Catholics must not join Masonic groups; membership remains serious sin

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Catholics are still forbidden from joining Masonic organizations and, with an increasing number of Catholics joining Masonic lodges in the Philippines, the Vatican has urged the nation's bishops to find a way to make clear the church's continued opposition to Freemasonry.

"Membership in Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines," said a note from Cardinal Víctor Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and approved by Pope Francis. "It involves not only those who are formally enrolled in Masonic Lodges but, more generally, a large number of sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced that there is no opposition between membership in the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges."

The dicastery's note, dated Nov. 13 and made public Nov. 15, was a response to a request from Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, Philippines, "regarding the best pastoral approach to membership in Freemasonry by the Catholic faithful."

The bishop had voiced his concern about "the continuous rise in the number of the faithful enrolled in Freemasonry" in his diocese and asked the dicastery "for suggestions regarding how to respond to this reality" from a pastoral point of view, including its "doctrinal implications."

The dicastery wrote "that active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry" – a position that was reiterated by the doctrinal congregation in its "Declaration on Masonic Associations" in 1983 and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines in 2003.

Therefore, it said, "those who are formally and knowingly enrolled in Masonic Lodges" – including clerics – "and have embraced Masonic principles fall under the provisions in the above-mentioned declaration."

The 1983 declaration states that Catholics enrolled in Masonic associations "are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion."