ASK FATHER: Catholic funeral for Freemasons

From a reader…


Recently there was a huge funeral in our cathedral for a 32nd degree member of the Freemasons. The local TLM community is very upset and crying foul. It’s a mess. Could you offer some insight? I have friends in the TLM community, but I only occasionally go mass with them.

Go to the TLM more often and be a cheerful good example of holiness and devotion!

Under the 1917 Code of Canon Law (can. 2335), it was clear that Catholics who joined Masonic organizations were excommunicated.

When the Code was revised in 1983, this explicit condemnation was broadened to say,

“A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty. However, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict” (can. 1374).

The automatic excommunication is gone, but membership in such organizations is still forbidden.

The day before the 1983 Code was promulgated, the CDF reiterated the Church’s prohibition on membership in Masonic organizations, saying that such people are involved in seriously sinful matter and should not approach Holy Communion. It stated firmly that local bishops and bishops’ conferences do not have the ability to prescind from this declaration.

Masonry is serious stuff, folks. In North America, Masons may be seen as those good-hearted, civic minded men who drive around in little cars at the Fourth of July Parade, who host a circus for the kids, and who spend a lot of time and money helping out at the children’s hospital.   Lately in these USA we have seen the money appeal commercials for Shriners Hospitals with the heart wrenching images of children.

Insofar as many of the members might be unwitting dupes whose primary interest is fraternity and civic pride, they seem innocuous. However, the philosophy that Masonry espouses is – at its core – opposed to the Church in every way.

In other parts of the world, where Masonry has stronger political connections, it fights the Church over the very heart and soul of the nation. The higher one gets in Masonry, the less able one is to excuse oneself as being an unwitting dupe.

Catholics should stay far away from involvement with Masons.

It’s unclear from the question whether the 32nd degree Mason was a Catholic or not. Since the excommunication is no longer automatic, but requires the intervention of the bishop, it is possible (but tragic, considering the consequences) that a Catholic could join the Masons, and even rise to such a high level, without the Church, out of mercy, applying a penalty to warn the individual of the peril he is putting his soul in.

The law requires that funerals be denied to three categories of people (can. 1184):

1) notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

2) those who for anti-Christian motives chose to have their bodies cremated;

3) other manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral could not be granted without public scandal to the faithful.

The local ordinary (bishop or vicar general) is to have the final say if there is any doubt.

If the deceased Mason (and please, pray for his soul, even though it may be too late) was not Catholic, a funeral still may have been permitted to him in virtue of can. 1183: baptized persons belonging to a non-Catholic Church (e.g., Orthodox) or ecclesial community (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans) may, in accordance with the prudent judgment of the local ordinary, be allowed church funerals unless it is established that they did not wish this. This canon is normally used when a non-Catholic spouse of a Catholic, who has dutifully attended Mass with his family for years, though never fully converted, has died and the family wishes the funeral to be in the Catholic Church. Or else, it could be applied when someone who belongs to a more obscure Orthodox or Oriental Church, living in a place with no real access to his own Church, turns to the Catholic Church for some spiritual support, but has not formally converted.

The law is relatively broad, and its interpretation is left to the local ordinary.

If an ecclesiastical funeral has been permitted to someone who had no right to it, or if the community is in disagreement with the local ordinary about the application of the law, an appeal could be made to the Holy See. It would be difficult to understand what could be gained from this. One cannot unring the bell.  Perhaps it might forestall similar events taking place in the future.

What to do?

One option would be to gather in small groups after Mass over coffee and doughnuts to gripe and complain about how wacky and liberal things have gotten. Mutter a few invectives (I’d suggest raising a fist while muttering through clenched teeth, “Why I oughta…”), and, thereafter, bask in the self-satisfaction that the truth has been defended.

Another option is to get on your knees and pray. Pray for the poor deceased man. Let’s hope he was deluded and confused and did not enter into the Masons with full consent of the will based on adequate knowledge.  Pray for his family. Pray for the local ordinary who may or may not have understood the full gravity of the situation when he made the call to permit the funeral, or who may not have been consulted at all! Pray for the priest who celebrated the funeral. Pray that the Church triumphs and defeats Masonry worldwide. Pray that our Church emerge from times of confusion and disarray that it may once again shine as a beacon for all those poor souls who have been deluded by dangerous philosophies.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The funeral is held, nothing to be done about that, let us hope it benefitted the deceased.

    If there’s anything to cry foul about, it is that apparently man Catholics are barely aware, if that, that being a Catholic and a freemason are incompatible. There’s a teaching job to do in countries where freemasons are relatively large.
    Yet on that point, I think some well-meaning Catholics also need to make life a bit easier for our bishops. There is a vocal sub-group who buys every tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory about the masons (and usually Elvis isn’t far away either). If a bishops then teaches that membership in such groups cannot stand (and if memory serves, the problem is their view on God / The Holy Trinity, a problem that would remain even if there is no ‘plotting against the Church’) the bishop risks being dragged in the same category as the tinfoil-hat crowd. That seriously hinders a bishop’s teaching ability in more than a few cases, I suspect.

  2. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    It is good to know that “The day before the 1983 Code was promulgated, the CDF reiterated the Church’s prohibition on membership in Masonic organizations,” in the context of a canon very specific in one respect (“plots against the Church”) and very unspecific in another (“an association”) in its wording.

    Could you, or could a reader to spare you the time, indicate where this reiteration might be read in full online (or otherwise)?

  3. Ed the Roman says:

    It’s not too late to pray for the deceased: prayers are heard in eternity.

    Late in life, St. Pio was visited while at prayer, and the visitor asked whom he was praying for. He replied that it was for his mother. The visitor, knowing his mother to have been pious, virtuous, and long dead, said that surely she was in heaven by now. The saint’s reply was that she certainly was, and that his continual prayers for her were part of the reason.

  4. Phil_NL says:

    Venerator Sti Lot:

    See here:
    and here:

    I’m also pretty sure I saw a text once on the problem with the “great architect” formulation as being by necessity much broader than the Trinity, making the masonic philosophy very objectional on that front as well, but that one I cannot relocate right now. Probably is – like the other two above – a link on this very website though.

  5. Qwikness says:

    Why is Freemasonry verboten? I am no expert but play one on TV. From my little bit of reading, in a nutshell, Freemasonry was born at the time of the “Enlightenment.” Freemasonry is a kind of Counter-Church. It has all of the markings of a Church, with Temples and Allegory and Morals but it does so in a separate way from the Church. It works to undo all the gains the Church had made throughout the centuries. The folks of the Enlightenment did not believe in God and hated the Church and Monarchies etc. Folks like Voltaire and Montesquieu, all Masons. Freemasonry says One must believe in a god. Any god. But that only weakens the Truth of Christianity. This requirement may help gain members while placating Christians. Really what they are doing is mixing a little truth with a lie so people will believe it. They use secrets to lure people in, promising secret knowledge, where there is none, only secret words and handshakes.
    Their symbols of the architecture places importance on Science and not on the Creator. They place a square and compass on top of a Bible. (I was always taught nothing should go on top of a Bible.) As if god follows the laws of Science, instead of creating the laws Himself. The symbol has a “G” within it. Apparently an initial for “God.” But is it equating that symbol with God or a god?
    Liberalism and the Enlightenment has achieved what it has set out to do, bring down the influence of the Church in the West. Freemasonry is a product of that thinking, it is its temple. It is more than club, it is Counter-Church or if I may, Anti-Church.

  6. Tony Phillips says:

    Somehow I doubt a 32nd degree Mason would even learn the secret handshakes, let alone how to perform a human sacrifice. He should have joined the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes instead.

  7. Follow up question, Father. What if a man is a Mason BEFORE converting to Catholicism? If he doesn’t have any association with the Masons other than becoming a “member” prior to converting, what would his status be? Does it matter if he’s a practicing, Mass every Sunday and sometimes twice kind of Catholic?

  8. norancor says:

    Am I completely out of line in saying that the provisos and loopholes in the 1983 Code of Canon Law make it functionally worthless in the vast majority of circumstances. Generalizations like “punished with a just penalty” and loopholes giving national conferences or local ordinaries final say make the Church ripe for abuses in subsidiary. I’m all for subsidiary, but you cannot have “norms” that are so broad that they enforce nothing. At that point, they aren’t norms anymore. They are suggestions, and that’s not the purpose of law, by my understanding.

  9. Sandy says:

    There are faithful Catholics and other Christians who have made videos and written books about Freemasonry, telling how evil it is. We never hear this spoken of, but this evil is alive and well and very active. Many years ago I read about it quite a bit and just recently found a note I had written about the motto of a 32nd or 33rd degree Mason. It is “Order out of chaos”. That sure sounds a lot like what we see playing out today more than ever. Another good resource is the encyclical on Freemasonry by Pope Leo XIII. It is as explicit as you can get!

  10. Priam1184 says:

    The Masons did so much damage to Catholic civilization in the 18th and 19th centuries that the damage is almost incalculable. Read Leo XIII’s Humanum Genus here:

    What influence that organization still has, now that there is really no need for a secret society and their agenda is openly advanced and taken for granted as the norm of life throughout the West, I do not know. But Catholics still should stay away from this group. Requiem aeterna dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei; requiescat in pace.

  11. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    If the Knights Templars knew that an organization such as the masons would be stealing their titles and namesakes for themselves, they’d probably construct a good old fashioned battering ram, break down the door of the nearest lodge, then proceed cut to pieces anyone they found within, trash the place thoroughly, burning it to the ground, and finally salting the Earth in their wake ensuring that nothing will ever grow their again, before going to the nearest Catholic Church, blood still dripping from their sword, to kneel down before the the Blessed Sacrament and offer a prayer to the Trinity thanking Almighty God for the opportunity.

    Today we have the Knights of Columbus instead…

  12. acricketchirps says:

    How many degrees of Masons are there? Is 32 high or low–i.e. do they count up or down? I once had a first degree burn.

  13. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    I can’t speak for every Mason out there, but I would like to say a few things about one Mason in particular-my grandfather (Grandpa Reed was my step grandfather, actually, but I called him grandpa, and he helped raise me.)

    Grandpa was not a Catholic, but he had more respect for Catholicism than a lot of Catholics. He made sure I made it to Mass on Sundays, whether I wanted to go or not. Grandpa was a Christian. Grandpa showed me unconditional love, and supported me wholeheartedly when I entered seminary. And when I left seminary, he wholeheartedly supported me, as he did when my Melissa and I were married.

    Grandpa also loved his Ham Radio club. He always had his mobile radio with him. He was deaf in one ear, and had a laugh that could at once startle you out of your wits, and then make you laugh heartily.

    And he was of the old school, being a father who was not afraid to protect his wife and children. He worked in the steel industry all his life, and gave his all for my grandma and her kids.

    He talked with me some about Freemasonry, but only because I asked him, and he never imposed it on me. Grandpa was a good man, a Christian man.

    I share this not to take issue with anyone commenting here, or with you, Fr. Zuhlsdorf, or with the matter at hand, but just to try, however feebly, to put a human face to things. Just one man’s perspective, a man who loved, and still loves, his grandfather. May Grandpa Reed rest in peace, and may his memory be eternal.

  14. Marissa says:

    I found the source, here’s a direct quote from Kolbe:

    Another reason that motivated Kolbe to found the MI, as reflected in his original charter quoted earlier, and alluded to in the testimony of Fr. Arzilli, quoted above, is the “error of Masonry.” By 1917 Italian Masonry was boldly rearing its ugly head in opposition to the Church. Writing in 1935 about the founding of the MI back in 1917, St. Maximilian said:

    [T]he Freemasons in Rome began to demonstrate openly and belligerently against the Church. They placed the black standard of the “Giordano Brunisti” under the window of the Vatican. [Giordano Bruno was a Dominican turned Calvinist turned pantheist who was burned as a heretic on Feb. 17, 1600. This Masonic demonstration most likely occurred on Feb. 17 to commemorate his death]. On this standard the archangel St. Michael was depicted lying under the feet of the triumphant Lucifer. At the same time, countless pamphlets were distributed to the people in which the Holy Father was attacked shamefully. “Right then I conceived the idea of organizing an active society to counteract Freemasonry and other slaves of Lucifer . . .

    Apparently from this source, which I can’t find immediately: St. Maximilian Kolbe, “How the Militia of the Immaculata Began,” Immaculata (Jan./Feb., 1999), 16: originally published in the Nov. 1935 issue of the Mugenzai no Seibo no Kishi, the Japanese Immaculata magazine, commemorating the eighteenth anniversary of the MI.

  15. Marissa says:

    It is so amazing that Cardinal Burke said this. My brother said exactly the same thing to me about two months ago. He had attended a Byzantine Rite Mass in Florida. He called me and said that he had just been to a “manly” Mass. He finally realized what was wrong with the Roman Rite (Novus Ordo): It was too feminine.

    Just a quibble – it isn’t too feminine, it’s effeminate. Feminine is good – women doing womanly things. Effeminate is bad – men doing (a caricature of) womanly things.

  16. Marissa says:

    I’m sorry, that post at 4:41 p.m. is on the wrong article – you can delete it.

  17. Mojoron says:

    I’m the Sexton for the local Catholic Cemetery which is essentially closed since the church affiliated with the cemetery was torn down in 1978, but people still want to be buried there because it sits on a high hill and has a great view, kinda like a nice condo in Breckenridge, but I digress. My neighbor across the street is a 32nd degree Mason and wants to be buried next to his sister who was a very devout Catholic who died last year. I’m at a loss to tell him that he can’t, or won’t be allowed to be buried there since he is a Mason. I really hate the position I’m in since there is virtually no priest who is over that cemetery, just me and the dead.

  18. WmHesch says:

    In Napoleonic times, Masons literally destroyed every papal tiara they could get their hands on. Only one (that of Gregory XIII) escaped. According to the oral tradition, it was actually done in the same manner it is to this day symbolically done in the 30th degree. And the Church is better now that that odious symbol has all but disappeared, together with the temporal power of the papacy (and you can thank the Masons for that too!)

  19. Priam1184 says:

    @Bob Glassmeyer I never met your Grandpa Reed but it is well known that most of the lower level Masons had little if any idea what the goals and purposes of the top leadership were. In the 18th and 19th century that organization had it as its goal to destroy the Catholic Church, or at the very least severely limit her influence in the world.

    Look at the architecture around Rome that the new (and very Masonic influenced) Italian government put up after its conquest of the city: very pagan and some of it downright demonic. And what to make of all of the references in Italy during the pre-Concordat days, and some of them still remain carved into monuments, that celebrated liberation from the ‘thousand years of darkness’ i.e. the whole history of the States of the Church.

    I don’t know about your Grandpa Reed but Freemasonry was definitely a prime tool of the demonic in its day, though the devil, as he does with all of his minions, has probably abandoned them and moved on to others by now. But who knows? They are a secret society after all.

  20. Qwikness says:

    I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Freemasonry is a religion. They have a three stage initiation process. The first three degrees. ( Catholicism has three stages of initiation too, Sacraments, baptism, communion and confirmation. ) The first degree of Entered Apprentice is very much like baptism, the initiate imitates life, death and resurrection in the portrayal of Hiram Abiff. The initiate is asked what he wants, the reply from his advocate (God Parent?) is “This person who has long been in darkness, and now seeks to be brought to light.”
    What? That’s right. Masonry is the source of bringing someone into the Light. As if whatever he was in before was darkness. So being a baptised Christian was in Darkness.
    Freemasonry is a religion.
    Here’s the ritual.

  21. Indulgentiam says:

    Qwikness says: “I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Freemasonry is a religion.”
    Perhaps you mean they “claim” to be a religion?
    I was once set straight about the meaning of the word “religion” and I’ve never forgotten it.
    Servius, Lactantius, Augustine and the interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and GOD.”

    “To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. [Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]”

    Many kind hearted individuals are being duped by freemasons. The vows these people take bind them under a curse that they themselves speak. Words have power and ignorance of consequences is no protection. My great grandfather was a mason and my mom was an Esther. The curse they spoke has had reprcusions for generations in our family. If it wasn’t for an exorcist Priest who finally explained the whys and wherefores of the whole thing we’d still be suffering in the dark.

  22. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Belated thanks for so prompt and full a supplying of links!
    Thanks, too, to Priam1184 for the further encyclical link, and to others (under whom Marissa and Qwikness) for further instructive and informative links and references!

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Following up one thing new to me in the “Reflections” linked, does anyone happen to have information about “the efforts made by those who, with the due authorization of this Congregation [CDF], have sought to establish a dialogue with representatives of Freemasonry” since 1985?

  24. bookworm says:

    “In North America, Masons may be seen as those good-hearted, civic minded men who drive around in little cars at the Fourth of July Parade, who host a circus for the kids, and who spend a lot of time and money helping out at the children’s hospital.”

    Those would be Shriners, who are just one type of Mason. Does this mean that Catholics should avoid attending Shrine Circuses or contributing to Shriner’s Hospitals?

    Also, aren’t many of the rituals of the Mormon (LDS) Church said to be modeled after Masonic rituals, which Joseph Smith was familiar with?

  25. Supertradmum says:

    An automatic excommunication is still in place for joining the Masons and like groups.

    Can 2335: Affiliation With Masonic or Similar Societies. Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See. 1917 Code of Canon Law

    and this one from 1983


    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 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 an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.

    Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983.

    Joseph Card. RATZINGER
    If one has any doubt about the evil behind the Mason, listen to Fr. Chad Ripperger on this subject and watch Michael Voris’ history of the movement. The members not only follow a natural “religion” but engage in demonic worship. If you have any doubts about this, write to Fr. Chad Rippperger, who trains exorcists across the USA and has much experience in this matter.

    info@sensustraditionis .org

  26. Supertradmum says:

    LDS is based on Masonry and this has been historically determined. One can look up the links online. The founder was a Mason.

    I do not understand why there is still confusion on this subject, as the Church for centuries has been very clear of all the heresies and demonic worship within Masonry. This is not the stuff of myth. Again, I highly suggest confused readers listen to Fr. Chad Ripperger on this subject, Mr. Voris, and even write to Fr. Chad Ripperger personally. People may be surprised what they learn.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z, you state the excommunication was rescinded, but I do not see that written anywhere and some priests have told me this is still in place. Do bishops decide this?

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