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Freemasonry and Rome
Does the Roman Catholic Church allow her members to join Freemasonry?
The answer to the question, are Roman Catholics allowed to join Freemasonry, is not a simple one. Canon Law does not prohibit it but the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does.1 . The solution to this dilemma is not within the sphere of Freemasonry. Freemasonry, not being a religion, continues to welcome all men who subscribe to a belief in a supreme being.
Rome on Freemasonry: 1738 Condemnation of the Society, Lodges, Conventicles of LIBERI MURATORI, or Freemasons, under pain of excommunication to be incurred ipso facto, and absolution from it being reserved for the Supreme Pontiff, except at point of death.

Bull, In Eminenti, Pope Clement XII, April 28 1738.
1918 Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See.

Canon 2335 of The Code of Canon Law, promulgated 27 May 1917; effective 19 May 1918. [1963 LoCCN: 63-22295]
1974 Many Bishops have asked this Sacred Congregation about the extent and interpretation of Canon 2335 of the Code of Canon Law which prohibits Catholics 2 ., under pain of excommunication, to join masonic associations, or similar associations... Taking particular cases into consideration, it is essential to remember that the penal law has to be interpreted in a restrictive sense. For this reason one can certainly point out, and follow, the opinion of those writers who maintain that Canon 2335 affects only those Catholics who are members of associations which indeed conspire against the Church.

Cardinal Franjo Seper, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Correspondence to Cardinal John Krol 19 July, 1974.
1981 The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 19th July 1974, wrote a letter to some Bishops' Conferences, for their attention only, concerning the interpretation of Can. 2335, which forbids Catholics under pain of excommunication from enrolling in the Masonic sect and other associations of the same type:
Most excellent sir, many Bishops have sought to know from this Congregation what the weight and interpretation of Can. 2335 is, which forbids under pain of excommunication Catholics from enrolling in Masonic associations and other (associations) of the same sort.
In the course of a longer examination of this question, the Holy See has many times consulted Bishops' Conferences on matters of particular interest, in order to know better the nature of these associations and their present-day birth and also the opinion of the Bishops.
The great divergence of responses, however, which evidences different situations in each nation does not allow the Holy See to change the general legislation hitherto in force, which therefore remains in vigour until a new canon law from the competent Pontifical Commission of the Code of Canon Law for the recognition of public law comes into force.
But in considering particular cases we must keep before our eyes the fact that penal law is to undergo strict interpretation. Therefore the opinion can safely be taught and applied of those authors who hold that the aforementioned canon 2335 concerns only those Catholics who enrol in associations which really do plot against the Church.
However, the prohibition remains in all cases on clerics, religious and also members of secular instituted from enrolling in any masonic associations.
Yours, connected in the Lord [etc.]
Because the above-cited letter, after being made public, made possible false and captious interpretations, this Congregation, without prejudice to any future revision of the CIC, confirms and declares the following:
1) The canonical rules, insofar as they pertain to the question under consideration, are in no way changed, and therefore retain their full force.
2) Consequently, neither the excommunication not the other penalties provided are abrogated.
3) The elements in the above-mentioned letter which concern the interpretation of the canon in question are to be accepted (as was the intention of the Sacred Congregation) only as an appeal to general principles for interpreting penal laws for the resolution of cases involving individual people which can fall under the judgment of the Ordinary of the place. But it was not the intention of the Sacred Congregation that the ability be demanded from the Episcopal Conferences of publicly bringing forth judgment of a general character on the nature of masonic associations which involves derogations from the aforementioned rules.

Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Feb. 17, 1981
1983 One who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or moderates such an association, however, is to be punished with an interdict.

Canon 1374 of The Code of Canon Law; effective 27 November 1983. This replaced Canon 2335 of the 1917 codification.
1983 While the former excommunication of Catholics who joined Masonic societies has not been repeated in this Code, a sanction can be imposed on those who join associations that work against the Church, and an interdict can be placed on those who promote or run such groups. Whether Masons fall within these strictures must now be determined by authorities within the particular churches.

Commentary to The Code of Canon Law; 27 November 1983.
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 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 the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a 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 Feb. 17,1981. 4 .
In an audience granted to the undersigned cardinal prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this sacred congregation.

Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Nov. 26, 1983 English translation from Latin.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect. Father Jerome Hamer, O.P., Titular Archbishop of Lorium, Secretary."Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith"; 26 November 1983.5 .
2000 Below is the text of a letter from the Office of the Archdiocesan Tribunal, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, dated September 15, 2000, to the Masonic Service Bureau of North America:
Thank you for your inquiry of September 11, 2000 directed to Cardinal Mahoney, on whose behalf I am replying. The question is "whether a practicing Catholic may join a Masonic Lodge."
Unfortunately, the matter is too complex for a straightforward "yes" or "no" answer. But at least for Catholics in the United States, I believe the answer is probably yes. Permit me to explain this qualified response.
Your letter states that a member’s "allegiance to one God is all we require." To the extent that this is an accurate statement of the organization’s beliefs and teachings, and that its activities are humanitarian and charitable in nature, there is no reason to prevent a practicing Catholic from joining.
Past history, of course, has muddied the waters because earlier church law (prior to November 27, 1983) specifically named Masonic groups as a forbidden society (canon 2335, 1917 Code). The dialogues between Catholic and Masonic representatives in the years since the Second Vatican Council were generally very positive and yet did not resolve questions or concerns raised in certain parts of the world. As a result, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome issued a statement one day before the new Code of Canon Law took effect (November 26, 1983), in which it held that since Masonic principles were still contrary to the teachings of the Church, Catholics would commit a grave sin in belonging to Masonic associations and so could not receive Holy Communion.
Because this declaration has not been superseded by any further official statements, the question keeps recurring about its interpretation and application. There is no agreement among the experts in church law who have considered the matter. Consequently one can only judge the individual circumstances in light of the principles that clearly do apply. These principles are set forth in canons 1374 and 1364 of the 1983 Code, which forbid a Catholic from joining "an association which plots against the Church" and impose penalties for heresy under certain conditions. If "a particular Masonic lodge truly promoted heretical teaching or conspired against the interests of the Church" (Ronny E. Jenkins, "The Evolution of the Church’s Prohibition Against Catholic Membership in Freemasonry," The Jurist, 56 (1996), pg 735,) then a Catholic would be bound to avoid membership.
The reason, then, I answer 'probably yes' is because I am unaware of any ideology or practice by the local lodges that challenges or subverts the doctrine and interests of the Catholic Church. In the previous paragraph, I have cited the article which best presents the current state of the question. The 1974 newspaper clipping that you enclosed with your letter probably refers to a letter written by Cardinal Seper, then in charge of the same doctrinal congregation mentioned above, which was addressed to certain bishops. In this letter one can see the movement at that time from a blanket prohibition to the application of a case-by-case judgment whether a group did in fact conspire against the Church. The history of the development of the Church’s current law suggests that this case-by-case approach is what canon 1374 on forbidden associations intends.
Please forgive this lengthy reply, but a shorter one would not do justice to those inquirers who are aware that the matter is still controversial. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more about it myself, and I close by asking God’s blessing on your well-known endeavors to relieve human suffering and assist the needy.
Rev. Thomas C. Anslow, C.M., J.C.L. Judicial Vicar

Posted by Gene Goldman into alt.freemasonry on September 15, 2001..
on Rome
1991 Bearing in mind ...the absence of mention of Freemasonry in the 1983 codification of canon law it would appear that...a Catholic may join regular freemasonry but ought to consult his bishop, through his parish priest, not for permission to join but to ascertain the nature of the jurisdiction concerned.6 .
Although the Code of Canon Law does not specifically prohibit a Catholic from joining a masonic association, Cardinal Ratzinger continues in his opposition. This has lead to such situations as Archbishop Legaspi of Cacares, the conservative President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, echoing Cardinal Ratzinger in his March 1990 draft of "Guidelines on Membership in Free Masonic Association" while in the same period Archbishop Talamayan of Tuguegarao is noted as giving the address at a lodge installation meeting and inviting freemasons to visit him. Note that some eighty percent of the freemasons in the Philippines are Roman Catholic. There are many examples of
prominent Catholics associated with the Craft, too many to mention here.
1.The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the title of the Vatican department which in 1965, under Pope Paul VI, took the place of the Holy Office which had itself been established in 1908 in succession to the Inquisition. The severe tribunal is said to have claimed its last victim in 1813 and it had been suppressed as such in Spain in 1834. Thereafter its functions were restricted to such matters as the detection of heresy in published works.^
2.References to Catholics and the Church are to Roman Catholics and the Church of Rome. While the Orthodox Catholic Churches, in the main, also condemn Freemasonry, several of the smaller Catholic Churches such as the Old Catholic Church have no official opinion on Freemasonry^
3. Latin text appended at <freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/declarations.html>. ^
4.Declaration on Masonic Associations Quaesitum est^
5.Cf.: AAS 73 (1981) pp240-241. ^
6."The Church of Rome and Freemasonry", a paper presented in Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 by Bro. Will Read on May 9, 1991. The Quatuor Coronati Lodge was founded in 1884 with the objective of developing "for brethren everywhere an interest in research; to encourage study of the many facets of Freemasonry... (and)... to attract the attention and to enlist the cooperation of masonic scholars in all parts of the world." (Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076; Volume 104 for the year 1991: ISBN 0 907655 21 1.) ^


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