The Mysteries of Masonry

Photo of Grand Commander Ronald A. Seale, 33°

January-February 2010

By Ronald A. Seale, Sovereign Grand Commander

It’s been several decades, but I can still remember my excitement discovering Freemasonry as a new Master Mason. I learned about color-coded aprons—blue for Blue Lodge, red for Royal Arch, and purple for Royal and Select Masters—and color-coded hats for the Scottish Rite—black for 32°, red for KCCH, and white for 33°. Then there were intriguing “invitational” organizations, rarely seen or heard and open only to those who through their hard work and service were selected by their Brothers for membership. I could only dream about achieving that sort of recognition. And finally there were the secrets of the fraternity. I learned about the great Mysteries of Masonry: the secrets of a Master Mason, the secrets of a 33rd, and the budget of the Supreme Council.

In the days when I first joined my lodge, new Masons soon learned that you just didn’t ask too much about budgets and finances. If you needed to know, you’d be told; otherwise, rest assured that everything was in good hands—and it usually was, but the custodians didn’t talk much about money matters. As I was given more responsibility in the Craft, I treated financial information the same way as I saw it being cared for when I was a new Masons: held close to the vest. Since becoming Grand Commander, however, I’ve come to realize there’s no reason to keep anything hidden about the way the Supreme Council operates.

We can think of ourselves as a business with the Supreme Council as the board of directors and our members as the shareholders. We each have our duties and responsibilities to insure the business functions smoothly. If members are expected to pay their dues, then they should have some understanding of how their money is spent. In particular, if you are asked to support our foundations, then you need a basic understanding of what happens to your money.

The Supreme Council discussed this issue at the Biennial Session in October and unanimously agreed that it was time to adopt a new way of doing business—a new openness, if you will. To that end I am pleased to present on the facing page to this message summaries of income and expenses for the Supreme Council, The Scottish Rite Foundation, Southern Jurisdiction, Inc., and The House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, Inc. These figures were prepared by Ill. James D. Cole, 33°, Grand Treasurer General, and Bro. Jorge Franchi, KCCH, Chief Financial Officer, and approved by me.

What do these numbers tell us? Well, for one thing, less than two-thirds (61%) of the Supreme Council’s income is from dues and initiation fees. This is one reason why each will be rising over the next several years. For another thing, our administrative expenses for the foundations are admirably low: 2% for the House of the Temple and 7% for the Scottish Rite Foundation. Our investments, valued at $38 million at December 31, 2008, have served us well, even during these perilous financial times. Our hope is that as the markets recover, our income from investments will provide an increasing portion of our income. Nonetheless, we must continue to build the base of our foundations so that future generations will benefit from our generosity as we have benefitted from the generosity of our predecessors.

Now here’s a thought: Our members with Scottish Rite Visa Cards from USBank painlessly generate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the Supreme Council. Every time these members make a purchase with their cards, a portion is given back to the Scottish Rite to support our programs. If we could double the number of members using Scottish Rite Visa Cards, we could generate close to a $1 million a year towards our programs. If you’d like to help the Scottish Rite as you do your day-to-day shopping, please visit https://applications.usbank.com/oad/begin?locationCode=9525 and sign up.

Well, there you have it. Another one of the “Mysteries of Masonry” revealed. It’s not all that exciting, but it’s very important. Your officers, from the Valley to the Orient to the Supreme Council, are diligently working to carefully manage our funds and to even more carefully administer your annual per capita assessments. We a fiduciary responsibility to do this, but more importantly we have a fraternal obligation to give our best.

Now that I’ve been a Mason for a while, I realize there’s not nearly as much mystery as there is hard work, but there’s more than enough of that for any Brother who’s willing to roll up his sleeves. I hope you’ll join me in the quarries as we continue this noble and glorious undertaking that is Freemasonry.