|Tadeusz Cegielski, Professor of History at Warsaw University, Freemason and Honorary Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Poland.|
Q: Archbishop Józef Michalik-- leader of the Polish Episcopate and doctor of Dogmatic Theology-- has accused Freemasons of attacking the Catholic Church. Where does this fear of Freemasonry, which seems to have been handed down by generations of Polish clergy, stem from?
A: Fear and suspicion of Freemasonry arise from the need for a symbolic enemy on whom all problems can be blamed. A scapegoat in other words. In Poland we once had 3 types of 'internal enemies': Jews, Freemasons and Bolsheviks. Since the fall of the USSR Bolsheviks are no longer seen as a threat. Anti-Semitism has been formally condemned by the Catholic Church. Even here in Poland it is hard to imagine the Church hierarchy openly pandering to anti-Semitic prejudices. Who is left to use as a scapegoat? Freemasons, of course!
Q: Where and when did the idea of the 'evil and godless' Freemason first appear?
A: Anti-Masonry in its current form first appeared in the era of the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. In 1789 in Rome, then the capital of the Papal States, there appeared an international adventurer, fake count and fraudulent alchemist-- the infamous Alessandro di Cagliostro, also known as Giussepe Balsamo. This very talented Sicilian Jew was active in Masonic cirlces and he created Egyptian Rite Freemasonry in 1782. Possessed by messianic ideas, he announced the advent of a 'New Israel'. In Rome he was denounced by his own wife and was arrested and tried by the Inquisition. The trial caused unheard of levels of publicity and reports of it were published all over Europe in many different languages, including Polish. In France the revolution was in full swing and the gullotine was claiming victim after victim. Cagliostro claimed-- somewhat against his will-- that the Masons had killed the French royal family in revenge for the fate which had befallen the Knights Templar.
Q: The same Knights Templar which have been made so famous by Dan Brown?
A: The campaign against Freemasonry uses one of the two founding myths of the brotherhood. The older English myth traces the roots of Freemasonry back to the cathedral and castle builders of the middle-ages. The more modern myth, which gained popularity in the 1740s, traced the origins of the Freemasons back to the order of the Knights Templar who guarded the tomb of Jesus during the crusades. This second myth was a useful tool for Masonic reformers who wanted to attract members of the aristocracy as well as wealthy burgesses. In times of revolution, however, the same myth became a potent weapon of anti-Masonry. In his trial Cagliostro confessed that French Freemasons, specifically the Grand Orient Lodge of France, were taking their revenge on the Bourbon monarchy for the destruction of the Knights Templar in the 14th century and for the execution of the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who was burnt at the stake in 1314 on the orders of Phillip IV. Before his death, the Grand Master supposedly put a curse on all his persecutors, including the Pope as well as the French king. The curse is said to have applied to the whole Capetian dynasty and also to their successors on the French throne, the Houses of Valois and Bourbon.
Q: Apparently there is a Polish connection to the tale of 'Count' Cagliostro...
A: Indeed there is. First if all, it is worth pointing out that Cagliostro was staying in Warsaw in 1780 but he was forced to flee to Germany and France after being outed as a fraud. Secondly, the 'Polish connection' is related to his last moments. The Inquisition sentenced Cagliostro to death but the Pope commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. He was incarcerated in the Castel Sant'Angelo but was then unexpectedly moved to the fortress of San Leo where he died in 1795. This fort, guarded by Papal troops, was captured by the Polish Legions of General Dąbrowski. The conquerors of San Leo, often called the 'Pope's Bastille', saw Cagliostro's cell and made notes on its appearance. They even recorded the inscriptions which the prisoner had made on the walls of the cell.
|General Dąbrowski, whose Polish Legions fought for Napoleon in Italy, was a Freemason.|
Q: Dąbrowski's Legions had both a democratic and Masonic nature to them...
A: The troops carried standards which bore Masonic symbols. Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, himself a Freemason, ruled his men along Masonic lines-- all men were brothers, and in both in the Lodge and the army promotion was dependent solely on merit.
Q: It is little wonder that Rome did not like Freemasons...
A: Both during and after the Napoleonic Wars the Papacy had to struggle with many problems of various natures: social, economic, cultural and spiritual. Freemasons were not the source of these problems but Rome nevertheless blamed them. An unbelievable number of decrees aimed against Freemasonry-- several hundred!-- were issued. The death penalty and confiscation of property awaited not only Freemasons but also those with knowledge of names and meeting places who failed to inform the authorities. Those who did inform stood to be rewarded with confiscated goods and property.
Q: It seems as if none of the decrees worked. In 1870 Italy was united at the expense of, among others, the Papal States...
A: The leaders of the unification movement-- Victor Emmanuel King of Piedmont, Premier Cavour and Garibaldi-- were all Freemasons and they sought to fertilise the Italian middle-class with the seeds of Masonic thought. The Papacy lost and it had to accept not only the new order but also the loss of almost all its territory. Pope Pius IX claimed to be a prisoner in the Vatican as he saw the Papal States shrink to the point where all that was left were the Vatican's palaces and gardens. It was at this moment that the Papacy recognised anti-Masonry as an element of Christian doctrine. This idea was formalised during the 1st Vatican Council of 1869-70. Earlier, in the encyclicals Quanta cura (1864) and Syllabusie, Pius IX had condemned the main ideas of the period including liberalism, socialism, rationalism and the seperation of Church and State.
Q: Were Freemasons considered worse than liberals or socialists?
A: Liberals and socialists did not make for convincing diabolical characters. A liberal could be a respectable olive oil merchant, a school teacher, a banker or a lawyer. A Freemason, on the other hand, was unseen and was involved in mysterious ceremonies and treasonable activities.
Q: How did this anti-Masonry find its way from Italy to Poland? After all, many Polish clergymen had Masonic sympathies. The 18th century Polish Primates were supporters of Freemasonry. Gabriel Podoski was a Freemason and Michał Poniatowski, the King's brother, at the very least favoured them...
A: The foundation of anti-Mason feeling in Italy was partly the activites of the Carbonari-- a conspiratorial society from the first half of the 19th century. Italians knew that they were a real power. In Poland the substrata of anti-Masonry was formed by the national uprisings and the associated conspiracies. In the 18th century Polish politics was divided into 2 camps-- those that favoured armed uprising and those that favoured legal routes to national liberation. The Church was firmly on the side of the latter. After the failure of the January Uprising the conservative 'Stańczyk' circle in Kraków propagated the idea of liberum conspiro (freedom of conspiracy) which they directly linked to the infamous liberum veto (freedom of veto) which had been so disastrous for Poland. According to the Stańczyks, the national uprisings and conspiracies had resulted in total defeat, countless victims and a deterioration in all aspects of life. The nationalist conspiracies were seen as being as harmful as the 'golden freedom' of the aristocracy had been in the old Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. Under these conditions the Church did not have to try especially hard to frighten people with talk of conspiracies. When priests started to warn their congregations that Freemasons were plotting and sowing the seeds of destruction they were to some extent pushing at an open door.
Q: I remember an interpellation by MPs from the League of Polish Families (LPR) in the days of the 'Fourth Republic' which set out to investigate whether or not the Presidential decree of 1938 outlawing the Freemasons was still valid. At the same time they insinuated that some opposition groups during Communism, eg: KOR (Workers' Defence Commitee) had Masonic roots. These type of attitiudes are still around, but I still do not really understand why the Polish clergy turned against Freemasons in the 19th century...
A: Under the partitions the Church could not develop any state or nationalist ideology, it had to find a cause which the partitioning powers would accept. By creating alleged enemies in the form of Jews and Freemasons, the Church could present itself as the most important institution which could protect Poles from them. At the end of the 19th century a similar strategy was followed by the politicans of the Narodowa Demokracja (National Democracy) movement. It is no surprise to see the natural heirs of the ND, the LPR, using similar anti-Masonic rhetoric. Mieczysław Skrudlik, an ND member active in the latter stages of the partitions and the inter-war years, wrote in a pamphlet that, "a Freemason is nothing more than a very effective Jew."
Q: Jędrzej Giertych, grandfather of former LPR leader Roman Giertych, came up with the concept of Judeo-Masonry...
A: This way of thinking still holds sway amongst many people. In the ethnic and religious sense, a Freemason is not necessarily a Jew but his actions are as harmful as they would be if he was a Jew. Anti-Masonry stems from anti-Semitism and it is has also become a form of hidden, coded anti-Semitism now that such prejudice can no longer be voiced openly without attracting fierce criticism.
Q: December will see the 90th anniversary of the assasination of Gabriel Narutowicz, killed by a member of the ND. After the death of Józef Piłsudski the right-wing nationalist movement attacked Jews and Freemasons, although only politically. Do you think that anti-Masonic feelings can be dangerous in the 21st century.
A: Yes, I do because they tap into the Polish tradition, very much alive, of conspiracy theories. The Third Republic (post-Communist Poland-CK) is seen as one giant conspiracy theory. Jarosław Kaczyński claims that the Third Republic is as criminal as the PRL (Polish People's Republic), he compares Tusk to Gomułka. Contrary to appearances, this is not funny. Fortunately, Kaczyński does not talk about Masonic conspiracies but those who listen to him do. Dr. Stanisław Krajski, chief 'Mason hunter' of the Third Republic often appears on TV Trwam (nationalist Catholic TV channel-CK). One moment he claims that Freemasons are 'raising their heads' and the next he claims that they have 'gone underground'. This serves to create fear and suspicion, as do numerous anti-Masonic pamphlets. On TV Trwam and in 'Nasz Dziennik' we are constantly told that Poland is living under occupation by liberal groups and that behind it all are Freemasons and Jews. The followers of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk treat the Third Republic as a foreign power. They sing "Lord, give us back our free fatherland." Father Rydzyk has called on people to refuse to pay taxes because the authorities will use them against Poles. These people are hoping for a huge financial crisis to hit Poland because if it does then people will take to the streets and the 'true Polish patriots' will be ready to lead them-- and we all know who they will lead them against....
|The cover of Stanisław Krajski's book 'Polish Masonry 2009'.|
Interviewer: Krzysztof Pilawski Taken from 'Przegłąd' magazine