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.