The GLNF crisis got a good serve in the December 31st edition of the French Riviera daily, Nice Matin, 3 articles to finish off a year most of us would prefer to forget.
Journalist, Jean-Paul Fronzes, opened with an article on page 16 headlined :
“The powerful GLNF at the point of implosion”.
The struggle intensifies against the national head of the GLNF, François Stifani from Antibes
Although growing strongly – to the point of being on the heels of its historic rival, the grand Orient, in terms of numbers – is the GLNF at the point of implosion? Rich, with an annual budget of 17 M€ and powerful as well with 43000 members often drawn from influential professions. On the Riviera, ad in the rest of the country, the lodge is nonetheless troubled by a grave internal crisis that has worsened in recent days. The protest is aimed at the national head of the obedience, grand Master, François Stifani. The 63 year old commercial lawyer from Antibes is accused by his detractors of being authoritarian, with opaque management of the obedience and the over-mediatisation of his person. The crisis saw the light of day on December 4th 2009 during a meeting of the Sovereign Grand Committee, a sort of council of the wise – as a sign of protest some 20 dignitaries remove their Masonic apron. At the same time their leader tried to read a declaration criticising the Grand Master. He castigates the 24 troublemakers who are quickly suspended.
But far from being nipped in the bud, the revolt spreads. On March 25th 2010 at the annual general meeting a majority of voters refuse to validate the budget; The Grand master closes the meeting to cries of “Stifani resign”, an incident without precedent. On October 16th 2010 a new AGM is organised, not in a single place but at the headquarters of 40 provinces. This time François Stifani obtains a (slight) majority. His opponents denounce a changing of the rules of the game. They go to court and recently were announced partially right. The Paris Court annulled the October meeting and orders that the next one, to be held in a single place, publish on its agenda the eventual revocation of the Grand Master.
Will François Stifani be obliged to hand over his office? The question will not be answered before several weeks because Stifani has appealed the Parisian decision contesting its immediate execution (the Paris court will rule on the appeal tomorrow – translator’s note). In the meanwhile both camps are mustering their troops.
On Stifani’s side, he is the only one to speak and repeats that he has wide support. His right hand man, Daniel Jacquet, also from Antibes, at the head of a super province representing the south east quarter of France, “does not wish to communicate”. His successor at the head of the province covering the Alpes Maritimes is also unwilling to speak. “I cannot before being installed in January”, says Dominique Charpentier, recently retired from the position of director of the Regional Tourism Committee in Nice.
On the mutineers side, there are hopes of a quiet revolution. They savour last week’s letter of defiance sent to the head of the GLNF by the Grand Lodges of Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. But on the Riviera where Stifani’s camp obtained 80% of the votes in October the opposition do not speak out in public. “We fear the inevitable sanctions”, said one of them. Is the GLNF subject to schism? “They are pushing us to resign,” confirms the dignitary,”but why should it be us who resign?”
As if that wasn’t enough before opening the champagne and attacking the foie gras, Nice Matin continues by interviewing Stifani.
François Stifani “No question of departing”
You have appealed the Paris Court judgement…
The decision satisfies us on 2 points. It validates the prolongation of my mandate from 3 to 5 years and it rejects the call for a temporary court appointed administrator. But it can be criticised for opening the possibility of revoking the Grand Master in a general assembly.
The contestation seems to be stronger than you indicate…
In the GLNF the Worshipful Master and the First Warden of each lodge vote. They do not represent the 43000 members.
Why such focalisation on you?
I represent renovation, the need for clarity and modernity. I confront resistance to change, partisans of past values.
Have you thought of departing?
No question of departing. I am not going to abandon a GLNF menaced from within by miasmas (a vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease; an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt –translator’s note). I cannot be reproached for anything. Last Summer an audit confirmed that the accounts were crystal clear.
Jean Murat proposes himself as an alternative (see the 3rd article)
The election is in 2 years at the end of my mandate.
In a letter dated January 2009 you assure President Sarkozy of your support and that of your entire obedience.
That letter is a forgery. What’s more, we have officially complained (to the courts) with constitution of a civil action against “X”.
In February 2009, the Elysée Palace replied to a forgery?
The investigation will determine who wrote it.
And the recent letter of defiance from the Swiss, Belgian and Luxembourger Lodges?
Those neighbouring lodges express worries that have been amplified by internet and blogs. We have replied, calming their fears.
You are accused of sanctioning all internal discordant voices…
The conciliation commission, then the disciplinary council, work in total independence.
You have presented yourself as a “spiritual guide”?
While they were at it, the called ma a guru. It’s a caricature, a denigration. Doesn’t every person who enters freemasonry have a guide?
Why give autonomy to the Corsican lodges who voted in your favour?
Corsica has become a province because there are more than 600 Brothers.
Is there a real risk of schism within the GLNF?
I don’t believe so and I don’t want it to happen, even if there atre some who would like things to disintegrate.
How do you see the future?
I hope for a reconciliation. There is a generalised bad feeling linked to the necessary structural adaptation and methods of governing. And there is a protest group led by a condemned criminal.
The one who read the mutineers’ declaration had been sanctioned by the courts previously and he had kept it quiet. He should have resigned a long time ago.
On the same page Nice Matin continues with an article on an alternative Grand Master.
Jean Murat stands as an alternative
Will Jean Murat be the next Grand Master? This 76 year old, originally from Lyon, believes so. He hopes to be elected at the next general assembly following the revoking of François Stifani whose “drifting away” (from the central path of traditional freemasonry – translator’s note) he has denounced. A retired surgeon, he lived in America for 3 years before settling in Tours. This passionate student of Egyptology boasts of never having been discourteous to anyone. A Freemason for more than 30 years he assures that he is not giving way to a personal ambition but simply wishes to re-found the GLNF.
“Between the current dictatorship and demagogy, a free mason in a free lodge, there is a place for a new governance’, he explains to us. He agrees that one of the mutineers of December 2009 should have declared his difficulties with the courts. “He has cast a shadow over those who have rallied to him, even if I do not judge him”. That day jean Murat had not joined the rebellion. He does not regret it. “My tactic was to remain seated, to not remove my apron thereby avoiding a suspension, and to continue the struggle”.
Represented in Nice by someone close to him, does he have supporters on the Riviera? “Yes, but for the moment they prefer to remain discreet”. In 2007 against François Stifani he obtained 23% of the votes. In a context of division and confrontation can he rally more than half the Brothers? The answer will be known in several months or at the end of 2012 at the end of the current Grand Master’s mandate.
We will know more with the decision on François Stifani’s appeal tomorrow. Meanwhile,
Have a Nice Matin, miasmas !!!!