by John J. McManus.
Prepared for Gate City 2, Atlanta, GA, as the fifth installment of their Religion & Culture series.
Copyright 2009, originally published May 26, 2009 Rev Mr. John J. McManus, JD, JCL
Used with permission.
HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND FREEMASONS…WHY ROMAN CATHOLICS ARE PROHIBITED BY THE CHURCH FROM BECOMING FREEMASONS
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gate City II for inviting me to speak with you tonight about a rather difficult topic, the historical relationship between the Catholic Church and Freemasons, and why Roman Catholics have been and continue to be prohibited by the Church from becoming Freemasons. My name is John McManus and in my civilian life I am an attorney who has been practicing law for just over 27 years. I am Roman Catholic Christian from birth, and since my ordination in 2002, I have been a member of the Roman Catholic Clergy as a Deacon, the lowest of the three levels of clerical hierarchy in the Catholic Church. Since 2007, I am also a Canon Lawyer, which means that I have a pontifical licentiate that allows me to practice as a lawyer in the Tribunals, or courts, of the Roman Catholic Church, and also to advise the Archbishop or others regarding canonical issues, or those issues related to the law of the Roman Catholic Church.
I have provided you with that personal background to let you know that my studies have been related to the Roman Catholic Church and its laws. I am not a Freemason, nor have I studied in any detail, other than for the preparation of this presentation, the laws, rules, creeds, or other constitutive documents of Freemasons. Nothing presented herein is intended to criticize, condemn or otherwise cast aspersions on either Freemasonry or Freemasons, as a group or to any individual Freemason, whether Roman Catholic or not. Instead, this presentation is intended to provide historical and current information on the subject matter that may be used in civil discussions and personal reflections about the issues presented in order that each person may be informed and form their own consciences about the issues presented.
This presentation is being given from the Roman Catholic Church’s point of view, particularly since that is the only point of view I can articulate, and the material presented about Freemasons has been gathered from various sources, primarily within the Roman Catholic literature. While I have examined quite a bit of literature preparing this presentation, I have relied to a great extent on a very fine paper entitled “The Evolution Of The Church’s Prohibition Against Catholic Membership In Freemasonry” by Msgr. Ronny E. Jenkins. For those of you interested in the complete text of that paper, it was published in 1996 in The Jurist, Volume 56, pages 735-755. I was particularly interested in that paper because Msgr. Jenkins was one of my instructors at The Catholic University of America where I received my Juris Canonical Licentiate. During my preparation for this presentation, I had an opportunity to communicate with Msgr. Jenkins about recent developments in this area since the publication of that paper, and those developments have been incorporated into this presentation. I wish to thank Msgr. Jenkins for his kind assistance in this matter.
As the title of that article and this presentation suggest, the Roman Catholic Church has for centuries, and continues to this day, to prohibit its members from membership in Freemasonry. That prohibition remains applicable today in the Archdiocese of Atlanta for all members of the Roman Catholic Church. There has certainly been a great deal of confusion regarding whether this prohibition continues today, engendered in large part by the language of the 1983 Code of Canon Law that omitted the specific prohibition against Freemasonry stated in the 1917 Codex Juris Canonici. In response to this confusion, in November of 1983, the Congregation for the Doctrine of The Faith issued a declaration stating that the prohibition was still in force and that Catholic Masons were barred from receiving Holy Communion. However, that declaration did not quell the debate about that prohibition, and the debate continues. It is my purpose here tonight to address the foundational reasons for this centuries old prohibition, clarify the confusion created by the new Code of Canon law, and explain why the Roman Catholic Church through the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith continues that prohibition today.
As advertised, I will begin this presentation with a look at the origins and historical issues related to this prohibition, then address in passing some of the official canonical documents related directly to that prohibition, then review in some detail the efforts in modern times to reconcile the differences between the parties, and finally address the canonical issues developed by both the 1917 Codex Juris Canonici and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. It is my sincere hope that at the end of this presentation the fundamental inconsistencies between the basic tenants of the Roman Catholic Church and those of Freemasonry will allow at least a better understanding of the prohibition that the Roman Catholic Church asserts in this matter.
In order to understand why the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to prohibit one of its members from belonging to Freemasonry, or to prohibit or allow its members to do or not do other things, it is important to understand a little about the Roman Catholic Church itself. The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ himself. To be Catholic, one must believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he established the Church with divine authority. The Gospels state that “As the Father gave authority to Christ,” [Jn 5:22] Christ passed that authority on to his apostles [Lk 10:16], and they passed it on to the successors they appointed as bishops.
For nearly two thousand years, through unbroken apostolic succession, bishops have taught the Catholic faith that was received from Christ in the Gospels, Sacred Tradition, and through the Magisterium, the teaching office of the Church. The Church is not a democracy. The authority of the Church rests in the Bishop of Rome, The Roman Pontiff, the successor to St. Peter, who Jesus himself selected to guide the Church. It is important to note that this “authority” held by the Holy Father is not power, but a right…it is humble in both its origin, as received from Christ, and in its end, which is to serve as Christ served. In fact, all of the laws and all of the traditions of the Church have one goal, one end, and that end is the salvation of souls.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that it has an innate right and obligation to speak the truth about all human matters, and that truth is directed at the one primary end, the salvation of souls. And, therefore, throughout the ages, the Church has issued decrees, which are decisions regarding a particular case, and encyclicals, which are writings approved by the Holy Father, and she has held Councils and synods, discussing various issues related to the faith. The most recent Council was the Second Vatican Council held in the 1960’s which has had a significant effect on the law of the Church, and the Church itself. The rules and laws that are articulated by the Holy Father become laws that Catholics must respect and follow because of the aforementioned authority from which they are derived. Willful failure to follow the teachings of the Church has consequences for Catholics, including excommunication in the most serious cases.
The laws of the Church, codified as canon laws, set forth both the requirement and the penalty for not following the teachings of the Church, and there is a judicial process involved in determining whether the law has been broken and what sanction, if any, is appropriate in the individual case.
The best way for me to explain the relationship between the law of the Church and the essential end of human behavior is in a statement by Mother Teresa. She said, “God did not put me on earth to be successful, he put me here to be faithful.” Catholics have an obligation to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, all of the teachings of the Church, and they are not allowed to pick and choose which teachings they like and which they don’t like as if they were ordering from a menu at McDonalds. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Catholics to understand the teachings of their faith, the reasons why the Church teaches as it does, and then live a life accordingly, constantly striving to be faithful to Christ and his teachings.
It was difficult to determine the precise historical origin of the Freemasons, primarily because there is little historical evidence of the Masons before the eighteenth century. It does appear, however, that on June 24, 1717, four independent guilds of stone cutters met in a London inn to form the first grand lodge. It appears that this new order of masons spread to France by 1732, Hamburg, Germany by 1737, and then throughout much of the rest of Europe, including Italy.
On April 28, 1738, the Roman Catholic Church published the first of many condemnations of this new society when Clement XII issued the constitution In eminenti. In that constitution, Clement XII declared the basic tenants of Freemasonry to be a threat not only to the basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, but also to the stability of governments and society. Clement XII imposed the penalty of excommunication reserved to the Holy See on persons who either belonged to or externally supported the society. This document was significant because subsequent popes repeated the condemnations for the next two hundred years. For example, on May 18, 1751 in his decree Providas, Benedict XIV repeated the gravissima damna [the “most serious condemnations”] and appended Clement XII’s constitution to his own decree.
The nineteenth century brought renewed and continued confirmation of the charges and penalties against Masons, particularly Catholic Masons. Here are a few examples:
- On September 13, 1821, Pius VII issued his decree Ecclesiam Christi in response to the growing influence of a particular form of Masonry called Carbonarism on the movement to form liberal governments in much of Europe.
- On March 13, 1826, Leo XII issued his decree Quo graviora in which he not only reaffirmed past condemnation, he added more condemnations, and he offered a particularly critical view of the influence of Masons on universities.
- On August 15, 1832, Gregory XVI in his decree Mirari Vos reaffirmed all previous papal decrees condemning Freemasons, and he added more justifications for the Church’s condemnation of Freemasons.
- On October 12, 1869, Pius IX in his decree Apostolicae Sedis that reformed certain automatic [latae sententiae] penalties, retained membership in the Masons among those excommunications reserved to the Holy See. Apostolicae Sedis can be found in Acta Santa Sedis [ASS] 5 (1869) beginning at page 311.
- On April 12, 1884, Leo XIII issued his encyclical Humanum genus which was a document dedicated entirely to the condemnation of the Masons and reaffirmed the latae sententiae penalty imposed by Pius IX in Apostolicae Sedis. Humanum genus can be found in Acta Santa Sedis [ASS] 16 (1883-1884), pages 417-433.
The twentieth century canonized the penalties and condemnations of the previous two hundred years. It should be noted here that the law of the Roman Catholic Church, which was developed through Tradition, Sacred Writings, synods, Councils, Decrees and Encyclicals, was not codified in one in a single code of canon law until the Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917. Three canons in the 1917 code spoke directly against Freemasons:
Canon 1240: Canon 1240, Section 1, paragraph 1, denied Freemasons a Catholic burial.
Canon 2335: This canon, with only a few changes, reaffirmed the reserved ipso facto excommunication of catholic masons promulgated by Pius IX on Apostolicae Sedis. The English translation of that canon reads:
“Those giving their name to Masonic sects or other associations of this sort that machinate against the Church or legitimate civil powers contract by that fact excommunication simply reserved to the Apostolic See.”
Canon 2336: This canon levied additional penalties against clerics or religious who belonged to the masons. These penalties included suspension for clerics and loss of active and passive voice for religious.
Other canons indirectly affected Catholic Masons and included:
- Canon 1065, Section 1: Denied them the right to a Catholic marriage.
- Canon 542, Section 1: Denied them the ability to enter a valid novitiate.
- Canon 693, Section 1: Denied them the right to inscribe validly in a pious association of the faithful.
- Canon 1453, Section 1: Denied them receiving the right of patronage [support].
Two requirements had to be met for Roman Catholics to incur the ipso facto excommunication set forth in Canon 2335:
- They had to have actually enrolled in the membership books of the organization; and
- The organization had to be wholly devoted to heretical or subversive ends.
It was easy to establish whether the first requirement was met-all one had to do was examine the membership books of the organization. But it was not as easy to determine when the second requirement had been met. Jenkins poses these questions:
- What if the charitable or fraternal organizations were only indirectly associated with Freemasons? Were these included in the ban?
- Masonic lodges themselves varied greatly in their teachings and practices. American lodges were far less subversive than most European ones. Did Catholics who joined an American lodge deserve to suffer the same penalty as one who joined a lodge more patently opposed to the Church?
These and other similar questions gave rise to discussions within the Church hierarchy about a new legal attitude toward Freemasons. Those inquiries lead to the hope that the issue would be addressed by the Second Vatican Council. The Second Vatican Council, however, did not specifically address the issue with Freemasons. Instead, it sought to open dialogue with various groups that had been counted among the Church’s “antagonists.”
As a consequence of this new attitude, several groups of bishops began to view the ban on Masonic membership in the light of the particular character of the respective local lodges. This was first done in 1966 by the Scandinavian bishops who determined that each bishop could judge whether or not a particular lodge was acting or teaching in ways contrary to the interests of the Church. If the bishop decided that the lodge was not manifesting such behavior, the bishop was free to determine whether a particular Catholic could join that particular lodge. Similar actions were taken by the bishops of England and Wales, and the French bishops were even allowed by the Vatican to have limited discussions between the Italian grand master and a priest who was an expert in Masonic affairs.
These events lead to perhaps the most significant advance in Catholic-Masonic relations. In March 1969, a commission of three Catholics and nine masons gathered in Innsbruck to discuss their mutual concerns. The commission met under the auspices of the Secretariat for Non-Believers and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith. The committee’s dialogue resulted in the July 5, 1970 publication of a document entitled “Lichtenau Declaration,” which declared that, contrary to the Church’s consistent position, the Masons were not a threat to the Catholic Church. The document recommended that all canonical penalties and condemnations be abrogated and relations opened between Catholics and Masons, stating in pertinent part:
“We are of the opinion that the papal bulls concerning the Freemasons are now only historically significant and no longer relevant in our time. We are of the same opinion regarding the condemnations of ecclesiastical law since, in light of what has been said, they cannot be justified by a Church that follows God’s commandment in teaching fraternal love.”
The next significant event in Catholic-Masonic relations occurred in talks that occurred over a six-year period between 1974 and 1980 when representatives from the German Episcopal Conference held talks with a group representing the Grand Lodges of Germany. The conclusion of the German Bishops’ Conference was:
“the Freemasons have essentially not changed. Membership [in the masons] places the foundations of Christian existence in question. Detailed investigations of the Masonic rituals and fundamental ideas, and of their current, unchanged self-understanding make clear: Simultaneous membership in the Catholic Church and freemasons is incompatible.”
Jenkins points out that “the bishops reached their unequivocal conclusion after having first considered the positive elements of Freemasonry, including its humanitarian interests, charitable works, anti-materialist ideology, as well as the excellent personal qualities required of its members.” He states that the bishop’s listed twelve areas of Masonic teaching that were at variance with the Church’s own belief, and with which the Church could never reconcile itself:
- The Masonic World-view: The Masons promote a freedom from dogmatic adherence to any one set of revealed truths. Such a subjective relativism is in direct conflict with the revealed truths of Christianity.
- The Masonic Notion of Truth: The masons deny the possibility of an objective truth, placing every truth instead in a relative context.
- The Masonic Notion of Religion: The Masonic teaching holds a relative notion of religions as all concurrently seeking the truth of the absolute.
- The Masonic Notion of God: The Masons hold a deistic notion of God which excludes any personal knowledge of the deity.
- The Masonic Notion of God and Revelation: The deistic notion of God precludes the possibility of God’s self-revelation to humankind.
- Masonic Toleration: The masons promote a principle of toleration regarding ideas. That is, relativism teaches them to be tolerant of ideas divergent or contrary to their own. Such a principle not only threatens the Catholic position of objective truth, but it also threatens the respect due the Church’s teaching office.
- The Masonic Rituals: The rituals of the first three Masonic grades have a clear sacramental character about them, indicating that an actual transformation of some sort is undergone by those who participate in them.
- The Perfection of Mankind: The Masonic rituals have as an end the perfection of humankind. But Masonry provides all that is necessary to achieve this perfection. Thus, the justification of a person through the work of Christ is not an essential or even necessary aspect of the struggle for perfection.
- The Spirituality of Masons: The Masonic Order makes a total claim on the life of the member. True adherence to the Christian faith is thereby jeopardized by the primary loyalty due the Masonic Order.
- The Diverse Divisions within the Masons: The Masons are comprised of lodges with varying degrees of adherence to Christian teaching. Atheistic lodges are clearly incompatible with Catholicism. But even those lodges comprised of Christian members seek merely to adapt Christianity to the overall Masonic world-view. This is unacceptable.
- The Masons and the Catholic Church: Even those Catholic-friendly lodges that would welcome the Church’s members as its own are not compatible with Catholic teaching, and so closed to Catholic members.
- The Masons and the Protestant Church: While a 1973 meeting of Protestant Churches determined that individual Protestants could decide whether to be members of both the Christian Church and the Freemasons, it included in its decision the caveat that those Christians must always take care not to lessen the necessity of grace in the justification of a person before God.
The German bishops’ statement had a significant influence on the subsequent attitude of Rome toward Catholic-Mason relations, renewing the age-old attitude of distrust and antagonism. The canonical questions about these issues, however, were still to be resolved.
During the period of time between the 1970 Lichtenau Declaration, which indicated a more positive relationship between Catholic’s and Masons, and the German Bishops’ statements in 1980, the code of canon law was being revised. As a direct result of the Lichtenau Declaration, canons 2335 and 2336 of the 1917 Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law were abandoned early in the code revision process and were not included in the penal law schema of 1973. This has lead to some confusion among the bishops about the Church’s stance toward Masons. In 1974, Cardinal Franjo Seper of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter to select bishops stating that “the law toward masons had not changed, but that its application might be more strictly interpreted in favor of lay Catholics.” In essence what the Cardinal was saying was that the canon’s penalty applied to Catholics who joined a Masonic group “or similar associations that conspired against the Church.”
Therefore, if the particular lodge the Catholic joined did not conspire against the Church, then only one of the two requirements for incurring the penalty of excommunication had been met. Therefore, membership in a neutral lodge would not necessarily bring with it an ipso facto excommunication for the Catholic.
The 1977 coetus for the revision of penal law formulated its draft of what would become canon 1374 of the 1983 code, and it is stated in English as follows:
“A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict.”
Therefore, the revised canon removed the ipso facto excommunication of canon 2335, and it was broad enough in scope to allow for particular legislators to determine when the penalty was warranted and if, or whether, harsher penalties were called for in certain circumstances.
The broad language provided room for what Catholic’s call “pastoral sensitivity” in a particular case. Based upon this canon, it appeared that the decision about whether Catholics were allowed to join a particular lodge was left up to the local legislator, the bishop.
However, the new code promulgated in 1983 did not settle the issue. There are two canons in the 1983 code that most clearly apply to Catholic Masons, although, as indicated, Freemasonry is not mentioned specifically:
- Canon 1374 against subversive societies; and
- Canon 1364 against heretics and apostates.
As indicated earlier in the presentation, on November 23, 1983, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attempted to resolve the doubt created by the 1983 code revisions and issued Declaratio de associationibus massonicis, the “Declaration on Masonic Associations.” Declaratio de associationibus massonicis can be found in Acta Santa Sedis [ASS] 76 (1984) beginning at page 300. The Congregation stated the following:
- The Church’s position regarding the Freemasons had not changed.
- Catholic membership in Masonic lodges was still prohibited because Masonic principles were still contrary to the teachings of the Church.
- Catholics who did, in fact, belong to Masonic associations were committing grave sin and were, consequently, barred from receiving Holy Communion.
- The reason the Masons were no longer explicitly referred to in the new code was due simply to the principles that guided the revision of the law.
- Local ordinaries did not enjoy the prerogative of determining which Masonic lodges operated against the interests of the Church and which were neutral towards or even supportive of the Church’s interests.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States did not officially respond to the Congregations 1983 declaration. However, it did ask the Pastoral Research and Practices Committee to write a report on the compatibility of Masonic principles with the Catholic faith. Their report, which is quite brief, was published in the June 27, 1985 edition of Origins [Origins 15/6] at pages 83-84. The committee restated the fundamental conclusions of the German bishops, stating:
“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.”
While the Congregations declaration reflects the current law in the Church and Catholics are prohibited from joining the Masons, the debate among Church scholars and canonists about this issue and the related issue of enforcement, application, and the canonical implications of each issue remain.
Most of those 12 points are dead on. I agree with them so for the first time in my life I actually agree with the Catholic Church 🙂 Who would have thunk it? Haha.
Seriously, we all know that most Catholics and others are so in name only. The truley devout would have an obvious conflict with Freemasonry. These two are really telling.
The Masonic World-view: The Masons promote a freedom from dogmatic adherence to any one set of revealed truths. Such a subjective relativism is in direct conflict with the revealed truths of Christianity.
Masonic Toleration: The masons promote a principle of toleration regarding ideas. That is, relativism teaches them to be tolerant of ideas divergent or contrary to their own. Such a principle not only threatens the Catholic position of objective truth, but it also threatens the respect due the Church’s teaching office.
Those two points espcially hit the nail square on the head.
It’s interesting that the twelve points delineated are some of the things about which Masons are the most proud. Some of those points aren’t exactly correct, but then, it would be easy to get that impression if you were on the outside looking in.
I was baptized catholic as an infant. As a pre-teen I started reading the bible and failed to see any correspondence between that church and the teachings of Christ.
I apologize to the millions of good people out there that call themselves Catholic, but I cannot get past all the grave evil committed by this organization. The Inquisition, harboring and aiding Nazi war criminals after WWII, protecting child molesters within its ranks (and reassigning them when they are caught so they might continue molesting other children), the persecution of Galileo, and the complete opposition to science in general only to name a few. The list is endless.
It is possible that the Catholic Church has committed more institutionalized terrorl than any other organization in history. For centuries the papacy changed hands for political reasons and was often gained through deception and even murder. How anyone considers the Catholic Church a legitimate expression of Christianity is beyond me. The only thing that has tempered my contempt for the Church through the years is the fact that the vast majority of Catholics I have met, including members of my family, are just ordinary decent people.
As a Freemason I am proud of my tolerance for all religions, but it sure is tough to take this Church seriously, especially since they can no longer burn me at the stake. Their diminished power and influence in the world makes it a little easier to dismiss it as the irrelevant , intolerant and backward organization it really is.
Once again I apologize to any and all Catholics I might have offended but I thank I god that today we have a right to voice our opinions, a right that the Church has denied mankind for centuries through the use of violence.
I think one of my biggest issues with all of what the Church accuses Masonry of, is that so many of those very same charges could be leveled at the United States of America, or any other pluralistic country; but the Church chooses not to do that, as they would shoot themselves in the face, financially, were they to offend American Catholics so bluntly – those same American Catholics who parrot the “Catholics can’t be Masons, the Church says so” lines, when they go and apply for the Knights of Columbus.
It’s one more item proving to me, a former member of the Knight of Columbus (and a PGK at that) that the Church’s position on Masonry is hypocritical.
Gate City 2 is proud that you have decided to recognize our efforts in such a way as to post them on such a prestigious Freemasonic website. It took no small effort to find Deacon McManus. Our attendance that evening was ninety five with sixty being non masons. Everyone received Deacon McManus with the utmost respect. He was in turn complimentary of our gathering and obviously relieved that we were not adversarial in any manner. We just wanted to know.
As a Catholic Mason I think there is a big difference between the pre Vatican II Church and the post Vatican II Church. Talking about the Crusades or the medieval church in my mind is a waste of time. It is what is here and now that really effects us.
I have a lot of quarrels with my church too. There are many things I disagree with the church on, Freemasonry being one of them. I have decided to stay and fight from the inside.
But let me tell you that the way to arrest fears and combat misinformation is to have a respectful meeting of the minds. I commend Gate City 2 for its reaching out in a non adversarial respectful manner. Breaking bread together and rubbing elbows in the long run can go a long way to building bridges of mutual trust and respect even though there is disagreement.
Being kind and tolerant instead of adversarial and confrontational can go a long way into making friends out of enemies. Toleration is the Masonic way. If more Masonic Lodges, especially Grand Lodges, would go out of their way to open up a dialogue with their detractors rather than constantly bashing them or even just ignoring them, perhaps doors of rapprochement would open up.
Freemasonry, unlike sectarian religions and denominations, is a big tent society. We welcome everybody while endorsing nobody. It is good to remember that there are tons of Catholic Masons out here and as a Fraternity that preaches the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God it is a wise move to still be able to search for common ground and extend for the olive branch in the face of what one thinks is misinformation and unwarranted criticism.
That’s what Gate City 2 has done and I commend them for it.
The Freemason Information e-magazine is to be commended for presenting this important material.
Contrary to some of my brothers who have commented above, I vigorously disagree with the notion that the German Bishops’ Conference accurately depicted Freemasonry in their 12 points. In fact, I disagree _so_ vigorously that I have begun what will be at least a 14-installment series on my blog, “Freemasonry: Reality, Myth, and Legend” (http://themasonicblog.blogspot.com/) in which I plan to show just how wrong these points are regarding Freemasonry.
As some of my brethren said at my mother lodge in Florida: Y’all come.
I am curious why a member of the K of C would leave.
I have never belonged to the Knights of Columbus
That’s easy, Raum: i ceased to be a Catholic, though no one else knew it, and realized that could not, in conscience, remain a Knight.
Additionally, I felt the KofC did not present enough of a “rite of passage” for me, and I started to research the origins of the Knights. I had no interest in the insurance plans, so my only reason for joining was for the fraternalism and initiatic experience. I got the former, I don’t think the latter is there.
This works if you accept the first premise: that what the Pope says has a meaning beyond that of any other man. If you don’t accept that, then this is simply self referential: it is so because I say it’s so. If you accept the original statement that Freemasonry is bad, then all the legal issues built on that are acceptable.
However, the stated reasons given for the badness of Freemasonry in the Humanum Genus encyclical (not an infallible statement, by the way) are highly debatable, and are the same principles upon which the government of the U.S., among other progressive governments, is based. Arguably, these principles are good and pure except that the Pope says otherwise in this letter.
I really liked this article.
As one who was born and raised Catholic and later in life became a Freemason I have struggled with the issues discussed here.
As a Freemason I have found myself and become closer to G-d than I have at any time in my earlier life.
What Freemasonry promotes in the Fatherhood of G-d, brotherhood of man is, in my opinion, is what is right for our world as a whole.
I haven’t received communion since becoming a Mason, but have no regrets.
My respects to the Church and all the good they do, but I believe that Masonry is the future and I feel good about being a part of it.
Let the past be the past.
I have taken for granted my Libertys provided by the Constution of this great country! I have a renewed resolve! I have a appreciation for just how fragil these Libertys are. I am amased that this ignorance is tolerated let alone apparently promoted.
I am not a Freemason. I must congratulate the Second Gate for publishing such a candid and valuable tretise. I can only very humbly conclude that the world must needs both points of view in regards salvation and fraternity. May the Peace of The Lord be with you.
I am a Catholic and my daughter was initiated into rainbow girls last night. Her father is presbyterian. Her godmother who was with us stated that the ceremony had a lot of similarity to a sorority ceremony. I have no problem with her being in Rainbow b/c I believe that she needs to experience things to make her own determination later in life as to what she believes. I disagree with the church’s viewpoint on masons. I believe that it is important to teach our youth to question and to ask why as that is the only way the church or the government or any other organization can change. In the past, women were second class citizens within the church. It was wrong about that. The way it handled pedophiles in the past was wrong. Instead of looking for the differences with the masons, it needs to look at the similarities and build on that.
Since this sounds like an “american thinking person’s conversation” here, I am reminded of the publically prophetic utterance of Thomas Jefferson when asked what might be the most destructive ememies for undermining such a fledgling republic. He replied: “the ever-present tyranical abuses of church and state.” Notice how he had experienced both as 2 different faces of the very same coin and that one is never without the other, and cannot, in fact, operate or exist without the other. Historically, the twin Janus faces of church and state have always found indoctrinating, coersive, threatening and dictatorial methods and means of punishing and excommunicating folks who took a deeper, more conscious and mindful inquiry. That is, a choice for a self-examined human life with a concsience, a life of the mind and moral imagination. Through the ages, all great literature and wisdom traditions, poetry, art and music is made of this same primal struggle material. As Doevtoesky knew only too well, in the masses of men, the fear of freedom is vastly far greater than the fear of enslavement…on this side of the two Grand Inquisitors (church and state). Its hard for a thinking mind, acting heart and open soul to accept this! Mankind unanimously chooses slavery over his/her own freedom! When church and state hold up the exact same Janus mirrors to each other, let each see their own tribally collective terrors, brutal suspicions, pathological paranoia and ungodly wrath reflected in the other–and let them conduct their own self-perpetrated wars accordingly–on each other. Now…as for you and I who have long-struggled to outgrow and trancend these dark age dreads …we live and act and love and think in the heart of our Creator God…one human heart to another human heart…and where the Kingdom of Heaven and all the powers and principalities in and beyond the universe: rules supreme.
Answers to the 12 points raised above by the Rev, Mr. John J. McManus, JD, JCL:
1. Many documents of the Catholic Church encourage a well-formed conscience, and many approved writers such as Merton, Aquinas, and Augustine endorse it as well. Formation of conscience requires consideration of ‘what if’ something were not dogma; and indeed teachings of the RCC have changed based on such premises.
2. The Catholic Church says that abortion is wrong at all times, while at the same time stating that an expectant mother may undergo surgeries which might threaten the fetus. Thus, non-spontaneous abortion is OK in a relative context according to the RCC. The RCC accepts relativism in its teachings.
3. The Second Vatican Council proclaimed “She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” This objection is completely counter to that teaching.
4. Although not a Mason myself, I know Masons who hold a personal relationship with one or more deities.
5. Derives from 4 and countered by 4.
6. The United States of America promotes an idea of toleration regarding ideas. By the author’s logic, one cannot be a Catholic and an American.
7. Other organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, have rituals of passage of a transformational manner. Yet Catholic parishes actually sponsor BSA troops.
8. If the allegation provided by the author in #1 is true, then #8 contradicts that; Masonry clearly cannot state that it provides all that is necessary for perfection if it rejects dogma.
9. Although not a Mason myself, I know Masons who have other oaths, other commitments, and have no problem keeping true to those other oaths and commitments.
10. If the allegation provided by the author in #1 is true, then #10 contradicts that; Masonry cannot “adhere” to Christianity in any lodge if it rejects dogma.
11. It has been made clear to me even back when I was a Catholic that, by and large, Masonry has no problem with welcoming Catholics in any lodge. The problem resides in the failure of Catholicism to “her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship” (Second Vatican Council.)
12. The Catholic Church already requires the necessity of grace in justification. This is a non-issue; Protestants of different denominations have differing dogmas, so a joint statement would have to include that.
Being a Freemason and being an American are in no way the same. Joining any fraternal organization is a choice. Unless you are an immigrant and became an American then you were born an American, the result of no decision made by you. And the American currency is the only currency that states “In God We Trust”. Implying that even though we are a nation of tolerance we have a Christian foundation. I do not know much about the Masons and I don’t claim to. Being a soldier in the US Army I have met many Masons and became friends with them in a less secretive fraternal organization known as US Partroopers. I have nothing against Masons or their lodges, but I come from a K of C family. When I get out of the Army later this year I will join the K of C just like my great grandfather, my grandfather, and my father before me. Obviously I will not be a Mason due to my strong relationship with the Church. She is my guide in life, and she has not failed me yet. As far as Masons go, I wish you luck (as long as your endevours are not against the church), and as for Catholic Masons, you can not serve two masters. Make your choice and hope it’s the right one.
We as masons do not judge the Catholic Church for its past crimes against humanity. Why would a church of love count us, regular masons, amounst those groups of clandestine masons who are not apart of our fraternal order?
I was raised Catholic, but left the church. Although I more or less agree with the Church on many topics, quite frankly, I’m sick of the egocentric priests, the horribly abusive nuns and the awful memories they left me with, and the weird conglomeration of new age spirituality and traditional catholic values that I was taught when forced to attend CCD as a teen. Looking back, I’m just amazed that I pulled through it all. Some family members, and some current friends, were in KofC. I am not, and have never been interested in KofC.
But I am very much interested in the Masons and I’d like to become a Mason someday. Why? Partly because they explicitly agree to refrain from discussions of politics and religion at meetings. That seems a like a great idea to me, as the two biggest barriers to friendship are prohibited. Also, partly because the Masons have a very rich and interesting history. Seems like a great opportunity to learn a lot of cool stuff. And a third reason: it seems like it would be a very rewarding thing to do.
I don’t see how anything the Masons do or teach today could possibly contradict the Catholic Church. Maybe, possibly, centuries ago that was the case, but certainly not today.
Anyway, thanks for a great discussion.
I am a Mason and I want to thank the publishers of this article. I am also Catholic and I’ve never known the extent to which
the Catholic Church opposes the craft nor why? I believe in the objective reasoning of the Church, otherwise, to what end do I
worship? It would all be meaningless and I am not about spending my life meaninglessly. I have never considered the above,
its logic is sound and penetrating.
Brothers, with deep regret, I am going to resign the craft and encourage others to search their souls more deeply.
I am not a Masonic member. But as a Catholic, I would like to add a commentary in hopes of adding clarification to what it is to be Catholic especially for any of my Catholic brethren who may need more perspective.
As I understand and believe, a Catholic person of Faith needs to and wants to follow the Truth; the Truth that Christ is the ONLY Savior for life and perfection in Holiness. A Holiness that will help us love God and neighbor the best we can with the talents/gifts we are given. Under this Truth, a Catholic cannot look to his own reason, logic, and good intentions as his main and only guide. Even if he professes in God as the Creator, any complacency that sees and treats God as a non-interfering power and mere spectator of His creation marginalizes God. A Catholic believes God to reach us each personally as a living and active participant in our life; one who guides and protects us from the perils that could thwart our salvation as we live out this earthly journey. It is a salvation that promises for the Faithful, victory over Sin (moral injustice and division from God), Sickness, and Death, as we know it on this earth, and that leads to the eternal reward of being with God (the Holy Trinity) in Heaven forever: the sole and absolute Author and Being of Truth, Life, Love, Justice, Peace, and Mercy.
I loved seeing the quote by Mother Teresa shown in the above article,
“God did not put me on earth to be successful, he put me here to be faithful.”
It shows how our purpose as a Catholic reflects success not as the world measures it but as Faith through God does. God asks us to stay the course with Him on our way Home (Heaven) and in the process to help other brothers and sisters who want to do the same.
We Catholics believe, God gave up His only Son, Christ, to take it upon Himself, as only God could, to pave a right of way for us through all the Sin of the world (all that was separating us from God). In return, we inwardly and outwardly express our Faith in God through worship, prayer, and service. As Catholics this is our way of life. As in any group, some respond more than others. Whatever the response, the main tenets of the Faith as centered on Christ will never change for the Church (the body of Christ – all believers – religious and lay). The Church’s aim is never about seeking popularity, human recognition, opinion, or expanding relativism in order to please others, but about expressing the Truth – God’s love for us.
As Catholics we are obliged to be Christ-like and when we are not, to admit fault, seek forgiveness, make amends, and to continue to persevere courageously with God’s help. Whatever faults and incongruences may arise, God as a Father will chastise us when needed, since He cares, just like a parent would, but at the same time provide the means and the help to redirect us as a Church. For God is no fool, He knows our efforts and the state of our hearts, and what we need. In the end, God wants each of us to be ready, so we can eventually rest in Him, for He is our Peaceful Home of Perfect Love.
God Bless to All.
oi gostaria de conhecer uma igreja de marçonaria e ate fazer parte dessa religião
ola tudo bem gostaria de conhecer uma igreja de marçonaria e ate fazer parte dela por favor
i love these comment,let it serve as a good reason for you not to live the catholic church
i have been following the story of freemasonry and thus; R.C church is engaged!by the way, me catholic follower! seventh day adventist condemn the R.C Church to be the one in fulfilling the prophecy (the beast) according to the book of Daniel and Revelation. while there is huge christian community in africa for instance(r.c), then, is it true that this church is misleading her followers? and if yes, why? what the best church therefore? if u change the church, will it be the best solution? will these followers inherit the new realm of ALMIGHTY GOD with this new rise of the beast? i do not know………
My father was a freemason of many years standing and although he is long gone, I have yet to meet a freemason who is not of the highest integrity. lives a wholesome clean chirstian life, and is completely non-judgemental.
My question is this:
Is the catholic church not being judgemental and if i may ask, by what right? Surely this is not christianlike?
A very in need article.-
To all those looking for sins in the Church, as an excuse to join the masons, the time comes, sooner or later, proving how right is the Church about Masonry.-
In Church History, certainly mistakes abound, because men weaknesses but not because Doctrinary mistakes; on the opposite, masons sorround with secrecy and obedience their teachings because, based on relativism, anything, even the human life
can be disposed of, something that can not stand as true discerning between right or wrong.-
As Jesus said: “By their fruits you shall know them”, just see mason H. Truman ordering the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or see the current state of unemployment, misery, foreclosure leaving millions of american and europeans in total distress under governments where those not “initiated” in any lodge are not allowed to become decision makers.-
To those following History Channel or the like to have an opinion about the Inquisition, should check a serious source of facts, before arriving to the wrong conclusions, as the Inquisition was created at King´s request, in search for heresy, at times when the royal authority was questioned, and that the Inquisition NEVER executed anyone, being its only mission to determine whatever Faith deviance existed
among those investigated.-
As far as Galileo is concerned, as he was trying to prove one of Ptolomeous XIII Thesis, the accepted scientific paradigm of the time, to be wrong, and failed at that,
the Church gave him more time to study and placed all of the Church resources at his disposal to come again and have a second chance.-
Indeed, a scientific argument has been changed, by masons, into a tale of neverending accusations of darkness, torture and tiranny, seting aside the fact that the World´s first universities were founded by the Church.-
Eyes on Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the Real Presence. Everything else is pride…peace…
I am a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and my husband is a Freemason, Knights Templar, member of the Scottish Rite and The York Right. I grew up a strict Lutheran, which also prohibits membership into Masonic groups. My husband grew up a Catholic, but has always had many unanswered questions about the Bible and teachings of both churches. Whenever we have tried to find answers to difficult biblical questions, we have been scorned for asking those tougher questions which sometimes question the church. In church fellowship, I have only experienced being treated like second class members, since I don’t have perfect church attendance, and feel that I have to give x # $. In my opinion, Masonic communities are opportunities to strengthen my own faith. To feel unjudged by my peers. To know we all have faith in our heavenly father, and to shine as a Christian in a way to reinforce my faith. It is a way to incorporate my Christian foundation into my life with friendly, welcoming, non-judgemental people. It inspires me to be a better person and Christian. Nothing I have done in the Order has contradicted anything in my religion, except the prohibition of joining.
Inakuwaje makanisa yanakuwa na mahusiano na freemason wakati wao imani zao ziko tofauti na makanisa haya? au ndio kupungukiwa na roho wa Mungu?Haya yote yanasababishwa na viongozi wa dini walio juu namaanisha wakuu wa madhehebu duniani sisi huku afrika vitu hivi tunaletewa tu, na mbaya zaidi viongozi hao wakuu wanapokaa kimya na kushindwa kukemea uozo huu usiendelee badala yake wanashindwa kubainisha na kuidhinisha kuwa hii ni dhambi. hakika Mungu humuinua mnyonge kutoka mavumbini na kumfanya kuwa juu hivyo ndivyo alivyotenda kwa africa mmetuletea injili nasi sasa mungu katuinua tulijue neno lake na amewapiga upofu wa fahamu zenu na sasa mnakwenda kinyume ijulikane wazi kuwa watashindana lakini hawatashinda, Mungu atawaaibisha wote waichukiao kweli yake. uchizi wote huu unasababishwa na watu wanaotumiwa na ibilisi wakubali wapewe dozi ya yesu wapate uzima bure.
Google Translated: How could they have relationships with churches when they Freemason their beliefs are different from these churches? or are lacking the spirit of God? These are all caused by religious leaders who are about I mean the heads of denominations around us while Africa these items we brought only to worsen leading nobles to sit quietly and not rebuke decay this stop instead they failed to identify and sanction that this is a sin. Indeed God elevates him weak from the dust and made him up so he did in africa have brought us the gospel we now god katuinua we know his word and has struck blind know you and now you go against it should be noted clearly that they compete but they will not win, he will embarrass them both waichukiao truth. mental all this is caused by people who are used by the devil accept Jesus might be given a dose of life freely.
I’m a lifetime Christian (Protestant), married a Catholic in a Catholic church, became a Mason five years ago, which ultimately lead me to convert to Catholicism and become active in the Catholic Church. I informed the Church leaders of my affiliation with the Fraternity, at which they basically shrugged their shoulders. A couple of years since then however, I’ve been informed that I cannot be a lector, an extraordinary minister, and that I must resign from teaching faith formation…or renounce my membership in Freemasonry. Did you know it’s a sin to take communion if you’re a Freemason? I guess I don’t need to be active in the Church afterall. I’m ok with that. Don’t understand the conflict, but feel it’s not relevant to this century. Freemasonry doesn’t tell me how to live my faith or what to believe. It does guide me on how to conduct my daily life. To me, it puts a good Christian to work. I serve one Master…G_d. The authority of the Church is not undermined by the Freemasons (that’s pretty flattering though). The authority of the Church is undermined by the degradation of society. To me, Freemasonry compliments the Church. What’s the problem???
As a forth degree K of C and a Mason I have problems with the church saying that being a member that requires you to believe in a god and teaches you to be a better man, never asking you to go against your church or religion while doing good for the community. As a Catholic in Green Bay when I left for Afghanistan and my wife changed parishes no one from the church r K of C ever called and checked on her. We have been gone from Green Bay for a year and my brother masons check up on us all the time to see how we are doing. As a K of C we do a lot of good for the community as a mason we do a lot of good for the community one day Saint Peter will have to tell me why it was wrong to help so many people and fellowship with my brother masons. I do notice that Catholic Parishes still have boy scouts which now require you to allow guy members and leaders if they apply and the some money from the sale of girl scout cookies now go to planed parenthood teaching young girls about how to use the pill and get an abortion mmmm where do the priority’s of the catholic church really lie. I do like how nutrul and respectful the above paper was written thank you for he information. Oh did you know that in the Philippines the roll for the Masons and the 4th Degree of the K of C are about the same. One day the church will allow us to help the burn centers, hearing for the poor and all the other good works of the Masons go on with out telling us we will go to hell for good works. Good night Brother Masons and Brother Knights.
Their arguments only make sense if Masonry is a religion. It is not. As a result all of their points are meaningless. Boiled down, the main objection is that Masonry is not under the control of the Pope. Otherwise why would the Catholic Church form the Knight if Columbus? It is always about control. Thus the reason Martin Luther.
You will recognize them by their fruit. Matthew 7:16. I will stack “the fruits” of Masonry up against the Catholic Church anytime.