The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a document signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Victor Fernández, and approved by Pope Francis, has reaffirmed that Catholics are forbidden from joining Freemasonry.
The Dicastery responded on Wednesday, 15 November, to a question from Bishop Julito Cortes, of Dumanguete in the Philippines. “After explaining with concern the situation in his diocese, due to the continuous increase in the number of members of Freemasonry, [Bishop Cortes] asked for suggestions on how to adequately deal with this reality from a pastoral point of view, while also taking into account the doctrinal implications” of the situation.
The Dicastery’s response makes clear the importance of involving the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, “notifying them that it would be necessary to implement a coordinated strategy among the individual bishops that would involve two approaches.”
The first approach addresses the question on the doctrinal level: the Dicastery reiterates that “active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is prohibited, because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry (cf. the 1983 Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Masonic Associations), and the Guidelines published by the Bishops’ Conference in 2003.” Therefore, the note explains, “those who formally and knowingly are members of Masonic lodges and have embraced Masonic principles fall under the provisions of the above-mentioned Declaration. These measures also apply to any clerics enrolled in Freemasonry.”
The second approach concerns the pastoral response: the Dicastery suggests that the Bishops of the Philippines undertake “a popular catechesis in all parishes on the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic faith and Freemasonry.” The Bishops are also asked to consider whether they should make a public pronouncement on this topic.
The November 1983 declaration was published shortly before the new Code of Canon Law entered into force. The 1983 cic replaced the Code of Canon Law published in 1917; among the new features noted — by some with satisfaction, by others with concern — was the absence of an explicit condemnation of Freemasonry and excommunication for those affiliated with it. Both had been present in the earlier Code. The Declaration, signed by the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the Secretary of the Congregation, Archbishop Jérôme Hamer, and approved by John Paul ii, reiterated that Catholics affiliated with Masonic lodges are “in a state of grave sin.”