Have you ever heard of a group called Freemasonry? What got me to thinking about this group was an article I saw in our little local newspaper. It showed a picture of the local Masonic Lodge’s ceremony of installing it’s new officers for 2015. So, is it okay for a Catholic to be a part of this group? Where does the Catholic Church stand on the issue of someone being a member of the organization known as Freemasonry? Is this organization just a “social” organization/club or do they have a certain theology that comes along with it?
Well, Masonry is considered a secret society. It initiates people with secret blood oaths that are contrary to Christian morals, even though throughout the decades, this “social” organization has been referred to as a Christian brotherhood. Historically, one of Masonry’s primary objectives has been the destruction of the Catholic Church; this is especially true of Freemasonry as it has existed in certain European countries. Many consider this group a fraternity of the occult.
Freemasonry – Is It a Religion?
The official position of Mason’s states that Freemasonry is not a religion. “Masons who treat it as such are mistaken. Freemasonry strongly encourages its members to belong to an established religion, although this is not a requirement for membership (only that a candidate profess a belief in a Supreme Being). Masonry is a fraternal organization that encourages morality and charity and studies philosophy. It has no clergy, no sacraments, and does not promise salvation to its members” (Roger Firestone, Difficult Questions About Freemasonry, 2002).
In the United States, Freemasonry is often thought of as simply a social club, but it still promotes a naturalistic religion that contradicts orthodox Christianity. Freemasonry has a basic theology that lies beneath everything in the Order. And because of this, Freemasonry is incompatible with the Catholic faith. In Freemasonry, the degrees instruct that: There is a Supreme Being who created the universe, who has established and revealed a moral law, and to whom we must give account in a life after this one. Masons argue that nothing in these five points, which are supported by all the materials, lectures and “working tools” of the degrees, conflicts with any of the major religions of the Western world. And because of that, all religions are welcome to participate in the Brotherhood, and so, it should not be deemed a “religious” organization. “The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha, or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer“(Manly Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, 1976).
Masonry is a parallel religion to Christianity. The New Catholic Encyclopedia states, “Freemasonry displays all the elements of religion, and as such it becomes a rival to the religion of the Gospel. It includes temples and altars, prayers, a moral code, worship, vestments, feast days, the promise of reward or punishment in the afterlife, a hierarchy, and initiation and burial rites.”
Freemasonry – The Nature of Jesus
Freemasonry has adopted a pluralist approach toward Jesus Christ. Masonry teaches, “Jesus was just a man.” He was one of the exemplars, one of the great men of the past, but not divine and certainly not the only means of redemption for mankind. They believe that Jesus was on a level with other great men of the past such as Aristotle, Pythagoras, Plato and Mohammed. In Masonry, Jesus Christ is not to be looked upon as the Savior, Redeemer or God incarnate. The Lodge doesn’t use the name of Jesus or Christ in any of its prayers or rituals, and when the Bible is used in ceremonies, all scriptural references to Jesus are removed.
A penalty of excommunication on Catholics who become Freemasons had been “explicit” in the code of cannon law of 1917 (cannon 2335), and is still “implicit” in the 1983 code (cannon 1374). But in the United States, since many times Freemasonry is thought of as just a club (such as the Elks Lodge for example) and not a religious thing, you have Catholics who innocently become a part of this organization. Because of this, the Church on a pastoral level, seeks to teach these folks, “Danger! Don’t go there! Stay away!” So, if we know someone who is a member of the Freemasons, let them know the teaching of the Church and the reasons behind the teaching against it.
If a Catholic wants to be a member of a men’s social organization that helps in the community, I would suggest becoming a member of your local “Knights of Columbus” instead.
Until next time, God bless.