I stumbled across this post from John Whitehead, a Catholic Historian in Oxford, in his blog Once I Was A Clever Boy who had some interesting thoughts on Catholicism and Freemasonry. In it he said:
Whether Freemasonry is a direct threat in this country [England] or in the English speaking world to Christianity may be doubted by some, but…its essential ideas are not supportive of the Church’s vision and message. Freemasons may not actively plot over their dinners how to do the Church down, but their ideals reinforce post-Enlightenment attitudes and ideas that are not conducive to revealed Catholic Christianity.
His post was based on another by Fr, Ray Blake from St. Mary Magdalen Church in Brighton England. From Fr Ray Blake’s blog – Masonry is a mortal sin…
The basic doctrine of Masonry is that whether we are a Jew, Christian or Muslim, we are all brothers, that these differences are unimportant. Ultimately of course that means that the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the Way to Salvation is undermined and unimportant, that being Catholic or CofE or Baptist or Methodist is immaterial, all are as good as one another. Masonry is ultimately about enshrining Enlightenment values which we see in the American and French Constitutions which are so antipathetic to the Catholic Faith: I mean values like “All men are created equal”, which are now so much part of modern thinking.
This piece also asks an important question:
Who in practice is against such concepts as liberty, equality, fraternity?
The truth is that we Catholics are, or at least we would want to qualify such sound bites, as in fact society does in practice. All men are not created equal, some have special needs others have unique abilities, some will cost society dearly, some will contribute greatly.
I wonder then, could you extrapolate and say the Church does not see all men on the level towards God, are some closer to deity than others , no matter their statement of faith? Is there a caste system of faith behind the Roman Church of who is in more Grace than the other?
All this talk stemmed from an older piece Good Catholics Should Not be Masons, written in 2009, in the Catholic Online from an article written by Fr Ashley Beck who is assistant priest of Beckenham in south London, which reiterated something most Masons already knew:
The Catholic Church teaches that Freemasonry and Christianity are incompatible. The Holy See in 1983 reiterated the traditional position that Catholics who are Freemasons are in a state of grave sin and may not receive the sacraments – the Declaration on Masonic Associations was signed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and makes it clear that local bishops cannot dispense from its provisions.
In this piece, the author gets to the heart of the matter and states:
The overriding problem is that in spite of what Freemasons claim, their way of life is a religion, with all of religion’s hallmarks. You can no more be a Freemason and a Christian than you can be a Muslim and a Christian. Catholics are committed to inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect, but this requires Freemasons to be honest about what they are. For Catholics, thinking about the reasons for the gulf between us can deepen our understanding of the Christian faith.
This rhetoric comes up every few years, and American Masonry quickly disassociates itself with the claim that its “different” than European Masonry and that the Church is OK with membership in both organizations.
Clearly, its not.
I wonder what, if anything, would come from the Vatican on the matter. We do have the 1983 Declaration, but is that valuable now 28 years on? and, I wonder to what degree American Masons pay heed to it, choosing their own free will and Liberty over doctrine? I feel for those brothers, to know that the agent of their faith sees them as in a state of grave sin. To be in a Grave Sin means that the individual still “sin[s] willfully after having the knowledge of the truth, [such that] there is now left no sacrifice for sins.” Essentially, it becomes a premeditated act of offense.
Clearly, these various points raise a number of questions and points, to which I would refer the reader to an article, The Catholic Church and Freemasonry, published last year in which Rev Mr. John J. McManus, JD, JCL – a Church Deacon and attorney, spoke at Gate City Lodge and delved into these topics there and in person. In that presentation, and in the piece, he enumerates 11 positions on why the church and Freemasonry are incompatible which had a significant outcome which lead to the 1983 fundamental conclusion which said:
“Even though Masonic organizations may not in particular cases plot against the faith, it would be still wrong to join them because their basic principles are irreconcilable with those of the Catholic faith.”
Given the tone of the Church, many in the Protestant arena have agreed with the same conclusion.
All of this brings us to some interesting and unanswered questions:
- Is a declaration of being a Faith necessary for a dialog between Masons and the Church?
- Does it take some proclamation of Faith to necessitate inclusion in an interfaith discussion in a free state?
- What greater degree of honesty is the Vatican looking for, or will Masonry forever be incompatible the same way as it see’s Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or any other non Catholic faith?
- Does masonry have the stamina or will to drive the conversation, or is it secure in its own practice without need of any recognition?
- What is at the center of the Church’s disdain for Masonry such that as it will sit with other faiths and recognize their values but squirms and frets at the inclusion of Freemasonry because it believes in the idea of equality of man? Isn’t that the purpose of interfaith dialogues, recognizing the universality of faiths role to mankind?
- Should Masonry align itself with the Church doctrine and strip away its Universal tenets and bring itself more into measure with those of the Catholic Church so as to bring the two organizations together so as to have these dialogs?
- Does it even matter to Masonry that its tenets intersect the doctrine of the Church?