QUAERITUR: Can Catholics be Masons?

From a reader:

Recently I spoke with someone, who said Catholicism and Freemasonry would be compatible. I don’t really believe this. What’s the teachong of the Church about this matter?

Catholics may not be Masons or belong to masonic organizations. That’s it.

As Leo XIII wrote in 1892 “Christianity and Freemasonry are essentially irreconcilable, so that enrolment in one means separation from the other.”

You can read more HERE and HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ConnerW says:

    The Bishop of Jales was received with “great honor” by the Masons in Brazil. I wonder what the nature of this reception was.


  2. AnnAsher says:

    Thank you Father for posting this clearly with brevity. It is surprising how many Catholics think being a Mason etc is OK. Who will argue the fact based on their seeming good deeds. How many Knights of Columbus Councils will join in efforts with local Mason chapters !

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Fr. Z has excellent references. Also click on my name and on the right side of my blog, click on The Cradle of Modernist Heresies.

  4. Ezra says:

    Working in an area which has far too many of them around, my experience of Freemasons is that they are almost always mediocre characters, and frequently dishonest. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that so-and-so knows a priest/bishop/cardinal who is a Mason/said Freemasonry’s OK, only for such claims to be withdrawn when queried. These lies are deployed in order to convince ill-catechised Catholics that there is nothing wrong with joining. Thank God for good priests like Fr Z who are willing to highlight the Church’s constant teaching on these odious groups.

    Those interested in the subject might want to have a look at John Salza’s Masonry Unmasked, published by Our Sunday Visitor. It is excellent.

  5. Centristian says:

    Freemasonry, for Catholics, is out of the question for obvious reasons. I wonder, however, how the Church views other fraternal orders and lodges, such as, for example, the Elks. Would it be legitimate for a Catholic to join any such secular fraternal organization? I’ve never been able to get a clear answer to that.

  6. acardnal says:

    Regarding Ezra’s post above . . .

    Another excellent book by Mr. John Salza about the Church’s prohibition on being a Mason is available at Amazon: “Why Catholics Cannot be Masons” published by TAN. Mr. Salza is a former 32nd Degree Mason (highest level) and is well qualified to write on this subject. His book is replete with references and quotes from assorted papal decrees throughout the ages on the sinfulness of belonging to a Masonic Lodge.

  7. Scarltherr says:

    I know Catholics can’t be Masons, but why was Glenn Beck who wears Masonic badges often, at the luncheon for the new Cardinals? Who invited him? Why was he there? By the way, I’m a subscriber to Beck’s shows because I believe he produces the most honest political news is the best available. That being said, I spend some significant time discerning what I can an cannot accept from his broadcasts.

  8. ContraMundum says:


    I think the real issues have to do with secrecy and the goals of the fraternal order. I don’t know if the Elks, for example, take oaths to never reveal what goes on in their meetings, not to the police, not to the Church, not to anyone, while invoking God in a blasphemous way. That has always been a part of the Freemasons, and of course that secrecy has been helpful in pursuing various attacks against both lawful government and the Church.

  9. albizzi says:

    Beyond the 33rd level, there is an opaque secrecy that no member is allowed to unveil under a death penalty. For example Mr Michel Baroin, the father of a french minister, was a high degree mason who abjured publicly the freemasonry. He disappeared in a mysterious aircraft accident in Africa one week later.
    Under that level, nothing noticeable happens in the lodges. The members boast themselves to participate in purported “philosophical” works and initiating ceremonies that may look very childish to non-members. However the members are not chosen randomly but mainly for the professional help any could give upon an order coming from the high spheres, thus flattering the low level member upon all if the absolute secrecy is required for that “help”.
    I was told for example that some FM officials working in the justice administrations were often required to stole a “sensitive” file in which a FM brother is involved

  10. ContraMundum says:


    Forget about Beck being a Mason; he is a fallen-away Catholic who is now a Mormon. That alone should make him an inappropriate guest at a luncheon for cardinals.

  11. The Cobbler says:

    “Mr. Salza is a former 32nd Degree Mason (highest level) and is well qualified to write on this subject.”
    At least until not only Masonry but most of the software running on it is upgraded to 64 bit, right? Of course, much of the code won’t significantly change, just how much data they can handle at once — and yet that alone will require digging through all the code to make that upgrade, which is why it will be announced some years in the future when that phase of the secret project is finally complete (if it’s announced at all, of course).

    (Looks like I’m back to trying to be the local jester…)

  12. digdigby says:

    Are Shriners Masons? What about their hospitals for crippled children? Can a Catholic go to their hospital or donate to them?

  13. catholicmidwest says:

    Are Shriners Masons? Yes.
    Is the Eastern Star Masonic? Yes.
    Can Catholics be Masons? No.

  14. ContraMundum says:

    Shriners are Masons of the highest degree. (Well, it used to be that they had to be of the highest degree of either the Scottish Rite or the York Rite, but Wikipedia says that since 2000 all Master Masons — the highest degree of “basic Freemasonry” — are eligible. All my books were written before this change.)

    In all fairness, most Masons and most Shriners probably have no ill intent; they see their organizations as fun clubs for grown men that also do charitable work, much like the Knights of Columbus. The difference is that the Knights of Columbus are not just having fun and doing charitable work, they are also trying to live as Catholics and promote the Catholic faith, whereas the more serious ideas behind the Masons are a pantheism under the guise of religious indifferentism is hostile to the true Catholic Faith, and also an elitism (for the Masons) that coexists with their claims of egalitarianism (for everyone else).

    And let’s not forget that the modern Ku Klux Klan is a creation of the Freemasons.

  15. FrJLP says:

    To all:

    I am a convert to Catholicism, and come from a family with a long Masonic history in western New York. From our ancestors in England to my initiation as a Master Mason, my family has been involved. To us, nothing seemed nefarious, and religious folk in the Masons saw the Enlightenment-influenced ritual symbolism as a metaphor for the virtuous life. Their distance from the founding intentions of the Free and Accepted Masons lends to them a certain innocence in interpretation and they find little to no conflict between Lodge and sanctuary. Especially in rural areas, the churches and the Lodge provided the only social networks and centers for social justice-type activities. This seemed to be the case in our small farming village just off of Lake Erie.

    When I converted to Catholicism, I had to withdraw my membership in the Lodge. When I entered the seminary, I had to sign a document from my diocese abjuring my involvement in the Freemasons, renouncing any memberships, rights and privileges. Fellow Lodge members could not understand why I had to do this, and didn’t realize that Catholics could not be Masons. My approach in explaining it was and is trying to help them understand the matter from a Catholic point of view. First, I explain historical stuff, primarily the Masonic involvement in the French Revolution, the cessation of the Papal States and Italian unification. They are usually unaware of this involvement, and it helps them contextualize things. Then I share a bit about the Enlightenment ideas and Deistic notions that informed the construction of Masonic myth and ritual, and how these are contrary to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I don’t know how many I convince, but most say that it helps them to understand the ban. And, afterwards, they have all respected my decision (and I have not been killed in any plane crash or other dastardly way). The majority of Masons have little knowledge of Masonic history, synchronically or diachronically. Most are HONESTLY convinced that being a Mason is no different than being in the Elks, Rotary, Kiwanas, or Jaycees. At least to them, it is an unfair characterization to assume or attribute a grand Masonic conspiracy, etc.

    The confusion expressed by the person who wrote to Fr. Z is somewhat understandable. The current Code of Canon Law is somewhat ambiguous in it’s treatment of secret societies and makes no mention of Freemasonry by name (as did the 1917 Code); the document clarifying that particular canon did not enjoy wide circulation. Most priests and many bishops that I know do not even know of that clarification’s existence. The lesson here is that we have to better promulgate these clarifications and dubia, and we have to take a reasoned approach to the matter and avoid sensationalism.

  16. FrJLP says:

    @ContraMundum: I think it a bit disingenuous to claim that the “modern” Ku Klux Klan is an invention of Freemasonry. While it might be true that, during the period of post-Civil War reconstruction, Freemasons in Philadelphia were involved in establishing the Klan under the auspices of protecting the property and persons of widows…the KKK has quite outlived that intention and become something hardly recognizable to its original organizers’ intentions. And, while it is certainly true that in back-water small towns throughout the deep South, one might most certainly find men who are Masons and KKK members, that is more a coincidence of small-town life and culture than it is an evolution from Freemasonry. You’ll also find those same men as deacons in the Baptist Church, or elders at the Pentecostal Tabernacle, or ushers at the Methodist Church.

    Again, when discussing the history of Freemasonry and its appendant bodies, it is best to do so with clarity and accuracy, and to avoid insinuations, sensational claims and conspiracy theories.

  17. gambletrainman says:

    Supertradmom or FrJLP

    I’m stuck on something. One of my aunts (Catholic) married a Methodist man way back when. I found out later he was a Mason. However, he was good to my aunt. On Sundays he took her to St Whatever Church, then attended his own Methodist service, after which he would pick her up at St Whatever. He would attend the Masonic meetings, I think which were held on Fridays. He died in the ’70’s, and the evening before the funeral, the Masonic service was held. My aunt outlived him by 15 years.

    Later, I was in a conversation with a cousin of mine (a niece of my aunt), and was telling her how wrong it is to be connected to the Masons, and her reply was to the effect that, as Uncle was good to Aunt, she (the cousin) didn’t see anything wrong with being a Mason. Just because one Pope said Catholics couldn’t be Masons, another previous Pope said we could, so, it was just a matter of opinion, as each Pope has views contrary to anothr Pope. Should I just drop the matter, or should I bring it up again and try to convince her? I have a feeling that if any of her grandchildren want to join the Masons at some point in the future, she would probably give her blessings. By the way, cousin is now in her mid-80’s.

  18. Clinton R. says:

    “The current Code of Canon Law is somewhat ambiguous in it’s treatment of secret societies and makes no mention of Freemasonry by name (as did the 1917 Code)” That is the problem with the Code of Canon Law of 1983 and the various Vatican II documents, the ambiguity. Pre-Vatican II canon law and documents were clearly stated so there was little doubt, usually, as to what was true to the Faith, and what was an anathema.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Adult Catholics who understand the Teachings of the Catholic Church can figure out why Masonry is wrong without Canon Law. Plus, the current Pope had something to say about Masonry here, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19831126_declaration-masonic_en.html

    The entire view of religion in the marketplace for the Mason is that religion has no say at all in the public sphere-this is the heresy of the Enlightenment and Rationalism and leads to the anti-Catholic idea of a complete separation of Church and State. Other heresies embedded in Masonry are indifferentism and eirenism, which hold that all religions are the same (the Catholic Church having no superiority to Truth), and that the differences in religion must be overlooked and superseded by political or social needs. I suggest reading this link I mentioned above. http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/cradle-of-modernist-heresies.html

    In addition, Masonry, at the later stages, becomes a religion itself. I know families where members were as high as the 33rd degree and at least one man at the end of his life, not a Catholic, wanted to become a Catholic and renounce the pseudo-religion of Masonry. Sadly, a priest could not be found at the end of his life in the hospital.

  20. Volanges says:

    The Code of Canon Law with Commentary that I had at the parish office explained that, when the current code was being prepared, North American bishops argued that membership in the Free Masons should no longer be forbidden to Catholics. They argued that the Masons were a charitable organization, etc., etc. This wasn’t warmly greeted by European bishops who have had a vastly different experience with Masons. Not naming Free Masons specifically was a nod to the North Americans.

  21. NoraLee9 says:

    Years ago, I was helping a friend with the last couple of papers he needed to write for graduate school. He was under the gun to get the stuff done, because if he didn’t finish by the end of August, he was going to lose his teaching license and get punted back in salary, and lose seniority. I was living in the West 20’s in Manhattan at the time. (What I wouldn’t give to have that 1-bedroom, $800.-a month apt back). He was standing over by West 25th, and looked up. Those of you in New York know that Masonic Headquarters is on West 23rd, over by Sixth Avenue. Being overtired, he saw the words Masonic Hell. He thought, “my G-d, I’ve died and now I’m in hell.” This was before ubiquitous cell phone use. He called me from a pay phone, in a panic. “Nora, am I alive?” “Yes, Steve, you are. I don’t think phones work from the other side, why?” “I’m looking at a sign that says Masonic Hell.” “You idiot, that’s the Masonic Hall. Go home and get some rest….”

  22. Maltese says:

    Well, if an Archbishop like Bugnini can be one, why not us lay Catholics? :-)

  23. MarkA says:

    There’s a very good book review of “Behind the Lodge Door” over at Father Richard Cipolla’s Society of St. Hugh of Cluny.
    An interesting paragraph from the review:
    “It is quite a story – from the role of foreign Freemasons in the French revolution to links with early communism. Freemasons fought side by side with the French communards in 1871. They played a significant role in the founding of the First International – although relations with Marxists quickly soured. Kerensky and the clique that overthrew the Czar in 1917 were members of the lodge. And we find that the “young Turks” who staged a revolution against the sultan, led the Ottoman Empire into World War I and launched the massacre of the Armenians and other Christians were also brethren. That is doubly curious because at that same time the Italian lodges were leading Italy into a disastrous war on the side of France and England.”

    Also, here’s the YouTube link with EWTN’s interview with John Salza on Freemasonry from 2008:

  24. aladextra says:

    RE: Glenn Beck and Masons– you’ll find that most of the Mormon temple ceremonies are derived from Masonic rituals. Joseph Smith was involved pretty heavily with Freemasonry before they threw him out, and that’s were he got most of his ritual ideas. In a way, Mormonism is a fully and completely developed form of Freemasonry.

    Just one example: the “garments” (sometimes derisively referred to as “holy underwear”, etc.) worn by LDS members are derived from the Masonic apron worn at lodge meetings. Both bear the same symbols. You can look up “grips”, signs, etc., online and compare them pretty easily to their Freemasonic forebears.

    I caution Catholics about Glenn Beck all the time. His Mormonism permeates his entire worldview, and is the most important thing in his life. It is very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in his analysis, and he is prone to embrace conspiracy theory. His Mormonism is very compatible with his near-worship of the enlightenment, egalitarianism, and extreme American exceptionalism. Catholicism less so.

  25. Alan Aversa says:

    Some good reads:
    On Freemasonry and Naturalism (Humanum Genus) by Pope Leo XIII
    Pope Leo XIII highly recommended Msgr. George F. Dillon’s book on this subject: Grand Orient Freemasonry Unmasked (a.k.a. War of Anti-Christ with the Church and Christian Civilization) (Just because these “secret societies” may not have appeared explicitly in recent magisterial documents does not mean the societies themselves have disappeared. )

    Also, Card. Ratzinger wrote in 1983 that “The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”

  26. inara says:

    here is a prayer of release for former Masons & their descendants (I recently remembered my Grandfather was a Mason & my mom was a member of Job’s Daughters): http://www.catholicwarriors.com/prayer_of_release_for_freemasons.pdf

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    This is because Masonry has another much more ordinary use in the US. It’s the quintessential good-old-boys network. Men who can’t quite make it on their own steam sometimes join it for work or small town social reasons, not realizing that they’re just being used by the religious fanatics at the top.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    Interestingly enough, it’s not targeted by the women’s rights groups, who seem to either be okay with the quintessential good-old-boys network that it is, or seem to be oblivious to it, or seem to have the same goals (?). I don’t know. Puzzling.

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