Roman Catholics Against Freemasons
The Catholic animus against Protestantism was evident, Freemasonry being regarded as little more than a weapon wielded by the religious foes of Rome, i.e., Jews and Protestants. According to some, Freemasonry is the political instrument of the Jews who possess no beliefs; according to others, it is the mainstay of Protestantism; there are not wanting even those who assert that the Evil One himself is the Supreme Ranger of this body of world-skirmishers.
The Freemasons had always been feared by the Roman Catholic priesthood, because they have rarely been able to obtain any information of its secret arts and hidden mysteries, even by means of the Confessional. They also invariably found that the most intelligent members of their flocks, when once they have entered into the Order, have become more independent, and less easy to be coerced by spiritual restraint. Masonry led those who embrace it to act with firmness and decision upon questions whereon once they had been dependent, and perhaps subservient. This is antagonistic to the Roman Catholic system, and although neither politics, nor religion - as it is well known among Masons - are ever permitted to be discussed within the recesses of the tyled Lodge, yet the Roman Catholic priesthood will not believe this, 'and tremble lest means should be devised in these localities to crush their power and destroy their influence. It is no matter that Roman Catholics, when they have become Freemasons, attend as regularly as formerly to their religious duties.
Another authority seems to their priestly guides to be set up, antagonistic to their own-a kind of imperium in imperio which they cannot withstand; and since Rome can endure no rival near her throne, she never fails to visit those of her children with denunciation, anathema, and excommunication. Every Freemason, therefore, is, and justly, excommunicated; the mere Apprentices, as well as the Grand-Orients, and the GrandMasters, the high and the low, the female and the male Freemasons, the members of Lodges, as well as the adepts of the back Lodges.
The Church, by the grand voice of the Popes, has solemnly and expressly condemned Freemasonry. The Roman Catholic religion had always been anti-Masonic, and hence edicts have constantly been promulgated by popes and sovereigns in Roman Catholic countries against the Order. A long line of Sovereign Pontiffs have placed Freemasonry in the list of secret societies, the members of which are pitilessly excommunicated by the Church of Home.
As far back as the first half of the 18th century, when Masonry was more openly organized in Europe, Pope Clement the XII, condemned it in a Bull, dated April 23d, 1738. " Reflecting," says the Pope, " on the great evils with which those clandestine societies threaten, either the peace of States, or the salvation of souls, after having consulted our Venerable Brethren the Cardinals, of our own accord, and in the fulness of Apostolical power, we have enacted and decreed that the aforesaid societies, assemblies, or meetings of Freemasons, whichever name they take, must be condemned and proscribed, as we do condemn and proscribe them by the present constitution, the effect of which is to last forever." " To this end," he adds, " by virtue of holy obedience, we forbid all and every Christian faithful, of whatever profession, dignity or condition, clergymen or laymen, secular or regular, to establish, propagate or favor the society called Freemasons, to admit it in their houses, to be affiliated to it, and to assist at its meetings, under penalty of excommunication to be incurred, ipso facto, without any new declaration, and especially reserved to us and to our successors, so that no one can absolve from it without our permission, except at the point of death."
During the reign of Benedict the XlVth, some persons endeavored to make it believed that the Constitution of Clement the Xllth, was no more binding, and that those who then were affiliated to the society of Freemasons, did not incur excommunication. After seriously examining the question, the illustrious Pontiff hastened to undeceive them, and by his Bull of May 28th, 1751, he confirmed his predecessor's Constitution in all its injunctions. " That no one may accuse us," says he, " to have failed in what prudence requires of us, we have resolved to re-issue our predecessor's Constitution, by inserting it word for word in our present letters; thus acting with clear knowledge, and by virtue of the fulness of Apostolical power, we confirm it, we re-issue it, aud we order and decree that it be, from this day, put to execution, as if it were now published for the first time."
The Society of Carbonari so called, which, at the beginning of the 19th century, spread all over Europe, and especially over Italy, was seen as but a ramification of Freemasonry. In his Bull of Sept. 13th, 1821, Pope Pius the VII, describes its main features ; he shows its intimate connection with the Masonic Order; he indicates all the evils to be feared from it for Religion and Christian society; and those evils have been but too much realized ever since until now. By that Constitution, the Venerable Pius the Vllth, decrees the same penalty of excommunication, especially reserved to the Apostolic See, against all those who would join it or favor it in any way whatever.
In 1825, Pope Leo XII, viewing all secret societies in their whole, was terrified at the thought of all the evils which Religion and the State had to fear from them; he saw with an inexpressible grief that in them religious indifference was preached, that they received men of all religions and of all beliefs ; that they assumed the right of life and death over those who broke the secrets of the Lodges, or refused to fulfil the criminal orders given to them; he was appalled at the deep contempt shown by them for all authority. Consequently, in his Bull of March 13th, 1825, he republished, in a most express manner, the Constitutions issued against secret societies, and particularly against Freemasons, by his predecessors, Clement the XII, Benedict the XlVth, and Pius the VII, and forbade, as they did, all the faithful to affiliate themselves to them, and to join them in any way whatever, under penalty of excommunication ipso facto, and especially reserved to the Holy See, so that the Pope alone could absolve from it, except in case of death.
Lastly, in his Allocution of Sept. 1865, the Holy Father, Pope Pius the IXth, deplores, as his predecessors, all the evils inflicted on the Catholic Religion, and on Christian civilization by the secret societies in general, and in particular by that of the Freemasons. He republishes all the dispositions contained in the Apostolical Constitutions of Popes Clement XII, Benedict XIV, Pius the VII, and Leo the XII, and especially the penalty of excommunication laid on all those who are affiliated to them, or who favor them in any way. He exhorts the faithful who might have had the misfortune to be received in them, to leave them forthwith, in order to save their souls, and, at the same time, he strongly exhorts those who, so far, were fortunate enough to stay away from them, never to allow themselves to be drawn into that dangerous abyss.
It was on September 25, 1865, that Pius IX issued his allocution against Freemasonry:
Venerable Brethren: Among the numerous machinations and artifices by which the enemies of the Christian name have dared to attack the Church of God, and sought to shake and undermine it by efforts alien to the truth, must undoubtedly be reckoned that perverse society of men commonly styled Freemasons, which at first held in darkness and obscurity, now comes forth into the light for the common ruin of religion and human society. From the moment our predecessors, the Roman pontiffs, faithful to their pastoral office, discovered their snares and frauds, they considered there was no time to be lost in checking by their authority, and by striking and rending by a sentence of excommunication, as with a sword, this sect which breathed forth crime, and attacked things sacred and public.
Our predecessor, Clement XII. by his apostolic letters proscribed and rebuked this sect, and dissuaded all the faithful, not only from joining it, but also from promoting or encouraging it in any manner whatsoever, under the penalty of excommunication which the Roman pontiff alone can remove. Benedict XIV by his constitutions confirmed this just and legitimate sentence of condemnation, and did not fail to exhort the Catholic sovereign princes to devote all their solicitude to repress this most immoral sect, and defend society against a common danger. Would to Heaven these monarch* had listened to the words of our predecessor! Would to Heaven that in so grave a matter they had acted less feebly' Truly neither we nor our fathers would then have had.to deplore the many seditious movements, the many incendiary wars which have set the whole of Europe in flames, nor the many bitter calamities which have afflicted, and still afflict the church. But the rage of the wicked being far from appeased, Pius VII, our predecessor, anathematized a sect of recent birth-the Carbonari-which had propagated itself, particularly in Italy; and influenced by the same zeal for souls Leo XII condemned by his apostolic letters not only the secret societies we have just mentioned, but every other, by whatever name called, which conspired against the church and the civil power, and warned all the faithful to avoid them under penalty of excommunication.
However, these efforts of the Apostolic See have not met with the success hoped for. The Masonic sect of which we speak has not been vanquished or overthrown; on the contrary, it has so developed itself that in these troublous days it exists everywhere with impunity, and bears a bold front. We have therefore thought it our duty to return to this subject, since from' ignorance perhaps of their guilty intrigues, which are clandestinely effected, an erroneous opinion may prevail that the character of this society is harmless; that the institution has no other-object than of succoring men and assisting them in adversity, and that in this society there is nothing to fear for the church of God. But who does not knowthat this is far from the truth? What means this association of men belonging to all religions and of every creed? To what end are these clandestine meetings, and the rigorous oath exacted from the initiated, binding them never to reveal anything that may take place ?
For what good is that unheard-of atrocity of penalties and chastisements which the initiated vow to accept should they fail to keep their oath? A society which thus avoids the light of day must surely be impious and criminal. "He who does ill," says the apostle, "hates the light." How different from such an association are the pious societies of the faithful which flourish in the Catholic church! With them there is no reticence, no obscurity. The law which governs them is clear to all-clear, also, are the works of charity practiced according to the gospel doctrine. Thus it is not without grief that we have seen Catholic societies of this nature, so salutary and so well calculated to excite piety and to succor the poor, attacked, and even destroyed in some places; while, on the contrary, secret Freemasonry, though so inimical to the church and to God-so dangerous even for the security of kingdoms-is encouraged, or at least tolerated.
Venerable brethren, we feel pain and bitterness to see that, when it is requisite to rebuke this sect according to the constitutions of our predecessors, some persons are indulgent, almost supine; whereas in so grave a matter the obligations of their office and their duty demanded that they should display the greatest activity. If these persons think that the apostolic constitutions fulminated under penalty of anathema against occult sects and their adepts and abettors have no force in the countries where the said sects are tolerated by the civil power, they are assuredly very greatly in error. As you are aware, venerable brethren, we have already re, bilked, and now again rebuke and condemn, the fallacy of this mischievous doctrine. Indeed, is the supreme authority to feed and guide the universal flock, which the Roman pontiffs received from Christ in the person of the blessed Peter, and the supreme power they must exercise in the church, to depend upon the civil powrer; or can they by any means be constrained or violated by it?
Under these circumstances, lest youth and unthinking men should allow themselves to be led astray in principle, and lest our silence should offer any opportunity of protecting error, we have resolved, venerable brethren, to raise our apostolic voice, and to confirm here, in your presence, the constitutions of our predecessors. On the part of our apostolic authority we rebuke and condemn this Masonic society and the other societies of the same description, which, though differing in form, tend to the same end, and which conspire, overtly or clandestinely, against the church or legitimate authority; and we will that the said societies be held proscribed and rebuked by us, under the same penalties which are specified in the previous constitutions of our predecessors, and this in the sight of all the faithful in Christ, of every condition, rank and dignity, throughout all the earth.
There remains now nothing to satisfy the wishes and solicitude of our paternal heart except to warn and admonish the faithful, who may have associated themselves with sects of this character, to obey in future wise inspirations, and to abandon fatal counsels, in order that they may not be dragged into the abyss of eternal perdition. As regards all others of the faithful, filled with solicitude for their souls, we strongly exhort them to be upon their guard against the perfidious language of sectarians who, under a fair exterior are inflamed with burning hatred against the religion of Christ and legitimate authority, and who have but one single thought and single end, namely, to overthrow all rights, both human and divine. Let them well understand that those affiliated to such sects are like wolves which Christ our Lord prophesied would come, disguised in sheep's clothing, to devour the flock; let them understand that they are of the number of those whoso society the apostle has also forbidden, eloquently prohibiting us from even saying unto them, "Hail."
As late as 1918 the Canons of the Code of Canon Law provided that "excommunication simply reserved to the pope" was incurred by those who join the Freemasons or other associations of the same kind that scheme against the Church or legitimate civil authorities (can. 2335); the penalty was formerly expressly directed also against all who countenanced these sects in any way and all who did not inform against the occult chiefs or leaders. Excommunications were divided into five categories, according as they are reserved: (a) very specially to the pope; (b) specially to the pope; (c) simply to the pope; (d) to the bishop; (e) to no one. Of these the first class, though admitted by canonists, was not hitherto formally recognized by the law. An excommunicated person is either toleratus (one who is tolerated) or vitandus (one to be shunned); no one is to be considered a vitandus unless he has been excommunicated by the Holy See by name, has been publicly denounced as such, and has been expressly declared a vitandus in the decree or judgment. Even a toleratus, who is publicly known to be excommunicated or on whom such sentence has been judicially passed, must be excluded from active participation in Divine service. No excommunicated person may receive the sacraments.
They are expressly excommunicated ; they have no more any share in the prayers of the Church; they must not any more assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, nor at the other public services; nor can they receive any sacrament. If they die in that state, they forfeit all rights to ecclesiastical burial, because the Church does not count them any more among her Children. Either Catholic or Freemason, there is no choice. "One cannot be Freemason and Catholic at the same time."
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