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(LifeSiteNews) — The vicar general of the Diocese of Evansville, Indiana has reminded Catholics that the Church does not allow its members to join Freemasonic Lodges. 

“We cannot support organizations… that stand against the Catholic Church and have its downfall as one of their objectives,” Father Alex Zenthoefer explained in The Message, the diocese’s newspaper, earlier this month. 

Freemasonry has been condemned by more than seven popes throughout Church history, beginning with Clement XII in 1738. However, the revised 1983 Code of Canon Law made no explicit mention of it. The previous 1917 Code of Canon Law, on the other hand, punished Catholics with automatic excommunication if they were found guilty of associating with Masonry. 

In November of 1983, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was serving as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a “Declaration on Masonic Associations” that sought to clarify the omission. The “negative judgment” of the Church toward Masonry “remains unchanged,” he said. Any Catholic who becomes a Mason is “in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”  

Zenthoefer told LifeSite via email that an increasing number of laity have been approaching him in recent months informing him they are masons. 

“At the request of some of the faithful… I wrote this article, firstly, with the intention of helping people to become aware of the tenets of Freemasonry.” 

Evansville, Indiana was home to several influential members of the Ku Klux Klan in the early part of the 20th century. Freemasonry has also enjoyed a long history in Indiana, having first established a lodge there in the early 1800s. Presently, there are approximately 50,000 masons in nearly 400 lodges across the state.

Three reasons why Catholics cannot be Masons 

In his article, Zenthoefer references Ratzinger’s 1983 declaration to support his conclusion that there is an “explicit hostility in the masonic tradition towards the Catholic Church.” He also points to what he believes are three main problems with Freemasonry, the first being that it “diminishes the role of faith and proposes an alternative foundation for living one’s life.” 

“During the initiation rite,” he observes, “the candidate expresses a desire to seek ‘light,’ and he is assured he will receive the light of spiritual instruction that he could not receive in another Church, and that he will gain eternal rest in the ‘celestial lodge’ if he lives and dies according to masonic principles. Such secularism puts the members at risk of losing sight of Jesus Christ as the Lord of life and salvation.” 

His second point is that Masonic rituals put Catholics at odds with their faith. 

“Since masonry involves non-Christians, the use of the name of Jesus is forbidden within the lodge. When one reaches the 30th degree in the masonic hierarchy, called the Kadosh, the person crushes with his foot the papal tiara and the royal crown, and swears to free mankind ‘from the bondage of despotism and the thraldom of spiritual tyranny.’” 

The last problem Zenthoefer mentions is the hatred Masonic leaders have for the Church. 

“There is an explicit hostility in the masonic tradition towards the Catholic Church. In the United States, one of the leaders of freemasonry, General Albert Pike (d. 1891) referred to the papacy as ‘a deadly, treacherous enemy,’ and wrote, ‘The papacy has been for a thousand years the torturer and curse of humanity, the most shameless imposture, in its pretense to spiritual power of all ages.’ Such words, along with masonic rituals, illustrate a real and irreconcilable division between Catholicism and masonry.” 

Has Freemasonry infiltrated the Church? 

Papal denunciations of Freemasonry were a common occurrence in the Church before the Second Vatican Council. Pope Leo XIII’s 1884 encyclical Humanum Genus is perhaps the most well-known. In it, he calls Masonry a “fatal plague” whose “ultimate purpose” is “the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced.” 

When asked if he believes Freemasonry has infiltrated the Church, Zenthoefer, who also serves as the rector of the St. Benedict Cathedral, gave a mixed answer. 

“I would not go so far as to say that Masonry has explicitly or intentionally infiltrated the Church. However, I do think the secular mentality employed by masonry has shifted our focus from the person of Jesus Christ to the will and ‘personal truth’ of the individual. As a result, we have lost some sense of our obedience to the Church, dismissing even the possibility that authentic freedom can be found there.” 

Many conservative and Traditional Catholics maintain that the Church has, in fact, been infiltrated, both by Masonic thinking and by Masonic clergy.  

French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, argued in the decades after Vatican II that the Council’s embrace of religious freedom, ecumenism, and collegiality was the Church’s implicit endorsement of the Masonic principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity.  

Father Charles Murr, the author of the book Murder in the 33rd Degree, believes that Pope John Paul I was assassinated by Masonic forces in 1978. Murr has also testified that Annibale Bugnini, the main architect of the Novus Ordo Missae in the 1960s, belonged to a Masonic lodge. 

Others point to the testimony of Bella Dodd, a 20th century labor activist, who admitted that communists were sent to infiltrate Catholic seminarians, as evidence of ecclesial corruption. AA-1025, the diary of one such individual, appears to confirm her claims. So too does the 19th century document “The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita,” which laid out how the Masons planned to install a pope who shares their views. 

Freemasons express support for Pope Francis 

In 2021, the Grand Masonic Lodge of Spain lauded Pope Francis for his remarks on the “International Day of Human Fraternity.” The group also thanked him for his 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti. “Pope Francis’ last encyclical shows how far the current Catholic Church is from its former positions,” they wrote. 

In 2022, Francis appointed Cardinal Matteo Zuppi president of the Italian Bishops Conference. Zuppi had received high praise from Gioele Magaldi, a former Master of the Roman Masonic Lodge, just two years prior. “I know the Vatican world and among the cardinals the one I respect most is Matteo Zuppi, who by the way married me,” Magaldi said. “He would be a very good pope.” 

In 2016, Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, then-president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, wrote a letter addressed to “Brother Masons,” informing them that despite past hostilities between the Church and Freemasonry, the “various declarations on the incompatibility of the two… do not impede… dialogue.” 

These developments, as well as others, have caused former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, to conclude that at present the Vatican is a witting collaborator in the global Masonic power structure that has for its aim the ushering in of the reign of the Antichrist. 

Fratelli Tutti is “the ideological manifesto of Bergoglio, his profession of the Masonic faith, and his candidacy for the presidency of the Universal Religion, handmaid of the New World Order,” he argued in 2020. 

“Today Freemasonry avails itself of its ‘secular arm,’ the Davos Forum, which sets the agenda for the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the European Union, the various ‘philanthropic’ foundations, the political parties and the Bergoglian church,” he has also written. 

Founded in London in 1717, Freemasonry promotes a naturalistic, man-centered ideology that, among other things, rejects original sin, denies sanctifying grace, and promotes a generic belief in the “Grand Architect of the Universe” as opposed to the Trinitarian God of Christianity. Freemasons have been involved in a number of political upheavals, most notably the French Revolution in 1789.