Masonic Education - June 2018

In this portion of our website, I will present various articles that I hope readers will find interesting and educational. Hopefully a new one each (calendar) month. Most, if not all articles will not be my own creation, so I will indicate my source of information. Should I depart from or add to the original script, I will indicate in brackets [ ]. As some of the entries on a website are done in ''code'', there may be slight variations from the original script which I may not indicate in the brackets.

ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND FREEMASONRY:

The recorded history of the Church of Rome's antipathy to Freemasonry begins with Pope Clement's proclamation of 1738, In Eminenti (see Papal Bulls) and, through the published fulminations of his successors, it can be seen that the Vatican has persevered with its condemnation. Only in recent times has it been acknowledged that not every freemason is an atheist or an agnostic or its rabidly anti-clerical, or conspires against the Church as a whole.

The secrecy surrounding the fraternity was a further target for papal attacks but these overlooked the fact that the Church had long had its own secrets societies. In more modern fraternities, analogous in a few respects (including the possession of secrets) to Freemasonry, have been formed and flourished, among them the Knights of St. Columba in the British Isles and their American counterparts, the Knights of Columbus. The student must look elsewhere for a more detailed account: that by Will Reed in AQC 104 (1991, pp. 51-94 is highly commendable and tells of Catholics who in more recent times have written in support of the regular Grand Lodges.

We need to remind ourselves that in the days of medieval operative craft in Europe the Church of Rome was supreme and in the Old Charges which gave guidance in Britain, the masons enjoined to be its faithful servants. Only with the establishment in 1717 of the premier Grand Lodge was there, the first Anderson's versions of the Charges (see Religion), an acceptance that adherence to a denomination or persuasion other than that of Christianity could also qualify a good man and true to seek masonic membership. This freedom of choice of one's path to salvation was yet another factor in the Vatican's arguments against Freemasonry.

In Britain the Catholic Church could not influence the state and the effect of the papal bulls was greatly diminished. There were, certainly in the eighteenth century, many Catholic freemasons and Lord Petre, the Grand master from 1772 to 1776, was himself a leader of the English Catholic community. But a century later Lord Ripon, Grand Master from 1870 to 1874. Chose to resign his office and from the Craft on his conversion to Rome.

For years the Vatican attacks on the Craft persisted, fueled by books and pamphlets which failed to present both sides of the argument. Until the 1960s these publications were on sale in most Catholic churches world-wide. In England however, the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Heenan, listened carefully to the masonic point of view. This was presented to him by Harry Carr, himself a learned member of the Jewish faith, and the Cardinal's report to Rome was added to those coming from elsewhere. In the atmosphere of greater tolerance inspired by more recent occupants of the papal throne, a more selective attitude to Freemasonry developed recognizing the essential difference between atheists of the French and other Grand Orients and those of us who believe in a Supreme Being. In the United Kingdom it became possible for a Catholic, with his bishop's approval, to become a freemason.

It has to be admitted that there remain doubts as to the extent of such tolerance but anti-masonic propaganda from Catholic sources in Britain has ceased and seems unlikely to return. In America, one notable result of the change of attitude has been that the Knights of Columbus and the freemasons in a given community may and do frequently co-operate in charitable and social activities.

I thank our Webmaster for allowing me to contine in contributing to the Masonic Education portion of the website.

from 'A Reference Book For Freemasons' - compiled by Frederick Smyth and published in 1998.

R.W. Bro. Robert South