Freemasonry: Can A Catholic Be A Member?

I was once a freemason.  Freemasonry was something I became interested in when I wasn’t taking my faith seriously.  It offered something I had been looking for such as friendship, a social life, and of course the teachings were interesting.  However, when I started taking the faith seriously, I realized that freemasonry just is not compatible with the Catholic faith.

Freemasonry has Always Been Banned by the Church

The first known grand lodge was established in England in 1717. Since 1738 the church has made 53 pronouncements against it. 

Shortly thereafter, in 1738, Pope Clement XII wrote the papal bull In Eminenti.  This bull banned Catholics from joining the masonic organization under pain of excommunication.  Pope clement the XII wrote,

“but they must stay completely clear of such Societies, Companies, Assemblies, Meetings, Congregations or Conventicles, under pain of excommunication for all the above mentioned people, which is incurred by the very deed without any declaration being required, and from which no one can obtain the benefit of absolution, other than at the hour of death, except through Ourselves or the Roman Pontiff of the time”.

This is serious stuff.

Didn’t the Church Change its Standing

This is a common misconception.  In fact, I met a former Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus who is very involved in various masonic orders.  He stated that he took advantage of the change of opinion in 1983 to join the order.  Section 2335 of the 1917 Code of Canon law states,

“Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See.”

Pretty clear.  In the 1983 code the penalty of excommunication remains, but freemasonry is removed.  This is the misunderstanding.  A more general theme of joining an order that conspired against the church was inserted.  To clarify the stance of the church Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, wrote this when head of the Congregation For The Doctrine Of Faith,

“Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”

Brother, Brothers, Compass, Freemasonry

Catholics Cannot be Freemasons

The position of the church remains unchanged.  Furthermore, in the Scottish rite degrees, the 30th degree is called the Knight of Kadosh.  In that degree a papal tiara is stomped on and declared to be a sign of tyranny and despotism.

In the interview below I interview theologian and historian David L. Gray about Freemasonry and why it is against church teaching.

Be sure to visit David’s website at and listen to his great radio show on Guadalupe radio every Wednesday at 4pm CST.

4 thoughts on “Freemasonry: Can A Catholic Be A Member?

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  1. The business about trampling the papal tiara in the 30th degree of the Scottish Rite is a contested fact.

    Full disclosure: I’m Catholic and I’m no fan of freemasonry, but if we’re rejecting it, we need to reject it for legitimate reasons and because of not apocryphal data. Some Catholic rhetoric against Freemasonry these days gives off “Satanists want to eat your children” moral panic vibes. To stave off potential Catholic interest in Freemasonry, the simplest way is to argue that they promote religious indifferentism, which is a heresy.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree on the indifferently front, but I took part in that degree several times. The tiara was stomped along with other crowns of various monarchies.

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