QUAERITUR: Can Catholics join Rotary or the Elks, etc?

From a reader:

I am aware that as Catholics, we may not join masonic organizations.

My question regards the Elks and the Rotary club? Do they fall under the same prohibition or is membership in these two organizations permissible for Catholics?

As far as I know, there are no explicit universal prohibition against joining the Elks or the Rotary Club. There may be particular laws in a diocese which prohibits joining, so check with your friendly pastor or the local diocesan chancery.  But I haven’t heard of any particular laws like that.

Can. 1374, by the way, calls for the punishment of someone who “joins an association which plots against the Church” and for an interdict for someone who “promotes or takes office in such an association.”  So, this is a serious matter.  Don’t even think of being a Mason.  If you are one GET OUT.

That said, it does not seem that Elks or Rotary members plot against the Church.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are saying, “What about the Democrat Party?!?”

You knew that some smarticus pantsicus would get that one in, right?  As far as I know there is no censure incurred by voting for a democrat or registering as a democrat.  But, given the abortion plank in their political platform, I don’t know why one would.   Perhaps one might question their…. But, no.  I digress.

Thus, if a Catholic gentleman is interested in joining a civic-minded club, would it not be best to join a Catholic club? I recommend the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of St. Peter Claver, the Catholic Order of Forresters, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians.

Or perhaps even start one up?

How about the Loyal Catholic Order of Liturgical Watchdogs?

How about The Faithful Sippers and Oenophiles?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Joshua08 says:

    It takes almost no effort to research this. Catholics were explicitly under pain of excommunication and mortal sin forbidden to join Rotary or the YMCA back in the day. This has changed. Paul VI explicitly addressed this with Rotary, as has John Paul II. Remember, Rotary supported the communists in the Spanish Civil War, Calles in Mexico, and such. At first, most Rotarians were FreeMasons and many Rotary clubs recruited exclusively from the Masons. That practice was banned in their organization eventually.

    The relatioship has thawed with the Church. You can read the addresses of Paul VI and John Paul II to Rotary to gain a better sense

  2. wmeyer says:

    I’m afraid that for many I know, even censure would not prevent them voting for the party of death.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Fr. Z., I know that in the Midwest, that many Rotarians are also Masons, and I had assumed because of this that the Rotary was sort of a place where people met and became Masons. Most of the Masons with whom I came into contact were in the protection services, such as the state and county sheriffs offices, or the police. I worked closely with these groups for two years working in the State of Iowa and most were openly Mason and Rotary.

  4. Thom says:

    Let’s not forget the (now sadly moribund) League of Bearded Catholics!


  5. Bryan Boyle says:

    I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a Mason, but more than a few of my good friends are. They understand and respect my opinion about ever thinking of joining (not gonna happen), and to be honest, all their ‘secrets’, at least for the Blue Lodge, are published on the net…and to me seem a bit juvenile. But, to each his own, and accept the Church’s stance on the seriousness of thinking of joining the organization.

    That being said…the Elks? Really? Sheesh, even the pastor of my parish growing up was a member of the Elks, whose purpose, it seems, is charity work and having a fish fry on Fridays in Lent. Oh, and the tavern on the first floor of the building. No doubt, they took a lot of their own ritual (it’s a Lodge, after all…) from Masonic sources, but, unlike the Masons, seem to be more interested in said fish fry revenue, turning it around for coats at Christmas for the needy kids, and a monthly dance than pushing a naturalistic religion (the Masons) or the Odd Fellows (which I understand are still under interdict, also).

    It seems that, all these lodge type organizations are suffering from the same disease the LCWR and NCwrapper are: lots of grey hair, walkers, and bifocals. So…all things being equal…I’d stick with the KoC or other solid Catholic men’s groups, if that is your desire.

  6. Need a club? Start a local chapter of the ChesterBelloc Drinking and Debating Club. They’re lots of fun and the only prerequisite is some working knowledge of Chesterton or Belloc — and preferably of both. You should read, at a minimum, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and one other book, such as his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, and Belloc’s The Path to Rome and his novel The Four Men.

    The general rules were drafted and adopted by St. Louis actor Kevin O’Brien, founder of Theatre of the Word Incorporated:

    1. No sharing.
    2. We are trying to discover the truth.
    3. Use reason if that faculty exists in you (i.e., women not allowed).
    4. If a member says something stupid, the other members are free to correct said member using shame, ridicule, and excoriation.
    5. General bitching will not be tolerated, but rational conversation and drunken rambling are encouraged.
    6. There is no rule six.

    Local chapters can add to these as needed. For instance, here in Springield we have a rule that if the CBDDC meets on a Friday night, we all attend the next morning’s EF Mass at my parish. We meet quarterly, with our fall meeting being a Four Men Feast, a sit-down supper inspired by Belloc’s novel The Four Men (out of print, but easily found online).

    Chesterton wrote, in Ortodoxy, “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” That may be one of the chief purposes of the CBDDC, aside from fostering more interest in Chesterton and Belloc: reawakening, in our fellow men, a true sense of authentic Christian joy. A father brought his young son, a recent college graduate, to our last meeting, and he told me afterward that after he and his son left, his son said that he had never before imagined that Catholic men could get together and have such stimulating conversation and comaraderie.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Sean P. Dailey, can I join?

  8. Charivari Rob says:

    Thank you for mentioning the KPCs, Father.

    The Order of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Supulchre are still around, too.

    Going out beyond USA limits, some organizations are represented among the International Association of Catholic Knights. http://www.iack.org/members.htm

  9. Charivari: The Order of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Supulchre are still around, too.

    And hopefully one day I will belong.

  10. MarkJ says:

    And don’t forget the Legion of Mary… she could use a few more good soldiers in her Blue Army.

  11. AnnAsher says:

    People are in “awe” that they cannot be Carholic and Mason because, IMO, they do not know the darkness of the Masonic order. There are some good books at http://www.consecration.com where you can also meet St Maximilian Kolbe.

  12. mamajen says:

    I know so many Catholics, including many much older than myself, who have absolutely no clue about Masons. I’ve even seen a car parked at the adoration chapel with a Mason sticker on it. If I remember correctly, I first learned about their history through the original AFQB back when I was in college.

  13. AnnAsher says:

    @sean p bailey – women and reason are diametrically opposed to one another? Shucks.

  14. Irene says:

    The Holy Name Society was widespread “back in the day,” second only to the Knights of Columbus. Is it still active?

  15. L. says:

    Father, how would you classify the Bishops’ conferences? [John Paul II did that for us in Apostolos suos.]

  16. Texas trad says:

    I am the Catholic (convert) daughter of a 32 degree mason. Elks, Lions and Rotary are all spin offs of the Masonic Lodge NO MATTER what anyone tells you. Period.

  17. dmwallace says:

    If you’re a strong Catholic man with a heart willing to help the intellectually disabled and you’re in search of a Catholic fraternal organization…and you want to wear a FEZ (!)… why not join the International Order of Alhambra!: http://www.orderalhambra.org/.

    Sir Noble D. M. Wallace
    Fatima Caravan #265
    Washington, D.C.

  18. oakdiocesegirl says:

    OK, here’s the problem: On Al Kresta’s Catholic Radio talk show today, someone called in to say we shouldn’t vote for Romney, because he’s a Mason. Kresta disagreed, b/c American masonry is not as bad as European. What say you?
    [This won’t stop me from voting for Romney. Whatever Obama is, he’s worse than a Mason to me ]

  19. acardnal says:

    So Mormons can be Masons?

  20. Charivari Rob says:

    Irene, the Holy Name Society is still around. I don’t have much of a sense of how numerous.

    In my very limited experience, in my parents’ parish and diocese – there had been both. Holy Name had quite prominent in that parish a decade or two back. Whichever new bishop that came along at some point was much more oriented to the KofC, and a subsequent new pastor was not in conflict with that. The local Knights’ Council seems to be more prominent than they had been.

    My father had shared with me his observation that the same seemed to be happening on the regional and diocesan scale. For years, several of the local HNS groups had rotated hours on First Friday Nocturnal Adoration. Of late, the old guard seemed to be fading away, so he encouraged new blood in the leadership to try to stimulate interest.

  21. acardinal: Joseph Smith himself was a Mason.

    AnnAsher: the wording of rule 3 is tongue-in-cheek. However, mindful of the fact that it is good for men to occasionally gather in men-only situations, we keep the CBDDC men-only.

    Which should answer Supertradmum’s question as well. However, supertradmum, there’s no reason why you can’t form a CBDDC women’s auxiliary.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    Sean P. Dailey, I was joking in response to the lack of rationality reference…

  23. AvantiBev says:

    “I recommend the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of St. Peter Claver, the Catholic Order of Forresters, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians.”
    You have mentioned above an organization specifically for African American Catholics and an org for Irish Catholics, do you know of any that are SPECIFICALLY for Italo-American Catholics?

  24. Brad says:

    Re. masons, maybe it’s the whole, one day little-mason-finally-let-in-on (if ever) will understand they are worshiping baal and osiris, and that’s just the tip of the satanic iceberg, that most masons don’t know enough to care about, or, worse, know and do not care:

    “And they to whom I send thee are children of a hard face, and of an obstinate heart: and thou shalt say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: ”

    “Thus says the LORD:
    They made kings in Israel, but not by my authority;
    they established princes, but without my approval.
    With their silver and gold they made
    idols for themselves, to their own destruction.
    Cast away your calf, O Samaria!
    my wrath is kindled against them;
    How long will they be unable to attain
    innocence in Israel?
    The work of an artisan,
    no god at all,
    Destined for the flames?
    such is the calf of Samaria!

    When they sow the wind,
    they shall reap the whirlwind;
    The stalk of grain that forms no ear
    can yield no flour;
    Even if it could,
    strangers would swallow it.

    When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin,
    his altars became occasions of sin.
    Though I write for him my many ordinances,
    they are considered as a stranger’s.
    Though they offer sacrifice,
    immolate flesh and eat it,
    the LORD is not pleased with them.
    He shall still remember their guilt
    and punish their sins;
    they shall return to Egypt.”

    How many times in one week, alone, can our mother the Church tell us with the Father’s own voice to stop worshiping idols? And I don’t mean, “oh, your money is an idol”, I mean, you are worshiping a straight up demon from the ancient world idol. But no, we see no or little or passe problem with it so we just can’t see what ye olde Church is party-pooping about. It’s just cocktails with local realtors, right? We judge that it’s fine and we can handle it, the fire won’t burn us, we see a way to flirt with what is forbidden, or entirely get in bed with it but somehow survive. We see it’s fine.

    “but now ye say — We see, therefore doth your sin remain”

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  26. Charivari Rob says:

    AvantiBev: ““I recommend the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of St. Peter Claver, the Catholic Order of Forresters, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians.”
    You have mentioned above an organization specifically for African American Catholics and an org for Irish Catholics, do you know of any that are SPECIFICALLY for Italo-American Catholics?”

    While the Knights of St. Peter Claver was founded for African-American Catholic men and its councils are generally located in parishes and neighborhoods with a significantly or even predominantly African-American population, our Order is not exclusively for African-American Catholics. The membership remains largely African-American and that certainly influences some of the Order’s interest and activity, but it is somewhat inaccurate to describe it as “specifically” for African-American Catholics.

  27. Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,

    First, not to be pedantic, but wouldn’t a more faithful rendering be scurra salsus, rather than smarticus pantsicus? ;-)

    Second, as an alternative to the Faithful Sippers and Oenophiles, at least for those of us more fond of Lagavulin than of Liebfraumilch, what about the Spirit-Filled Fraternity of Enthusiasts for Aqua Vita?

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer [IT12K1]

  28. Random Walk says:


    In regards to: “You have mentioned above an organization specifically for African American Catholics and an org for Irish Catholics”

    The Hibernians would definitely be Irish, but the KofC, was specifically founded by Ven. Fr. Michael McGivney to provide both a fraternal organization and an insurance plan for immigrants (mostly Irish, but all Catholic immigrants were welcome).

    The KofC makes no distinction or focus on any particular ethnic creed or race, and the only indication that any Council may do so would be those of the Caballeros de Columbo (which as you may guess are heavily Latino, but are formed specifically to cater towards accommodating Spanish-speaking men.)

    Proof? I’m about as Irish as any other Swiss-American (is that even a PC-approved ethnicity title? Meh, it’ll work as a description). :)

    Anyrate, there is *always* a need for new members. There has been a bit of a resurgence of younger members over the past couple of years, but the median age is still a bit on the older side.

    The benefits go way beyond the (optional) insurance and the fraternity. It is often deeply religious, and it is an awesome feeling to be among fellow Catholic men who unashamedly pray the rosary by your side (especially in a secular temple that the Portland, OR area has become). The community efforts made are always appreciated, and there are a lot of good works that need (and get) done.

  29. Mike Morrow says:

    What about membership in the Royal Society For Putting Things On Top of Other Things?
    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pBTK-pdMP0 )

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