Vatican: The Prohibition of Masonry for Catholics Due to Its Grave Sinfulness
The Vatican has reaffirmed its stance on the prohibition of Catholics joining the Masons, branding it as a “grave sin.” This statement comes in response to a request made by Bishop Dom Julito Cortes of Dumaguete in the Philippines, who expressed his concerns over the increasing number of faithful in his diocese affiliating with the Masonic fraternity.
The response from the Vatican came in the form of a letter dated November 13, 2023, signed by Mayor Victor Fernandéz and blessed by Pope Francis, which confirmed that it is still forbidden for Catholics to join the Masons. Bishop Cortes sought advice on how to address this growing issue within his diocese, as well as its theological implications.
To tackle this issue, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith, in collaboration with the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines, has proposed a coordinated strategy involving two approaches: theological absorption and pastoral intervention.
On matters of faith and doctrine, the Vatican’s directive is unequivocal: “A faithful person may not actively affiliate with the Masonic Lodge.” This stance was initially laid out in the 1983 Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was later reinforced by the Conference of Bishops in 2003. The Vatican’s response clarifies that not only do those who formally and knowingly register with Masonic societies and adhere to Masonic principles fall under the provisions of the aforementioned Declaration, but this also applies to clergy members who choose to join the Masons.
In terms of the pastoral approach, the dicastério recommends that all parish priests in the Philippines conduct catechesis sessions aimed at educating the faithful about the incompatibility of Masonic rituals with Catholic faith. Furthermore, the bishops of the Philippines are urged to prayerfully consider issuing a public statement on this matter to ensure that the message reaches a wider audience.
The Declaration of November 1983, which coincided with the introduction of the new Code of Canon Law, played a significant role in this reaffirmation of the Vatican’s position. The new Code superseded the 1917 Code, and although it did not explicitly condemn Freemasonry or prescribe excommunication for its members like its predecessor, the Declaration emphasized that Catholics involved in Masonic lodges are “in a state of grave sin.”
This clarification from the Vatican reinforces the church’s long-standing view on the incompatibility of Catholicism with Freemasonry. The Masonic fraternity’s secretive nature, initiation rituals, and philosophy that promotes self-improvement and moral development through its symbolic practices have been viewed as conflicting with Catholic teachings. The prohibition on Catholics joining the Masons stems from concerns over potential conflicts of loyalty and the implication of being part of an organization that may have objectives inconsistent with Catholic faith and teachings.
While the Vatican’s response may disappoint those Catholics who have chosen to affiliate with the Masons, it serves as a reminder of the importance the church places on the unity of faith and adherence to its teachings. By firmly reiterating the prohibition and considering pastoral strategies, the Vatican aims to guide the faithful towards a deeper understanding of the theological position on Masonry and encourage adherence to Catholic teachings.
In conclusion, the Vatican remains steadfast in its stance on the prohibition of Catholics joining the Masonic fraternity due to the belief that it constitutes a grave sin. This recent response from the Vatican to the concerns raised by Bishop Cortes emphasizes the necessity for coordinated efforts within the Philippines to address this issue both theologically and pastorally. As Catholics around the world grapple with the implications of this prohibition on their religious freedoms, it is clear that the Vatican’s priority is to safeguard the unity and fidelity of the Catholic faith.