The 1738 bull of Pope Clement XII condemning freemasonry:
PAPAL BULL OF POPE CLEMENT XII
April 28, 1738
PAPAL BULL OF POPE CLEMENT XII
April 28, 1738
CLEMENT, BISHOP, Servant of the Servants of God to all the faithful, Salutation, and Apostolic Benediction.
Since the divine clemency has placed Us, Whose merits are not equal to the task, in the high watch-tower of the Apostolate with the duty of pastoral care confided to Us, We have turned Our attention, as far as it has been granted Us from on high, with unceasing care to those things through which the integrity of Orthodox Religion is kept from errors and vices by preventing their entry, and by which the dangers of disturbance in the most troubled times are repelled from the whole Catholic World.
Now it has come to Our ears, and common gossip has made clear, that certain Societies, Companies, Assemblies, Meetings, Congregations or Conventicles called in the popular tongue Liberi Muratori or Francs Massons or by other names according to the various languages, are spreading far and wide and daily growing in strength; and men of any Religion or sect, satisfied with the appearance of natural probity, are joined together, according to their laws and the statutes laid down for them, by a strict and unbreakable bond which obliges them, both by an oath upon the Holy Bible and by a host of grievous punishment, to an inviolable silence about all that they do in secret together. But it is in the nature of crime to betray itself and to show itself by its attendant clamor. Thus these aforesaid Societies or Conventicles have caused in the minds of the faithful the greatest suspicion, and all prudent and upright men have passed the same judgment on them as being depraved and perverted. For if they were not doing evil they would not have so great a hatred of the light. Indeed, this rumor has grown to such proportions that in several countries these societies have been forbidden by the civil authorities as being against the public security, and for some time past have appeared to be prudently eliminated.
Therefore, bearing in mind the great harm which is often caused by such Societies or Conventicles not only to the peace of the temporal state but also to the well-being of souls, and realizing that they do not hold by either civil or canonical sanctions; and since We are taught are taught by the divine word that it is the part of faithful servant and of the master of the Lord’s household to watch day and night lest such men as these break into the household like thieves, and like foxes seek to destroy the vineyard; in fact, to prevent the hearts of the simple being perverted, and the innocent secretly wounded by their arrows, and to block that broad road which could be opened to the uncorrected commission of sin and for the other just and reasonable motives known to Us; We therefore, having taken counsel of some of Our Venerable Brothers among the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and also of Our own accord and with certain knowledge and mature deliberations, with the plenitude of the Apostolic power do hereby determine and have decreed that these same Societies, Companies, Assemblies, Meetings, Congregations, or Conventicles of Liberi Muratori or Francs Massons, or whatever other name they may go by, are to be condemned and prohibited, and by Our present Constitution, valid for ever, We do condemn and prohibit them.
Wherefore We command most strictly and in virtue of holy obedience, all the faithful of whatever state, grade, condition, order, dignity or pre-eminence, whether clerical or lay, secular or regular, even those who are entitled to specific and individual mention, that none, under any pretext or for any reason, shall dare or presume to enter, propagate or support these aforesaid societies of Liberi Muratori or Francs Massons, or however else they are called, or to receive them in their houses or dwellings or to hide them, be enrolled among them, joined to them, be present with them, give power or permission for them to meet elsewhere, to help them in any way, to give them in any way advice, encouragement or support either openly or in secret, directly or indirectly, on their own or through others; nor are they to urge others or tell them, incite or persuade them to be enrolled in such societies or to be counted among their number, or to be present or to assist them in any way; but they must stay completely clear of such Societies, Companies, Assemblies, Meetings, Congregations or Conventicles, under pain of excommunication for all the above mentioned people, which is incurred by the very deed without any declaration being required, and from which no one can obtain the benefit of absolution, other than at the hour of death, except through Ourselves or the Roman Pontiff of the time.
Moreover, We desire and command that both Bishops and prelates, and other local ordinaries, as well as inquisitors for heresy, shall investigate and proceed against transgressors of whatever state, grade, condition, order dignity or pre-eminence they may be; and they are to pursue and punish them with condign penalties as being most suspect of heresy. To each and all of these We give and grant the free faculty of calling upon the aid of the secular arm, should the need arise, for investigating and proceeding against those same transgressors and for pursuing and punishing them with condign penalties.
Given at Rome, at Saint Mary Mayor, in the year 1738 of Our Lord.
Modern Article on Zenit's Website
ROME, FEB. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: A member of the RCIA program was told by another member of the parish that if they were going to become Catholic they needed to terminate their involvement with the Masonic lodge before they could join. Is this still the case in the United States? -- T.N., Howard City, Michigan
A: This question is more canonical than liturgical. The Church's position with respect to membership of Masonic lodges, even though canon law no longer explicitly mentions the Masons, has not substantially changed.
The new code states in Canon 1374: "A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict." An interdict is an ecclesiastical penalty that deprives the person of the right to celebrate or receive the sacraments but is less harsh than excommunication.
This text greatly simplified the former code which had specifically mentioned the Masons. This change led some Masons to think that the Church no longer banned Catholics from being Masons, since, among other things, in many countries membership at a lodge was merely social and had nothing to do with plotting against the Church.
In order to clarify the issue the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a declaration on Nov. 26, 1983, shortly before the present Code of Canon Law came into effect. This declaration, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, states:
"It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church's decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous Code.
"This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance in due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.
"Therefore the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.
"It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981 (cf. AAS 73 1981 pp. 240-241; English language edition of L'Osservatore Romano, 9 March 1981).
"In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation."
The congregation's judgment, therefore, was not so much based on whether the Masons as such or any specific group of Masons effectively plot against the Church today. This does not deny that some Masonic groups have historically combated the Church nor that even today, in some countries or at certain levels, the lodge remains at the forefront of those who oppose the Church's freedom of action.
Rather, the Vatican congregation above all stressed the incompatibility of some Masonic principles with those of the Catholic Church.
This incompatibility resides in some aspects of Masonic ritual, but more importantly in elements regarding the question of truth.
In its effort to bring together people of different provenances, Masonry requires that its members adhere to a minimal belief in a supreme architect of the universe and leave aside all other pretensions of truth, even revealed truth.
It is thus basically a relativistic doctrine, and no Catholic, nor indeed any convinced Christian, may ever adhere to a group that would require him, even as a mere intellectual exercise, to renounce the affirmation of such truths as Christ's divinity and the Trinitarian nature of God.
Of course, for many people active in Masonic lodges, the conversations and activities are more social in nature and rarely veer toward the realm of philosophical speculation. A Catholic, however, cannot ignore the fundamental principles behind an organization, no matter how innocuous its activities appear to be.