Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Ashley Beck

11/4/2009 (6 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (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.


By Fr Ashley Beck

The Catholic Herald (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, His email is


More Europe

The unexpected thing one Syrian refugee did for Germany that will melt your heart Watch

Image of Syrian refugee Alex Assali fed the homeless outside Berlin's Alexanderplatz station in an effort to give back to the city that has helped him, and other refugees, so much (Imgur).


Amid fears of ISIS infiltration and Muslim takeovers, one Syrian refugee took a stand against prejudiced tensions and thanked the city of Berlin on behalf of all refugees. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Each Saturday, Alex Assali cooks and distributes food to ... continue reading

Concentration camps and Nazi language: Berlin guards caught on tape speaking unbelievably cruel about refugees Watch

Image of Berlin guards at the office for refugees have reportedly been recorded using Nazi language and suggesting refugees be sent to concentration camps (Markus Heine/ NurPhoto).


Videos have been released showing Berlin guards around the office for refugees using "Nazi language" and suggesting the refugees be sent to concentration camps. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Security guards working for private contractor Gegenbauer Security ... continue reading

SHOCK SHOW: Sacrilegious art exhibit in Spain uses 240 stolen consecrated hosts Watch

Image of Photos of the theft of the Hosts and their placement on the ground are shown in a public art gallery in Pamplona.

By Catholic News Agency

Critics of Pamplona's city council say it deliberately attacked Catholics and broke Spanish law by using city property to display a sacrilegious art exhibit with more than 240 stolen consecrated Hosts. Madrid, Spain (CNA) - The Spanish artist Abel Azcona stole ... continue reading

French Hostage Situation: Two armed suspects engage in shootout with French police Watch

Image of French police engaged in a shootout with two suspects armed with Kalashnikovs (Not pictured).


Two suspects armed with Kalashnikov rifles engaged in a shootout with French police in Toubaix, France. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The suspects are believed to have taken a bank director and his family hostage, but very little is currently known.[media ... continue reading

Vatican corruption: Journalists stand trial Watch

Image of Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi must stand trial at the Vatican for publishing confidential documents (Reuters).


Following the publication of books claiming the Holy See was mismanaged and spoiled through corruption, five people went on trial at the Vatican on Tuesday. Two of the five on trial were Italian Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, neither of whom ... continue reading

Undercover reporter reveals secret FEMALE ISIS organization in Britain Watch

Image of One veiled ISIS sympathizer was filmed during the undercover investigation (Channel 4).


In a new British documentary titled The British Women Supporters Unveiled, one young female reporter goes undercover to infiltrate a secret Muslim organization designed to garner sympathy for the Islamic State. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The reporter, who uses ... continue reading

OUTRAGEOUS: Find out why The Lord's Prayer was BANNED from Just Pray movie theater ad Watch

Image of


An advertisement featuring the Lord's Prayer has been banned from movie theaters in England. According to the Church of England, the policy that prevents the prayer advertisement did not exist when they began production on the commercial. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Swiss farmer finds 4,000 extremely rare Roman coins in his orchard Watch

Image of The cache of coins is estimated to be more than 1,700 years old.


A Swiss farmer was tilling his orchard in Ueken, in the northern canton of Aargau, Switzerland, when he spotted something shiny on the ground. He had inadvertently stumbled across a treasure trove of Roman-era coins - 4,166 in all, some dating as back as 274 ... continue reading

Five people indicted by Vatican in 'Vati-leaks' scandal Watch

Image of Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi (pictured), had both recently published books, citing specific Vatican documents detailing waste, mismanagement, and greed.


A judge, rendering a decision in a scandal involving Vatican finances has indicted five people, which include two journalists and a Vatican monsignor. Information linking the Vatican to financial malfeasance, as well as related graft and corruption called ... continue reading

Massacre in France is a Piecemeal Third World War, and Jesus is the Path to Peace Watch

Image of With tenderness, Jesus looked out from the Mount of Olives and saw the Holy City of Jerusalem. How he loved - and still loves - that special City. Then, Jesus wept. The Word Incarnate, made a man like us in all things but sin, cried. He knew that the City of Jerusalem would soon be overtaken and destroyed by the armies of Titus. He wept the tears of Love - and revealed the compassion of His Sacred Heart

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Do we recognize the time of our own visitation? God is present in our world today. He wants to  speak, to lead, to serve, to heal and to save. He is not to blame for the mess we are in. We are!  Those who purport to be representing their "God"  as ... continue reading

All Europe News


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

  • Opium, heroin or cocaine: What drug is YOUR country known for?
  • Prayer For Faith HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Tuesday, December 01, 2015
  • 'Body lifted from the ground': Young Central American woman dies ...
  • St. Eligius: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, December 01, 2015
  • Pope Francis does the unthinkable following emotional tragedy in ...
  • Parents' Prayer For Their Children HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 10:9-18
9 that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands on the ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 4:18-22
18 As he was walking by the Lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 30th, 2015 Image

St. Andrew
November 30: Andrew, like his brother Simon Peter, was a ... Read More