Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Modern Vatican and Freemasonry


Back in 1996, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz in Lincoln, Nebraska apparently excommunicated members of the Catholic reform group Call To Action. Call To Action understandably upsets the established hierarchy of the Church because it advocates female priests, an end to the celibacy requirements, democratic election of bishops, and a host of other reforms that are at odds with long-standing Church law.

In his letter to the Vatican for a ruling on his judgement, apparently Bruskewitz lumped Call To Action members in with Planned Parenthood, Society of St. Pius X and its St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, Hemlock Society, Catholics for a Free Choice, along with the Freemasons, Job's Daughters, DeMolay, the Order of the Eastern Star, and Rainbow Girls.

After ten years, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, got around to responding to Bishop Bruskewitz, upholding his order of excommunication within his diocese of Call To Action members.

Now what does this have to do with the Freemasons, much less DeMolay, Job's Daughters and Rainbow Girls? Well, before my brethren get all atwitter, examine the various articles that talk about this issue:

Vatican affirms bishop's excommunication of Call to Action members

Vatican Upholds Neb. Excommunications

Vatican upholds excommunication ruling


I say read these carefully for a reason. The Vatican ONLY upheld the excommunication of Call To Action members, and did not mention Freemasons and its appendant bodies in its response. It also seems to only uphold the excommunication within Bishop Bruskewitz's diocese.

It should be of interest to Freemasons who are practicing Catholics. The new Pope takes a hard line on those who want to tinker with canon law or skirt church doctrine. In his own 1983 statement from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Ratzinger made it clear that there has been no change in the interpretation of the historic encyclicals.

The problem among U.S. Catholics for years has been the tendency to ignore church rules we didn't like - I count myself part of that group. The Church has a major problem with that. Catholics who don't follow the rules are trying to bend the Church into something it isn't. This Vatican isn't interested in liberalizing - and seems to feel that Catholics who want it to change can go elsewhere. And they have a side to their argument - the Church hasn't left its members, it is its members who are leaving the Church.

It's a certain similarity to folks who dislike being told their activity is a sin. We want to keep doing it, we just don't want people to tell us it's a sin. If you read the articles, they also don't go for Catholics who support abortion. They aren't saying you can't be pro-abortion rights, they just say you can't be for them and be a practicing Catholic at the same time. They are mutually exclusive, and you are free to go find another church. These aren't the Middle Ages, and there are plenty of alternatives these days.

I got a note yesterday from a former member of a Masonic Forum that I am an administrator for. He had been a Mason for 52 years, and was a Past Master four times. He is also a Catholic. Apparently, his parish priest saw his Masonic license plates in the parking lot and confronted him over it. The Brother was forced to choose between his faith and his lodge, and his faith won.

It's not a contest. For him, his choice was a simple one. His Church said Masons would be excommunicated, so he resigned from the fraternity.

As Freemasonry gains in public awareness, and potentially new growth, these conflicts will increase, and our Catholic brethren will be forced to decide. It's a shame, because Masons know that the root reasons for the Church's objections to Freemasonry are based on false premises and events from the past. And regular Freemasonry, especially in America, is also tarred by the activities of irregular Masons like the Grand Orient of France who really have - and continue to - fight against the Church and publicly support laws that restrict religious freedoms in other countries. US and UK Freemasonry does no such thing, but we suffer at the hands of others. I fear the result will be the loss of more brethren who will be forced to choose.

8 comments:

Michael said...

As a Catholic, I took seriously the Church's attitude toward Freemasonry, and examined their stated reasons; their reasons, I concluded, are specious. If I ask a fellow Catholic to petition for membership in my lodge, I will tell him to look carefully at the Church's reasons before deciding anything.

Chris Hodapp said...

I have been astonished over the years over how many Catholics I have found in Freemasonry. I was raised in the Church, attended Catholic grade school for three years, and graduated from a Jesuit high school. But it was precisely because of my personal disagreement with the Church's position on such matters that drove me away from it. And that was long before I ever thought about becoming a Freemason.

I am not one of those cafeteria Catholics who picks and chooses what I want to believe and ignore the rest. That is spiritually and intellectually dishonest. There is much too large a clot of Catholics these days who want to stay in the Church, but just want the Church to quit calling them names and condemning their favorite vice, pastime or behavior. It's not like Canon Law has been changing on them - the Church changes at glacial speed. It's not like the Vatican surprises anybody over topics like abortion, birth control, celibacy, women celebrants or Freemasonry. It's been pretty up front about these official positions for centuries.

My own reasoning says that American Freemasonry does not engage in combat against the Church and does not force the individual Catholic Mason to question its primacy in the hearts of its faithful. I reject the Church's position that Freemasonry is an ersatz religion, in spite of its ritual, Bible, alter, etc. I reject their position that Freemasonry encourages ecumenicalism. American Freemasonry is neutral on the subject of religion and is not out to proselytize.

However, the Church has based its decisions on the historical and worldwide experiences it has encountered with Freemasonry. Face it - one of the Church's biggest gripes with Freemasonry and "free thinkers" in the 1700s was that it questioned the Divine Right of kings and popes to rule over men. Pope Leo XIII's Humanum Genus railed against the notion of democracy and Freemasonry's role in it. Why? because Brother Garibaldi had wrested the papal states from Vatican control.

Remember that today in Europe, especially the Grand Orient of France, engages in public demonstrations, writes position papers and holds meetings with government officials to express their support for completely non-sectarian laws that restrict any public displays of religion. And the GOoF makes no bones about being anti-Catholic. This is where the Vatican sees Freemasonry at its most offensive.

And before we American Masons get too smug, remember that the AASR-SJ was locked in a noisy and very public battle against the Catholic Church for almost 70 years. Go through old copies of the New Age Magazine and you will discover at least one offensive swipe at the Church or the Pope in every single issue. That lasted all the way up until the 1960s. And the Church was never wild about all of that "trampling on the Papal tiara" business in Pike's 30th degree, no matter how it was wrapped in allegory over the death of Jacques de Molay.

I will simply note that Cardinal Re's letter upholding the excommunications in Lincoln, Nebraska ONLY referred to the Call To Action members, and did not address the others on Bruskewitz's list. I have gotten the impression over the years that the Church believes public excommunication is bad PR and tends to remain silent on us Masons unless someone really jumps the shark.

But I will also point out that the official stance of the Church ever since 1882 has been 100% against Freemasonry, with no equivocation. Justify your own actions as you may in your heart. But Papal Infallibility in Ex Catheda has not been repudiated by the Church the last time I looked.

I find it almost hilarious that in old articles from 1996 when this trouble started brewing in Lincoln that many of these people the good Bishop was hurling excommunication at were threatening to sue him in court. If the Church is so at odds with your personal beliefs, these aren't the MIddle Ages. There are plenty of places these days to worship the Grand Architect of the Universe besides the church you disagree so strongly with.

Michael said...

Brother Chris, my disagreements with the Church are legion, but conscience will out. Home is home, and I have them in the Church and in the Lodge. That said, my disagreements with the official Church's pronouncements on gay priests (can't be allowed, no matter how holy or celibate) have led me to decline to present myself for communion.

Canon Law has little to do with brotherly love.

Anonymous said...

I am a recent convert to Catholicism, not too many years ago. My sponser was a Catholic Mason. He and another Catholic Mason and the Master of the Lodge, past Senior Grand Warden whose wife is Catholic, all presented the Priest at my confirmation a special gift, a chausuble in my name.

My RCIA instructor accepted my invitation to a Masonic Lodge where I was part of a Masonic play "A Rose Upon The Altar" which was performed for the Knights of Columbus in a joint Knights-Masonic gathering(including a meal together).

But I was a Mason first long before I became Catholic. Knowing the attitude of the Church I went to my Priest before embarking on my journey and told Him I was a Freemason and asked him would he let me join the Catholic Church. He said Masons are fine men and I can find nothing wrong in what they do or say, so yes come into the Church with full communion.

So I am a Catholic Mason approved by a representative of the Church. Now I am sure not all Catholic hierarchy would agree or accept this decision. But that's their problem not mine. I did not join the Catholic Church without informing them that I was a Freemason. My Priest placed no restricitions on my membership. Because other Catholics do not agree, that's their problem. I followed all the rules and regulations at the local level. I was upfront and honest about who I am and what I do. I did not sneak behind their back and make my own rules.

For this reason I believe I am an exception to your posted thoughts.

Wor. Frederic L. Milliken
Rowlett, Texas

Anonymous said...

I am really shocked by the way you get along with the catholic church accusing the freemasons of the GOdF.

Maybe you need to make a little research about it.

Jay said...

Two bits:
first, a man who joined here communicated with the Bishop of Alexandria (Louisiana), who said that it's for each bishop to decide if Masonry in his diocese is acceptable, and to go ahead and join.

second, joining Masonry was the straw that broke the camel's back for me with regard to the Catholic Church. I now count myself a nondenominational Christian, with strong Unitarian and Christian Science leanings.

Neil Larsen said...

I was raised Pentecostal and converted to Catholicism at age 30, at 32 I became a Freemason. These are 2 of the most pivotal points in my life. My faith is unwavering and my brotherhood is undeniable.

I read the Church's attitudes about Freemasonry with a heavy heart since I, like most all Catholic Freemasons, see no contradiction between the two. My faith in God and my service to man cannot be muted, even if that means I am no longer welcome in the Church.

Christ did not turn away the believers, I will not turn away my brothers...as God knows my heart.

google said...

I am a practicing Catholic and a Freemason...Have been since the age of reason. Through my Catholic education and the guidance of my brothers, I have come to realize many truths about the world around me. From this perspective I have an opinion about what naysayers have been saying about Christianity and Freemasonry. Naysayers are concerned about the secretive nature of our rituals and signs, they are concerned about the (so called) hidden power of the masonic brotherhood in government. It is my opinion that they fear what they do not understand and that the Catholic church encourages this behavior inorder to opose the only other organiazation on the planet that might be able to go toe to toe with the Catholic church. All organizations have secrets, all people have secrets...the Catholic church definately has its own secrets to care about.