by editorial board, The Pillar, March 29, 2023
The article explores the history and reasons for the Catholic Church’s opposition to Freemasonry. Freemasonry originated as a network of trade unions for stone workers in the United Kingdom. Over time, it evolved into a secret society with rituals, legends, and private handshakes, attracting individuals with diverse beliefs, including alchemists, political dissidents, and religious nonconformists. The formal beginning of modern Freemasonry was marked by the founding of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 in London.
The Catholic Church initially did not take a stance on Freemasonry, and some Catholics joined the organization. However, in 1738, Pope Clement XII banned Freemasonry for promoting religious indifferentism—the belief that specific religious beliefs do not matter as long as one is a good Mason. Subsequent popes issued encyclicals and papal bulls condemning Freemasonry and imposing automatic ex-communication for Catholics who joined.
The article discusses the Masonic rituals, which the Church considers quasi-sacramental and contrary to the Catholic faith. The Church also objected to the Masonic philosophy of religious indifferentism and secularism, which sought to exclude the Church from civil society and institutions.
In the 20th century, following Vatican Council II, some bishops questioned whether the papal condemnations of Freemasonry were outdated. However, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued clarifications stating that the Church’s negative judgment of Masonic associations remained unchanged, as their principles were irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine. Membership in Masonic associations was still forbidden, and Catholics who joined were in a state of grave sin and could not receive Holy Communion.
The article concludes by noting that, despite repeated clarifications from the Church, questions about the Church’s stance on Freemasonry continue to arise, and the Church’s opposition to Masonry remains unchanged.