The Vatican has confirmed a ban on Catholics becoming Freemasons, citing irreconcilable differences between Catholic doctrine and the centuries-old secretive society.
The announcement, backed by a letter from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, dated Nov. 13 and countersigned by Pope Francis, comes in response to concerns raised by a bishop in the Philippines regarding the increasing presence of Freemasons in the country.
“Active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is prohibited because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry,” emphasized the Vatican’s doctrinal office in the letter published on Wednesday.
Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete in the Philippines, alarmed by the rising number of Freemasons in his diocese, sought guidance on addressing the situation pastorally and doctrinally. The Vatican’s response stressed the importance of involving the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and recommended a coordinated strategy.
On the doctrinal front, the dicastery reiterated the 1983 declaration that stated Catholics “in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. ” The measures extend to clerics enrolled in Freemasonry.
Cardinal Victor Fernandéz, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, affirmed the ban, saying, “Those who formally and knowingly are members of Masonic lodges and have embraced Masonic principles fall under the provisions of the above-mentioned Declaration.”
In addressing the pastoral response, the dicastery proposed a popular catechesis in all parishes in the Philippines to explain the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic faith and Freemasonry. The bishops are encouraged to consider making a public pronouncement on the matter.
The 1983 declaration, signed by the late Pope Benedict XVI (then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), emphasized that Catholics affiliated with Masonic lodges are “in a state of grave sin.” The absence of explicit condemnation and excommunication for Freemasonry in the new Code of Canon Law, which replaced the 1917 Code, had raised concerns.
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Freemasonry, a male-only society known for its arcane symbols and rituals, boasts a global membership of around six million, according to the United Grand Lodge of England.
The group, which traces its roots to medieval stonemasons, lists notable figures such as Prince Philip, Winston Churchill, Peter Sellers, Alf Ramsey, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle among its historical members.
The Vatican’s firm stance on Freemasonry aligns with its commitment to upholding Catholic doctrine, reflecting the ongoing dialogue between faith and secrecy in a changing world.