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 exposťs 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

FELONIOUS FASHION STATEMENT: Sex trafficking gangs in Britain brand their victims with tattoos Watch

Image of Human trafficking gangs in the United Kingdom have taken to marking their victims with tattoos -- echoing the treatment of prisoners of war in Nazi concentration camps.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to Britain's National Crime Agency, human trafficking gangs are tattooing their victims to "signify ownership." The agency has since published figures showing a spike in the number of British people exploited by gangs. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Human trafficking in U.K. fueled by Internet advertising Watch

Image of The NCA, Britain's equivalent of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, came into operation last October with the aim of better coordinating police action on issues such as child sex abuse and organized crime.

By Kieran Guilbert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The number of people locked in slavery in Britain rose by 22 percent last year, with online dating, social media sites and Internet job advertisements used increasingly to recruit victims, a new report showed on Tuesday. (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain's ... continue reading


Old Age Is a Time of Grace: Pope Francis Calls the World to Honor the Elderly Watch

Image of More than 40,000 elderly men and women, including thousands of grandparents and grandmothers, attended this event. Prior to the Liturgy, an event entitled, The Blessing of a Long Life, featured powerful testimonies on aging and old age. Five passages from the Bible were used to demonstrate the dignity and contribution of the elderly throughout the history of God's plan of salvation.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This Pope, who coined the powerful phrase - Throwaway Culture- to challenge the instrumentalism of the age and offer in its place a recovery of authentic love, demonstrated the breadth of his Pro-Life vision in his actions and his words on Sunday. The honored ... continue reading


British bishop tenders resignation over affair with married woman Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Bishop Kieran Conry, of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton announced his resignation this past weekend. It was later learned that the 63-year-old bishop had an affair with a married mother-of-two and had engaged in an illicit affair with a second woman.  ... continue reading


Guarding horde for three days and nights, British builder unearths wealth of Roman coins Watch

Image of Egerton's discovery is also one of the best preserved  fourth century collections yet unearthed.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An amateur metal finder has unearthed one of the largest hoards of Roman coins ever found in Britain. Fifty-one-year-old Laurence Egerton made the discovery as he explored land near Seaton in East Devon. So keenly aware of this once-in-a-lifetime find, he camped out ... continue reading


Parchment maps suggest Marco Polo landed in Alaska two centuries before Columbus Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Excluding the Vikings, it's a given that Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus discovered what would later become known as America in 1492. However, centuries-old maps and documents now suggest that Marco Polo got there first. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This ... continue reading


Priests, as well as chaplains at risk in Ukraine frontlines Watch

Image of Ukraine's soldiers have been assisted by chaplains from the numerous Christian confessions in the country: Ukrainian Greek Catholics; Roman Catholics; Ukrainian Orthodox - both Moscow and Kyiv Patriarchates and Protestant communities.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

More than 3,200 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The provinces have experienced continual warfare between its government, and pro-Russian separatists and Russian forces. Those among the frontlines there include priests - both ... continue reading


Teenage couple, 14 and 15 years old arrested for lewd acts on Scottish beach Watch

Image of Hot weather there recently triggered an avalanche of sun and drink-seeking teenagers at the Scottish beaches of Troon and Ayr.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Scottish seaside beaches of Troon and Ayr have been the scene of some unsavory acts as of late. In one tasteless recent incident, a 15-year-old girl performed sexual acts on a 14-year-old boy mere feet away from vacationing families and children. LOS ... continue reading


Google's ongoing battle in Europe could cost it $6 billion Watch

Image of Google could face a fine of $6 billion if it loses its ongoing battle with the European commission.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Google's legal troubles with the European commission could cost it 10% of its global revenue, or about $6 billion, if it does not alter its offer to settle complaints, a fine that would be larger than the nearly $3 billion fine levied against Microsoft. LOS ... continue reading


Flown to France, Iraqi Christians get new chance at life Watch

Image of Few of the refugees speak French. Most have never ridden in a plane, let alone traveled to a Western country.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fleeing the death machinations of the Islamic State, 150 Iraqi Christians, of all ages boarded a plane headed to France for a chance at a new life. The people there at the Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan, boarding a French government plane all agree on one point - ... 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, Exodus 23:20-23
20 'Look, I am sending an angel to precede you, to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 91:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 10-11
1 You who live in the secret place of Elyon, spend ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 18:1-5, 10
1 At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 2nd, 2014 Image

St. Leger
October 2: Leger was raised at the court of King Clotaire II and by his ... 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