Catholics + Freemasons

After reading a post of what was supposed to be on the facts about Catholic Masons; I did my own research.

The post was from one of those “tabloid” type sites that professes to have facts ( It claims to be a compendium of all things Catholic. Even as a LAPSED Catholic, (simply relying on memory of many years of Catholic school) I could tell with a cursory glance that most of the stuff on the site is WRONG.

This is a very typical “we’ll give you the low down”, “we’ll tell you the secrets” type of site that would do the National Enquirer proud. Most of these sites wouldn’t know a fact if it bit them.

The site, quoted as follows, relies on outdated information, erroneous conclusions, innuendo and just plain bullshit.

The quote:

“The Church, through its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has formally declared that Catholics who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. This declaration, which is the most recent teaching of the Church, has affirmed nearly 300 years of papal pronouncements against Freemasonry on the grounds that the teachings of the Lodge are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.

The Church’s declaration on Freemasonry exposes Catholic Masons to a number of penalties under canon law. For example, a Catholic who is aware that the Church authoritatively judges membership in Freemasonry to be gravely sinful must not approach Holy Communion (c. 916). The Church imposes the duty upon all grave sinners not to make a sacrilegious communion. Such a Catholic Mason who is aware of the grave sin must receive absolution in a sacramental confession before being able to receive communion again, unless there is a grave reason and no opportunity to confess (c. 916). This confession, in order to be valid, also requires the Catholic Mason to renounce his Masonic membership.

Further, because membership in Freemasonry is an external or public condition, the Catholic Mason can be refused Holy Communion by the pastors of the Church for obstinately persevering in his Masonic membership (c. 915). Such a Catholic Mason would also be forbidden from receiving the Anointing of the Sick (c. 1007) as well as ecclesiastical funeral rites if public scandal were to result (c. 1184, §1, °3).

Canon 1364 also imposes an automatic excommunication upon apostates, heretics, or schismatics. This canon could also apply to Catholic Masons. If, for example, a Catholic Mason embraced the theological teachings of Freemasonry that the Church has condemned (indifferentism, syncretism), he would be in heresy by virtue of his belief in these teachings. Further, if a Catholic Mason knew the Church opposes membership in Freemasonry, and yet adamantly and persistently refused to submit to the pope’s authority in precluding his membership in the Lodge, he may also find himself in schism. Catholic Masons could also be subject to canon 1374 which imposes an interdict or just penalty upon those who join associations that plot against the Church.

For the canonical penalties to apply, the Catholic Mason would have to act in a gravely imputable way (that is, the Catholic would have to be aware of the Church’s teaching on Freemasonry and, after being warned about it, choose to disregard it). In my personal experience, a fair number of Catholic Masons do act in a gravely imputable way in regard to their Masonic membership. In these cases, the canonical penalties, including excommunication, apply. The Church’s penalties are not meant to alienate the person on whom the penalty is levied. Instead, the penalties are meant to communicate to the person the gravity of his conduct, encourage his repentance and reconciliation with the Church, and bring him back into the one fold of Christ. After all, the mission of the Church is the salvation of souls.”

Nice of them to speak for the Catholic Church (as if the Church could not speak for itself).

This is hyperbole. This is antiquated and the website sets it forth as fact. IT IS NOT.

As is usually the case; if you do the research and go to the ultimate source (in this case the Roman Catholic Church itself) you will find that the correct information is quite different.

Dated in 2000: Below is the text of a letter from the Office of the Archdiocesan Tribunal, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, dated September 15, 2000, to the Masonic Service Bureau of North America:

“Thank you for your inquiry of September 11, 2000 directed to Cardinal Mahoney, on whose behalf I am replying. The question is “whether a practicing Catholic may join a Masonic Lodge.”
Unfortunately, the matter is too complex for a straightforward “yes” or “no” answer. But at least for Catholics in the United States, I believe the answer is probably yes. Permit me to explain this qualified response.
Your letter states that a member’s “allegiance to one God is all we require.” To the extent that this is an accurate statement of the organization’s beliefs and teachings, and that its activities are humanitarian and charitable in nature, there is no reason to prevent a practicing Catholic from joining.
Past history, of course, has muddied the waters because earlier church law (prior to November 27, 1983) specifically named Masonic groups as a forbidden society (canon 2335, 1917 Code). The dialogues between Catholic and Masonic representatives in the years since the Second Vatican Council were generally very positive and yet did not resolve questions or concerns raised in certain parts of the world. As a result, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome issued a statement one day before the new Code of Canon Law took effect (November 26, 1983), in which it held that since Masonic principles were still contrary to the teachings of the Church, Catholics would commit a grave sin in belonging to Masonic associations and so could not receive Holy Communion.
Because this declaration has not been superseded by any further official statements, the question keeps recurring about its interpretation and application. There is no agreement among the experts in church law who have considered the matter. Consequently one can only judge the individual circumstances in light of the principles that clearly do apply. These principles are set forth in canons 1374 and 1364 of the 1983 Code, which forbid a Catholic from joining “an association which plots against the Church” and impose penalties for heresy under certain conditions. If “a particular Masonic lodge truly promoted heretical teaching or conspired against the interests of the Church” (Ronny E. Jenkins, “The Evolution of the Church’s Prohibition Against Catholic Membership in Freemasonry,” The Jurist, 56 (1996), pg 735,) then a Catholic would be bound to avoid membership.
The reason, then, I answer ‘probably yes’ is because I am unaware of any ideology or practice by the local lodges that challenges or subverts the doctrine and interests of the Catholic Church. In the previous paragraph, I have cited the article which best presents the current state of the question. The 1974 newspaper clipping that you enclosed with your letter probably refers to a letter written by Cardinal Seper, then in charge of the same doctrinal congregation mentioned above, which was addressed to certain bishops. In this letter one can see the movement at that time from a blanket prohibition to the application of a case-by-case judgment whether a group did in fact conspire against the Church. The history of the development of the Church’s current law suggests that this case-by-case approach is what canon 1374 on forbidden associations intends.
Please forgive this lengthy reply, but a shorter one would not do justice to those inquirers who are aware that the matter is still controversial. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more about it myself, and I close by asking God’s blessing on your well-known endeavors to relieve human suffering and assist the needy.
Rev. Thomas C. Anslow, C.M., J.C.L. Judicial Vicar
Posted by Gene Goldman into alt.freemasonry on September 15, 2001..

on Rome 1991 Bearing in mind …the absence of mention of Freemasonry in the 1983 codification of canon law it would appear that…a Catholic may join regular freemasonry but ought to consult his bishop, through his parish priest, not for permission to join but to ascertain the nature of the jurisdiction concerned.6 .
Although the Code of Canon Law does not specifically prohibit a Catholic from joining a masonic association, Cardinal Ratzinger continues in his opposition. This has lead to such situations as Archbishop Legaspi of Cacares, the conservative President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, echoing Cardinal Ratzinger in his March 1990 draft of “Guidelines on Membership in Free Masonic Association” while in the same period Archbishop Talamayan of Tuguegarao is noted as giving the address at a lodge installation meeting and inviting freemasons to visit him. Note that some eighty percent of the freemasons in the Philippines are Roman Catholic. There are many examples of prominent Catholics associated with the Craft, too many to mention here.

1. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the title of the Vatican department which in 1965, under Pope Paul VI, took the place of the Holy Office which had itself been established in 1908 in succession to the Inquisition. The severe tribunal is said to have claimed its last victim in 1813 and it had been suppressed as such in Spain in 1834. Thereafter its functions were restricted to such matters as the detection of heresy in published works.^
2. References to Catholics and the Church are to Roman Catholics and the Church of Rome. While the Orthodox Catholic Churches, in the main, also condemn Freemasonry, several of the smaller Catholic Churches such as the Old Catholic Church have no official opinion on Freemasonry^
3. Latin text appended at . ^
4. Declaration on Masonic Associations Quaesitum est^
5. Cf.: AAS 73 (1981) pp240-241. ^
6. “The Church of Rome and Freemasonry”, a paper presented in Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 by Bro. Will Read on May 9, 1991. The Quatuor Coronati Lodge was founded in 1884 with the objective of developing “for brethren everywhere an interest in research; to encourage study of the many facets of Freemasonry… (and)… to attract the attention and to enlist the cooperation of masonic scholars in all parts of the world.” (Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076; Volume 104 for the year 1991: ISBN 0 907655 21 1.) ^”

There is no excommunication, no state of grave sin, no denial of any sacrament. There is only a caution to pay attention to what is going on and to always error on the side of being Catholic.

What is truly disturbing here has has nothing to do with Catholics or Masons; it has to do with websites that profess to “expose the facts”. They preach a gospel of misinformation. They set themselves up as experts yet have no real or current knowledge of their subject. The web is full of them. If you do a Google search on any random subject; I have found that about 50% of the results returned are sites of this type. It’s scary to me because people will seemingly believe almost anything.

Social networks serve to multiply the misinformation on an exponential basis.


2 thoughts on “Catholics + Freemasons

  1. Only happy to understand you better, but still need more time to more on this assotiatiation.
    Am new but interested with Masonry.


    Okoth Mak’Aol.

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