With all of the tenacity of Sherman’s March to the Sea, all traces of the Confederacy in the United States are being wiped out. Flags are being removed from state capitol buildings, statues are being torn down and there has even been a call to rename the Dixie Classic Fair. There is however one confederate monument that will survive the scorched earth policy. In Judiciary Square in our nation’s capital sits a Statue of Albert Pike. Pike is the only Confederate military officer or figure to be honored with a statue in Washington, D.C. What makes this statue virtually untouchable? Mr. Pike was also the most influential Freemason of his time, if not in the history of the United States. To remove the statue would be to raise the ire of the Masons, who prowl about like lions ready to devour our country.
President Roosevelt was an ardent Mason and one can easily surmise that he attempted some court-packing beginning in 1937. Between him and President Truman (also a Mason) ten Masons were appointed between 1937-1949 (you can see a list of other famous Freemasons here). What this led to was a mere figure of speech by Thomas Jefferson, namely “a wall of separation between Church and State,” becoming enshrined as law. Prior to the 1947 Everson decision there is absolutely no precedent suggesting that the Constitution ought to be interpreted as espousing a “wall” separating Church and State. Thanks to stare decisis (which holds that a principle of law is established by the one judicial decision) and Masonic domination of the Supreme Court from 1937-1971 that allowed this decision and many others traditional Judeo-Christian values were permanently removed. This is why Pope Leo XII in his encyclical On Freemasonry cautioned that the Masons “ultimate purpose forces itself in view—namely, the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world that Christian teaching has produced.” It is also one of the reasons why the Church has always forbade the Faithful to be members of the Masonic Lodge.
For a great number of Catholics the fact that they cannot both be Masons and a Catholic is a surprise, but it is the constant teaching of the Church. In the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 2335), Catholics who enjoyed membership in a Masonic organization or any other similar group that plotted against the Church or civil authority incurred the penalty of excommunication. Unfortunately this wording only led to confusion since there is no single governing body for Masons throughout the world and many lodges were not actively engaged in plotting against the Church and civil authority. Pastorally many interpreted this to mean that they could join certain lodges. Some even received ecclesial approval from their local bishop to do so. When the 1983 code of Canon Law was promulgated it only added to the confusion by not mentioning Freemasonry at all, saying “[A] person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict” (CCL, 1374). It seemed as if the prohibition against Freemasonry had been lifted.
In order to avoid any further confusion, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) issued its Declaration on Masonic Associations, shortly after the release of the new Canon Law. He removed any ambiguity by issuing a four-point declaration. First he declared that Canon 1374 has the same essential import as old Canon 2334. The fact that the term “Masonic sect” was not mentioned is irrelevant. Second, the canonical penalties are in no way abrogated because the Church’s negative judgment against Masonry is based on the fact that their principles are irreconcilable with Church teaching. The main problem is not that Masons conspire against the Church (this is secondary) but the content of its teachings (of which the conspiring is its fruit).
Third, Catholics who join are in grave sin and may not receive Communion. Finally to avoid any confusion with individual priests and bishops saying it is okay, he said that no local authority has competence to derogate from these judgments.
It is easy to overlook just how irregular the third point is. “[T]he faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.” Normally the Church will speak of an action being objectively grave matter and leave the question of subjective guilt (e.g. “in a state of grave sin”) to the individual and his confessor. However what he is saying is that this is so grievous an act and the teachings of the Craft so contrary to all that is Christian, that the person who joins a Lodge is immediately guilty of a grave offense.
If you were to ask most Masons, they would describe Freemasonry as a fraternal organization. They would deny that it has any religious content or teaches a belief system. Their only requirement is each member believe in God in order to join. They would cite all of the great good they do in society, especially towards sick children (the Shriners are Masonic organization). The general public also would be perplexed as to why if animated by a Post-Vatican II ecumenical spirit, the Church would persist in condemning such an organization.
To begin, it is disingenuous at best to say that Freemasonry is not a religion. The letter “G” in its symbol stands for “Geometry” as the gateway to the “Grand Architect of the Universe” or “whatever your name for the Supreme Being is.” But this is not the only religious reference found in Freemasonry. In fact many of its rites are perversions of the sacraments (i.e. “sacrileges). They have a “baptismal” rite by which a father renews his promises and promises that the child will be under the protection of the lodge. Likewise they mimic the Eucharist in a Holy Thursday “liturgy” in which they never mention Jesus by name and candles being snuffed out one by one (the last one representing Jesus) in a form of black mass.
The “Grand Commander,” Albert Pike wrote Morals and Dogma as a compilation of the teachings of Freemasonry that are necessary for the initiation to higher degrees of membership in the Lodge. In many ways it serves as a “catechism” of freemasonry. Pike himself says that the Craft is “[E]very Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instruction in religion” (p.213). In a somewhat schizophrenic manner he earlier claimed that “Masonry is not a religion. He who makes of it a religious belief, falsifies and denaturalizes it. The Brahmin, the Jew, the Mahometan, the Catholic, the Protestant, each professing his peculiar religion, sanctioned by the laws, by time, and by climate, must needs retain it, and cannot have two religions; for the social and sacred laws adapted to the usages, manners, and prejudices of particular countries, are the work of men. But Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenets of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundation of all religions.” (p.161)
The point is that they avoid the claim to be a religion by portending to be the foundation of all religions upon which the man is to build his personal creed. As foundation, it is of course superior to all others. Some of the basic Freemason religious doctrines include that religion can hope to attract the masses only by deliberately teaching error, God deliberately leads most people away from the truth, Christ is not divine and Satan is not evil.
Pope Leo XIII labeled the masonic teachings under the religion of naturalism. Naturalism denies “any dogma of religion or truth which cannot be understood by human intelligence.” It is appealing to Christians because it uses Christian terminology. There is no need for divine revelation because all can be known through human reason. In fact even if there was divine revelation it could not be put into words much less into hard and fast dogma. Masonry as a “religion of reason” is clearly antithetical to Catholicism as a revealed religion. The symbol of the cornerstone is meant to convey that Masons have within them the “sure foundation of eternal life.” This means they have no need for Christ or the Church. In essence they have made an idol out of reason and set it up as their god.
Not only is Freemasonry a violation of the First Commandment, but it is also a violation of the Second as well. As the member grows in the degrees of Freemasonry, he takes numerous oaths at each stage. These oaths are gravely harmful because they call upon God to witness against Himself as He as revealed Himself through the Church or He is being called to witness to a farce (at best). It is not so much the secret nature of these oaths (with the internet and some strategic googling it is hardly a secret anymore) but the oaths that is the problem.
One may be tempted to merely agree that Christians should not be Masons, but in and of themselves Masons are harmless. Leo XIII reminds us that much of the work of the Masons remains veiled. He cautions that although the City of God and the City of Man have been at all times at war with each other “although not always with equal ardor and assault…the partisans of evil seem to be combining together…led on or assisted by …Freemasons.” In a prophetic manner, Leo XIII summarized their teachings as:
- They attempt to teach a “civil” morality
- They reject doctrine of Original Sin and fail to see man as more disposed to vice as to virtue
- With respect to marriage it is a commercial contract that can be rightly revoked by the will of those who made it and the State has power over the matrimonial bond
- Youth should not be taught religion but follow what they want when they come of age
- They teach the heresy of indifferentism (the belief that all religions are the same)
Who could dispute that the Masonic influence is felt greatly today in this summary of American religious convictions? In an age of Co-existence, the Church and the Lodge remain at irreconcilable odds.