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The teachings and practices of a secret international organization whose modern origins date from the first quarter of the eighteenth-century. Freemasonry began as a fraternity of Deists in Europe, and its basic orientation has been naturalistic, i.e. supernatural, ever since. Its hostility to the Catholic Church has evoked numerous declarations of the Holy See, notably of Popes Clement XII (1738), Pius IX (1864) and Leo XIII (1884). The Code of Canon Law (1918) decreed that no Catholic may join "Masonic sects or any other similar associations which plot against the Church" (Canon 2335). The most recent statement is from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Prefect Joseph Ratzinger, of November 26, 1983: "It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church's decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous code. This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance is due to an editorial criterion which was followed as also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories. Therefore, the Church's negative judgment 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 Holy Communion. It is not within competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the declaration of this sacred congregation issued February 17, 1981
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.