Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Ashley Beck

11/4/2009 (6 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

Fr Ashley Beck says the Church teaches clearly that Freemasonry and Catholicism are incompatible.

The overriding problem is that in spite of what Freemasons claim, their way of life is a religion, with all of religion's hallmarks. You can no more be a Freemason and a Christian than you can be a Muslim and a Christian.

The overriding problem is that in spite of what Freemasons claim, their way of life is a religion, with all of religion's hallmarks. You can no more be a Freemason and a Christian than you can be a Muslim and a Christian.

Highlights

By Fr Ashley Beck

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

11/4/2009 (6 years ago)

Published in Europe


LONDON (UK Catholic Herald) - A few years ago I was told that at the ceremony of induction of the vicar of one of the local Anglican churches, the Bible which was handed to him had embossed on its front cover the emblem of the Freemasons, the square and compasses. It subsequently came to light that nearly all the male members of his Parochial Church Council were "on the square", and his predecessor as vicar had been a Mason as well. This is not a "low", or Evangelical, church, but very firmly in the Anglo Catholic tradition, where a number of clergy and lay people over the years have talked of becoming Catholics.

Why is all this a problem? The reason is that the Catholic Church teaches that Freemasonry and Christianity are incompatible. The Holy See in 1983 reiterated the traditional position that Catholics who are Freemasons are in a state of grave sin and may not receive the sacraments - the Declaration on Masonic Associations was signed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and makes it clear that local bishops cannot dispense from its provisions.

There were two reasons for this document: first, the new Code of Canon Law, which came out at the same time, no longer mentioned Freemasonry by name in its list of organisations which Catholics are forbidden from joining; second, mistaken advice had been given in the late Seventies in Britain and America which suggested that Catholics could be Freemasons if local lodges were not anti-Catholic; the 1983 rescript corrected that advice. Consequently, Anglicans or others who are Freemasons wishing to become Catholics will have to discard their aprons: this may keep the numbers of potential converts down.

It is often claimed by Freemasons and others that the reasons for the Catholic Church's hostility to Freemasonry are to do with politics - the political hostility between the Church and what is known as "Grand Orient" Freemasonry in the rest of Europe and Latin America; English Freemasonry is completely different, it is claimed; unlike the "Grand Orient" it has retained belief in the "Supreme Being". But this is nonsense: the Church's original condemnations from the 18th century related to English Masonic lodges in Florence and elsewhere in Italy.

The reasons for our teaching, expounded in teaching from many popes since the 18th century, are theological. In the first place, Freemasonry is a naturalistic religion. Its rituals and constitutions present the member as a man who is able to advance towards enlightenment through his own efforts - a good parable of this is the depictions of the trials of Tamino in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. The Mason can earn his salvation through rites of initiation and the activities of the lodge (including charitable giving); it is thus, in a way, the perfect religion for the "self-made", middle-class professional man. It is totally at odds with the Christian vision, in which we need God's grace, through the death and resurrection of Our Lord, to grow in holiness.

Second, the prayers in its rituals specifically exclude reference to Our Lord. They are often prayers of Christian origin which have been vandalised.

In order to encompass adherents of other faiths the Saviour of the world is simply removed and set aside: he is not important. How can any Christian go along with this?

Third, the oaths required in the initiation rites require the new Mason to promise to keep secret the organisation's rituals, even though he does not at that point know what they are. These oaths are what Christian moral theologians call "vain" - they are not acceptable and cannot bind the person making them, even if they are done in the name of God. This is the problem with the oaths, not (as is sometimes claimed) the dire penalties which used to be referred to in the rituals.

These are the principal reasons why we teach that Freemasonry and Christianity are not compatible. In addition, we could cite the reactionary world view espoused in the rituals, supportive of the status quo and urging members to "keep to their station" in society. This, coupled with the make-up of lodges and the mechanisms of social control identified in exposés written in the Eighties reveal the movement as being somewhat at odds with the social teaching of the Catholic Church and our witness for justice and peace in the world.

The "preferential option for the poor" would not find a place in the lodge. One could also point to the exclusion of women from lodge membership and the strain placed on many marriages by the commitments demanded of Freemasons: in spite of claiming to be a "system of morality" infidelity and adultery seem often to be viewed with some indulgence.

It is important that Catholics rest their challenge to Freemasonry on the clear theological arguments which I have advanced and that we are well-informed about the subject: sometimes criticisms of Freemasonry are inaccurate and frankly hysterical, and we should avoid conspiracy theories. It is also true that it is somewhat weaker than it was, partly as a result of the books written 20 years ago and pressure for Freemasons to reveal their membership, particularly in the police and the legal profession. Because of the decline, Freemasonry is very conscious of its public image and superficially less secretive than in the past.

Although it is weaker than in the past, Freemasonry still seems to have some influence in the Church of England. A study written by Caroline Windsor, Freemasonry and the Ministry (Concilium publications 2005), has shown that it is still quite strong in cathedrals (a big Masonic service was held in St Paul's Cathedral in 2002, with the Dean preaching) - and also that many parishes where Freemasons are active are weak in terms of Christian witness. If we are serious about ecumenical dialogue, the issue of Freemasonry has to be addressed; the same is true of interfaith relations, as Freemasons are sometimes involved in interfaith organisations - if they are there, we are talking about dialogue which is three-way, not two-way.

The overriding problem is that in spite of what Freemasons claim, their way of life is a religion, with all of religion's hallmarks. You can no more be a Freemason and a Christian than you can be a Muslim and a Christian. Catholics are committed to inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect, but this requires Freemasons to be honest about what they are. For Catholics, thinking about the reasons for the gulf between us can deepen our understanding of the Christian faith.

-----

Fr Beck is assistant priest of Beckenham in south London and author of Freemasonry and the Christian Faith, published in 2005 by the Catholic Truth Society and available from the CTS website, www.cts-online.org.uk. His email is ashleybeck88@hotmail.com



Comments


More Europe

Vatican under investigation - 5,000 bank accounts closed Watch

Image of Vatican auditors make move after three-year investigation (Pinterest).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Vatican auditors closed nearly 5,000 suspected Vatican bank accounts on suspicion of tax evasion. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The scandal includes a three-year investigation of 544 suspected transactions mainly involving tax evasion.To meet international ... continue reading


MASONS HACKED! Secrets of the Masons spilled - French media to expose highest-ranking Masons Watch

Image of The Masons have been hacked. A secret dump of documents will reveal their secrets to the world.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Hackers have just released thousands of documents in a new document dump to the media, this time, they contain the secrets of the Masons. The data dump is known as "Masonleaks" and journalists say it will take several months to complete their review of the documents. ... continue reading


Belgian minister warns against offending Muslims, wait until you see the scary reason why! Watch

Image of Muslims take over a Parisian street for prayers.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A Belgian minister has a telling warning for his country as hearings begin into the Brussels attack that killed 32 people at an airport in March.  The reason for the warning is quite compelling. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A Belgian minister is warning ... continue reading


Women sentenced to three months for self-induced abortion in Northern Ireland Watch

Image of There are better solutions than abortion.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A woman in Northern Ireland has been convicted of aborting her child, and sentenced to a three-month, suspended jail sentence. The woman left her baby in a trash bag for eight days until police were contacted. The case has sparked renewed debate over abortion in ... continue reading


World's worst nuclear catastrophe commemorated 30 years later (WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGES) Watch

Image of The Ukraine commemorates the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl's explosion.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Thirty years after the greatest nuclear disaster the world has ever seen, Ukrainians solemnly commemorate the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The meltdown at the Russian plant began when an uncontrolled reaction ... continue reading


LISTEN NOW: Stolen manuscript reveals song not performed for 1,000 years Watch

Image of One Cambridge researcher admitted the music was nearly tangible (YouTube).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A Cambridge researcher and world-class medieval music performer combined their talents to perform an ancient song for the first time in over 1,000 years. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The music, titled "Songs of Consolation," was performed for the first time on ... continue reading


What's 'Hijab Day' and why is it causing a 'FREAK OUT' in France? Watch

Image of French students held a Hijab Day to raise awareness of discrimination against women (Styles Glamor).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Students from the French university Sciences Po Paris held a Hijab Day to raise awareness of the discrimination and verbal abuse Muslim women face every day - and it went exactly how you might expect. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With the influx of Muslim ... continue reading


MASS TOURIST ATTACK: ISIS to plant bombs in Europe's most popular beaches Watch

Image of ISIS threatens popular beach resorts (Express).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

German and Italian intelligence agencies discovered ISIS' plan to pose as refugees to detonate bombs and suicide vests buried beneath lounge chairs across Spanish, French and Italian beaches this summer. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the Mirror, ... continue reading


Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik wins human rights case. See the 'inhumanity' of Norway's prison system (PHOTOS) Watch

Image of Breivik has won a case that his solitary confinement and other conditions of his imprisonment are 'inhumane.'

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The conditions that Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik have been subjected to are inhumane, according to a Norwegian court. Breivik was convicted of killing 77, and injured 319. Many of his victims were children. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Life ... continue reading


Why is the Trevi Fountain being dyed blood red? Watch

Image of

By CNA/EWTN News

On April 29, the Trevi Fountain, one of the most popular and emblematic tourist spots in Rome, will be dyed red in recognition of all Christians who even today give their life for the faith.  Rome, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - The event is being organized by Aid to the ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
1 Then some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, 'Unless ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
2 Then the earth will acknowledge your ways, and all nations your power ... Read More

Gospel, John 14:23-29
23 Jesus replied: Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father ... Read More

Reading 2, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
10 In the spirit, he carried me to the top of a very high mountain, and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 1st, 2016 Image

St. Marculf
May 1: Marculf is also known as Marcoul. He was born at ... Read More