Catholic Church and Freemasonry – Royal Arch Mason magazine article
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The Roman Catholic Freemason
Past, Present and Future
The Royal Arch Mason – Spring 1972
By Wor. Bro. ALEC MELLOR Grande Loge Nationale
Editor’s Note: For those who have been speculating as to the present relationship between the Vatican and
Freemasonry, this article will be a revelation. The author is a French Catholic Freemason who can speak from either the standpoint of the Church or the Craft with equal authority. This lecture was given October 24, 19710 before Phoenix Lodge No. 30, a research lodge under the National Grand Lodge of France. The introduction is by Arthur W. Barnett, who was then serving as master of the lodge. Brother Mellor is the present master; both are members of Britannic Chapter No. 9, Royal Arch Masons.
PART I – THE PAST
Why do we speak of the “Roman Catholic Freemason”?
Why should there not be tomorrow a lecture on the “Protestant Freemason,” the “Jewish Freemason,” or the “Moslem Freemason”? Isn’t there a kind of paradox in the very title of my lecture? No! The reason is that the Roman Catholic Church is the only one which, up to a quite recent date, has not allowed its members to join the Craft, and that this great historical conflict is now ending under our very eyes.
That is the reason for my title!
Brethren, I would never have dared to treat such a ticklish subject in any ordinary lodge, even in my Mother Lodge. But we are tonight in a lodge of research, or as you would say, a lodge for the diffusion of Masonic knowledge, where I believe more allowance should be made. Nevertheless, I fully intend to remain on purely historical ground and be obedient to our rules, which preclude anything that might resemble religious controversy.
Brethren, I am a Roman Catholic! am a staunch supporter of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. My spiritual father is the Pope – and I am proud of it.
I am also a staunch and loyal Freemason, and I am proud of that. I make no secret of the fact that I am a Mason. The whole world may know it, and I feel very moved when making this dual profession of faith, because ten years ago it would not have been possible for anyone to do so.
With your permission I will divide this lecture into three parts. Firstly, why did the great conflict between the Church and the Craft occur in the past? Secondly, how did it come to an end? Thirdly – and this is the most important – how can we face the future?
THE THREE HISTORICAL PERIODS
I shall deal very quickly with the past. You know that the history of the Craft is traditionally divided into three parts – the operative period, the era of transition and the speculative period.
During the operative period, harmony existed between the Church and the Craft. The Regius poem itself was the work of a cleric, and this was quite natural because the main aim of the Craft was building religious edifices. During the era of transition there were no attacks on the Craft by the Church – the few that did occur were by the Puritans. During the speculative period, things were to change. When the first Grand Lodge was founded in 1717, the Church made no move and uttered no word. When Anderson’s Constitutions was published in 1723, the silence continued. But suddenly and most unexpectedly, in 1738, Pope Clement XII published his well – known Bull In Eminenti, the first condemnation of the Craft in history. This was confirmed in 1751 by Pope Benedict XIV.
FIRST BULL BY POPE CLEMENT XII
If we read the text of the first Bull, we find that two reasons are given. The first one is secrecy. I pass on. The second reason is much more mysterious. It is expressed in a very short sentence, the text and translation of which I quote. This text, in Latin, was “Aliisque justis ac rationalilibus causis nobis notis”; the translation being “and for other just and rational causes known to us.”
This little sentence is interesting because the Pope did not explain the term “other (aliisque) reasons,” and we are driven to the conclusion that there was a hidden or occult motive. What was that hidden motive? Was it a religious one? I don’t think so. Why?
First of all because Anderson’s Constitutions was never put on the Index (forbidden reading for Catholics). Secondly, if there was a doctrine to be condemned, we wonder what that doctrine could have been. It couldn’t have been the “Deism” upheld by the English philosophers of the time, such as John Locke. Anderson, himself, was not a Deist. He was a Presbyterian clergyman, while Desaguliers was of the Church of England.
Silence as regards the Revelation – I allude to Desaguliers – is no heresy. It couldn’t have been 18th century rationalism, for the German Aufklarung and that of Voltaire and the French Encyclopaediast of 1738 was still far away. Had the Bull appeared 20 years later, in 1758 for instance, things would have been different. And there is another reason. In 1776, almost at the end of the 18th century, when Pope Pius VI, in his Bull Inscrutabili, condemned the doctrines and the rationalism of the 18th century, he did not allude to Freemasonry.
When the Church condemns a doctrine, it always emphasizes what that doctrine consists of, and such was not the case regarding Freemasonry. If the hidden motive was not religious, what could it have been? Was it a moral one? Did the Roman Catholic Church put a ban against the Craft in 1738 for some hidden moral reason? If so, for what reason?
A MORAL FACTOR BEHIND FIRST BAN?
It is not speculation, but historical criticism that makes us put this question. In those days, as you know, Brethren, the first exposures came to light in England and in France and certain of our enemies reproached us with homosexuality and others with drunkenness. As for the first one, we find one protest in that old song called The Swordbearer’s Song, which I quote:
We have compassion for those fools,
Who think our acts impure;
We know from ignorance proceeds
Such mean opinions of our deeds.
As for drunkenness, things were different. The period was that of the implanting of the Hanoverian dynasty, when all England reeled and rolled under the table! Since the Treaty of Methuen, port wine could be imported free of duty. I remember an English lady, a friend of mine, telling me one day: “That’s why we’ve all got rheumatism!” The squires simply rolled under the table, and one was accustomed to speak about two or three – bottle gentlemen, according to their capacity.
In 1722, 33,000,000 bushels of malt were used for brewing. At one time matters came to the point where Parliament tried to check drunkenness by an Act, putting a tax on gin. It was a vain, laughable effort. During a debate in the House of Lords, Lord Chesterfield stressed the inconsistency of banking on the reduction of alcoholism on one hand by the means of a tax and on the other hand counting on that same tax to finance military expenditure. Gin to the rescue of the House of Austria! I am not trying to be funny, but want to put the following question: Who in those days stood up against the immorality of that period of the first Georges? The answer is: The Craft.
HOGARTH PORTRAYED THE TIMES
It was our brother, our great brother, Hogarth, who executed the famous engraving called Night, which represents a Worshipful Master and a Tyler coming home drunk after a lodge meeting. This was done to moralize the Craft, and it is curious to note that this engraving came out in 1738, the same year as the Papal Bull. There are other moralistic engravings of Hogarth, such as The Rake’s Progress, now in the Sloane Museum, Lincoln Inns Fields. It is a fact that the progress of what we might call “gentlemanness” is largely due to the influence of the early lodges; and when the Craft came across the channel to France the movement went on, developing with all the gracefulness of French 18th century manners.
So there was already something paradoxical about the condemnation, and our astonishment increases when we learn that Masonry was the only institution of the period which welcomed Roman Catholics, who were contemptuously called “Papists.” If we read the newspapers of the period, such as The Craftsman or The Gentleman’s Magazine, we find a passage concerning the Craft stating: “They admit all men, including Jacobites and Papists themselves.” This statement in that time was the utmost limit of scandal!
We can go even further and say that during that period when Roman Catholics were considered as outlaws in England, the Roman Catholic Duke of Norfolk was not only admitted, but became Grand Master of the Craft. I have even traced the presence, among Masons of the period, of a Jesuit called Father Cotton, who was also Brother Cotton. This was lawful in those days because the Papal condemnation had not yet been promulgated.
THE REAL REASON FOR FIRST BULL
If the motives of the Papal Bull were neither religious nor moral, what could they have been? There is only one answer – they were political! I won’t inflict the demonstration on you – I have devoted half a book to it. I’ll merely give you my conclusion. My personal opinion is that the hidden motive was the following:
As you know, the Old Pretender had finally found a refuge in Rome. He was under the protection of the Pope, and he represented the last card for the re – establishment of Catholicism in England. There was a war of double – agents between certain lodges composed of Jacobites and others of Hanoverian membership. The Old Pretender decided to put an end to this by closing the Jacobite lodge in Rome and, finally, to enter into the first condemnation. This leads us to understand why the motive was hidden. If the Holy See had discovered the hidden motive it would have been a terrible political blunder. The real reason was the politics of the day and the cause of the Stuarts.
Now, after the first Bull, if we examine what English policy was towards Roman Catholics, what do we find? First of all, that the legislation of the period was extremely harsh, because Roman Catholics were considered more or less as Jews were under the Third Reich: This, of course, was to become gradually milder, and the discrimination was to come to an end in the 19th century under the reign of Queen Victoria. But under the first Georges this was still very far away. It is a fact that during those two centuries, the Craft showed no hostility towards the Roman Catholic minority in Britain. It took no part in the Gordon riots, nor in the long, long troubles with Ireland. O’Connor himself was a Mason up to a certain period in his life; and you know, of course, that the so – called Orange “lodges” of nowadays are not, in fact, Masonic bodies.
LORD RIPON – THE CATHOLIC GRAND MASTER
The Craft took no steps in the intellectual sphere against the Oxford Movement, nor against the revival of Catholicism under Cardinal Newman. The Craft never, in the slightest way, opposed the gradual legal improvement of the status of the Roman Catholics and the ultimate attainment of their aims, yet nevertheless, the Papal condemnation of the Craft remained even though no reprisals were sought by the Freemasons.
This calm and impavid attitude was even somewhat heroic in a case I would like to mention – that of Lord Ripon.
In 1874, Lord Ripon was Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. He was a very religious man, and for pure motives of religious conviction, decided to convert and become a Roman Catholic. It must have broken his heart to resign not only his grand mastership, but his membership in the Craft, as well. I will read a very moving page in the newspaper, The Times of September 3, 1874. Imagine the scene, brethren! Imagine the Grand Lodge of England meeting held in that solemn fashion which is still its way. Here is what The Times related under the title “Lord Ripon and the Freemasons.”
“Last night the members of the Grand Lodge of England received the intelligence that the Grand Master, the Marquis of Ripon, had sent in his resignation of the high office he has held for three years as Head of the Craft in all parts of the world, acting under the warrant of England. The Grand Lodge was in the summons prepared to deal with the resolutions to be prepared by the Grand Master in the reference to the death of the Past Grand Master of Scotland, the Earl of Dalhousie, and great was the astonishment, therefore, of the brethren when it was found that the Grand Master’s place on the throne was occupied by the Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire, the Rev. John Huish. There was also present a very full lodge of provincial grand officers, worshipful masters and wardens. The Grand Secretary, John Hervey, said that he had received a letter from the Most Worshipful, the Grand Master, to lay before Grand Lodge and it was with the utmost of regret he had read it, a feeling which he was sure would be shared by the Craft, whose sorrow and dismay he fully anticipated. He then read the following letter dated from Nopton Hall, Lincolnshire, on the first instant:
Dear Grand Secretary,
I have to inform you that I find myself unable to discharge any longer the duties of Grand Master, and it is therefore necessary that I should resign that office into the hands of the members of Grand Lodge. With the expression of my grateful thanks for the kindness I have ever received from them and my regret for any inconvenience which my retirement may cause to them, I remain,
“The reading of the letter caused the greatest sensation, and no one spoke for some time. The Grand Registrar, Brother McIntyre, Q.C. then rose and addressed the Acting Grand Master, saying that it was with feelings of the deepest sorrow that he had to propose a resolution on an occasion of this character. But the Grand Lodge had no alternative and must adopt a resolution concerning the sorrowful matter before them. It was a matter of the greatest grief to all that a Grand Master, who had presided over the Craft with such very great credit to himself and advantage to the Order would, for reasons which must be most cogent but which
were entirely unconnected with the Noble Order, have felt it incumbent in him to resign the high post which he had held with such distinguished honour, and to which there was no doubt the noble marquis would have been elected from year to year by the body over which he had so long and so well presided.
“Deeply as they regretted the step, which the Grand Master had felt it his duty to take, they must know, all those who knew him so well and loved Mm so dearly, that he would never have taken that step unless there had been reasons so cogent to his mind, and therefore to the minds of the members of the Grand Lodge, to induce him to resign the Grand Mastership. Into those reasons the speaker was perfectly confident that no brother, throughout the great Order, would seek to pry with impertinent curiosity. The speaker then proposed that the resignation of Most Worshipful, the Grand Master, be accepted by this Grand Lodge with the deepest feelings of regret, and that the Grand Lodge shall be able to regard him, in Ms retirement from them, as they had in past times, as a bright ornament to this great Craft. The resolution was then put and carried.”
Brethren, I call this grandeur. It is a splendid page in the history of Freemasonry. If Lord Ripon had lived now – adays he would very probably not have resigned and the consequence of such a conversion of a high – ranking Mason to the Roman Catholic Church would be minimal. In 1874 he had to choose!
About 15 years later, Bradlaugh, who was the founder of a league called The League of Freethinkers in Britain, and who was an open atheist, published a book entitled What Freemasonry Is; What It Has Been; and What It Ought to Be. His main object was to prove that English Freemasonry was bigoted, and that it should follow a line like that of Continental Masonry – which had just been condemned by Pope Leo XIII for its anti – religious views. Once more nothing happened, and Bradlaugh was eventually expelled from the House of Commons for political reasons which coincided with his Masonic prejudices.
FREEMASONRY CROSSES THE CHANNEL
Now, after having rapidly seen what happened in the British Isles, let us cross the Channel and try to see what happened on this side.
Things change completely. On the Continent an historical phenomenon which our brother, Jean Baylot calls La Voi Substituee (The Substitute Path) had begun about the year 1820. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna had established, throughout Europe, the political and spiritual Order known as The Order of the Holy Alliance, which was an Order of legitimate sovereigns connected with the spiritual source of the Roman Church. This Order was necessary after the troubles of the Napoleonic period, but it was nevertheless an Order founded on strength, on compelling strength, and even, in a certain way, on strength compelling human conscience. A certain number of conspirators, such as the Carbonari and others, at a period when there was no freedom of speech, conceived the idea of joining Masonry, which existed lawfully in Continental countries, simply because it was a convenient way of conspiring.
I remember 25 years ago when, in order to escape investigation by the German Gestapo, French resisters would sometimes form groups of what we used to call in those days “Collaborationists.” It was the same thing. Little by little, this perverted some lodges, however regular they might have been, and the very spirit of the Craft on the Continent. In 1849 there was a scandal in the town of Dijon. The well – known atheist philosopher, Proudhon, was admitted to the lodge in that town, and in accordance with the ritual, he was asked to reply in writing to the following three questions: What are the duties of a man toward God, towards his neighbor and towards himself? Proudhon’s answer to the question concerning the relationship with God was – “War!”
To a British Mason such a thing is unthinkable. It became increasingly compulsory in French Masonry. You know what followed. In 1877 the Grand Orient of France simply deleted from its Constitutions the name of the G.A.O.T.U. and the immediate riposte of the United Grand Lodge of England was to cease relations with that so – called Masonic body.
In Italy the origin of irregular lodges was mainly political; they confused Masonry with the fight against the temporal power of the Pope. Then there came a number of scandals in the French army – the famous “Scandale des Fiches.” The anti – clerical Combes government used the Grand Orient of France for a disgusting kind of intelligence work, consisting of favoring or hindering the promotions of officers, according to their anti – religious ideas. Finally the very name “Freemason” in France became synonymous with an anti – clerical and anti – religious militant atheism.
Logically, the Church should have taken account of the difference between Anglo – Saxon and Continental Masonry. Why didn’t it do so? Well, the reason is obvious – it is because Roman Catholics were too few in Britain for the matter to be important enough. At least that is how it seems, and for the same reason the confusion has continued up to the present. Brethren, so much for the past.
PART II – THE PRESENT
Now I come to the second point of this lecture. How did the great conflict come to an end, and has it really come to an end? Some do not yet know about it. Well, the proper answer is – Yes! the present situation is the following.
Let us imagine a blackboard with a diagram. We may call the Roman Catholic Church “A,” irregular Masonry “B” and regular Masonry “C.” “A” has condemned “B,” which means that the Church has condemned irregular Masonry, and “C” has condemned “B,” for as you know, we have nothing to do with the Grand Orient and other irregular obediences. Is it therefore contrary to logic that, if “A” condemns “B” and “C” condemns “B,” that “A” and “C” should not agree? Both of them condemn “B” and they even condemn “B” for the same reason principally atheism! Unhappily, the human mind is not always logical and progress is very, very slow. Ideas have progressed during the last 30 years on both sides. On the Roman Catholic side, the main promotors of pacification – or cease fire, so to speak – have been the Jesuits, Father Grouber, Father Berteloot and my friend Father Riquet, who delivered a famous lecture, which I personally organized in a lodge at Lavel. The lodge in question was not regular at the time, but has since joined the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise under another name.
On the Masonic side, we can now lift certain veils, and certain things are no longer confidential. I remember conversations having taken place in Paris with the Grand Master of Germany, M.W. Bro. Theodore Vogel (who is one of the great figures in the Craft), Brother Muller – Borner and my friend, Bro. Baron F. Von Cles, who was here half an hour ago and who was unfortunately obliged to leave. I must very proudly mention brothers from the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise, like our M.W. Grand Master Ernest Van Heeke, who have been in touch with the leaders of the Church. I must certainly not omit to mention Bro. Jean Baylot’s book, The Substitute Path. I will forget about my own literary efforts, except to say one thing only: when I tried to sustain hose theories, I waited to know whether or not they would be disapproved by the Holy Office – they were not censured. I consider, therefore, that they were implicitly approved. And then things went so far that a Spanish Jesuit, Father Forrer Benimeli, joined in this kind of tug – of – war.
Then in 1966, an important event took place, and most surprisingly, in the Scandinavian countries. The Roman Catholic Scandinavian bishops decided that if Protestants wished to join the Roman Catholic Church and happened to be Masons, they could remain so. That was the first step. In Paris, a former archbishop happened to be asked by members of the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise who had returned to faith after having lost it, what they should do in actual practice. Was it their duty to resign or not? They were told: “Oh well, remain where you are Wait and see, as you say in English.’
My eminent friend and brother, Harry Carr, the secretary of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 (English Constitution), who is not only a prominent British Mason, but also a prominent Jew – and proud of it – then had certain contacts with Cardinal Heenan in England and wrote an article on the question, from which I extract the following:
“. . . On my last visit to the London Grand Rank Association, I spoke at some length of our hopes of bridging the gulf which has so long separated the Craft and the Church of Rome. During question time at the end of my talk, one of the brethren asked: ‘How can you possibly hope for an accord between us and the R.C. Church, when the bookstall in Westminster Cathedral still sells those horrible anti – Masonic pamphlets, etc.?’
“. . . I wrote to Cardinal Heenan explaining that the pamphlets (I know them well) are both defamatory and inaccurate and begged him to use his authority to get them removed. I also sent him a copy of my talk on Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic Church, expressing my eagerness to see peace restored between the Craft and the Vatican, and asked for an appointment when we might discuss these matters. Cardinal Heenan replied, and in regard to the anti – Masonic pamphlet he promised that ‘. . . if, as I suspect, it is misleading, I shall see that it is withdrawn.’ He also asked me to arrange an appointment through his secretary, and I went to Archbishold’s House, Westminster on 18th March, 1968. I could not have prayed for a kinder or more sympathetic reception.
“I first explained that, as a Jew, I had high hopes from the ecumenical movement and, as a Freemason, the evidence of wider tolerance in the Roman Catholic Church had been a source of great joy to me. His Eminence replied: ‘Yes, your letter to me was quite an extraordinary coincidence because I am deeply interested in the whole matter, and have been for a very long time. I shall show you a picture later on.’ Our talk ranged over many aspects of the subject.
“He told me that he would be reporting direct to Rome on Masonic matters, and he asked me a number of questions on side degrees and other bodies and their supposed connections with the Craft. (I later replied on eight sheets of typescript with a collection of official printed documents, all of which were subsequently taken by him to the Holy See.)
“The highlight of our conversation arose when I emphasized how important it must be to draw a sharp line between the kind of Freemasonry recognized by the U.G.L. of England and the atheistic or anti – Christian Grand Orient type. I urged that the Church of Rome could safely take the English standards as a yardstick for distinguishing between ‘the good and the bad,’ and I added – ‘but what we really need is an intermediary to convince your authorities.’ He answered: ‘I am your intermediary.’
“Then he led me into an adjoining council – chamber, a lovely room, and showed me ‘the picture,’ a large oil painting of Cardinal Manning’s last reception. It depicted the dying Cardinal seated on a settee, his face grey and haggard, speaking to several frock – coated men nearby, while the whole background was filled with similarly clad figures. It was a ‘portrait’ picture of famous men with a chart below giving their names.
“His Eminence pointed to one heavily-bearded man leaning over the settee in the group surrounding the Cardinal, and asked: ‘Do you know who that is?’ I pleaded ignorance and he pointed to No. 3 on the chart. ‘No. 3,’ he said, ‘is Lord Ripon; you know he was a Grand Master and he resigned from Freemasonry in order to become a Roman Catholic.’ (I did know, indeed.) His Eminence continued: ‘You may not know, perhaps, that after he resigned he used to say that throughout his career in Freemasonry he had never heard a single word uttered against the Altar or Throne. Those words have always remained strong in my memory and so you can understand how eager I am to help.’
“Cardinal Heenan very kindly gave me another interview a few weeks later, when I was accompanied by a senior grand officer. It was a most promising conversation because His Eminence was on the eve of his departure for Rome when it was hoped that all these matters were to be discussed at the highest levels; but we were advised beforehand that ‘the mills of God grind slowly.’ And then, almost without warning ‘The Pill’ exploded in Rome, and now we may have to start all over again!
“I have told you all this, brethren, because I believe with all my heart that the Craft has much to gain from a reconciliation with the Church of Rome. Consider how valuable it would be if at the very least, we were able, at one stroke of the pen, to change millions of former enemies into friends. . . .”
However, brethren, someone had to begin; someone had to take, as our ritual says, the first regular step in Freemasonry. Well, I took that step on March 28, 1969. My sponsors were Father Riquet, a Roman Catholic Jesuit and Brother Harry Carr, one of the most eminent representatives not only of the Craft, but also of English Jewry. I was admitted to the Craft and did not consider it to be incompatible with my faith to adhere to “the religion to which all men agree.”
PART III – THE FUTURE
The third point is, how can we confront the future?
How do things stand in this autumn of 1970?
Before I joined the Craft, I had a personal conversation with a very important English Mason, who told me in the plainest way: “We never attacked the Church! The Church attacked us! If the Church considers it has to withdraw the Bulls of the past, we will just see what happens. We have no step to take.” This was the official position explained by a high – ranking official. But in fact, British Masons go much further and I have my own personal experience to testify to this. They are looking forward to a settlement.
What about French Masonry? Well, I won’t speak about the Grand Orient, of course, which maintains its old hatred, not only against my Church, but against all religious ideas and the very name of God. As regards the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise, it is entirely favorable, save perhaps some individual members who do not represent the obedience. As regards the Grande Loge de France, it has taken up a curious kind of medium – way attitude. It is in favor of what it calls a talk, and its position is: “Let’s have a talk, but why should the Church interfere with problems of Masonic regularity? Why should the Church, if it intends to lift the ban, lift it only for regular Masons – regularity is not the Church’s business.” That is the position of the Grande Loge de France.
POSITION OF THE CHURCH
On the Roman Catholic side, what is the position? I think we can say there are three schools of thought. First of all there are what we call the integrists. They are the extreme conservatives of the past, what I think you call in English politics, the “diehards.” They are the diehards of the old anti – Masonic feeling. They are not very numerous and they are generally badly informed and impassioned.
Then come those who uphold a theory developed in Italy by a Jesuit named Father Esposito, which we may call the “Esposito Theory.” It is not mine, but I will explain it. According to Father Esposito, the Council of Vatican II has developed the idea that the Church should enter into an overall conversation, or dialogue, with ll mankind, and especially with other religions, and with all schools of philosophy – atheists included. For that reason it involves Masonry and it is in accordance with the Grande Loge de France theory. I do not agree with it myself, for the simple reason that to my mind, Masons are not unbelievers. And it is a mistake to confuse the problem of a dialogue, which is one thing, with the problem of being a member of two bodies at the same time. It is quite different. As a Roman Catholic, I don’t mind entering into a dialogue with a Protestant or a Shintoist, but that does not mean that I think that I can belong to two churches at the same time. If I think that the Shintoist faith is the best, I must logically adhere to the Shintoist Faith. If I believe that my faith is the true one, I remain faithful to my Church.
AND OF THE CRAFT
Regarding the Craft, the problem is quite different. Things do not appear under the same light, and it is obvious that a Roman Catholic may at the same time be a regular Mason. Why? Because the law is such, and that is certainly the compelling reason.
By “the law,” I mean Article 2335 of the present – day Canon Code, which I translate from Latin in the following way: “No one has the right to join the Masonic sect, or a sect that conspires against religion or against the Established Power.” As my friend Brother Doctor Vatcher said in a rather humorous way in this very lodge: “We don’t believe in England that the Archbishop of Canterbury conspires against religion, or that the Duke of Kent conspires against the State.” So, if it is a matter of pure, bare fact, it has been proven that the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise, for instance, does not conspire against the Church and does not seek to overthrow the legitimate political power.
So the condemnation (there is no question of withdrawing it) simply does not affect it; it affects something else. It’s like the story of the fellow who, when it rained, passed between the drops of water; the rain didn’t wet him! That is my personal opinion, and that is the opinion upheld by Father Riquet. We waited to see whether the theory would be disapproved or condemned by the Church; it has not been so condemned and we are therefore certain that this opinion is the good one and the right one. Actually, the whole matter is being reviewed once more and the Vatican is fully informed.
HOW WILL IT END
So how will the whole matter end? That is the question!
Certain Masons and also certain Catholics hope for a solemn pontifical document. I am afraid this cannot be expected for an obvious reason. The Pope cannot legislate on Freemasonry (I speak of both regular and irregular bodies) because the Craft is too divided. It is impossible to speak about Freemasonry in general because from a Catholic point of view, there are Freemasonries in the plural. Could one then expect the Pope to issue a sort of catalogue, stating that such a Masonic body is considered legal by Catholics, while another one is not? It could be done in theory, but it would compel the Church to intervene in matters of Masonic regularity, which are none of its business.
And then, brethren, it is a fact of which you are aware that the various Grand Lodges in different countries are not all in the same frame of mind. Can, for instance, a Roman Catholic now join a lodge under the United Grand Lodge of England with absolute security that he will be considered by his brothers as being the same as any other Mason? Certainly – there is no problem. Can he join the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise? Of course he can. Can he join a German lodge? Well, I’m afraid it all depends. Can he join the Grand Lodge of Belgium (regular)? I don’t know.
In fact, to leave things to each man’s conscience is probably, for the moment – and I believe that is the idea of the Church – perhaps the safest way.
Personally, I have faith in the Craft. Regularity is every day gaining ground in this country. Many irregular Masons are daily more and more disgusted and join the only regular Masonic obedience, which is ours. I have faith too in the destiny of the Church. Never has the Papacy seemed so great. One can open papers to ascertain that there is no great problem of the present period on which the Pope remains mute. It is a fact, brethren, that whenever the safeguard and the dignity of mankind are in question, the tenets of the Church and the Craft are exactly the same. Let me quote another example that of the attitude to be observed towards that persecuted race, of which Our Lord and his disciples were members.
There must be room in the world of the future for “THE ROMAN CATHOLIC FREEMASON.” What must he be? Well, these will be my last words: Masonry, if he rightly understands the Art, must make him a better Roman Catholic, and his own religion, if he practices it, and upholds it as is his duty, must make him a better Mason.