|Pennsylvania Masonic Restoration|
Today, that lasting heritage is under duress. Obligations and ritual are being changed to conform to the radical and detrimental new rules issued by the Grand Master. Every Pennsylvania Freemason is being ordered to violate the oaths he took when he became a Freemason and when he was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. There are excuses of various quality being made and convoluted attempts at reasoning to justify them. At the heart of them all lies nothing of substance, just the destruction of our traditions in the name of creating a degree mill.
Each and every one of us took an oath not to write down the ritual nor to allow another to do so if we could prevent it. With each Lodge being forced to take five copies of written ritual, we are all being made 'accomplices after the fact' to a violation of our oath. We are being told that we must knowingly violate the oaths we took in order to comply with modified ritual and practices. It certainly places all of us in a very difficult position being bound not only to obey Grand Lodge, but also to obey the restrictions we swore before God to uphold.
Further, the Grand Lodge has authorized the elimination of our opening and closing ritual. Speed over substance is the new view of Pennsylvania Freemasonry. To quote the Grand Master, the reduction of our ritual will "make our meetings more interesting, less monotonous, shorter, and will allow more time for fellowship." In other words, our 'beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols' is uninteresting, boring, long and detracts from our snack time.
As discussed in the first section on Membership, other jurisidictions and fraternal organizations have gone down this same road before us. While paved with supposedly good intentions, it has led exactly where such roads always lead. It is Pennsylvania Freemasonry which is among the world leaders in numbers of members. It is Pennsylvania Freemasonry that is suffering less of a decline from the 'membership bubble' than most jurisdictions. Those who tried these 'innovations' are the ones who are in worse shape. Why then would we sacrifice generations of tradition to adopt ideas that have already been proven to be failures?
Freemasonry is not a social club nor a service club. It is the only organization in the world dedicated to improving the character of man, one man at a time, regardless of faith, ethnicity, national origin or socio-economic status. It was the greatness of this mission and this fraternity that inspired the creation of so many others, many of which have long since faded into history. Cutting out our ritual in order to make more time for cookies is absurd.
It has been said that the reason the ritual was written down and requirements have been relaxed is because so many of the Lodges in the Commonwealth have lost the ability to perform the ritual proficiently. So rather than go to those Lodges and Districts in which proficiency is high and finding out what they're doing right and passing that on to Lodges with difficulty, the Grand Master has decided to lower all of Pennsylvania Freemasonry to the lowest common denominator. As we asked in the section on Membership, "How does that elevate and ennoble a man?" It lowers those who excelled to the level of those who failed. It is the exact opposite of what Freemasonry is supposed to do.
Freemasonry without its ritual is like the ocean without water. It is just an empty container and you can throw as many men as you want into it, but there is nothing for them in it.