Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr Ashley Beck

11/4/2009 (4 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 (4 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

Archaeologists find a very different type of 'treasure' - a 2,000-year-old toilet seat Watch

Image of Discovered at Vindolanda fort on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, the

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Accustomed to finding priceless coins, artwork and historical artifacts, archaeologists in Great Britain have found an altogether different type of treasure - one that was desperately needed in ancient times - a wooden toilet seat, believed to be 2,000 years ... continue reading


Over 1,400 girls raped and abused by Muslims in English town Watch

Image of For more than 12 years a large community of Pakistanis living in England have enjoyed sexually abusing girls while officials turned a blind eye a new report reveals.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Over a 12 year period, hundreds of children were systematically raped, beaten and sex trafficked in a northern English town, and the government commissioned report on the incident reveals that it is still going on today. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This ... continue reading


Guilty? Corruption case moves forward against the head of International Monetary Fund Watch

Image of Christine Legarde, the chief of the International Monetary Fund, who is facing charges currently in France.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christine Legarde, the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and one of the most powerful women in the world, has been charged with "negligence" over a multi-million-euro graft case relating to her time as a French finance minister. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Scandalous details come to light over defrocked nuncio's abuse of young boys Watch

Image of Shoeshine boys int he Dominican Republic say that Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski would cruise the oceanfront promenade and offer them large sums of money for sexual acts.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Loathsome details have come to light over defrocked Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican's ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Shoeshine boys say that Wesolowski would cruise the oceanfront promenade and offer them large sums of money for sexual ... continue reading


Archbishop appeals his defrocking for sexual abuse allegedly committed in Dominican Republic Watch

Image of If found guilty in a criminal trial, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski could risk extradition to the Dominican Republic, which has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the case.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, from Poland, is accused of child sex abuse while he served in the Dominican Republic. He has since appealed against a Roman Catholic tribunal's decision to defrock him, according to the Vatican. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


SHOCKING: Are there more British Muslims fighting for the Islamic State than for British military? Watch

Image of Many young men facing poor job prospects in the U.K. find the IS narrative of defending Islam hard to resist.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a shocking figure that has many questioning immigration laws. Britain's Ministry of Defense has confirmed that there are approximately 600 British Muslim service members in its armed forces of almost 200,000 people. In a momentous slap to the West - and ... continue reading


British Archbishop demands Muslim leaders enforce discipline on youth or face the consequences Watch

Image of George Carey, a former Archbishop recently spoke on the dangers of the Islamic State, as well as the British Muslims who go overseas to fight for it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A former Archbishop of Canterbury has called for Britons that are fighting for the Islamic State to be banished from Britain. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Lord George Carey of Clifton said that Muslims must  discipline their young people, or see them ... continue reading


Pontifical Council Statement on the Violence in Iraq Watch

Image of Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis:

By Vatican Radio

No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us. VATICAN CITY (Vatican Radio) - The Pontifical Council for Interreligious ... continue reading


British rapper makes 14-year-old girl post sex video online Watch

Image of The girl, who can't be named for legal reasons, accepted a friend request from rapper Logik, whose real name is Kyle Burns.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It was a sick incident that highlights what's going on around the eyes and ears of semi-attentive parents. A British rapper who goes under the stage name of "Logik" asked a 14-year-old girl to pose an indecent 60-second video of herself to which he promised ... continue reading


A new tomb may be the burial place of Alexander the Great Watch

Image of This road leads up to a newly discovered tomb which could hold the remains of one of Alexander the Great's generals.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Archaeologists in Greece have discovered an immense tomb that they believe may be connected with Alexander the Great, whose conquests stretched from Greece to India. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This tomb, which dates to around 300 BC, may have held the body ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 2:1-5
1 Now when I came to you, brothers, I did not come ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102
97 How I love your Law! I ponder it all day ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:16-30
16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 1st, 2014 Image

St. Giles, Abbot
September 1: St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter