|Freemasonry: a movement in conflict with the Church|
|The roots of Freemasonry are to be found in the Guilds of the stonemasons who built the great mediaeval cathedrals. These Guilds were tightly-knit brotherhoods where duties and privileges were clearly understood, and they were closely linked to the Roman Catholic church. When the age of cathedral-building came to an end, the masons’ confraternities lost their prestige. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, countries influenced by the Protestant reform (Germany, Bohemia, England), saw the formation of esoteric circles steeped in occultism and the Kabbalah. In sixteenth-century Scotland, groups of builders came under the influence of these circles, and in the seventeenth century this interest in esotericism spread to English masons, who preserved carefully the tools of their trade, which subsequently took on symbolic meanings. More and more frequently, these masons’ associations numbered among their members noblemen and intellectuals who formed speculative circles (Lodges) dedicated to esoteric practices. Freemasonry is generally agreed to have begun officially in England on the 14th June 1917. |
Freemasonry tended towards a religion in which truth is defined by subjectivism, and which therefore negates the truths of faith, such as dogmas. It is deism, which found an initiator in Lord Cherbury, a devotee of occultism and magic. This is belief in God without dogmas, being good and religious without any religion. It brings together opposites, such as good and bad: by following the dark paths of vice one can understand light and goodness and one is raised up (gnosis). The reconciliation of opposites is brought about by deifying Lucifer, designated the bringer of light and star of the morning, in harmony with the God of Freemasonry (deism), GADU, Great Architect of the Universe, so named with reference to the art of masonry (the G in the Masonic symbol represents this). There is actually no Masonic God, because this would be a definition; the GADU is what each freemason chooses to believe it is, a concept embracing any interpretation – one’s personal God, a symbol of the search for the meaning of life, a Cosmic Force, an Ideal, a Universal Law. One may name this concept Buddha, Allah, Osiris, Christ, and so on, without reaching a religious and dogmatic conclusion. The freemason refers to the GADU as though it were an existing being, known personally, without ever defining it. Equally, Lucifer may be interpreted as a reality, so one must not hate Lucifer if one is to know the GADU. If one chooses, one may see Lucifer as a symbolic name or as an attribute of the GADU.
That Lucifer and Satan are one and the same is not declared officially, but those who wish it may choose to believe so. In this case, there follows the Gnostic doctrine that Satan, the instigator of hatred towards the Church, will in the end be reinstated. (Apocatastasis, a doctrine which goes against the Bible.)
Freemasonry has chosen no religion except itself, declaring however that it is not a religion, but wishes to find within religions the vestiges of a higher, esoteric, religion, know to initiates throughout history.
The hereafter is merely a vague world of light. More precise descriptions are left to religions, considered as mere contingent knowledge, occasionally revealed to the peoples, while true knowledge is still hidden from the multitudes and is accessible only to initiates, by means of their personal subjective relationship with the deity of the GADU.
Freemasonry is born of itself; that is, from the Masonic brotherhood. Its strength comes from within and rests on the support of all Masonic brothers.
Evil is not explicitly banned, but it is not condemned provided it is only an occasional occurrence and takes place under the supervision of Masonic wisdom. Yielding to the flesh does not contaminate the soul, nor make it a slave to evil, but is merely part of an inner driving force which must not be spoken of. There is a dualism between body and soul, so what is done by the flesh does not touch the soul. This is radical dualism, but the soul is set in harmony with the body because controlled yielding to the temptations of the flesh is looked on as wisdom.
It is easy to discern in all this just what Satan suggested to Adam and Eve: to disobey God in order to know good and evil, letting it be understood that evil is an experience which does not grasp and enslave, but makes free. It means infringing the moral teachings of the Church, defined as obscurantist, and accepting the conventional morals of civic life, under the aegis of progressive Masonic evolution, instead of starting from the premise that Man was made in the image of God. Vice should be “imprisoned”, but not radically opposed, and if it takes place it produces no ill effects; it should simply be kept within the prison of inner silence. This is seen as wisdom, eliminating anxiety and bringing tranquillity. Forgiveness is recognised and is given if requested, but it is steeped in that superiority which renounces contempt and vendetta, since contempt and vendetta are a Freemason’s right. This is poles apart from the message of Christianity.
The cultural origins of Freemasonry are to be found in Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, stoicism, magic, hermeticism, the Kabbalah, alchemy, Pythagoreanism, and in the Greek and Roman mystery cults. These influences are developed through various systems of Degrees, which give access to Masonic Gnosis. The ritual of initiation as an Entered Apprentice (the first degree) is a huge psychodrama. The initiate is first left for some time to reflect in a dark chamber, and is then led into the Masonic Temple blindfold, with a noose around his neck, and without his right sock. All this is to make an impression and capture the mind. The initiate must pass certain symbolic tests and then swear acceptance of Freemasonry and make a promise of secrecy. Finally the blindfold is removed and the initiate finds himself inside the temple, surrounded by Masons all wearing blindfolds and pointing drawn swords at him. Nowadays the sword is symbolic, but originally it was an instrument of death to traitors. The initiate hears the words of the Master: if he keeps faith, all the brothers will help and support him, but if he betrays them, they will exact vengeance. When he has expressed his agreement, the Masons remove their blindfolds so that he can recognise them. Freemasonry is no mere social and philanthropic Gentlemen’s Club; it is an Order, with its own rituals of initiation.
The Church’s first reaction came from Clement XII who in 1738 (In eminenti, 24 April 1738) pronounced excommunication for Freemasons. This was confirmed and renewed by Benedict XIV (Providas, 18 May 1751). Pius VII (Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo, 13 September 1821) took the same view, then Leo XII in the Apostolic Constitution Quo Graviora (23 Marzo 1825) embraced and ratified the acts and decrees of his predecessors, sealing them with irrevocable sanctions. Pius VIII, in his Encyclical Traditi, 31 May 1829, Gregory XVI (Encyclical Mirari, 15 August 1832) and Pius IX (Encyclical Qui pluribus, 9 November 1846; Allocution Multiplices inter, 25 September 1865; and other pronunciations) confirmed these views. Leo XIII, in his Humanum Genus (20 April 1884), renewed the condemnation of Freemasonry and reiterated the evident reasons for this. In Humanum Genus he noted in particular: “Di che irritati i settari e credendo di poter, parte col disprezzo, parte con calunniose menzogne sfuggire o scemare la forza di tali sentenze, accusarono d'ingiustizia o di esagerazione i Papi, che le avevano pronunziate”.
During the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries dialogue with the exponents of the movement took place where possible, but this was not always easy given the anonymity of the masons; the Jesuits were especially active in this field. St Maximilian Kolbe prayed for the conversion of Masons.
Shortly before the Vatican Council began (11 October 1962; it had been announced by Pope John 23rd on the 25 January 1959), the Grand Lodge of Haiti appealed to the Pope, on 26 May 1962, entreating him to reconsider the Church’s judgements on Freemasonry. The same request was made by the Grand Master of the Austrian Grand Lodge, who wrote to the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Franz König (1905-2004).
In October 1966 the Scandinavian episcopate, in view of the pacific nature of Freemasonry, announced that Roman Catholics would no longer be required to renounce their Masonic relationships, provided that the Lodge to which they belonged was not in opposition to Christian beliefs. The Episcopal Conference of England and Wales made a similar pronouncement. A confidential letter from the Holy See to its bishops, dated 18 July 1974, allowed them to examine single cases; this referred only to lay people. This was a time of hope, and also of knowledge, albeit superficial and vigilant.
Sacra Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei, Litterae, Complures episcopi, ad praesides conferen¬tiarum episcopalium de catholicis qui nomen dant associationibus massonicis, Prot. 272/74, 18 iulii 1974, Notiziario CEI 1974, p. 191. in AAS 73 (1981) pp. 240–241; EV, 5/563. This document leaves room for evaluating specific instances when it is certain that there is no declared, militant hostility towards the Church. This possibility was however revoked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 17 February 1981, following research into the fundamental nature of Freemasonry. On 26 November 1983 a pronouncement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith identified a fundamental and constant incompatibility between Freemasonry and the Church, making it impossible to recognise single Lodges as non-hostile.
Here follows a translation of Enchiridion Vaticanum.
“Most eminent (Bishop): many bishops have appealed to this Congregation concerning the interpretation of Can. 2335 of the C.I.C. which forbids Roman Catholics to join Masonic associations or other similar bodies, on pain of excommunication.
The Holy See has examined this question in depth and has often consulted the Episcopal Conferences most concerned, in order to better understand the nature and current activities of these associations, and the views of bishops.
The great disparity of replies expressing the different situation in each nation makes it impossible for the Holy See to alter the general legislation currently in force, which will therefore remain in force until such time as the new Canon Law shall be made public property by the competent Pontifical Commission for reviewing the code.
When considering particular cases it must be borne in mind that penal law must be interpreted narrowly. Therefore one can confidently propagate and apply the opinions of those authors who hold that the aforesaid canon 2335  concerns only those Roman Catholics who join associations which concretely oppose the Church.
In all cases, it is forbidden for clerics, religious, and members of secular institutes to join Masonic associations.
In writing this, I confirm my profound esteem for you and remain yours affectionately in the Lord.
Franjo card. Šeper, prefect
J. Hamer, secretary
Rome, 18 July 1974”.
 CIC Canon 1917, which forbade Roman Catholics to join Masonic associations or similar, laid down that they would ipso facto be excommunicated.
In 1974 the German Freemasons pressured strongly for a direct dialogue with the R.C. Episcopate of Germany, which was accepted with vigilant hope and took place between 1974 and 1980.
(The list of 121 Prelates who were Freemasons, published on 12 September 1978 by the journalist Mino Pecorelli in the newspaper “L’Opinione Pubblica” dates from this period and should be seen not as an action against Freemasonry and an attempt to reveal its secrets, but an action in favour of the climate of engagement with the Church which Freemasonry hoped to bring about.
In this article, Mino Pecorelli wrote “In publishing this list of men of the Church who may be members of Masonic associations, we wish to make a small contribution (to openness within the Church). Either a hail of denial or, in the case of silence, a purge”. That “may be” suggests an uncertainty which Pecorelli should not have had. He claimed to have received the list on 28 August 1978, but on 10 August 1978 the magazine “Panorama” had got in before him, with a very similar list. The minor differences indicate that he intended to make a scoop. The journalist who wrote for “Panorama” held that the list was unreliable, but published it nevertheless. Who wrote these lists, and who gave them to the Press? This is still a mystery.
One thing is certain: it may be difficult but not impossible to imagine that the names of such high-ranking personages – assuming the lists are genuine - might have been available to some “mole” in the offices of the Grand Orient, but it is decidedly impossible to accept that the Freemasons would not have roundly denied the accuracy of these lists in order to safeguard the secret of the identities of their members, since anonymity is a fundamental vow of Freemasonry. (Then, it was strictly observed. In 1982 a list of Italian Masons was published, an undoubted side-effect of the scandal concerning the P2 Lodge, dissolved by a special law on 25 January 1982. Nowadays Masonic events take place in which members, if they choose, make themselves known in public; and the names of members of all Lodges are made available to the authorities in the event of investigations). All that was needed was an ad hoc journalist and a newspaper. But no denial was forthcoming. So what was the purpose of this list? The purpose was to create a wave of suspicion, uncertainty, purges in the Vatican, which however did not take place, and dismay among the populace: nothing else).
On 12 May 1980 after six years of meetings, the German bishops pronounced the Church and Freemasonry irreconcilable.
A declaration dated 17 February 1981 entrusted to the Apostolic See every pronouncement on the nature of associations for which exceptions from the canon laws then in force (can. 2335, on Freemasonry) might be made.
In 1983 the new Code of Canon Law was promulgated (Canon 1374), in which the term "Freemasonry" does not appear, being replaced by the more generic "sects which conspire against the Church".
The 26 November 1983 saw the publication of the Declaration on Freemasonry, set out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), which stated that the condemnation of Freemasonry by the Church remained unchanged.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Declaration on Freemasonry
“The question has been asked whether the judgement of the Church with regard to Freemasonry has changed, since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention it explicitly, as was the case in the previous Code.
This Congregation is able to state that this is owing to an editing criterion concerning also other associations likewise not mentioned by name, since they fall into wider categories.
The negative judgement of the Church with regard to Masonic associations therefore remains unchanged, since the principles of these associations are and have always been considered irreconcilable with the teachings of the Church, and membership of them is therefore prohibited. Those of the faithful who belong to Masonic associations are in a grave state of sin and cannot be admitted to Holy Communion.
It is not the task of local ecclesiastical authorities to make pronouncements on the nature of Masonic associations in any way which implies deviation from the above, in line with the Declaration published by this Congregation on 17 February 1981 (Cf. AAS 73, 1981, p. 240-241).
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, during the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Declaration, formulated during the ordinary meeting of this Congregation, and ordered that it should be published.
Rome, from the office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983”.
On 11 March 1985 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an explanatory document entitled: “Reflections one year after the Declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: the irreconcilability of the Christian faith and Freemasonry”.
“After the Second Vatican Council, there is no need to point out that the Roman Catholic Church works towards a collaboration between all men of good will. Membership of Masonic associations, however, goes against this legitimate collaboration and has much greater significance”.
“A Christian cannot experience his relationship with God in a dual sense, dividing it into a human, non-confessional, part, and a Christian part. He cannot express his relationship with his Creator through two different kinds of symbolic forms. This would be completely different from that collaboration, which to him is obvious, with all those who seek to do good, even though they may start from different beginnings”.
”The relativising force of such a brotherhood, by its very intrinsic logic, has the power to transform the structure of the act of faith in so radical a way as to be unacceptable to a Christian who holds dear his faith”.
“This overturning of the act of faith is usually carried out by gentle means and is not noticed: the close adherence to the truth of God, revealed by the Church, is reduced to mere membership of an institution, seen as an expression like any other, more or less equally valid and possible, of the relationship between Mankind and the eternal”.
“In view of all these considerations the Declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirms that membership of Masonic associations remains prohibited by the Church, and the faithful who join such associations are in a state of sin and may not receive Holy Communion”.
“With this last pronouncement, the Congregation informs the faithful that to join such an association is a grave sin, and by pointing out that members of Masonic associations may not receive Holy Communion, wishes to enlighten the minds of the faithful as to the serious consequences which ensue from their membership of a Masonic Lodge”.
“The Congregation finally declares that “it is not the task of local ecclesiastical authorities to make pronouncements on the nature of Masonic associations in any way which implies deviation from the above”.
“Similarly, the new document, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in November 1983, expressed identical reservations concerning pronouncements different from the judgement here set out with regard to the irreconcilability of the Roman Catholic faith with the principles of Freemasonry, to the gravity of joining a Lodge and to the consequences deriving therefrom with regard to Holy Communion. This ruling indicates that although the Holy See recognises some common ground with the principles of Freemasonry, especially in its declared attitude to the Church, these principles require the same evaluation from all the ecclesiastical authorities”.
Freemasons are still quick to tell those they approach that it is possible to attend Church and still belong to the Masons, but the truth is that through progressive large doses of esotericism and the affirmation of anti-Catholic positions concerning abortion, divorce, homosexuality, euthanasia, and contraception, and tendentious and biased versions of the history of the Church, the underlying aim is to reduce the Church to just another Club, vaguely religious and with interchangeable beliefs: a “Masonicised” Church.