Vatican Prohibits Catholics from Masonry: The Grave Sin and Pastoral Challenges


The Vatican has recently reaffirmed its stance on freemasonry, stating that membership in the fraternity is strictly prohibited for Catholics as it is considered a “grave sin.” This declaration came in response to a request from a Filipino bishop, Dom Julito Cortes, who expressed concerns about the increasing number of his flock who are joining the Masons.

In a response dated November 13, 2023, signed by Mayor Victor Fernandéz and blessed by Pope Francis, the Dicastério for the Doctrine of Faith confirmed that it is still forbidden for Catholics to join the Masons. Bishop Cortes had reached out to the Vatican seeking advice on how to handle the situation in his diocese, given the continuous increase in faithful affiliated with masonry. The bishop also wanted guidance on the theological implications of these actions.

In order to address this issue, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith decided to involve the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines. They notified the conference that a coordinated strategy is needed among bishops to tackle this problem. This strategy includes two approaches: theological and pastoral absorption.

The first approach emphasizes the importance of faith and doctrine. According to a declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1983 and the directives published by the Conference of Bishops in 2003, a faithful person is not permitted to actively affiliate with the Masonic Lodge. This applies to individuals who are formally and consciously registered in masonic societies and have embraced masonic principles. These rules also extend to clergy members who join the Masons.

The second approach is pastoral in nature. The dicastério recommends that Filipino parish priests conduct popular catechesis on the reasons for the incompatibility of Catholic faith and Masonic rituals. The Vatican suggests that the bishops of the Philippines prayerfully evaluate whether or not they should issue a public statement on the matter.

It is important to note that this stance on freemasonry is not new. The November 1983 Declaration was published just before the implementation of the new Code of Canon Law, which replaced the previous 1917 Code. Some observers noted the absence of explicit condemnation of Freemasonry and excommunication for its affiliates in the new code. However, the Declaration signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and the secretary of the Congregation, Jérôme Hamer, clarified that Catholics affiliated with Masonic lodges are considered to be in a state of grave sin.

The reaffirmation of the Vatican’s position on freemasonry reflects the Church’s ongoing commitment to upholding its doctrine and protecting the faithful from practices that are seen as incompatible with Catholic beliefs. The Catholic Church views freemasonry as a potential threat to its teachings and sees it as contradictory to its principles. Hence, Catholics are strongly advised against participating in Masonic activities.

In conclusion, the Vatican has restated its prohibition on Catholics joining the Masons, considering it a grave sin. The Episcopal Conference of the Philippines has been notified by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to collaborate on a strategy to address this issue effectively. This strategy includes theological and pastoral approaches aimed at educating Catholics on the incompatibility of their faith and Masonic rituals. The Church’s steadfast stance on freemasonry emphasizes its commitment to protecting the faithful and upholding their beliefs.