A permission to do that which, without such permission, is forbidden by the constitutions and usages of the Order.
Du Cange (in the Glossarium) defines a Dispensation to be a prudent relaxation of a general law, the Latin expression being Provida juris cmmmunis relaxatio. While showing how much the ancient ecclesiastical authorities were opposed to the granting of Dispensations, since they preferred to pardon the offense after the law had been violated, rather than to give a previous license for its violation, he adds, "but, however much the Roman Pontiffs and pious Bishops felt of reverence for the ancient Regulations, they were often compelled to depart in some measure from them, for the utility of the church; and this milder measure of acting the jurists called a Dispensation."
This power to dispense with the provisions of law in particular cases appears to be inherent in the Grand Master; because, although frequently referred to in the old Regulations, it always is as if it were a power already in existence, and never by way of a new grant. There is no record of any Masonic statute or constitutional provision conferring this prerogative in distinct cords. The instances, however, in which this prerogative may be exercised are clearly enumerated in various places of the Old Constitutions, so what there can be no difficulty in understanding to what extent the prerogative extends.
The power of granting dispensations is confided to the Grand Master, or his representative, but should not be exercised except on extraordinary occasions, or for excellent reasons. The dispensing power is conned to four circumstances:
- A Lodge cannot be opened and held unless a Warrant of Constitution be first granted by the (Grand Lodge; but the Grand Master may issue his Dispensation, empowering a constitutional number of Brethren to open and hold a Lodge until the next Communication of the Grand Lodge. At this communication, the Dispensation of the Grand Master is either revoked or confirmed.. A Lodge under Dispensation is not permitted to be represented, nor to vote in the Grand Lodge.
- Not more than five candidates can be made at the same communication of a Lodge; but the Grand Master, on showing of sufficient cause, may extend to a Lodge the privilege of making as many more as he may think proper.
- No brother can, at the same time, belong to two Lodges within three miles of each other. But the Grand Master may dispense with this regulation also.
- Every Lodge must elect and install its officers on the constitutional night, which, in most Masonic Jurisdictions, precedes the anniversary of Saint John the Evans list. Should it, however neglect this duty, or should any officer die, or be expelled. or removed permanently no subsequent election or installation can take place, except under Dispensation of the Grand Master.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry