The recent response from the Vatican regarding the issue of Catholics joining the Masons has shed light on the gravity of the matter. In a letter dated November 13, 2023, signed by Mayor Victor Fernandéz and blessed by Pope Francis, the Dicastério for the Doctrine of Faith confirmed that it is still forbidden for Catholics to join the Masons.
This response was prompted by a request from Bishop Dom Julito Cortes of Dumaguete in the Philippines, who expressed his concern about the increasing number of faithful in his diocese who are affiliated with masonaria. Bishop Cortes sought advice on how to handle this situation pastorally, while also considering the theological implications.
In order to address this issue, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, in collaboration with the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines, has proposed a coordinated strategy that encompasses both theological and pastoral aspects.
From a theological standpoint, it is clear that Catholics cannot actively affiliate with the Masonic Lodge. This rule has been established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1983 and reiterated by the Conference of Bishops in 2003. The recent response from the Vatican affirms that those who formally and consciously register with matriarchal societies and embrace matriarchal principles are in violation of this rule. This prohibition applies not only to lay Catholics, but also to clergy members who join the Masons.
On the pastoral front, the Vatican recommends that Filipino parish priests engage in popular catechesis to educate the faithful about the reasons for the incompatibility of Catholic faith and Masonic rituals. This approach aims to enlighten Catholics about the theological implications of joining the Masons and encourage them to reconsider their affiliation. The Vatican also raises the possibility of issuing a public statement on the matter, urging the Philippines’ bishops to prayerfully evaluate this option.
The significance of this issue can be traced back to a historic event in 1983 when the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was published on the eve of the implementation of the new Code of Canon Law. The absence of explicit condemnation of Freemasonry and excommunication for its affiliates in the new Code raised concerns among some individuals. However, the 1983 Declaration, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the secretary of the Congregation, Jérôme Hamer, and approved by Pope John Paul II, reaffirmed the gravity of the situation by stating that Catholics associated with Masonic lodges are “in a state of grave sin.”
This recent response from the Vatican serves as a reminder to Catholics worldwide that membership in the Masons remains strictly forbidden. The theological and pastoral approaches proposed by the Dicastério for the Doctrine of Faith and the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines aim to guide Catholics in understanding the inherent incompatibility between their faith and Masonic rituals. The ultimate goal is to lead them towards a path of reconciliation and adherence to Catholic teachings.