Some days, I just want to sit and stare off into space. Maybe imagine myself on a tropical beach somewhere, far from the Internet. Far from stories like this one, about a letter written by Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture…to “Brother Masons”:
IL SOLE 24ORESunday, February 14, 2016[Excerpts]
“…These various declarations on the incompatibility of the two memberships in the Church or in Freemasonry, do not impede, however, dialogue, as is explicitly stated in the German Bishops’ document that had already listed the specific areas of discussion, such as the communitarian dimension, works of charity, the fight against materialism, human dignity and knowledge of each other.“Further, we need to rise above that stance from certain Catholic integralist spheres, which – in order to hit out at some exponents even in the Church’s hierarchy who displease them – have recourse to accusing them apodictically of being members of Freemasonry. In conclusion, as the German Bishops wrote, we need to go beyond reciprocal “hostility, insults and prejudices” since “in comparison to past centuries the tone and way of manifesting [our]differences has improved and changed” even if they [the differences] still remain in a clearly defined way.”
[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana | Source: Il Timone]
Now, I know that many of you are well-versed on the longstanding conflict between Freemasonry and the Church. It’s not a topic I enjoy touching on too frequently, because good heavens does it lead to all kinds of weird commentary.
But Freemasonry is a real secret society. It is also true that Freemasonry has long been condemned by the Church as a sworn enemy of Catholicism. We explored this topic in some depth in our three-part series, Revolution in Tiara and Cope.
The Church forbids Catholics from being Freemasons, full stop. It has done so for centuries. Here’s what Pope Leo XIII wrote about Freemasonry in his 1884 encyclical on the topic, Humanum Genus:
At so urgent a crisis, when so fierce and so pressing an onslaught is made upon the Christian name, it is Our office to point out the danger, to mark who are the adversaries, and to the best of Our power to make head against their plans and devices, that those may not perish whose salvation is committed to Us, and that the kingdom of Jesus Christ entrusted to Our charge may not stand and remain whole, but may be enlarged by an ever-increasing growth throughout the world.
The Roman Pontiffs Our predecessors, in their incessant watchfulness over the safety of the Christian people, were prompt in detecting the presence and the purpose of this capital enemy immediately it sprang into the light instead of hiding as a dark conspiracy; and, moreover, they took occasion with true foresight to give, as it were on their guard, and not allow themselves to be caught by the devices and snares laid out to deceive them.
The first warning of the danger was given by Clement XII in the year 1738, and his constitution was confirmed and renewed by Benedict XIV. Pius VII followed the same path; and Leo XII, by his apostolic constitution, Quo Graviora, put together the acts and decrees of former Pontiffs on this subject, and ratified and confirmed them forever. In the same sense spoke Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, and, many times over, Pius IX.
For as soon as the constitution and the spirit of the masonic sect were clearly discovered by manifest signs of its actions, by the investigation of its causes, by publication of its laws, and of its rites and commentaries, with the addition often of the personal testimony of those who were in the secret, this apostolic see denounced the sect of the Freemasons, and publicly declared its constitution, as contrary to law and right, to be pernicious no less to Christendom than to the State; and it forbade any one to enter the society, under the penalties which the Church is wont to inflict upon exceptionally guilty persons.
With me so far? Pope Leo called the rise of Freemasonry an “urgent crisis”, called Freemasonry a “dark conspiracy”, listed six popes who had addressed it, not including himself. He made clear that his pontificate denounced Freemasonry in no uncertain terms, and levied heavy penalties against those members of the faithful who would enter into it.
It’s a long encyclical, and I’m only quoting highights, but here is one that can’t go without mention:
[T]heir ultimate purpose forces itself into view — namely, the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced, and the substitution of a new state of things in accordance with their ideas, of which the foundations and laws shall be drawn from mere naturalism.
An analysis of the political aims of Freemasonry follows, but that’s not my purpose here. Suffice to say, this encyclical is packed with ideas that will prick the American conscience, especially in an election year. But let me give you one last blast from good Pope Leo:
Knowing these things, both princes and people would act with political wisdom, and according to the needs of general safety, if, instead of joining with Freemasons to destroy the Church, they joined with the Church in repelling their attacks.
Whatever the future may be, in this grave and widespread evil it is Our duty, venerable brethren, to endeavor to find a remedy. And because We know that Our best and firmest hope of a remedy is in the power of that divine religion which the Freemasons hate in proportion to their fear of it, We think it to be of chief importance to call that most saving power to Our aid against the common enemy. Therefore, whatsoever the Roman Pontiffs Our predecessors have decreed for the purpose of opposing the undertakings and endeavors of the masonic sect, and whatsoever they have enacted to enter or withdraw men from societies of this kind, We ratify and confirm it all by our apostolic authority: and trusting greatly to the good will of Christians, We pray and beseech each one, for the sake of his eternal salvation, to be most conscientiously careful not in the least to depart from what the apostolic see has commanded in this matter.
We pray and beseech you, venerable brethren, to join your efforts with Ours, and earnestly to strive for the extirpation of this foul plague, which is creeping through the veins of the body politic. You have to defend the glory of God and the salvation of your neighbor; and with the object of your strife before you, neither courage nor strength will be wanting.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the rules against Catholics having anything to do with Freemasonry are still in force, if rarely mentioned.
So. You just read a summation of authoritative, Magisterial thought on this issue – thought compiled from the writings of seven popes.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure the the exhortation for Catholics to earnestly “strive for the extirpation of this foul plague” is not just fancy 19th-century papal talk for dialogue.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.