On Freemasonry and Other "Paranoid Fantasies"
by Paul A. Fisher, author of Behind the Lodge Door
In his article regarding Vatican II in the February 28th issue of The Remnant, Michael Matt refers to Michael Davies article in which he seems to suggest that Masonic conspiracies are part of paranoid Traditional Catholic fantasies. With that in mind, allow me to offer a bit of history of prior Papal concern regarding Freemasonry and similar secret societies.
In his 1832 Encyclical Mirari Vos, Pope Gregory XVI referenced a then current effort to make the Church relevant to society, so that a foundation may be laid for a new human institution, and what Cyprian detested may come to pass, that is: what was a divine thing 'may become a human church.
His Holiness went on to list a few problems he faced, including the abominable conspiracy against clerical celibacy, demands to relax the indissolubility of marriage, indifferentism, by which it is claimed eternal salvation is available to everyone regardless of their religious affiliations.
Some years later, in 1884, Pope Leo XIII, in Humanum Genus, his detailed encyclical against Freemasonry, identified the perverse influence of Masonic opinions as the source of the problems encountered by Gregory XVI. Humanum Genus is particularly important, because Leo stated precisely how he knew about the Fraternity by: its activities; various investigations of the Craft; its laws and commentaries; and knowledge provided by personal testimony of those who were in on the secret.
In an 1892 Encyclical to the Bishops of Italy, titled, Inimica Vis, he expressed particular concern regarding penetration of Masonry among the clergy, and Masonry's plans "to soften the opposition of the lower clergy with their promises." Masons, he continued, "wish to win over the clergy by cajolery; once the novelties have confused them, they will withdraw their obedience to legitimate authority.
Far too many of our compatriots, driven by hope of their personal advantage, or by perverse ambition, have given their names or support to the sect.. He then cited the following remark of Pope Felix III [383 A.D.]: An error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed; and he who does not oppose an evident crime is open to the suspicion of secret complicity.
That letter to the Bishops of Italy was accompanied by another Encyclical, addressed to the people of Italy, titled: Custodi Di Quella Fede, This, too, was a fulsome exposure of Masonry's diabolical secret attacks on Church and State, and prompted him to warn: "The war against Freemasonry is so sinister," that it is urgent for Christians to use "all the prudence of the serpent while keeping in your heart the simplicity of the dove." He added further: That the people of Italy should avoid not only those who openly promote the Masons, but also "those who hide under the mask of universal tolerance, respect for all religions, and the craving to reconcile the maxims of the Gospel with those of the Revolution. These men seek to reconcile Christ and Belial, the Church of God and the State without God.
Pope Pius X stated in Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 1907, that
those in the ranks of the priesthood itself, who . . . thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church . . . who vaunt themselves as reformers of the Church; and . . . assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious daring, they reduce to simple man.
Pius X, in his 1906 Encyclical Letter, Pieni L'Animo, concerning the clergy of Italy, deplored "the spirit of insubordination and independence" among the clergy.
On May 23, 1958, Pius XII addressed the Seventh Week Pastoral Adaptation Conference in Italy, and observed:
. . . the roots of modern apostasy lay in scientific atheism, dialectical materialism, rationalism, illuminism, laicism, and Freemasonry - which is the mother of them all.
In summary, of the Vatican's 53 condemnations of Freemasonry and related secret societies during the 246-year period 1738-1984, one appeared once every four and one-half years, on average. Of the number, 21 specifically condemn Freemasonry.
With further reference to Michael Davies' position, I believe it was in the early 1970s, when I was Washington Correspondent for the National Catholic Register, that the editor showed me a letter sent by Michael Davies concerning the dangers of Masonry. The letter included either an article by Hamish Fraser, or a definite statement attributed to him, in which he stated that the Vatican had, at that time, issued some 200 documents condemning Freemasonry. However, the Register's editor did not choose to print the material.
In this connection, Henry C. Clausen, 33rd Degree, Sovereign Grand Commander of Scottish Rite Masonry of the Southern Jurisdiction makes the following remarks in his book, Clausen's Commentaries On Morals and Dogma (1974):
...Many of our friends who are members [of the Catholic Church] reject as foreign to America the medieval fulminations against our Fraternity, realize how very much we have in common, accept the standards of American democracy, recognize we have a pluralistic system in a new and permanent form of relationship between religion and government, and call upon their church leaders to stop attacks upon Masonry and upon Masonic ceremonies. . ..
Actually, a start, at least, has been made right in the Vatican. There have been discussions for liberalization of the restrictive provisions of canon laws. It has been said that since the codification of the canonic laws in the Codes Juris Canonici, the papal Bulls and Briefs are only the expressions of personal opinions.
And, of course, Canon Law was changed regarding Freemasonry. Further, a careful comparison of the changes in the words between the old and new canons are clearly significant.
The Grand Commander went on to note that Johann Cardinal Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, addressed representative of the DeMolay Order on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Orders' founding. The Cardinal noted that he was there at the direction of the Vatican Secretary of State.
DeMolay is a Masonic affiliate for young potential Masons, and honors Jacques de Molay, the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar. De Molay was burned at the stake in 1314, following an extensive trial which lasted from 1307 to 1314, under the authority of King Phillip the Fair of France and Pope Clement V.
The Scottish Rite's Knight Kadosh Degree (30th), honors de Molay. In that Degree's initiation ceremony, the candidate faces a table on which are three skulls. One is adorned with a papal tiara, a second has a regal crown, and the third skull is festooned with a laurel wreath, representing Jacques de Molay. The Grand Master of the Degree stabs the skull with the papal tiara as the candidate shouts "Down with Imposture! Down with crime!" The same procedure occurs regarding the skull with the royal crown. Finally, the candidate and the Master kneel before the skull adorned with the laurel leaf and say: Everlasting glory to the immortal martyr of virtue. [i.e., de Molay].
The candidates then take a second oath to strive unceasingly... for the overthrow of superstition, fanaticism, imposture and intolerance. There are two other oaths, and, finally, in the fourth oath the focus is on the cruel and cowardly Pontiff, who sacrificed to his ambition the illustrious order of those Knights Templar of whom we are the true successors." Then all present trample on the papal tiara as they jointly shout: Down with imposture.
Candidates in the 31st degree agree that the Masonic ideal of justice is more lofty than the actualities of God. The 32nd Degree teache[s] that "Masonry will eventually rule the world.
Look on the back of a U.S. dollar bill and see the Masonic symbolism, and the words under the Masonic pyramid and the "All Seeing Eye Novus Ordo Seclorum, which means: "A New Order for the Ages, or, as we say: A New World Order."
Also, in connection with Freemasonry and the Church, the following appears to be of significant interest.
A National Catholic News Service (NCNS) dispatch from Vatican City, dated August 4, 1976, written by Father Thomas Donlan, O.P., and forwarded to NCNS subscribers highlighted some parts of a 4,500-word article by Dominican Father Georges Cottier, which appeared at that time in the Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano. Father Cottier was then a consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Nonbelievers, although today he has a position that is considerably higher.
The article defended the Vatican's excommunication of Archbishop
Marcel Lefebvre, and Father Cottier expressed a mantra so common
today among defenders of Freemasonry: "The traditionalist
political ideology," he observed, "sees in the moto
of the French Revolution, 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,' the
essence of all the evils of the modern world and the expression
of its apostasy."
Such people, he continued, "seem unaware that these three
terms have become a part of the Church's agenda. In three important
conciliar documents (on religious liberty, ecumenism, and the
Church) the concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity are
It is worth recalling that those three words also have long been the motto of International Freemasonry.
Fr. Cottier suggested that the Archbishop's political outlook
harks back to the 18th century and the time of the monarchy
and of the traditionalist political party, L'Accion Francaise,
which was condemned by Pope Pius XI before World War II, colors
his theological and liturgical positions.