The Catholic Church has always condemned Freemasonry, and it still continues to do so. In fact, on November 26, 1983, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Declaration on Masonic Associations", signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and approved by Pope John Paul II, which repeats the condemnation of Freemasonry by the Roman Catholic Church. It states, among other things, that "the Church's negative judgement in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged, since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church, and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin, and may not receive Communuion."
How often people ask the question: "What is so wrong with being a Freemason?" They may have friends who are Freemasons; and who seem to be doing good projects for the community and to help others. Yet the Catholic Church always comes out so strongly against Freemasonry!
In order to gain a better understanding of what Freemasonry is really all about, I have made a summary of a booklet entitled "Catholics and Freemasonry" by Dr. L. Rumble, M.S.C. in which Dr. Rumble explains very well the evils of Freemasonry. This is something that should be of interest to all. The subtitles are from the "Michael Journal.
13. What is Freemasonry? Many people regard Freemasonry as little more than a social institution, with a charitable outlook, and a spice of interest thrown in by its secrecy and its mysterious rites and ceremonies. In fact, "The American College Dictionary" defines a Freemason as a member of a widely distributed secret order, having for its object mutual assistance and the promotion of brotherly love among its members.
But, officially, Freemasonry claims to be a non-sectarian secret fraternity, teaching a lofty system of morality and basic religion "veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols" — symbols derived mainly from ancient mythology and from the builders' craft — the members being bound by oath never to reveal its modes of recognition and its ritualistic practices.
Constitutionally, it is organized in groups of Lodges subject to a Grand Lodge, which is invested with supreme power and authority over all the Craft within its jurisdiction. It recognizes but three Degrees, though it makes allowance for the existence of certain so-called High Degrees. The Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England of 1813 contain the following statement:
"It is declared and pronounced that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three Degrees, and no more, viz: Those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch."
Grand Lodge Masonry, as we know it, dates only from 1717 A.D. Around this time, Deists and Protestants began to form societies, forming themselves into lodges or assemblies by a secret ritual greatly influenced by the Rosicrucians, who brought with them extravagant claims to an occult knowledge of the hidden secrets of nature.
In 1717, four of these "lodges" which had been established in London, England, met at the Apple Tree Tavern, and constituted themselves into the "Grand Lodge of England". From London, "Grand Lodge Masonry was transplanted to the Continent in 1721. In 1723, the Constitutions were revised, specifically eliminating Christian references to allow non-Christians to join.
On the Continent, Freemasonry soon became deeply involved in politics, and was violently anti-clerical and atheistic. In 1877, the "Grand Orient" of France deleted references to the Great Architect of the Universe from its constitutions so that Positivists, and even those who had no belief in God at all, could be admitted. The Grand Lodge of England protested against this adoption of atheism; but in vain, and in 1878, English Masonry severed all relations with the Grand Orient, forbidding its own members to enter into any communication with the French Lodges. But to this day, the English Lodges have not broken with other European and American Lodges who are still in communication with the Grand Orient.
In 1727, only ten years after its establishment in England, the existence and nature of Freemasonry had become publicly known.
In 1738, therefore, Pape Clement Xll condemned the Society of Freemasons, and forbade Catholics to have anything to do with it under pain of excommunication. In 1751, Pope Benedict XIV renewed this condemnation, stressing the secularism, secrecy, and revolutionary activities of the Society, Pius VI, in 1775, Pius VII in 1821, Leo XII in 1825, Pius VIII in 1829, Gregory XVI in 1832, and Pius IX in 1846, all issued similar letters of condemnation.
In 1884, since Freemasons disputed the authority of these Papal Documents on the grounds that they were based on erroneous information and were excessively severe, Pope Leo XIII issued his great Encyclical, "Humanum Genus", declaring Freemasonry utterly incompatible with the Christian religion, and forbidding Catholics, as they valued their Faith and eternal salvation, to join it:
"As Our predecessors have many times repeated, let no man think that he may for any reason whatsoever join the Masonic sect, if he values his Catholic name and his eternal salvation as he ought to value them.
"Let no one be deceived by a pretense of honesty. It may seem to some that Freemasons demand nothing that is openly contrary to religion and morality; but, as the whole principle and object of the sect lies in what is vicious and criminal, to join with these men or in any way to help them cannot be lawful."
Nine different Popes, therefore, have seriously forbidden Catholics to become members of the Masonic Lodge. Such decisions are certainly not made lightly, nor without looking into the relevant facts. But what exactly are the relevant facts concerning Freemasonry?
Masonry has its own dogmas, temples, ritual, and moral code. Like all other mystic sects throughout the ages, it claims to give its members a more profound understanding of the Great Architect of the Universe than is possible to those who follow the more established Christian religions.
Freemasonry aims at becoming the universal religion, to the exclusion of all others. It claims to be above all sects, upon which it looks tolerantly as merely partially true religions. But it is Masonry which claims to be the true religion, and it aims at becoming universal.
The "Old Charges" of 1738 declared it to be "that religion in which all men agree.". "All men" would include Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists. And this religion is declared to be quite enough for man! The Christian religion is no longer considered necessary for the salvation of souls.
Dr. Albert Mackey writes, in the "Encyclopedia of Freemasonry: "The principles of Freemasonry preceded the advent of Christianity. If Masonry were merely a Christian institution, the Jew and the Moslem, the Brahman and the Buddhist, could not conscientiously partake of its illumination. But its universality is its boast. In its language, citizens of every nation may converse; at its altar, men of all religions may kneel; to its creed, disciples of every faith may subscribe."
In fact, Masonry is definitely a non-Christian religion; it positively excludes the name of Christ from its Rituals. The God of Masonry is not the Christian God. In the Royal Arch Degree, the nature of the Masonic God is expressed by a combination of the names of Jahweh, Baal, and On (Osiris) in the word "JAO-BUL-ON" – the names of the pagan deities Baal and Osiris, constituting part of the name of God. So if we, as Christians, put Christ above all else, how can we join a religious body which does not accept Him as Supreme?
Masonry is, therefore, a false religion. The Masonic religious rites, used for the consecration of a new Lodge, for the laying of a foundation stone, for the dedication of Masonic temples, etc., are derived from, and are an expression of, the ancient pagan mystery religions.
Bro. J.S.M. Ward, in his book, "Freemasonry and the Ancient Gods", p. 347, tells us that "Freemasonry is the survivor of the ancient mysteries — nay, we may go further and call it the guardian of the mysteries." Freemasonry is, therefore, fundamentally pagan and inconsistent with Christianity.
Besides the religious issue, we are confronted with the fact that Masonry claims to be a secret society, shrouded in mystery. Its literature loudly proclaims that it has hidden stores of knowledge in reserve for initiates.
Rev. J.M. Lewis, a Masonic chaplain, in "Theology", April, 1951, writes that Masonic teachings consist of legends and myths full of errors and false doctrines which are taken only as a peg on which to hang an ethical code. "The only thing taken seriously," he said, "is the preservation of secret grips and words that enable a man to show that he is a Freemason."
But there is more to it than that. Its ordinary members are caught by their longing and desire for the mysterious. They are then used for policies of which they know nothing! — as Masonic influence is used in this direction or that according to the practical programs, social and political, of different leaders in different countries. And it is for this very reason that the Catholic Church condemns the secrecy of Freemasonry.
A candidate who wishes to join the Masons must be prepared to advance step by step in the dark, not knowing where his next step will take him. Moreover, he is bound by oath never to reveal anything that transpires in the Lodge.
The Masonic leaders, therefore, possess an uncontrolled and irresponsible power subject to the scrutiny of no one, neither of the civil society in which they function, nor of any ecclesiastical authorities. This exclusion of all outside supervision is most dangerous to the welfare of both Church and State.
Benedetto Croce, the Italian philosopher, declared that secret societies always engender suspicion, and undermine the mutual confidence citizens should have in one another.
Rev. Gerald C. Treacy, S.J., in his "Discussion Club Outline on Freemasonry", pp. 25-29, explains how Masonry is founded on Naturalism, meaning that human nature and human reason are supreme, and that there are no truths revealed by God that men are bound to believe. The Naturalist denies the authority of the Catholic Church as God's Voice upon earth, and directs his hatred towards the Church.
Naturalism denies the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, truths which may be learned by the light of reason alone. Following this error, Masonry allows its votaries to accept the existence of God or reject it.
Masonry favors the teaching of natural immorality, and argues for an education for youth without any religious belief. It attempts to completely control the education of youth, and mold it to its own godless pattern. In many places, Masonry has succeeded in placing the education of youth entirely in the hands of laymen, excluding the Church, and banishing from moral teaching all mention of man's duties to God.
The political theories of Naturalism sponsored by Masonry hold that man is the source of all rights, that all men are in every sense equal, that no man has the right to command another, and that those holding authority in the State depend completely on the popular will, and may be deposed at pleasure. God is excluded from the State, and all forms of religion are on an equal footing.
A further reason for the condemnation of Freemasonry deals with the unlawful Oath its members are required to take.
Part of the formula generally used to administer this Oath reads: "...I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear that I will always conceal and never reveal any part or parts, point or points, of the secrets of mysteries of, or belonging to Free and Accepted Masons in Masonry... This point I solemnly swear to observe without evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation of any kind, under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots, and my body buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark... so help me God..." The candidate is then asked to kiss the Volume of the Sacred Law, and thus render his serious promise "binding on the conscience as a solemn obligation."
The Catholic Church declares the taking of such an oath to be utterly opposed to all sound moral principles. No one can be justified in binding himself in such a way, especially when he is blindly surrendering his conscience to the unknown. People must be sure that what they promise on oath they may lawfully do. And with Freemasonry, one must become a member first before he is given a list of the objects and aims of the society, and even then he is not told all.
It is also a blasphemy to invoke the name of God upon such an outrageously worded formula. Unnecessary oaths are not lawful in the sight of God, especially those involving such a vain use of His name.
And also, being Masonry is not a department of either Church nor State, it has no authority to exact such oaths, and still less authority to inflict the threatened physical punishments they contain.
Freemasonry also holds undue influence on social and business life, against all demands of justice.
It is a matter of common knowledge that men are urged to join the Masons as a means of "getting ahead". One Mason is quoted as saying: "I was told that I would never get anywhere unless I joined the Lodge, and from the day I did join, my business was on its feet."
Wilmshurst, in his book, "Masonic Initiation", p. 197, states: "It is a well-known fact that commercial houses today find it advantageous for business purposes to insist upon their more important employees to be members of the Order." Non-Masons thus feel themselves being discriminated against, and for them jobs are harder to find and promotions slower.
It was Pope Pius IX who named Freemasonry "The Synagogue of Satan". And rightly so, as on the international level we know it provided funds for the Russian Revolution, installed in Moscow. It carried Communism from East to West, taking over many of the key positions in governments and parliaments, thus making itself one of the greatest powers in the world.
Many Freemasons themselves do not deny that their Lodges took an active part in the revolutionary movements in France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and Sweden. Professor John Robinson, an English Mason, was so shocked by his experience of Masonry on the Continent that he wrote a book on the subject, declaring that "in every quarter of Europe where Freemasonry has been established, the Lodges have become hotbeds of public mischief."
And it has declared itself to be an enemy of the Catholic Church. In the report of the Masonic International Congress held in Brussels in 1904, we read on page 132: "To fight against the Papacy is a social necessity and constitutes the constant duty of Freemasonry." And in 1913, the Grand Orient declared officially that its aim was "to crush Catholicism in France first, and then elsewhere," The Swiss Lodge echoed these same sentiments by saying: "We have one irreconcilable enemy - the Pope and clericalism."
Freemasonry is thus a non-Christian religion that is totally incompatible with Catholicism. Basically it holds the anti-Christian principle that Christianity is not necessary; that Masonry is religion enough!
All forms of Freemasonry are therefore forbidden by the Catholic Church. The Catholic religion claims to be the one true religion, and one cannot have two religions, Catholicism and Masonry. Catholic principles can never be harmonized with Freemasonry, and by their very nature they make it impossible for a Catholic to become a Mason without a serious violation of conscience.
On December 8, 1892, Pope Leo XIII writes: "Let us remember that Christianity and Freemasonry are essentially incompatible, to such an extent that to become united with one means being divorced from the other. Let us, therefore, expose Freemasonry as the enemy of God, of the Church, and of our Motherland."
It is of utmost importance that everyone become educated on the subject of Freemasonry so as to be able to recognize its evils and deceits, and to avoid falling prey into its snares.
Sound religious instruction must be given to the multitudes, teaching the elements of those sacred truths in which Christian philosophy is contained. In this way the minds of men will be made sound through this instruction, and will be protected against the many forms of error and inducements to wickedness that Freemasonry invokes.
And, of course, we must implore from our Heavenly Master the help which the greatness of the danger and of the need requires. As Pope Leo XIII wrote at the end of his encyclical on Freemasonry, "Humanum Genus": "In mourning and supplication we must stretch out our hands to God, praying that the Christian name may flourish and prosper, that the Church may enjoy its needed liberty, that those who have gone astray may return to a right mind, that error at length may give place to truth, and vice to virtue.
"Let us take as our helper and intercessor the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so that She, who from the moment of Her conception overcame Satan, may show Her power over these evil sects, in which is revived the contumacious spirit of the demon, together with his unsubdued perfidy and deceit. Let us beseech Michael, the prince of the heavenly angels, who drove out the infernal foe and Joseph, the spouse of the Most Holy Virgin, and heavenly Patron of the Catholic Church..."
By their patronage, and by perseverance in prayer, we hope that God will help and aid the human race, which is being encompassed by so many evils.