The Vatican has officially affirmed the prohibition of Catholics joining Freemasonry, a clandestine organization boasting a worldwide membership estimated at six million.
The Catholic Church, maintaining a longstanding wariness toward Freemasonry, has once again emphasized the ban through its doctrinal office.
The Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, the department responsible for matters of doctrine, issued the ban in response to a concern raised by a bishop from the Philippines. The bishop was alarmed by the increasing number of Freemasons in his country. The Vatican’s statement, dated November 13 and endorsed by Pope Francis, emphasized the “irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry.”
According to the announcement published by Vatican media on Wednesday, “Active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is prohibited.” This decision reinforces a 1983 declaration signed by the late Pope Benedict XVI, then the Vatican’s doctrine chief, which stated that Catholics involved in Masonic associations are “in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”
Freemasonry is often associated with male-only societies featuring arcane symbols and rituals. The organization, as described by the United Grand Lodge of England, claims to be one of the oldest social and charitable organizations globally, with roots in the traditions of medieval stonemasons.
The Vatican’s move has historical context, as the Catholic Church has long held a wary view of Freemasonry. The 1983 declaration marked a significant statement from the Church, categorizing participation in Masonic activities as a grave sin. This stance reflects a longstanding belief in the incongruence between Catholic teachings and Freemasonry practices.
Masonic lodges have, at times, been linked to conspiracy theories suggesting undue influence on world affairs. However, the United Grand Lodge of England describes modern Freemasonry as a social and charitable organization, distancing itself from such conspiracy claims.
The ban on Catholic membership in Freemasonry comes in the wake of another recent announcement by the Vatican. Last week, the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith stated that transgender individuals can be baptized, serve as godparents, and act as witnesses at Catholic weddings. These announcements showcase the ongoing efforts by the Catholic Church to address and clarify its stance on various contemporary issues.
The United Grand Lodge of England, representing Freemasons, reports a global membership of approximately six million. The organization counts 180,000 male members, with an additional 5,000 members in two parallel female lodges in England.
Notable historical figures who were Freemasons include Prince Philip, the late husband of Queen Elizabeth, former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, late actor Peter Sellers, former England soccer manager Alf Ramsey, and authors Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Vatican’s ban on Catholics joining Freemasonry is a reiteration of a long-standing policy. The Catholic Church emphasizes the incompatibility between its doctrine and Freemasonry practices, citing a 1983 declaration signed by Pope Benedict XVI. This decision follows a recent Vatican statement on transgender individuals and aligns with the Church’s efforts to clarify its stance on contemporary issues.
Freemasonry, as described by its representatives, is portrayed as a social and charitable organization with historical roots in medieval stonemasonry.