TIMELINE OF RELATIONS BETWEEN
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
AND THE FREEMASONS
TIMELINE OF RELATIONS BETWEEN
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Age of Enlightenment begins in England. Characterized by:
1. Rationalism. (Reason is the only guide to wisdom.)
2. Mechanistic universe. (Newtonian influence.)
3. Desirability of simplest structure for society.
4. Rejection of *original sin*, accepts infinite perfectability
of human nature, therefore of society.
Voltaire advances the idea of equal rights under the law.
Considers the Church to be among greatest evils because of its
absolutism. Montesquieu promotes separation of powers into
legislative, executive, and judicial branches with checks and
John Locke publishes his *Second Treatise on Civil Government*, reject-
ing government as coming from Divine influence; it is a human compact
invented to encourage individual liberty and rights. Rejects absolutism
in any form. *Second Treatise* provides the theoretical underpinning
for both the American and French Revolutions.
Grand Lodge of England was formed by the four then-existing London
Lodges. Anthony Sayre was elected Grand Master at the next feast day of
St. John the Baptist.
(From "The Freemason At Work" by Harry Carr, Lewis Masonic, rev. 1992)
The first Masonic Lodge in Florence was instituted in 1733 by the Earl
of Middlesex, apparently self-constituted and certainly without Warrant
from the Grand Lodge of England.
(From Mackey) Founding was by Charles Sackville, Duke of Dorset. There
was no Duke (Earl) of Middlesex at this date. Sackville initiated Grand
Duke of Tuscany, which improved the prestige of the order.
Lodges were established in Milan, Verona, Padua, Vincenza, Venice and
(Carr, op. cit.)
[The membership of the Lodge at Florence] in 1738 represented the best
of local English and Italian society, men of liberal education, learning
and culture, poets and painters, priests and politicians, including a
few high-ranking but dubious or shady characters. The advanced views of
some of the members had already attracted the attention of the Inquisi-
tion authorities and in June 1737, at a conference of Cardinals in Rome
under the Chief Inquisitor of Florence, the Bull ["In eminenti"] was
Freemasonry banned by John Gaston, last of the Medicis; dies shortly
thereafter. Grand Duke of Lorraine succeeds him, declaring himself
protector of the Craft.
April 28, 1738 **
"In eminenti" published by Clement XII.
The stated object of the Bull was "to block the broad road that the
influence of the Society might open to the uncorrected commission of
sin" The faithful were forbidden " ... to enter, propagate or support
the Freemasons ... or to help them in any way, openly or in secret,
directly or indirectly ..." or to be present at any of their meetings,
"under pain of excommunication ... from which none can obtain the
benefit of absolution, other than at the hour of death...". (ibid)
Cardinal Firrao issues edict inflicting death penalty on any disobeying
In eminenti. Many arrests made in Florence, but set free on the
intervention of the Grand Duke.
May 18, 1751
"Providas" published by Benedict XIV
(Condemnation of secret societies)
Confirms the In eminenti of Clement XII (28 Apr. 1738) condemning
Freemasonry on the grounds of its naturalism, demand for oaths, secrecy,
religious indifferentism, and the possible threat to Church and State.
Forbids Roman Catholics to seek membership in any Masonic group.
Lodges exist at Naples, Leghorn, Venice, Verona, Turin, Messina, Sicily,
Genoa and Modena. Quoting Smith (Use and Abuse), Mackey states "At
present most of the Italian nobles and dignified ecclesiastics are Free-
masons ... "
September 13, 1821
"Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo" published by Pius VII.
Specifically condemns the society of the Carbonari [literally "charcoal
burners"]; applies to its members the penalty of excommunication and
other censures contained in earlier disapprovals of Freemasonry. Gives
as reasons for the censure the oath-bound secrecy of the societies and
their conspiracies against Church and State.
March 13, 1825
"Quo graviora mala" published by Leo XII.
(Condemnation of the Carbonari)
Confirms the previous condemnations of the teachings and proceedings of
the Carbonari. Condemns Freemasonry and Carbonari as secret societies
with oathbinding secrecy and conspiracies against Church and State.
Mar 25 1830
"Litteris altero" published by Pius VIII
(To the bishops of the Province of Cologne: the problem of mixed
Renews earlier papal condemnations of Freemasonry. Issues this letter in
reply to a letter from the bishops of Cologne. Comments on difficulties
arising from mixed marriages caused by Prussian civil laws. Condemns
both the influence of Freemasonry in education and the lax morals of the
Italian war of unification begins. Sardinia sends troops to assist in
ousting Hapsburgs from Tuscany. Period leading to and during the war was
characterized by rising anti-clericalism in Italy, reflecting the mood
of all Europe.
November 9, 1846
"Qui pluribus" published by Pius IX.
(To all bishops: on contemporary errors and the means of combatting them)
Declares objective is to protect religion; to guard papal possessions,
rights, privileges. Attacks compromises of indifferentism; condemns
rationalism and unlimited "progress"; condemns assault on celibacy of
clergy; warns against false teachers; points out communism as contrary
to natural law. Reminds rulers of duty to protect, encourage, and foster
religion. Expresses his concern over the philosophical perversion of the
young; warns against the contamination of anti-Catholic society.
Unification of Italy (with the exception of the Papal States)
essentially complete under the *Freemason* Garabaldi.
Grand Lodge established at Turin. Grand Orient (Scottish Rite)
established by Garabaldi; later moved to Florence.
December 8, 1864 **
"Quanta cura" published by Pius IX
(To all bishops: condemning current errors)
Announces the Jubilee of 1865. Discusses the current errors of
"liberalism" and rationalism. Recalls the care exercised by the papacy in
instructing the faithful with true doctrine and preserving them from
error. Appeals to the authority of the Fathers of the Church and to
human reason in combatting these errors.
[The Syllabus of Errors was attached to this encyclical.]
* * * * * * *
(Condemnation of a series of propositions containing modern errors)
A set of eighty theses grouped under ten heads: 1) pantheism,
naturalism, absolute rationalism; moderate rationalism; indifferentism
and false tolerance in religious matters; socialism, communism, secret
societies, Bible societies; liberal clerical associations; errors
regarding the Church and its rights; errors on the State and its
relation to the Church; errors on natural and Christian ethics; errors
on Christian marriage; errors on the temporal power of the pope; and
errors in connection with modern liberalism.
September 25, 1865
"Multiplices inter" published by Pius IX.
(At the Consistory: condemnation of Freemasonry and other secret
Accuses Masonic association of conspiracy against the Church, God, and
civil society; reproves Catholic sovereigns for not uprooting this sect;
attributes revolutions and uprisings to Masonic activity. Warns against
designs of secret societies; denounces clandestine meetings, secret
oath, sanctions against violation of rules; renews previous
October 12, 1869
"Apostolicae sedis moderationi" published by Pius IX.
(Censures in canon law)
Clarifies the procedure regarding censures in canon law; abrogates some,
changes others, and establishes a new list of censures.
Franco-Prussian War breaks out. Napoleon III forced to withdraw protec-
tion from Papal States. Italian army enters Rome. Church stripped of its
temporal domains and authority.
Rome declared capital of united Italy under Victor Emmanuel II. Pope
withdraws into voluntary exile inside Vatican.
April 28, 1873
Masonic Constituent Assembly held in Rome. Beginnings of the "Grand
Lodge of Freemasons of Italy and its Masonic Colonies."
June 29, 1881 **
"Diuturnum" published by Leo XIII
(On the origin of civil power)
Maintains Christianity is safeguard to political order; right to rule
comes from God; people respect legitimate authority; rulers seek common
good. Denies theory that civil society has arisen from free consent of
men; asserts all authority comes from God even though men have a certain
freedom to choose such forms of govermnent as they deem necessary;
condemns naturalism as culminating in socialism, communism, nihilism,
leading to government based on force and fear. Urges bishops to instruct
laity, to warn them against forbidden sects, secret societies.
February 15, 1882 **
"Etsi nos" published by Leo XIII.
(To the bishops of Italy: on conditions in Italy)
Sets forth dangers to Catholicism: interference with Church; expulsion
of religious from convents; confiscation of Church property; sanction of
civil marriage; elimination of Church control of education. Maintains
Catholicism and nation fall together: Christianity inherent in public
life, source of unity, safeguard of justice. Urges bishops to stir
people to work for preservation of the faith by: 1) promotion of
associations for religious instruction, Catholic life, charity; 2) use
of press to disseminate truth; 3) care in selection and education of
April 10, 1884 **
"Humanum genus" published by Leo XIII.
Reviews warnings of previous pontificates; recalls own refutations of
Masonic opinions. Treats specifically of Masonic society and of organ-
ized groups bound to Freemasonry by community of purpose and thought.
Defines aim as overthrow of Christian order; teaching as natralistic:
human reason supreme, teaching and authority of Church of no civil con-
sequence; no possible certainty about God, soul, immortality; complete
equality of all men; State control of marriage, education; moral lic-
ense. Confirms previous condemnations of Freemasonry; forbids Catholics
to join Masonic sect; prescribes Christian philosophy as protection
against error; urges clergy and laity to win men to the Church; recom-
mends membership in Third Order of St. Francis, restoration of Catholic
guilds or associations.
"Humanum genus" contains the following:
"Nay, there are in them many secrets which are by law carefully con-
cealed not only from the profane, but also from many associated,
viz., the last and intimate intentions, the hidden and unknown
chiefs, the hidden and secret meetings, the resolutions and methods
and means by which they will be carried into execution. Hence the
difference of rights and of duties among the members; hence the
distinction of orders and grades and the severe discipline by which
they are ruled."
December 7, 1884 **
Third plenary council of Bishops, held in Baltimore issues a pastoral
letter completely supporting "Humanum genus", condemning Freemasonry and
all "secret societies". Strongly discourages any lay questioning of the
matter, apparently blocking any possibility for exception or compromise;
"Whenever, therefore, the Church has spoken authoritatively with regard
to any society, her decision ought to be final for every Catholic. He
ought to know that the Church has not acted hastily or unwisely, or
mistakenly; he should be convinced that any worldly advantages which he
might derive from his membership of such society, would be a poor
substitute for the membership, the sacraments, and the blessings of the
Church of Christ; ... "
Dec 22 1887 **
"Officio sanctissimo" published by Leo XIII
(To the bishops of Bavaria: on the condition of the Church in Bavaria)
Surveys history of Bavaria; deplores present hostility toward Church;
offers counsel. ... emphasizes obedience to hierarchy, respect for civil
authority. Urges education of children under auspices of Church; warns
October 15, 1890 **
"Dall'alto dell'Apostolico seggio" published by Leo XIII.
(To the bishops and people of Italy: on the destructive work of the
Freemasons in Italy)
Recapitulates facts of warfare of Masons against Church: overthrow of
civil power of papacy; suppression of religious orders; obligatory
military service for clerics; confiscation of Church property;
proclamation of civil marriage; State control of education. Enumerates
remedies: formation of learned and holy clergy; Christian education of
youth; extirpation of evil doctrines: defense of Catholic truths;
restoration of Christian family life; exposure of conflict as
essentially an attack on religion.
Leo Taxil begins publishing "Satanic" side of Freemasonry, which has
been supposedly invented by him, but see above (Humanum genus).
Dec 8 1892 **
"Custodi di quella fede" published by Leo XIII
(to the Italian people: Freemasonry in Italy)
Details method of working against Freemasonry. Warns Christians to be on
guard against first steps; parents to guard homes against infiltration;
laity to shun non-religious societies. Urges setting up Catholic schools
in opposition to neutral; charity against philanthropy; religious
asylums against houses of debauchery; Catholic against impious press;
Catholic congresses against sectarian gatherings; Catholic circles
against lodges; mutual aid societies against Masonic counterpart.
Dec 8 1892 **
"Inimica vis" published by Leo XIII
(To the bishops of Italy: Freemasonry in Italy)
Reiterates urgent necessity of combating evils of Freemasonry; condemns
claim that State is superior to Church and can control property and
functions of Church; entreats bishops to work for conversion of victims
[sic] of sect, to arouse in clergy and people zealous love for religion.
June 20, 1894
"Praeclara" published by Leo XIII.
(To the rulers and nations of the world: appeal for religious unity)
Urges union with Church of Rome; calls for unity of faith and
government. Appeals to separated Eastern churches, to recent schismatic
groups, to those in union with Rome (as safeguard). Warns against
Regalism and Freemasonry; enumerates benefits of unity.
March 18, 1902
"Annum ingressi" published by Leo XIII.
(To the bishops of the world: review of his pontificate)
Reviews twenty-five years of pontificate; warns that liberty, peace are
illusory apart from religion. Recalls instructions on Christian philoso-
phy, human liberty, Christian marriage, Masonry, nature of the State,
Christian constitution of States, socialism, labor question, duties of
Christian citizens, and analogous subjects. Encourages bishops to
continued resistance of persecutions. Describes existing conditions:
disorder in social relations, in family life; prevalence of socialism
and anarchism; unjust warring of strong nations against weak; increase
of armaments. Urges resistance to atheism and Freemasonry; calls on
press for defense of Church; exhorts parents and teachers to give
Christian education to children, public officials to demonstrate
firmness in defense of principle, integrity of life.
Benedict XV promulgates new code of Canon Law containing Art. 2335,
condemning Freemasons to automatic and irrevocable excommunication.
I have been unable to find the text of Canon 2335 (1917) in English.
The following is a precis prepared for use by the Catholic faithful.
d) Those who enroll themselves in Masonic sects or other similar
associations, the very purpose of whose being, or at least whose
activity is concerned with plotting against all lawful authority,
and especially against that of the Church, are also guilty of a
crime of disobedience. The penalty in these cases is excommunication
l.s., reserved simply to the Holy See. Clerics and religious are to
be punished as set down in the previous paragraph, besides the fact
that such cases are also referred to the Holy Office.
November 21, 1964 **
"Unitatis redintegratio" published by Paul VI.
Decrees positive Catholic response to ecumanism as a means to bring
non-Catholic believers into the Church.
October 28, 1965
"Nostra Aetate" published by Paul VI. **
Decrees tolerance for, and an exchange of ideas with, non-Catholic
beliefs and philosophies.
December 7, 1965 **
"Dignitatis humanae" declaration published by Vatican II, on religious
"La Masoneria Despues del Concilio" (Masonry since the [Vatican]
Council) published in Spain. Author, J.A. Ferrer Benimeli, S.J.; " ...
regular Freemasonry, 'based on belief in God, could not stand condemned
under the Papal Bulls', whose charges should be directed only against
the irregular Grand Lodges which preach and practise atheism and
Two English Freemasons are permitted by the Vatican to join the Church
without renouncing their Masonic affiliations, at the request of
July 19, 1974
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pulls the teeth from
"The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ... has ruled
that Canon 2335 no longer automatically bars a Catholic from membership
of masonic groups ... And so, a Catholic who joins the freemasons is
excommunicated only if the policies and actions of the freemasons in his
area are known to be hostile to the Church ...".
This document was signed by Cardinal Seper, Prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith.
" ... Suffice to say that in July 1974 Cardinal Heenan received
a communication from the Holy See announcing that the Papal ban
had been lifted. Roman Catholics everywhere [but not Officers
of the Church of Rome] are now able to join the Craft without
the penalty of excommunication and already a number of
excellent Roman Catholic Candidates have joined the Craft in
England." [See Carr's, "The Freemason at Work" pages 277-281].
Canon 2335 replaced by new Canon 1374 which condemns only
"association(s) which plot(s) against the Church," and no longer
mentions Freemasonry or "secret societies."
Following is the text of Canon 1374 (1983) in an English translation
prepared for use by the Catholic faithful.
Can. 1374: A person who joins an association which plots against the
Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or
takes office in such an association is to be punished with an
In [this same year (1983)] in a statement by [The Sacred Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith] then under a new Prefect, Cardinal
Ratzinger, the 1974 letter was "clarified", saying, that masonic
principles are still considered irreconcilable with orthodox Catholic
doctrine, and Catholics are still prohibited from joining Masonic
Official opposition appears since 1983 to be limited to two points:
1. The erroneous view that Freemasonry is a religion, and
contending that no Catholic can be a member of another
religion. The view is that Freemasonry *competes with*,
rather than *supports*, religion.
2. The ceremony of the 3rd Degree in Freemasonry has been
misinterpreted as supporting belief in the resurrection of
one other than Christ, rather than the simple disinterrment
and reinterrment of a dead body.
Debate (informal, as far as is known) reopened by Italian television and
the Vatican press.
The position now seems to be that Catholics wishing to join Masonic
bodies should approach their local Bishop to see if there is any
explicit objection forthcoming.
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