There is a growing media focus on the Orange Order in the north of Ireland after reports that the secretive anti-Catholic organisation has a violent initiation ritual known as ‘riding the goat’, and that its members were told not to use the phrase ‘Rest in Peace’ as it is too Catholic.
Last week the Orange Order asked its members to stop using the term ‘RIP’ to express grief or sympathy following a death as it believes it is “a prayer for the dead” and therefore ‘unbiblical’.
In a publication marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Order called on Protestants to stop using the abbreviation for ‘rest in peace’.
“From a Protestant point of view, we believe, when death comes, a person either goes to be with Christ for all eternity, or into hell,” it declared.
It is thought the Orange Order decided to speak out after its members were seen using the phrase on social media, where it is widely used to mark the passing of someone.
The ‘Orange Standard’ said that while the term was probably used “innocently” it was a “illustration of spiritual confusion within Protestant circles”.
“The letters ‘RIP’ meaning ‘Requiescant in pace’ or ‘rest in peace’, have long been used by the Roman Catholic Church, and can be frequently seen, for example, in death notices and gravestones,” the article said.
In response to a media debate over the use of the phrase, a former Presbyterian Moderator admitted there was a “reservoir of anti-Catholicism and sectarianism” in the Orange Order.
The controversy comes after photographs emerged last week of Orangemen in Scotland dressed in racist and sectarian costumes while attending an event at an Orange Hall there.
Rev Ken Newell urged the Order to address their sectarianism by engaging in dialogue with Catholics. He was quickly attacked by unionists and Orangemen. But as a result of the ‘debate’, a prominent Orangeman this week confirmed the Order has indeed a violent ritual to terrify new recruits into silence about the organisation.
David McNarry, a former unionist Assembly member, described how prospective members must go through an initiation ritual know as “riding the goat” before they can become full members of the institution and take the secret oath of membership.
In the ceremony, a member is believed to be hooded or covered in a blanket before being beaten by members of the chapter. The ritual is understood to be a foretaste of the treatment initiates will receive if they break their oath.
Over the years some initiates were seriously injured, with the most serious incident happening in 1925 during a lodge meeting in Newry in County Down in which a prospective member was shot dead.
In modern times at least, the ceremony doesn’t usually involve an actual goat. McNarry described it as “fearsome”. Refusing to reveal details of the ceremony, he said only: “It scared the hell out of me.”