Clarification Concerning Status of Catholics Becoming Freemasons

Author: CDF


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

On 19 July 1974 this Congregation wrote to some Episcopal Conferences a private letter concerning the interpretation of can 2335 of the Code of Canon Law which forbids Catholics, under the penalty of excommunication, to enroll in Masonic or other similar associations.

Since the said letter has become public and has given rise to erroneous and tendentious interpretations, this Congregation, without prejudice to the eventual norms of the new Code, issues the following confirmation and clarification:

1) the present canonical discipline remains in full force and has not been modified in any way;

2) consequently, neither the excommunication nor the other penalties envisaged have been abrogated;

3) what was said in the aforesaid letter as regards the interpretation to be given to the canon in question should be understood—as the Congregation intended—merely as a reminder of the general principles of interpretation of penal laws for the solution of the cases of individual persons which may be submitted to the judgment of ordinaries. It was not, however, the intention of the Congregation to permit Episcopal Conferences to issue public pronouncements by way of a judgment of a general character on the nature of Masonic associations, which would imply a derogation from the aforesaid norms.

Rome, from the Office of the S. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 17 February 1981.

Present Legislation

The present legislation of the Church is contained in canon 1374:

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 interdict.

In the previous Code (can 2335), Masonry is explicitly mentioned. As the declaration of 26 November 1983 explains, the omission of the name "Mason" in the present Church law is due to an "editorial criterion". Masonic associations are thus included under a more general heading which could include any other association conspiring against the Church (e.g. a specific communist party).

Some Documents of the Popes on Masonry.

Clement XII In Eminenti, const. 24 Apr. 1738

Benedict XIV Providas, const. 18 May 1751

Pius VII Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo, const. 13 Sept. 1821

Leo XII Quo Graviora, const. 13 Mar. 1825

Pius VIII Traditi Humilitati, encyc. 24 May 1829

Gregory XVI Mirari Vos, encyc. 15 Aug. 1832

Pius IX Qui Pluribus, encyc. 9 Nov. 1846

Leo XIII Humanum Genus, encyc. 20 Apr. 1884

Leo XIII Dall' Alto Dell' Opostolico, Seggio, encyc.

Leo XIII Inimica Vos, encyc. 8 Dec. 1892,.

Leo XIII Custodi Di Quella Fede, encyc. 8 Dec. 1892