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Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith confirms that the Catholic faith and Freemasonry are irreconcilable

November 15, 2023

Responding to a query from a Philippine bishop, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has published a note affirming that “active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry.”

The Dicastery also asked the Philippine bishops to “conduct catechesis accessible to the people and in all parishes regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic Faith and Freemasonry.”

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the Dicastery’s prefect, wrote that “those who are formally and knowingly enrolled in Masonic Lodges and have embraced Masonic principles fall under the provisions” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1983 Declaration on Masonic Associations. “These measures also apply to any clerics enrolled in Freemasonry.”

In citing the Declaration’s “provisions” and “measures,” Cardinal Fernández was likely referring to the following sentences:

The faithful who belong to Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. It is not within the competence of local [diocesan] church authorities to pass judgment on the nature of Masonic associations in such a way as to derogate from what has been established above.

Cardinal Fernández wrote that he was responding to a query from Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete (Philippines), who explained “with concern the situation caused in his Diocese by the continuous rise in the number of the faithful enrolled in Freemasonry” and “asked for suggestions regarding how to respond to this reality suitably from a pastoral point of view, taking into account also the doctrinal implications related to this phenomenon.”

Cardinal Fernández continued:

Membership in Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines; it involves not only those who are formally enrolled in Masonic Lodges but, more generally, a large number of sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced that there is no opposition between membership in the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges. To address this issue appropriately, it was decided that the Dicastery would respond by involving the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines itself, notifying the Conference that it would be necessary to put in place a coordinated strategy among the individual Bishops that envisions two approaches.

The first approach is the doctrinal confirmation that “Catholics are still forbidden to join Masonic lodges,” in the words of the Dicastery for Communication’s Vatican News.

The second approach is pastoral. “On the pastoral level, the Dicastery proposes that the Philippine Bishops conduct catechesis accessible to the people and in all parishes regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic Faith and Freemasonry,” Cardinal Fernández wrote.

“Finally, the Philippine Bishops are invited to consider whether they should make a public pronouncement on the matter,” he added.

In addition to citing the 1983 Declaration on Masonic Associations, Cardinal Fernández cited “the guidelines published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in 2003.”

In 2003, the Philippine bishops’ conference published a Primer on Freemasonry. However, Vatican News, in its coverage of the Dicastery’s Note, linked Cardinal Fernández’s reference to the Philippine bishops’ “Pastoral guidelines in dealing with individual Catholics—members of Masonry,” which were issued in 2020. It is likely that the Dicastery for Communication’s news service linked to the wrong document.

Cardinal Fernández’s note was dated November 13 and followed an audience that day with Pope Francis.


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 15, 2023 7:27 PM ET USA

    It's good to hear a bit of true religion coming off the lips of the kissing Cardinal.

  • Posted by: feedback - Nov. 15, 2023 9:45 AM ET USA

    "Catholic faith and Freemasonry are irreconcilable" - it's always heartwarming to hear something Catholic from the Vatican! I recall reading in Chicago press about a Masonic award given to card. Joseph Bernardin. One of his sisters received it posthumously on his behalf. Looking in Wikipedia for details, I did not see it included in the list of awards given to Bernardin.