Fr. Andrzej Zwoliński

Pope Klemens XII was the first to condemn freemasonry. He forbade the Catholics to belong to freemasonry or cooperate it, under the threat of ecclesiastical excommunication.

The opinion of the Church in the evaluation by freemasonry is explicit and has not undergone any change since 28 April 1738 when Pope Klemens XII announced a papal edict ‘In eminent apostolatus speculo’. As the first opinion of the Church, it strongly condemned freemasonry (acting in its modern structures since 1717). The Pope forbade the Catholics to belong to freemasonry or cooperate it, under the threat of ecclesiastical excommunication. This judgement by the Church was later repeated over 400 times by the Magisterium of the Church (including 14 encyclicals).

Conclusions from the dialog of the Church with freemasonry

After the Second Vatican Council, there were attempts of a dialogue of the Church with freemasonry, which lasted about twenty years. However, it turned out quickly that this dialogue only confirmed the previous attitude of Vatican. Common conversations started in Vienna (year 1968) and were continued in Innsbruck, Augsburg, Norymberg and Einsiedeln. In the years 1974-80 there were official talks from the order of the German Episcopal Conference and united lodges of Germany. After six years of bilateral meetings, after ‘repeated examination of the three first degrees of freemasonry’, the conference of German bishops published ‘The statement concerning the Catholics’ belonging to freemasonry’ on 12 May 1980, in which it stated explicitly that it is impossible for a Catholic to belong both to the Catholic Church and freemasonry at the same time. It supported its attitude with specific arguments:

1. Freemasonry emphasizes humanitarian and ethic tendencies in its worldly assumptions. As far as religious assumptions are concerned, it leaves a subjective decision to its members. It is impossible to match such an attitude with faith in the revealed God’s truths, authentically explained by the Magisterium of the Church.

2. The attitude to the objective truth suggests a kind of relativism from freemasonry, which is an obstacle for accepting the Catholic dogmatic truths.

3. Freemasonry accepts the possibility of believing in every religion, putting all of them on the same level, which is confirmed by relativist attitude towards Catholicism.

4. The notion of God as ‘ great Builder of all the worlds’ suggests deistic idea; the notion of God by freemasons does not go together with the Christian picture of God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ.

5. The notion of tolerance ‘towards ideas’ differs from the Catholic notion.

6. Freemasonry rituals connected with three degrees, of initiative character, are a kind of competitive form towards sacramental change;

7. Ethical improvement of a man is realised in freemasonry on the purely natural field, whereas in Christianity it is done through the grace of Christ in the Holy Spirit.

8. Freemasonry involves three different trends, starting from atheistic French ledge ‘Great East’ through ledges of English trend, till the ‘Christian freemasonry’. However, the last one is faithful in its opinions to freemasonry than Christianity. In the opinion of freemasonry these various trends should be considered.

Associations of freemasonry

On 17 December 1981, nearly a year after the ‘Statement’ of the German Episcopate, the Congregation of the Faith Doctrine edited a declaration which reads: ‘the previous disciplinary practice of the Canon Law has not been modified in anything and is binding in whole’.

The new code of the canon law, introduced on 27 November 1983, does not contain a full text of the old canon 2335 which mentioned freemasonry as an association forbidden to a Catholic. It does not say anything about freemasonry but generally says about organizations hostile to the Church. The canon 1374 proclaims: ‘Who joins the association acting against the Church in any way, should be punished with a just punishment; whereas who supports this kind of the association or manages it, should be punished with interdict’. However, on the day before the new code was implemented, on 26 November 1983 in Vatican, a declaration of the Congregation of the Faith Doctrine was announced which supported the previous attitude of the Church forbidding belonging to freemasonry under the threat of losing the right to receiving holy sacraments and forbidding bishops to interpret this prohibition differently for the local usage. The declaration teaches that although the new code does not mention freemasonry by name, ‘the negative evaluation by the Church about associations of freemasonry will remain unchangeable because their rules have always been considered to be impossible to be in harmony with the teaching of the Church and, therefore, joining them will still be forbidden. The faithful, who belong to the freemasonry associations, are in the state of a hard sin and cannot take the Holy Communion’.

After a long history of attempt of mutual contacts between the Catholics and Freemasons, the attitude of the Church has remained unchangeable for over two and a half centuries.

At the same time there were carried out talks of freemasonry with other fractions of Christianity. The evangelical church in Germany began talks in 1937. As a result, it gave a statement under which every Evangelist is supposed to evaluate the possibility of joining freemasonry, according to his conscience. After carried out talks, the Evangelical Church took a negative attitude towards freemasonry in 1987.

Organisations of freemasonry in Europe

Throughout the history, freemasonry called itself ‘a rival of the doctrine of the Church’, ‘the anti-church’. A great master of the Great East of France – Jean – Robert Ragache, in his pronouncement during an annual congregation of freemasons in 1990 said: ‘I would not like Marxism to be replaced by Catholicism in the East. A strong freemasonry organisation, which would stand on the way of clericalism, should be set up in the countries where communism collapsed. It should not be allowed for dogmatism to triumph. In the recent times lodges in Praque, Brno and Pilzna have been introduced into practice. There are strong attempts to do the same in Poland. Unfortunately, the plans of ‘waking lodges’ in Warsaw, Cracow and Łódź are facing big difficulties due to the existence of a well-organised Catholicism’. The lodge of Great East unofficially started its activity in Poland, and the Foundation of Royal Art was set up. The two newly created lodges were organised thanks to the efforts of a great master of the Great Lodges of East in France of Jean –Robert Ragach’s and a great master of Great East of Italy- of Professor Giuliano Di Bernardo. The Great National Lodge of Poland was ‘woken’ on 17 December 1991 during a common meeting of three lodges ‘Kopernik’, ‘Walerian Łukasiński’, and ‘Defeated Superstition’. An official part, with the cooperation of freemasons from Great East of Italy, who had been helping in restoring Polish freemasonry, took place outside Warsaw, on 27 December 1991, on the Day of St John Evangelist, on the Feast of Freemasonry. The Great National Lodge of Scottish rite was registered legally as an association on 22 February 1993. Freemasonry in its two main trends returned to life in the Polish society (dismissed by a decree of the President of Polish Republic from 22 November 1938). According to Professor Tomasz Cegielski, the deputy of the Great National Lodge of Poland, in the four obediences acting in Poland (in great lodges) there are 500 activists ( in the United States – over 2 millions); in Great Britain – 350 thousands; in Brazil and Australia – 200 thousands in each). Although in the arrangement of numbers it is not an impressive number, it returned to its greatness from the times before the year 1938 when President prohibited its activity in the Republic of Poland. For, it is not the amount, which decides about the influence or the social importance.


"Niedziela" 10/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: