Keith Way is just two years away from being ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. He sat down to talk his about his years of involvement as a Master Mason in the Freemasons and why he thinks the Catholic Church forbids Her members to join.
How did you get involved in the Freemasons originally?
Well, both my father and grandfather had been masons. The three of us were all military men so I think there was a number of traditions that I just expected to follow them in on.
What does joining entail?
Joining is simple enough, it is mostly just a matter of filling out a number of forms and waiting for a rather intense background check to be completed.
A background check? What are they looking for?
The Freemasons don’t have too many rules about who may or may not join their organization. For instance, members can be apart of almost any religion and are only required to believe in a higher power. They do only want to bring in people in good moral standing however, so the background checks look for prior arrests and the like.
I understand that there are a lot of ranks in Freemasonry. How do you advance once you become a member?
You enter a local lodge, which are in a class called Blue Lodges. Each Blue Lodge has three degrees of masons. The first degree is an Entered Apprentice, the second degree is known as a Fellowcraft, and the final degree would be becoming a Master Mason. You must be a MM before you can advance to a Shrine or one of the Rites. To go up a degree you have to demonstrate a proficiency appropriate for that degree level; think of it as a student’s examination before they go up a grade level.
What exactly are masons expected to be proficient in to proceed?
A mason has to memorize the rites and ceremonies practiced by each degree they want to advance to. This is as good a time as any to address it, but I think a lot of people go around presuming that the Freemasons are a secret organization, but they really are just an organization with secrets. The things we keep just between members really just serve as a test of authenticity. It allows members of different levels to discern who a particular person is and whether their claims are true before doing business with them or allowing them into a lodge. It is a system that started before records could reliably be kept up to date and I think it still suits the masons well.
What do mason’s of these various degrees do?
Mostly they just participate in philanthropic work and run a few nonprofit companies. Masons 4 Mitts give underprivileged children baseball mitts and is partnered by a number of major league teams for funding. Raise a Reader is to help encourage reading habits in homes where children may otherwise experience a lag in education due to financial constraints. Masonic Homes looks after a number of struggling families and retirees. Masonic charities generally aim at serving widows and orphans which is seen as a traditional biblical mandate. On top of that, once you become a Master Mason you gain access to Shrines, which are really just groups of professionals in an area but they also run Shriners Hospitals.
With all of this, especially the charity work, in mind why do you think the Catholic Church is so opposed to the Freemasons?
If I’m being honest, I do think that politics and history, such as when masonry became popular and who were prominent members, plays a large part. The fundamental issue however is that while Freemasonry does not require beliefs that are anti-Catholic, they do prescribe rituals that are open to members of different faiths which can lead to a way of viewing religion that is very open-ended. I think the Catholic Church puts its rituals and sacraments in a pretty high tier of revealing the truth and therefore doesn’t like members practicing less demanding variants of rituals.