In Freemasonry, every offense is a crime, because, in every violation of a Masonic law there is not only sometimes an infringement of the rights of an individual, but always, superinduced upon this, a breach and violation of public rights and duties, which affect the whole community of the Order considered as a community.
The first class of crimes which are laid down in the Constitutions, as rendering their perpetrators liable to Masonic jurisdiction, are offenses against the moral law. "Every Mason," says the Old Charges of 1722, "is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law." The same charge continues the precept by asserting, that if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine. Atheism, therefore, which is a rejection of a supreme, superintending Creator, and irreligious libertinism, which, in the language of that day, signified a denial of all moral responsibility, are offenses against the moral law, because they deny its validity and contemn its sanctions ; and hence they are to be classed as Masonic crimes.
Again: the moral law inculcates love of God, love , of our neighbor, and duty to ourselves. Each of these embraces other incidental duties which are obligatory on every Freemason, and the violation of any one of which constitutes a Masonic crime.
The love of God implies that we should abstain from all profanity and irreverent use of his name. Universal benevolence is the necessary result of love of our neighbor. Cruelty to one's inferiors and dependents, uncharitableness to the poor and needy, and a general misanthropical neglect of our duty as men to our fellow-beings, exhibiting itself in extreme selfishness and indifference to the comfort or happiness of all others, are offenses against the moral law, and therefore Masonic crimes. Next to violations of the moral law, in the category of Masonic crimes, are to be considered the transgressions of the municipal law, or the law of the land.
Obedience to constituted authority is one of the first duties which is impressed upon the mind of the candidate; and hence he who transgress the laws of the government under which he lives violates the teachings of the Order, and is guilty of a Masonic crime.
But the Order will take no cognizance of ecclesiastical or political offenses. And this arises from the very nature of the society, which eschews all controversies about national religion or state policy. Hence apostasy, heresy, and schisms, although considered in some governments as heinous offenses, and subject to severe punishment, are not viewed as Masonic crimes Lastly, violations of the Landmarks and Regulations of the Order are Masonic crimes. Thus, disclosure of any of the secrets which a Freemason has promised to conceal; disobedience and want of respect to Masonic superiors; the bringing of "private piques or quarrels" into, the Lodge; want of courtesy and kindness to the Brethren ; speaking calumniously of a Freemason behind his back, or in any other way attempting to injure him, as by striking him except in self-defense, or violating his domestic honor, is each a crime in Freemasonry. Indeed, whatever is a violation of fidelity to solemn engagements, a neglect of prescribed duties, or a transgression of the cardinal principles of friendship, morality, and brotherly love, is a Masonic crime.
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