HOME OFFICE ministers are becoming increasingly concerned about the secretive activities of a group of Catholic "Freemasons", the Catenians.
A special report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has highlighted fears that members of the Catenian Association, which is thought to include top-ranking police officers and judges, are using their influence to pervert the course of justice.
The role of the Association came to light during a two-year investigation into Freemasonry conducted by the Committee.
Acting on the advice of the Committee, the Government has ordered the police and judiciary to set up their own databases listing membership of masonic lodges. But individuals are under no legal obligation to reveal their masonic links; and the database will not cover Catenians.
The report, Freemasonry in the Police and the Judiciary, states: "It is estimated that they [the Catenians] number around 11,500. Although this figure shows that the Catenians are far fewer in number than the Freemasons, this does not mean that similar concerns are not raised relating to their influence on the criminal justice system. Where points of principle relating to secretive societies are made in this report, they apply equally to other organisations of the same nature."
The Freemasons have attacked the Government for scrutinising their activities while not also focusing on groups like the Catenians who, like the Freemasons, are exclusively male. Catenians are hand-picked from the Catholic community and, to gain entry, applicants must be sponsored by a member.
The membership list is a closely guarded secret and new recruits are required to take an oath of allegiance to their "brothers". These oaths are made at secret ceremonies, held in hotels or golf clubs, where members wear special insignia including a Maltese cross and ceremonial collar denoting the "circle" to which they belong, as well as pendants and sashes.
The organisation, which was founded in 1908 in Manchester as the Chums Benevolent Association, has its own website. This describes the organisation, which operates worldwide, as a brotherhood that meets to "foster and develop social bonds among members and their families".
The Catenian Association is quick to quash any parallels between the activities of its members and those of Freemasons. "Like most organisations we regard information such as our list of members as privileged," added a spokesman.
"I don't like to use the word 'secretive' but many people would not answer if you asked them if they were a member. It's not like being a member of a tennis club."
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