The Principles of Masonic Law/Chapter XXII

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The penal jurisdiction of a lodge is that jurisdiction which it is authorized to exercise for the trial of masonic offenses, and the infliction of masonic punishment. It may be considered as either geographical or personal.

The geographical jurisdiction of a lodge extends in every direction, half way to the nearest lodge. Thus, if two lodges be situated at the distance of sixteen miles from each other, then the penal jurisdiction of each will extend for the space of eight miles in the direction of the other.

The personal jurisdiction of a lodge is that jurisdiction which a lodge may exercise over certain individuals, respective or irrespective of geographical jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is more complicated than the other, and requires a more detailed enumeration of the classes over whom it is to be exercised.

1. A lodge exercises penal jurisdiction over all its members, no matter where they may reside. A removal from the geographical jurisdiction will not, in this case, release the individual from personal jurisdiction. The allegiance of a member to his lodge is indefeasible.

2. A lodge exercises penal jurisdiction over all unaffiliated Masons, living within its geographical jurisdiction. An unaffiliated Mason cannot release himself from his responsibilities to the Order. And if, by immoral or disgraceful conduct, he violates the regulations of the Order, or tends to injure its reputation in the estimation of the community, he is amenable to the lodge nearest to his place of residence, whether this residence be temporary or permanent, and may be reprimanded, suspended, or expelled.

This doctrine is founded on the wholesome reason, that as a lodge is the guardian of the purity and safety of the institution, within its own jurisdiction, it must, to exercise this guardianship with success, be invested with the power of correcting every evil that occurs within its precincts. And if unaffiliated Masons were exempted from this control, the institution might be seriously affected in the eyes of the community, by their bad conduct.

3. The personal jurisdiction of a lodge, for the same good reason, extends over all Masons living in its vicinity. A Master Mason belonging to a distant lodge, but residing within the geographical jurisdiction of another lodge, becomes amenable for his conduct to the latter, as well as to the former lodge. But if his own lodge is within a reasonable distance, courtesy requires that the lodge near which he resides should rather make a complaint to his lodge than itself institute proceedings against him. But the reputation of the Order must not be permitted to be endangered, and a case might occur, in which it would be inexpedient to extend this courtesy, and where the lodge would feel compelled to proceed to the trial and punishment of the offender, without appealing to his lodge. The geographical jurisdiction will, in all cases, legalize the proceedings.

4. But a lodge situated near the confines of a State cannot extend its jurisdiction over Masons residing in a neighboring State, and not being its members, however near they may reside to it: for no lodge can exercise jurisdiction over the members of another Grand Lodge jurisdiction. Its geographical, as well as personal jurisdiction, can extend no further than that of its own Grand Lodge.

5. Lastly, no lodge can exercise penal jurisdiction over its own Master, for he is alone responsible for his conduct to the Grand Lodge. But it may act as his accuser before that body, and impeach him for any offense that he may have committed. Neither can a lodge exercise penal jurisdiction over the Grand Master, although under other circumstances it might have both geographical and personal jurisdiction over him, from his residence and membership.