Letter #153, 2023, Wed, Nov 15: Freemasonry
Freemasonry is again in the Catholic Church’s spotlight.
Even after 300 years of the Church’s repeated condemnation of Freemasonry as incompatible with the Roman Catholic faith, many continue to be drawn into its rituals and teachings in various parts of the world.
This time it is in the Philippines, whose bishops recently asked the Vatican for help in dealing with the rising phenomenon of their faithful becoming Masons.
The Vatican’s response, dated November 13, 2023, has just been published by the Vatican.
The response, drawn up by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, noted that “belonging to Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines; it does not only imply 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 contrast between belonging to the Catholic Church and Masonic lodges.”
Beginning in 1738 with Pope Clement XII and his decree In Eminenti, which not only forbade Catholics from joining Masonic lodges but did so under pain of excommunication, the Church has taught that Masonic principles and Catholic principles are incompatible.
Pope Francis, while not mentioning anything about excommunication, has nevertheless reiterated this judgment through this official note from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by its prefect, Cardinal Victor Fernández.
Here below is the document itself, and a report today from Vatican News, a news agency created by the Holy See to publish news stories about current ecclesial events.
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Here is the official “Note” from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith:
DICASTERIUM PRO DOCTRINA FIDEI
NOTE FOR THE AUDIENCE WITH THE HOLY FATHER
13 November 2023
The Request of His Excellency, the Most Rev. Julito CORTES,
Bishop of Dumaguete (Philippines)
Regarding the Best Pastoral Approach to
Membership in Freemasonry by the Catholic Faithful
Recently, His Excellency, the Most Rev. Julito CORTES, Bishop of Dumaguete, after explaining with concern the situation caused in his Diocese by the continuous rise in the number of the faithful enrolled in Freemasonry, 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.
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:
(a) 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 (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Declaration on Masonic Associations” , and the guidelines published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in 2003). 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.
(b) 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.
Finally, the Philippine Bishops are invited to consider whether they should make a public pronouncement on the matter.
Ex Audientia die 13.11.2023
Here is the November 15 Vatican News report on this document:
Freemasonry: Catholics remain prohibited from joining (link)
The response of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by the Pope, responds to the request of a Philippine bishop: the irreconcilability between membership of the lodges and the Catholic faith reiterated
By Vatican News
Catholics remain prohibited from joining Freemasonry.
This is reiterated in the response of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith dated November 13, 2023, signed by the prefect Victor Fernándezand with the approval of Pope Francis. The dicastery responded to the request of Monsignor Julito Cortes, bishop of Dumanguete in the Philippines. Cortes, “after having illustrated with concern the situation of his diocese, due to the continuous increase of faithful members of Freemasonry, asked for suggestions to adequately deal with this reality from a pastoral point of view, also taking into account the doctrinal implications.”
To answer the question, the dicastery decided to respond by also involving the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines, “notifying that it would be necessary to implement a coordinated strategy between individual bishops that includes two approaches.”
The first concerns the doctrinal level: the dicastery reiterates that “active membership in Freemasonry by the faithful is prohibited, due to the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry (cf. the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 1983, and the same Guidelines published by the Episcopal Conference in 2003).”
Therefore, the note clarifies, “those who formally and consciously are members of Masonic lodges and have embraced Masonic principles, fall under the provisions present in the aforementioned Declaration. These measures also apply to any ecclesiastics registered with Freemasonry.”
The second approach concerns the pastoral plan: the dicastery proposes to the Philippine bishops “to carry out a popular catechesis in all parishes, regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic faith and Freemasonry.” Finally, the bishops of the Philippines are invited to evaluate the opportunity of making a public statement on this topic.
The Declaration of November 1983 was published on the eve of the entry into force of the new Code of Canon Law. The Code replaced that of 1917 and among the new features it was noted — by some with satisfaction, by others with concern — the absence of the explicit condemnation of Freemasonry and the excommunication for its affiliates which was present in the old text. The Declaration, signed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the secretary of the Congregation Jérôme Hamer, approved by John Paul II, reiterated that Catholics enrolled in Masonic lodges are “in a state of grave sin.”
(END Vatican News report)
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