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.

    I note that I will be joining Fr. Charles Murr on a live podcast in about half an hour, at 6 p.m. Rome time and 12 noon on the east. coast of the U.S. Please consider joining in at these links: you may join this discussion on YouTube here. —RM


    Here is the official “Note” from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith:



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” [1983], 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)

    P.S. Support from readers is helpful in producing these letters and our podcasts. Please consider making a small donation … Best wishes to all.

    [Content continues below]

    Special Note:

    Dr. Moynihan and Fr. Murr plan to discuss Bishop Strickland’s case further in a new live video today, Wednesday, November 15, at 12:00 noon Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Rome time. You can join this discussion today, live on YouTube here.

    Below is a link to a video with Bishop Strickland which dates from about one month ago…

    [Continued from above]

    More background on the new document on freemasonry

    In a report in Italy today, Vaticanist Andrea Gagliarducci reviewed the history of anti-Masonic teachings of the Church since the Freemasons were founded in 1717:

    “There are over 600 documents from the Popes that condemn Freemasonry, directly and indirectly, while the magisterium of the Popes explicitly dedicated to the Masonic phenomenon is represented by a collection of documents ranging from Clement XII‘s encyclical InEminenti Apostolatus Specula of 28 April 1738 up to the Annum Ingressiof Leo XIII of 1902…

    “Since 1903 there have been no encyclicals of the Popes formally dedicated to the condemnation of Freemasonry, but canon 2335 of the Code of Canon Law of 1917 declares that those who join Freemasonry or other associations of the same kind, which plot against the Church, incur ipso facto in the excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

    “The 1983 Code of Canon Law had no explicit mention of Freemasonry. On November 26, 1983, however, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, noted in a statement also cited by this last document of the Dicastery that ‘it was asked whether the Church’s judgment regarding of Freemasonry due to the fact that in the new Code of Canon Law it is not expressly mentioned as in the previous Code,’ and that this was due ‘to an editorial criterion also followed for other associations equally not mentioned as they are included in broader categories.’”

    “‘Therefore, the negative judgment of the Church towards Masonic associations remains unchanged’ – wrote the Congregation – ‘since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains prohibited. The faithful who belong to Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and cannot access Holy Communion.’”    


    A brief background primer on freemasonry

    I’ll also include here a brief primer on exactly what is contained in the doctrines of Freemasonry that is inimical to the Catholic Faith.

    Masons, to which the jolly “Shriners” on little motorized vehicles in parades are related, are viewed mostly benignly in our country, even among Catholics.

    In fact, the deep teachings of Freemasonry are much more seriously erroneous, even sinister, than many realize.

    Here to explain this is an excerpt from


    By Fr. William Saunders (ewtn.com)

    [The text which follows is by Fr. William Saunders]

    Old “handbooks” of Freemasonry define the organization as “a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols,” “a science which is engaged in the search after the divine truth,” and “the activity of closely united men who, employing symbolic forms borrowed principally from the mason’s trade and others and thereby to bring about a universal league of mankind which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale.”

    James Anderson (d. 1739), a Scottish Presbyterian minister, wrote the Book of Constitutions in which he contrived the “traditional,” albeit spurious, history of Freemasonry. Masons hold that God, “the Great Architect,” founded Freemasonry, and that it has as patrons Adam and the Patriarchs. Even Jesus is listed as “the Grand Master” of the Christian Church. They credit themselves with the building of Noah’s ark, the Tower of Babel, the pyramids and Solomon’s Temple. In all, Freemasonry borrows liberally from the history and traditions of cultic groups such as Druids, Mithars, Egyptian priesthood, Rosicrucians and others to weave its own history.

    The Catholic Church has difficulties with Freemasonry because it is indeed a kind of religion unto itself. The practice of Freemasonry includes temples, altars, a moral code, worship services, vestments, feast days, a hierarchy of leadership, initiation and burial rites, and promises of eternal reward and punishment. While in America most Masons are Christian and will display a Bible on their “altar,” in the same lodges or elsewhere, Jews, Moslems, Hindus or other non-Christian religions can be admitted and may use their own sacred scriptures. (In France, in 1877, the “Grand Orient” Lodge eliminated the need to believe in God or the immortality of the soul, thereby admitting atheists into their fold; this atheistic type of Freemasonry spread particularly in Latin countries.)

    Moreover, the rituals involve the corruption of Christianity. The cross is merely a symbol of nature and eternal life, devoid of Christ’s sacrifice for sin. INRI (For Christians, “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum,” i.e. Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews) means for Masons “Igne Natura Renovatur Integra” (“the fire of nature rejuvenates all) referring to the sacred fire’s (truth and love) regeneration of mankind, just as the sun regenerates nature in the Spring.

    The rituals are also inimical to Catholicism. During the initiation rite, the candidate expresses a desire to seek “light,” and he is assured he will receive the light of spiritual instruction that he could not receive in another Church, and that he will gain eternal rest in the “celestial lodge” if he lives and dies according to Masonic principles. Note also that since Masonry involves non-Christians, the use of the name of Jesus is forbidden within the lodge.

    A strong Anti-Catholicism also permeates Freemasonry. The two traditional enemies of Freemasonry are the royalty and the papacy. Masons even believe that Christ, dying on Calvary, was the “greatest among the apostles of humanity, braving Roman despotism and the fanaticism and bigotry of the priesthood.” When one reaches the 30th degree in the masonic hierarchy, called the Kadosh, the person crushes with his foot the papal tiara and the royal crown, and swears to free mankind “from the bondage of despotism and the thraldom of spiritual tyranny.”

    (END, Fr. Saunders’ analysis)

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