Saturday, March 22, 2008

Masons and Catholics: Putting it to Rest

There still appears to be some confusion as to whether Catholics can, in good conscience, also be Masons. The definitive answer is: no! Here's why:

Since the decree "In Eminenti" of Pope Clement XII in 1738, Catholics have been forbidden to join the Masons, and until 1983, under pain of excommunication. Scanning official documents, the Church has condemned freemasonry and other secret societies at least 53 times since 1738, and has specifically repeated the condemnation of freemasonry 21 times. (The Orthodox and several Protestant churches also ban membership in the Masons.) Confusion occurred in 1974 when a letter by Cardinal Franjo Seper, then prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was interpreted to mean that Catholics could join masonic lodges that were not anti-Catholic, an interpretation widely advanced by the media; however, the same congregation declared this interpretation as erroneous in 1981.

On Nov. 26, 1983, with the approval of Pope John Paul II, the Sacred Congregation (whose prefect was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI) reiterated the ban on Catholics joining the Masons:
The Church's negative position on Masonic association . . . remain unaltered, since their principles have always been regarded as irreconcilable with the Church's doctrine. Hence, joining them remains prohibited by the Church. Catholics enrolled in Masonic associations are involved in grave sin and may not approach holy Communion.
Neither this declaration nor the 1983 Code of Canon Law imposed the penalty of excommunication on Catholics belonging to the Masons. However, the Holy See has upheld that belonging to freemasonry and participating in its rituals is a mortal sin which prevents one from receiving holy Communion.

One does not have to agree with the Church that membership in the Masons is sinful to recognize she does indeed prohibit membership therein.

For more, see here and then here.

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