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Is Freemasonry Incompatible with the Catholic Faith?

by Wlodzimierz Redzioch

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    In this interview Father Zbigniew Suchecki, a professor at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure in Rome, as well as an expert on Freemasonry, provides a brief explanation of the Church's teaching on the topic.
  • Larger Work:
    Inside the Vatican
  • Pages: 44 – 45
  • Publisher & Date:
    Urbi et Orbi Communications, New Hope, KY, August / September 2007

The Catholic Church's position has not changed. So said Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, close advisor of Pope Benedict XVI, during a conference on the topic Freemasonry and the Catholic Church at Rome's Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure on March 1 this year.

The vision and philosophy of Freemasonry is incompatible with the Catholic faith and membership in the Catholic Church, Girotti said.

The meeting, presided over by Girotti, included Carlo Giovanardi, Professor Zbigniew Suchecki of the Friars Minor Conventual, Professor Domingo Andres, Professor Pietro Amata, and others.

Freemasonry of all types — regular or irregular, legitimate or "diverted" — has been condemned by many Popes in a total of about 600 documents. The question, however, is relevant today, as many Catholics have become Freemasons. I asked Professor Suchecki, a Freemasonry expert, to discuss the issue.

Briefly, what is Freemasonry?

PROF. ZBIGNIEW SUCHECKI: The word Freemasonry is derived from French maison maitre ("master of a home"). The Normans brought it to England, where it became freemason.

In various studies, the origins of the institution are traced back to ancient times, and this is supported by various legends.

The London Freemasons founded the Grand Lodge of England in the Church of St. John the Baptist on June 24, 1717.

The creation of the London Lodge, whose members were referred to as Moderns, marked a division in Freemasonry. The London Lodge opposed the older Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, whose members, according to the Old Institutions, were referred to as Ancients. The declaration of deism featured among the main differences between the London Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of France. The Grand Lodge of France was among the most violently anticlerical of the world . . .

Then anticlericalism, i.e., hostility to the Catholic Church, is a main feature of Freemasonry?

SUCHECKI: It is. Father Mariano Cordovani, in an article published on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano (M. Cordovani, La Chiesa e la Massoneria, March 19, 1950), wrote: "Freemasonry, with its growing hostility to the Catholic Church, is among those groups which are reviving and gaining force not only in Italy."

Could you give us some examples of the anticlerical attitudes of Freemasonry?

SUCHECKI: On September 10, 1952, L'Osservatore Romano published an article, The Great Lodge of France Against the Catholic Church, dealing with the resolutions taken by the Grand Lodge of France in that period. It cited the resolutions as follows: "The Convent of the Great Lodge of France, seeing that human freedom is in danger due to the clerical intrigues of the Vatican in France, in overseas countries of the French Union and all over the world, decides . . . to unmask by every means the subtle scheming of the Vatican State Secretariat, which aims at imposing the shameful guardianship of religious and political-economic dictatorship on the whole of mankind . . . and to accept, in the relentless struggle against clericalism, every alliance compatible with the Masonic ideal."

Nevertheless, some representatives of Freemasonry have met with Catholics . . .

SUCHECKI: Catholic-Masonic dialogue started with informal meetings between Catholic and Masonic representatives in Austria, Italy and Germany. Freemasonry representative Karl Baresch met Cardinal Franz Konig informally in Vienna on March 21, 1968. A mixed commission was later appointed, which drew up a document, the Lichtenau Declaration, of informative character, for the Roman authorities (the Holy Father and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Seper). The Lichtenau Declaration, which contained serious faults in philosophical-theological and, above all, historical terms, was never officially recognized by Cardinal Konig or the Church.

In the years 1974-1980, the German bishops appointed a commission officially entrusted with the task of examining the incompatibility between membership in the Catholic Church and Freemasonry. The commission took the Rituals of the three levels of Freemasonry, whose texts they had been allowed to have by the Freemasons, and subjected them to a long and close examination.

In the final declarations, the reasons for the incompatibility between the Catholic Church and Freemasonry were reported. Membership in the latter questions the foundations of the Christian life. A close examination of the Rituals of Freemasonry and the way of being a Freemason rules out the possibility of any dual membership. In Freemasonry's vision of the world, a humanitarian and ethical attitude prevails. This type of subjectivism cannot harmonize with faith in God's revealed word authentically interpreted by the Church.

Freemasonry denies the possibility of an objective knowledge of truth. The Freemason rejects all faith in dogmas; he does not admit any even in his own Lodge. He is required to be a free man without submission to dogma or passion. This concept is incompatible with the Catholic notion of truth in terms of both natural and revealed theology. The representation of a Universal Architect who dominates, remote from man, undermines the foundations of the Catholic idea of God who encounters man as a Father and Lord.

Freemasons often boast of their tolerance . . .

SUCHECKI: Freemasonry's idea of tolerance stems from its concept of truth. By tolerance, Catholics mean sympathy with and understanding of their neighbors. Freemasons regard tolerance as respect for other people's ideas, no matter how different they may be. This idea of tolerance undermines the Catholic's fidelity to his faith and his acceptance of the Church's teachings.

Could you please tell us something about the Freemasons' rituals?

SUCHECKI: The Rituals of the three grades of Apprentice, Fellow and Master, in their words and symbols, resemble the Christian sacraments. They give the impression of man being transformed by symbolic gestures. Masonic rituals are a symbolic initiation of man which is inherently in competition with the transformation brought about by the sacraments. According to these rituals, Freemasonry's ultimate objective is to improve man to the highest degree in both ethical and spiritual terms. This raises the doubt that man's moral improvement is separated from grace to such a degree as to leave no room for justification as interpreted by Christian doctrine. What transformation should the sacramental communication of man's salvation in baptism, confession and the Eucharist bring about if illumination and the defeat of death are achieved through the three Rituals? In addition, Freemasonry requires total and unconditional allegiance from its members, even as far as death. This totalitarian character makes Freemasonry incompatible with the Catholic Church. The study of even well-disposed lodges has detected insurmountable difficulties.

In the new Canon Law, Freemasonry is not explicitly mentioned, unlike the previous Code. Has the Church's position changed?

SUCHECKI: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was questioned on this subject several times. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at the time prefect of the Congregation, explained that the non-mention of Freemasonry was traceable to an editorial criterion, also followed for other associations which had not been mentioned, as they had been included in larger categories. Clarifications are contained in the relevant document of the Congregation, Declaration on Freemasonry, November 26, 1983. (Quaesitum est)

The Declaration on Freemasonry of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was briefly illustrated by L' Osservatore Romano on February 23, 1985. The paper published an article on the front page: Reflections One Year After the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Incompatibility Between Christian Faith and Freemasonry. The article reports the official reasons for the Congregation's position on Freemasonry: "Since the Church began to express her position about Freemasonry, her opinions have been inspired by several reasons, both practical and doctrinal. Not only has she held Freemasonry responsible for subversive activity against her, but, since the first papal documents on the subject, and in the encyclical Humanum genus by Leo XIII, she has denounced philosophical ideas and moral concepts in contrast with Catholic doctrine. According to Leo XIII, they could essentially be traced back to a rationalist naturalism, which inspired Freemasonry's plans and activities against the Church. In his letter to the Italian people, Custodi, he wrote: 'Let us remember that Christianity and Freemasonry are essentially incompatible, so that joining the former implies quitting the latter.'"

A Christian cannot therefore have a dual relationship with God: a humanitarian, extra-confessional relationship, and an inner Christian one; nor can he express his relationship through a twofold symbolism. Only Jesus Christ is in fact Master of Truth, and only in Him can Christians find the light and strength to carry out God's plan working for their neighbor's good.

© Urbi et Orbi Communications

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