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Catholic Dictionary




An organization whose members may not disclose the purposes, practices, or activities of their society to civil or ecclesiastical authorities. Because their secrecy often works to the disadvantage of nonmembers, through questionable control, and also to the detriment of the Catholic faith, the Church has for centuries forbidden Catholics to belong to secret societies and has often imposed severe canonical penalties on those who disobey. Under certain restricted conditions Catholics may retain a limited association with such organizations. Forbidden secret societies often sponsor benevolent and charitable enterprises, but they are prohibited mainly because their naturalism is a danger to the true faith. Among the secret societies forbidden by Church law are the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, and the Freemasons.