With the signatures of Pope Francis and DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández, the DDF made public a letter on November 13 that exhorts the faithful to neither join nor participate in Freemasonry organizations.
“On the doctrinal level, it should be remembered that active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry,” the document reads, citing the 1983 “Declaration on Masonic Associations” by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would go on to become Pope Benedict XVI.
“Therefore, those who are formally and knowingly enrolled in Masonic Lodges and have embraced Masonic principles fall under the provisions in the above-mentioned Declaration. These measures also apply to any clerics enrolled in Freemasonry,” the document continues.
The first Grand Lodge of Freemasonry was founded in England in 1717. Freemasonry is the greatest secret society in the world, with millions of members spread throughout nearly every nation.
Members of the society take vows of secrecy, camaraderie, and brotherhood, and they have amassed an extensive collection of rituals, ceremonial clothing, and coded communications between masons. Despite being utilized for non-Christian rites, these artistic affectations frequently incorporate Christian imagery.
While it is not required of Freemasons to believe in any particular deity, they are typically expected to proclaim belief in a “supreme being”.
The deistic, non-Christian beliefs about deities held by Freemasonry groups prohibit Catholics from becoming members or affiliates with them.
Furthermore, Catholic authorities have frequently accused Freemason lodges of idolatry and covert anti-Christian sentiment because of their ritualistic and secretive nature.
Freemason groups, however, are far from homogeneous, and national bodies of Freemasonry, lodges, rites, and sects all have quite different Masonic cultures. With a more ideological tone, the Catholic Church has engaged in the most vigorous combat with continental European Masonic entities.
In 1738, Pope Clement XII declared freemasonry to be an offense against excommunication, labeling the secret society as “depraved and perverted.”
The document from 1983 states, “The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”
The Vatican advised national bishops in the Philippines to advocate for increased laity education on the topic of freemasonry as part of a pastoral response to the problem.
“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.”
Whether being a member of a Freemasonic lodge automatically results in excommunication from the Catholic Church under canon law is a topic of controversy.