”
The letter, reproduced in its entirety as I received it, was prefaced with an observation which reads…
Much like Arizona, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, Freemasonry under the Grand Lodge of New York is imploding. Trial after trial of hand-selected Commissioners, egged on by an unscrupulous Proctor, approved by the Most Worshipful Grand Master at the behest of the Grand Secretary with only days remaining in their terms, exacting vengeance using the system of Masonic Jurisprudence designed to protect the Craft instead to settle scores and personal prejudices.
Will the Masonic news community assist or will we soon be left to the same fate as the GLNF???
The following letter is being distributed within New York State.
It’s almost Installation time. In my years in our Craft, I have attended many Installation ceremonies and every year we hear the same reminders to work in harmony and let nothing disturb the peace and good fellowship of our order. Every time we ballot, we are reminded not to let private piques and quarrels interfere with doing what is right. I wish this applied to Grand Lodge too but these ideas, and even our Constitutions, don’t always seem to apply to officers above a certain rank. I thought we were all supposed to play nice, especially those we look to as examples of our Craft.
As the entire world has now been notified by order of our current Grand Master, MW Vincent Libone, Past Grand Master Neal Bidnick was recently expelled from Freemasonry on allegations of a misappropriation of funds that occurred during his term as Grand Master from 2006-2008. To be honest, this really irked me. Every time I turn around, Grand Lodge is asking me for money and we already see too many abuses and indulgences with our funds. Since no legal charges were actually brought or arrests made, however, I was forced to question the voracity of the claims.
I am writing in the hope that you or your Brothers may be able to help me find some answers or logic regarding the circumstances of what appears then to be nothing more than the execution of a personal vendetta against Mr. Bidnick. I have been doing research on my own by speaking with participants and some people close to the situation and what I have found disgusts me. It is difficult, however, to obtain a complete picture without being able to speak with Mr. Bidnick or GM Libone themselves. Perhaps, after reviewing the information that I do have, you or someone closer to our Grand Master may choose to ask him yourselves.
Like a lot of Brothers I have spoken with, I don’t understand why these allegations are coming to light now after no less than four audits of the accounts from Mr. Bidnick’s term were conducted. His predecessors were not audited, nor were his successors, only him by order of Grand Master Libone and the Grand Secretary, Gilbert Savitzky. None of those audits, including one conducted by retired trained SEC auditors at the behest of RW Bill Thomas, found any problems. Luckily for us, five Past Grand Treasurers (an auto mechanic, retired pharmacist, a Stella D’oro delivery driver, a retired marine and a retired DEA agent) appointed by Grand Master Libone were able to determine that misconduct occurred when experienced CPAs and forensic accountants could not.
It’s also public knowledge, also sent out to the world by order of Grand Master Libone, that Mr. Bidnick was suspended earlier this year for marching in a parade. That notice went everywhere but it has not been the practice of our Grand Lodge to send notices of expulsions to every Grand Lodge that we are in communication with. There is a tragic irony that the proclamation of Mr. Bidnick’s suspension for marching in a parade was broadcast around the world even as PGM Gilbert’s son, our junior Past Grand Tiler, sat in a Buffalo jail on four counts of second-degree criminal sexual acts with a 14 year old girl. It leads one to question priorities.
This first suspension was for defiance of an order issued by MW Libone that Mr. Bidnick not appear in public in his capacity as a Past Grand Master anywhere that was on the Grand Lodge calendar; a calendar that is not distributed to anyone outside the Grand Line including Mr. Bidnick. The letter was drawn up in consultation and approval with six Past Grand Masters who saw fit to restrict Mr. Bidnick’s activities because of allegations involving not him but his wife. Not only did MW Gilbert not receive any such restrictions for the actions of his son, he participated in the drafting of the unconstitutional order against Mr. Bidnick. Mr. Bidnick marched in a parade that was not on the Grand Lodge calendar, with Brothers of his Lodge and District in a plain white apron while the top two elected Grand Line officers were on the other side of the state. As a result, he was suspended by a trial commission composed of the same Past Grand Masters who sought to penalize him for the actions of another person.
I looked through our Constitutions since the Notice of Decision on the first trial was distributed and found that it specifically prohibits even the Grand Master from suspending any Brother from the rights and privileges of Freemasonry without a hearing. Not only did these Most Worshipful Brothers violate the Constitutions by participating in the approving of the order, they then disregarded them further by sitting in judgment of the charged violation of their own illegal action, breaking perhaps half a dozen other rules of procedure and laws in the process. They can hardly be considered unbiased commissioners as our Code of Procedure and Constitutions require.
Word of this immoral and improper suspension started to get around and a huge majority of people I spoke with hope that it is the opinion of the Commissioners of Appeals that it should be overturned; the same way it has become apparent to anyone who has read our Constitutions that it should be.
I’ve also heard that Mr. Bidnick’s appeal was sent to Grand Lodge in December. Why has it taken so long for the Commissioners of Appeals to render a decision? Could it be that the office of Grand Secretary has delayed and stonewalled requests for evidence and transcripts when it became obvious that the Suspension would be overturned in time for Mr. Bidnick to run supposedly against MW Libone for the office of Grand Secretary? This was when MW Libone apparently ordered that something else be found to hang Mr. Bidnick on.
The notice distributed by Grand Lodge states that the complaint this time was brought by Mr. Bidnick’s Grand Marshal, RW Kurt Ott. He’s even told people that he was “only following orders” to do so. The charge that was issued questions the travel expenses of a trip that Mr. Bidnick and others took to Italy almost five years ago. I have learned that the Grand Lodge Director of Finance was called to be a witness for the accuser in this case. If there were any problems with the transactions now being questioned, why didn’t she bring them up at the time, or to the auditors who have reviewed the accounts several times prior to the charge being issued against Mr. Bidnick. Despite actuarial, forensic and other evidence presented by Mr. Bidnick’s attorney, I have learned that he was expelled by a trial commission composed of:
- RW Lou Juers, who was defeated by Mr. Bidnick in elections for both Deputy Grand Master and Grand Master, the latter election of which he never conceded and made a less than dignified speech at.
- RW Robert Stack, who was defeated in the election for Deputy Grand Master by Mr. Bidnick.
- RW Werner Kniesel, who was not re-nominated as a Trustee of the Masonic Hall and Home, after his term had expired, by Mr. Bidnick but had been appointed by MW Libone back onto the Board of Trustees and now has nominated him for a full term at this Grand Lodge session.
- RW Marino Cesarini, who MW Libone is quite publicly endorsing for Deputy Grand Master in spite of a hundred years of Grand Lodge tradition and precedent not to do so.
- RW Joseph Quarequio, who was Grand Treasurer under Mr. Bidnick and signed off on all of the finances of his term now being questioned. I am sure that he was asked to recues himself from the Commission because of this conflict but appears he did not. Maybe someone wanted him to be ineligible to be called as a witness by being named as a trial commissioner. Pretty slick.
This commission certainly had an axe or four to grind with Mr. Bidnick and was handpicked by MW Libone to sit in judgment of his supposed opponent for the Grand Secretary’s seat. As icing on this cake of manure and malevolence, rumor has it that Mr. Juers, the Commission Chairman, allegedly stated prior to the trial that he intended to find Mr. Bidnick guilty. Regardless, Mr. Juer’s past and present role in the Jesters (look on the Net and make your own judgment about this group) and his many anti-Semitic public statements are more than enough for me to personally question his integrity and suitability to sit in judgment of anyone.
My Brothers, this isn’t Freemasonry, this was a hit. Regardless of any facts positive or negative, in Mr. Bidnick’s case, it was decided before it began. It is my hope and prayers that it too will be overturned on appeal by anyone who can understand basic accounting principles, but the damage will be done. MW Libone has set himself up to run unopposed and assumes the role of Chief Operational Officer of our Grand Lodge.
I am wondering if the Jurisprudence Committee, comprised of the same Past Grand Masters who facilitated his violations of our Constitutions, will sign off on his actions with a blanket approval and at that point there may be nothing that can be done to revisit this travesty.
You can do something about this. It’s your Grand Lodge and your votes count. Make your delegates familiar with these actions and have them ask questions. Seek out Mr. Bidnick’s attorney. At the very least, until important questions can be asked and answered, I implore you to vote down (or at least table) the Jurisprudence Committee’s report. If you feel the actions outlined here are an acceptable display of Freemasonry, then join the cabal and vote to approve the actions of a man who preaches Faith, Integrity and Trust while scoffing our laws and defecating on our Constitutions in order to tear out the throat of a rival for office. For my own part, I’d like to know what really happened to the man who taught us…
“Because I am a Freemason, I know that the last great lesson of Freemasonry — the value of personal integrity and the sanctity of one’s word — is a lesson for all people in all times; I therefore vow to be a man of my word.”
Without reading into the content, the context has a distinct air of frustration over things outside of our (collective) control. You could say this is the type of thing that provoked Martin Luther to nail his 95 thesis on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the Castle Church of Wittenberg. And, this same sentiment is coming from the west echoed in a situation arising out of the Grand Lodge of Arizona, the words coming from a post in an on-line forum posted May 1st, 2012, which reads…
…our Grand Master has once again demonstrated he is above the Arizona Masonic Code. Here is the play by play of the events taken by him in the past 15 hours
Yesterday afternoon the Grand Master summoned the elected Deputy Grand Master into his office and in the presence of R:. W:. Junior Grand Warden William A. Garrard Jr, and Senior Grand Deacon Mike Manning, informed the Deputy Grand Master he was suspended from Masonry.
The reason the Grand Master gave for this action, which, in my reading of the AMC, is in conflict with the powers given to him by the Arizona Grand Lodge, was that the Deputy Grand Master did not promptly return his apron and jewel of his office, when he relieved the Deputy Grand Master of his Grand Lodge duties, while he still served as the elected Deputy Grand Master. The meeting was brief but it was recorded to avoid any misunderstanding.
The new Official Grand Lodge Officer line-up as installed by PGM Rowen last evening is as follows:
- Deputy Grand Master Jeff Carlton,
- SGW William Garrard Jr.
- JGW Mike Manning.
These are the new faces of Arizona Masonry. I regret that I cannot support any of them nor can I support anyone who will be appointed to the line by them.
Therefore, I am seriously looking for a new Masonic Home. Anyone who has a suggestion can contact me directly.
While much shorter, the same sentiment as the New York email is at play in this on-line forum posting.
The last thought on this comes from something sent to me recently through Facebook within which a brother delicately spelled out his reasons for no longer wanting to be a part of the fraternity. In his note, he mentions life changes, health, family, and employment status as aspects of his decision to re-evaluate his priorities such that Freemasonry no longer fit comfortably with into his life.
To quote Abraham Lincoln
The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil, than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), U.S. president.
Speech in the U.S. House of Representatives on internal improvements, June 20, 1848
Without going into deep contemplation on the subject, this is a sentiment that is rippling through many organizations today, not just Freemasonry – is the organization I belong to meeting the needs of its members, in particular this member, me? I can say I’m familiar with a church whose congregation is going through its own crisis of faith, similarly to the ones above, over the administrative dealings not being handled with transparency and to the will of its membership. This can certainly make fair dealing seem to be in short supply and worse still re-evaluate the priorities of such an organization.
The remedy? The only thing we can do is keep checking the measure of good vs. bad on the scale of our toleration…the answer from which will come to us soon enough, usually when we’ve personally found our disenfranchisement threshold crossed and need to act.
Or at least not care anymore.