published : 2023-11-15

Vatican Reaffirms 'Grave Sin' of Freemasonry, Catholics Prohibited from Joining World's Largest Secret Society

Freemasonry has been prohibited for Catholics since 1738, described as 'depraved and perverted' by Pope Clement XII

A photo of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, taken with a Nikon D850

The Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) has issued a reaffirmation of the Catholic Church's teachings, declaring that both laity and clerics participating in Freemasonry are committing a 'grave sin.'

In a document released to the public on November 13th, Pope Francis and DDF Prefect Cardinal Victor Fernández expressed their strong opposition to participation in or affiliation with Freemasonry groups. The document cited the 1983 'Declaration on Masonic Associations' by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, emphasizing the inherent conflict between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry.

According to the document, active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden due to the irreconcilability between Catholic teachings and the principles of the secret society. This prohibition also extends to any clerics enrolled in Freemasonry.

The call for clarification was made by Bishop Julito Cortes of the Philippines, who expressed concerns about the growing interest in Freemasonry within his country.

An image of Freemason regalia, showcasing the ceremonial attire and symbols, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Established in 1717, Freemasonry is known as the world's largest secret society, with millions of members spread across almost every country. While Freemasonry requires its members to swear oaths of secrecy, fellowship, and fraternity, it is important to note that they are not required to believe in any specific deity.

However, due to the deistic and non-Christian teachings about divinity embraced by Freemasonry, members of the Catholic Church are strictly prohibited from joining or affiliating with these groups. In addition to religious differences, the secretive nature and ritualistic practices of Freemason lodges have often led to accusations by Catholic leaders of idolatry and clandestine opposition to Christianity.

It is worth noting that not all Freemason associations are the same, as various rites, sects, lodges, and national bodies of Freemasonry possess different cultures and practices. Historically, the Catholic Church has been more aggressive in confronting Masonic bodies in continental Europe, where a more ideological tone is present. On the other hand, Freemasonry in the United States and the United Kingdom is reported to have a greater focus on social and professional aspects.

The Catholic Church's opposition to Freemasonry takes root in history, with Pope Clement XII declaring it 'depraved and perverted' in 1738 and making membership in the secret society an excommunicable offense. This negative judgment remains unchanged according to the 1983 document by Cardinal Ratzinger, which states that the principles of Freemasonry have always been considered irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine.

A portrait of Pope Francis, emphasizing the Vatican's reaffirmation on Freemasonry, taken with a Sony A7R III

In light of the reaffirmation from the Vatican, it is suggested that Philippine Bishops conduct catechesis accessible to the people in order to educate them about the reasons for the incompatibility between the Catholic Faith and Freemasonry.

In conclusion, the Catholic Church's stance on Freemasonry is clear: membership in Freemasonic associations is considered a grave sin, with prohibitions extended to both laity and clerics. As the Vatican underscores the incompatibility between Catholic doctrine and the principles of Freemasonry, the faithful are advised to abstain from participating or affiliating with these groups.