For those reading the English Blog for the first time, here is an overview of the causes of our current problems and a summary of recent momentous events.
All the causes have been created, or at least brought to light, by the recent past and current Grand Masters of the GNLF (Grande Lodge Nationale Française) in France, the Masonic order recognised by the UGLE. The current Grand Master, following in the footsteps of the two previous incumbents of the position, but not being as light on his feet nor as discreet, has lifted the veil and enabled us to realise that the GNLF has been gradually and quietly kidnapped over the past years, and transformed into a lucrative business for the benefit of a chosen few, with a subservient Sovereign Grand Committee to rubber stamp anything the GM decides. The rules have been changed to ensure that there is no way the G.M. can be removed from office for any reason whatsoever. The chosen few are using the spiritual aspects of the Brotherhood as a mere smoke screen to further their ambitions to:
- Increase their business interests and the GNLF real estate empire via a web of non-trading real estate companies under their control.
- Maintain their luxurious lifestyle of first class travel, hotels, and restaurants, chauffeur driven cars and personal bodyguards. This includes the purchase and refurbishment of a sumptuous apartment in Avenue Wagram, near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, while many Brothers struggle to pay their annual dues.
- Make the GLNF France's N°1 masonic brotherhood via openly-publicised recruitment drives. The speech by the new PGM for the Rhône-Alpes was edifying in this aspect with his promise to allocate recruitment targets to each W.M, just as a sales manager in front of his sales team. The GM has also embarked on a media campaign with TV interviews, during one of which he claimed that he sees his role as being our "spiritual guide". He has even allowed TV cameras to film initiation ceremonies.
- Change the rules to ensure their continued power. One of the G.M.s first moves was to extend his term of office from 3 to 5 years, renewable of course. He rides roughshod over the GNLF's "Twelve Rules", and more recently over the basic rules of corporate governance.
- Sanction all opposition and requests for information and accountability. For example, when a few hardy Brothers dared to question his behaviour last December, they were immediately suspended. Then their Lodges were suspended, and then an entire Province, the Val de Loire, one of France's oldest. In passing, the G.M. recovered the Province's reserves, the tidy sum of €235,000.
So what have we done about it?
The movement that started on 4th December 2009 when a brave few Brothers stood up and asked a question has spread throughout France, mainly due to the power of internet.
After the series of suspensions that spread to other Provinces, at the AGM held in March in Paris, the G.M. and the Board of Management lost all the votes to approve the activity report and the accounts for 2009 and the budget for 2010. The G.M. was faced with a chorus of calls to resign.
On the contrary, faced with the obligation to restage the AGM, instead of stepping down, the G.M. changed the rules of the association to arrange a multi-location AGM, sent his whips out to round up support and appointed a host of new officers to boost his score. Naturally, all the suspended Brothers were deprived of their vote. After all this gerrymandering, his just scraped in the 50% needed to carry the vote. However, last week, the French courts ruled that the changes to the format of the AGM were illegal and he has to start again. 2011 promises to be full of developments.
Also, with regard to the French courts, the G.M. took one of the leaders of the resistance to court with a claim for damages for "unfair competition" based on the notion of poaching customers, as the number of Brothers joining the resistance steadily increased. If ever proof was needed that the G.M. perceives the G.N.L.F as a business, this has to be it. The G.M. lost his case (not very good as he is a lawyer by profession), with the Judge ruling that the "GNLF has no monopoly on spirituality". However, the G.M. is now appealing against the judgement.
And what about our Masonic work, while all these material shenanigans outside the Temple are going on?
In the case of the disbanded Val de Loire Province, we continue to work serenely and in perfect accord with the rules and rituals of our order. Each lodge (47 out of the 53 in the Province) has created an association called Myosotis, plus the Lodge name, for the purposes of third party insurance etc. Myosotis is the French name for the "Forget-me-not" flower worn by Masons in Germany and in France during the war when they were persecuted. These events have caused us to question why we became Masons, and in that respect have made us stronger. Someone has stolen our GNLF and we are going to get it back.
We will prevail. The G.M. and his cohorts will be removed and the GNLF will be reborn more radiant than ever.
Help from the UGLE would be welcome even though we have come so far and achieved so much on our own.