I found this little booklet at the back of the church and was intrigued by the title. I have no interest in the Masons. However my great Uncle Alex was a Freemason of the Scottish 33 Degree Order in Canada . I possess his ring which is inscribed “Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit” (Whom virtues unites, death will not separate). So my family on my mother’s side has a history.
Why can’t a Catholic also belong to the Masons? Deacon Cerrato’s argument starts with the fact that Christ said “No one can serve two masters for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. (Mt 6:24). He then goes into detail with documented evidence that the Free Masons Order is for all intents and purposes a “religion”, even though they vehemently deny this. The roots of the word religion mean “to bind”. There are two fundamental beliefs that a Mason must hold if they wish to join: 1) Existence of a Supreme Being, and 2) The immortality of the soul. Hence they are bound by this.
The Supreme Being is a deistic concept and not necessarily the Trinitarian God that Christians believe in. Immortality of the soul sounds OK you think, but it is how you get there wherein Catholics and Freemasons differ, as we shall see.
Furthermore as the author points out, Masons believe that various religions are created equal (religious relativism). Proof of this is that in the Entered Apprentice initiation ceremony, the book opened on the altar is the Bible if one is Christian, the Tanakh if one is a Jew or the Koran if one is a Muslim. The candidate must “swear” before this book that he will not divulge the secrets of Masonry. There are two problems for Catholics here: 1) Swearing an oath in God’s name violates the Second Commandment (Ex 20:17, Deut 5:11). 2) Secondly, believing that all religions are equal denies that the Catholic faith is the one “true religion” handed down by Jesus when he gave Peter the keys to the Church.
Masons believe that their soul’s afterlife can be attained by good works and secret knowledge (gnosticism). They do not (have to) believe in the doctrine of original sin, man’s diminished nature and our need for salvation through Jesus Christ with God’s grace (Pelagianism). This is a non starter for Catholics – there is no salvation outside of personal belief in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The doctrines of religious relativism, gnosticism and Pelagianism are all heresies that have been condemned by the Church.
In short, while the Church has nothing against individual Masons or their charitable philanthropic activities, it does have grave objections to the organization’s religious character and its ability to subvert the faith of Catholics who join or support its fraternity. At this point I was totally convinced that one can not be a Catholic and a Freemason, as the beliefs, rituals, symbols and documents are mutually exclusive.
But what of the Knights of Columbus you say – are they not a secret fraternal society not that different from the Freemasons? The critical difference says the author is where the Knights of Columbus supplement the faith of its Catholic members, Freemasonry supplants the faith of its Catholic members. This is why 21 different Popes have condemned Freemasonry and its beliefs in various bulls under pain of excommunication, for any Catholic who joins.
An interesting aspect of Deacon Cerrato’s discussion deals with salvation. In Dominus Iesus (2006 document by the Sacred Congregation of the Faith) affirmed that the full means of salvation subsists in the Catholic Church, other Christian churches (Orthodoxy) and ecclesial communities (Protestants), participate in the salvic grace of Christ to the extent they are in imperfect communion with the Catholic Church. Furthermore, non-Christians can also partake of this saving grace from God “in ways known to Himself” although the Church considers that they are in a gravely deficient spiritual situation. Wow, I did not know all this and am both relieved and pleased!
All in all, a very well written and enlightening booklet on this subject. Thank you so much Deacon Cerrato.