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Humanum Genus is a papal encyclical promulgated on April 20, 1884, by Pope Leo XIII. Coming in the ascent of the industrial age and Marxism, it posited that the late 19th Century was a dangerous era for Christians, and condemned Freemasonry as well as a number of beliefs and practices allegedly associated with Freemasonry, including naturalism, popular sovereignty which does not recognize God, and the idea that the state should be "without God". Some of the encyclical's strictures remain in force today.
It starts by using the Augustinian concept of the two cities, the City of Man and the City of God. So the human race was "separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ ... The other is the kingdom of Satan," which were "led on or assisted" by Freemasonry.
The fundamental doctrine of Masonry was portrayed as naturalism, which leads to Deism and gnosticism. This was seen to lead them to a fundamental clash with (Roman Catholic) Christianity as, due to their supposed beliefs, Freemasons were accused of support of a radical separation of church and state, with an attempt to impose legal obstacles to the church.
The encyclical argued that the late 19th century was a time of particular danger for Christians as the "partisans of evil" were now far more open, as evidenced by the new openness of Freemasonry. Freemasonry had been condemned by previous Popes as contrary to Christian doctrine, but the nature (if not beliefs) of Freemasonry was changing as Freemasons were now far more open in their practices and affiliations.
The encyclical specifically condemned certain practices of the Freemasons, such as: religious indifference; the promotion of public education which denied the Church's role and where "the education of youth shall be exclusively in the hands of laymen"; the approval of the notion that the people are the only source of sovereignty, and that "those who rule have no authority but by the commission and concession of the people."
Humanum Genus criticises a number of principles, for example the idea that popular sovereignty is the source of all rights and that man should bend to no authority other than himself:
Then come their doctrines of politics, in which the naturalists lay down that all men have the same right, and are in every respect of equal and like condition; that each one is naturally free; that no one has the right to command another; that it is an act of violence to require men to obey any authority other than that which is obtained from themselves.[emphasis added]
Finally it condemns what it sees as the Masonic idea of the total separation of religion and state:
It is held also that the State should be without God; that in the various forms of religion there is no reason why one should have precedence of another; and that they are all to occupy the same place.[emphasis added]
Several popes before Leo XIII had addressed the problems presented by speculative Freemasonry and how the principles of that society were incompatible with the teaching of the Church. Previous Papal pronouncements on Freemasonry were:
- Pope Clement XII – In Eminenti, a papal bull in 1738
- Pope Benedict XIV – Providas Romanorum, an Apostolic constitution in 1751
- Pope Pius VII – Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo, an Apostolic constitution in 1821
- Pope Leo XII – Quo Graviora (1826), an Apostolic constitution
- Pope Pius VIII – Traditi Humilitati, an encyclical in 1829
- Pope Gregory XVI – Mirari Vos, an encyclical in 1832
- Pope Pius IX – Qui Pluribus, an encyclical in 1846
Leo XIII's denunciation of Freemasonry should be seen in context of his examination of socialism (Quod Apostolici Muneris), his defence of Christian marriage (Arcanum) and on the role of government (Diuturnum). Because of the secrecy in Freemasonry, it was believed by the Church to have an enormous amount of secret discipline of its members – which was seen by the Pope as enslavement. So by this definition, although individual Masons may be decent people, they were being led to do evil things.
Notes and references
- "Again, as all who offer themselves are received whatever may be their form of religion, they thereby teach the great error of this age—that a regard for religion should be held as an indifferent matter, and that all religions are alike." Paragraph 16, Humanum Genus
- "With the greatest unanimity the sect of the Freemasons also endeavors to take to itself the education of youth. They think that they can easily mold to their opinions that soft and pliant age, and bend it whither they will; and that nothing can be more fitted than this to enable them to bring up the youth of the State after their own plan. Therefore, in the education and instruction of children they allow no share, either of teaching or of discipline, to the ministers of the Church; and in many places they have procured that the education of youth shall be exclusively in the hands of laymen, and that nothing which treats of the most important and most holy duties of men to God shall be introduced into the instructions on morals." Paragraph 21, Humanum Genus
- Paragraph 22, Humanum Genus
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