Can we belong to the Freemasons?
My brother in law is both Catholic and a Freemason. He said he asked a priest and was told it was ok to be both. I have always understood that a Catholic cannot remain in good standing if they also are a freemason. Are there any recent teachings as to the Church's current stand on freemason membership?
I’m afraid your brother-in-law must renounce his masonic association and refrain from Communion until he does. He cannot go to Communion now at all, as it would be a mortal sin of sacrilege because he is object fully in a state of mortal sin. Indeed, he must not avail himself of any sacrament except confession (and then to confess his masonic association), lest he commit the grave sin of sacrilege. And I would recommend that he go to a priest other than the one who told him he could become a mason, as this priest is clearly not competent in cannon law or Catholic morality. I would question his competence to hear confessions at all. Indeed, if I knew who this priest was I would tell his bishop about this for the sake of souls—not the least of which is his.
Pope Francis has made many condemnatory statements about Freemasonry, and a simple Google search will turn these up. (here’s one)
In 1983, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), as head of the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the direction of St. John Paul published a document called Declaration on Masonic Associations. Here is what it says:
“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 enrol 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 [emphasis mine] 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 1996, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska excommunicated, after a 30 day warning, Catholic members of the masonic order. This included ancillary organization membership such as Job’s Daughters, DeMolay, Rainbow Girls, and Eastern Star.
The stated purpose of Freemasonry, from the beginnings of its foundation in the early 18th Century, is to foment “the violent overthrow of church and state.” Although that is less so in this country (the American Revolution is the only time Masons and Catholics actually worked together), it is the official stated purpose of the order.
The Code of Canon Law says in canon 1374,
“One who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or moderates such an association, however, is to be punished with an interdict.”
This is the Catholic Church asserting its legitimate authority for the sake of the souls it shepherds. Jesus told His apostles,
In other words, for the sake of his immortal soul, your brother-in-law must humble himself and submit to the authority of the Church.
“He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me. He who rejects me, rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
He doesn’t need to be a mason anyway. One of the several reasons Fr. Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus was to give Catholic men an alternative to Freemasonry. I’m a Knight and happy and proud to be so!
What is your obligation here? Well, I’m afraid this falls under a serious application of the spiritual works of mercy (admonish the sinner). You are obligated to tell your brother-in-law that he is objectively (not necessarily subjectively) in mortal sin. But what should you do? How do you go about dealing with this?
I’d take the easiest path to dealing with this. I’d simply show him this email and the links on it. If he chooses to be obstinate, encourage him to engage with me in dialog. Hopefully, though, there is enough here to motivate him to choose Jesus over Freemasonry; the choice is clear.
Here are a few links you may want to read.