The first Papal condemnation of Freemasonry came in 1738 in a Bull from Pope Clement XII. Clement XII did not attack Freemasonry's philosophy, ethics, fraternalism, symbols, oaths or non-sectarian positions. Clement XII's objections were that Freemasonry was formed into a "Free association", that Masons "met with secrecy", with "private ceremonies", and protected by "heavy punishments", and "for other motives known to us."
Most historians agree that the vague reference to "other motives" related to suspicion of political activity in opposition to a Catholic returning to the throne of England. Besides, here was a group meeting behind closed doors without the sanction of either Church or State!!! Clement XII's Bull was confirmed by his successor in 1751 without the addition of any new charges. At that time, before Papal Infallibility, Papal Bulls had to be ratified by a Catholic State before they could become law. The first two Bulls were ratified in Spain, Portugal and a few other states, where Freemasons were pursued by the inquisition.
The most comprehensive Church statement about Freemasonry came in 1884. HUMANUM GENUS (the Human Race), The Bull of Leo XIII, was the 1st attack on the perceived beliefs of Freemasonry.
The opening sentence of HUMANUM GENUS, indeed the premise for the entire Bull, divides the "human race" into "two different and opposing parties;" one, the Catholic Church who "serve God"; the other "is the kingdom of Satan," composed of all men everywhere not in the Catholic Church, and who "refuse to obey divine and eternal law." He then continued: "In our days, however, those who follow the evil one seem to conspire and strive all together under the guidance and with the help of that society of men spread all over, and solidly established, which they call Freemasons."
Pope Leo then confirms the two previous Papal Bulls and proceeds to describe Freemasonry, as "established against law and honesty, and is equally a danger to Christianity as well as to society." (For "Christianity" read "RCC".)
The Pope then goes on to introduce a term new to the language of Masonic condemnation, he declared Freemasons to be "naturalists". Here are the words of the Bull, "..we find its aim, which is the desire of over throwing of all the religious and social orders introduced by Christianity, and building a new order according to its taste, based on the foundation and laws of naturalism."
Here are some more of Poe Leo XIII's ideas. They should be highly informative to all Americans:
"The principles of social science follow. Here naturalists teach that men have all the same rights, and are perfectly equal in condition; that every man is naturally independent; that no one has a right to command others; that it is tyranny to keep men subject to any other authority than that which emanates from themselves. Hence the people are sovereign; those who rule have no authority but by the commission and concession of the people; so that they can be deposed, willing or unwilling, according to the wishes of the people. The origin of all rights and civil duties is in the people or in the State, which is ruled according to the new principles of liberty. The State must be godless; no reason why one religion ought to be preferred to another all to be held in the same esteem.
Now it is well known that Free-Masons approve these maxims, and that they wish to see governments shaped on this pattern and model needs no demonstration. It is a long time, indeed, that they have worked with all their strength and power openly for this, making thus an easy way for those, not a few, more audacious and bold in evil, who meditate the communion and equality of all goods after having swept away from the world every distinction of social goods and conditions."
Another direct quote from HUMANUM GENUS:
"Once grant that men through God's will are born for civil society, and that sovereign power is so strictly necessary to society that when this fails society necessarily collapses, it follows that the right of command emanates from the same principle from which society itself emanates; hence the reason why the minister of God is invested with such authority. Therefore, so far as it is required from the end and nature of human society, one must obey lawful authority as we would obey the authority of God, supreme ruler of the universe; AND IT IS A CAPITAL ERROR TO GRANT TO THE PEOPLE FULL POWER OF SHAKING OFF AT THEIR OWN WILL THE YOKE OF OBEDIENCE." (the caps are mine)
So much for democracy and the good old U.S.A.!
How dare the peasants cast off that yoke! Did they not realize that Kings received their authority from God? You can be sure that the Church, in their capacity as God's Earthly Representatives, never let any King forget it :> In 1917, Pope Benedict XV promulgated a new code of Canon Law, containing Article 2335, which forbade Roman Catholics tobecome members of "the masonic sect and (other) organizations which are hostile to the Church and legitimate civil authorities." The penalty was excommunication. This was the last official ant-masonic pronouncement before the most recent events.
A quote from HUMANUM GENUS:
"Now, it is the principle of naturalists, as the name itself indicates, that human nature and human reason in everything must be our teacher and guide. Having once settled this, they are careless of duties towards God, or they pervert them with false opinions and errors. They deny that anything has been revealed by God; they don't admit any religious dogma and truth but what human intelligence can comprehend; they do not allow any teacher to be believed on his official authority."
The Pope then levels specific charges against Freemasonry:
- "They deny that anything has been revealed by God ..."
- " ... they preach and maintain the full separation of (the) Church from the State. So law and GOVERNMENT are wrested from the wholesome and divine virtue of the Catholic Church."
- "In the instruction and education of children, they do not leave to the ministers of the Church any part ..."
- "They teach, "that men have all the same rights;"
- "By opening their gates to persons of every creed they promote ... religious indifference, the best way to annihilate every religion. The Catholic religion, being the only true one, cannot be joined with others without enormous injustice."
- "Naturalists and Freemasons deny original sin and do not acknowledge that our free will is bent to evil".
- "They leave to the members full liberty of thinking about God - whatever they like."
- "(they believe that) those who rule (the people) have no authority, but by ... the wishes of the people."
The Bull then proceeds to instruct the clergy to wage war against Freemasonry through pastoral letters, sermons, through formation of a similar Catholic fraternity (Knights of Columbus), and in the education of children.
The Pope's revelation that the followers of Satan (i.e. all non-catholics) are led by the Freemasons gave rise to an enormous amount of low-level literature linking Freemasonry to Satanism. This continues to this day, thanks to Pope Leo XIII.
In the spirit of Vatican II, the following appeared in 1974:
"The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith .... has ruled that Canon 2335 no longer automatically bars a Catholic from membership of masonic groups .... And so, a Catholic who joins the freemasons is excommunicated only if the policies and actions of the freemasons in his area are known to be hostile to the Church ....".
This document was signed by Cardinal Seper, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This was interpreted, both within Masonry and the Church, to be an end to the condemnation of Freemasonry.
Unfortunately,this was not the case. In 1983 in a statement by the same body, then under a new Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger, the 1974 letter was clarified, saying, that masonic principles are considered irreconcilable with the Church's doctrine, and Catholics are still prohibited from joining a lodge of Freemasons.
Since 1983 the Church has made no official statement against Freemasonry. In Europe there have been several conferences between Freemasonry and the Catholic Church to seek to end the Church's opposition to Freemasonry. The Church's continued opposition appears to be now limited to 2 points.
1. The Church has begun to maintain that Freemasonry is a religion and that no Catholic can be a member of another religion.
2. The ceremony of the 3rd Degree in Freemasonry appears to be a belief in the resurrection of one other than Christ.
At least the discussion has started to center upon honest differences of opinion.
There have been several discussions here about whether or not Freemasonry is a religion. I am willing to discuss that much further if anyone likes. The ceremony of the 3rd degree in Freemasonry is the story of a Jew who was murdered and buried by his murderers in a shallow grave in the desert. His body was found and returned for burial in sacred ground. Those that found the body did mourn the loss and call for their fallen leader to come back to them. He didn't.
I personally see no claim of resurrection there. Perhaps someone has mistaken disinterment for resurrection.
I hope everyone will try to get a look at HUMANUM GENUS and see the whole document for themselves. Bear in mind the opening statement as you read each sentence.