Anticlericalism and Freemasonry

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The question of whether Freemasonry is Anticlerical is the subject of debate. The Catholic Church has long been an outspoken critic of Freemasonry, and some scholars have often accused the fraternity of anticlericalism.[1] The Catholic Church forbids its members to join any masonic society under pain of interdiction. Freemasons usually take a diametrically opposite view, stating that there is nothing in Freemasonry that is in any way contrary to Catholicism or any other religious faith.

Whether Freemasonry is Anticlerical often depends on how one defines Anticlericalism and what branch of Freemasonry one is talking about.

Anglo/American Freemasonry v. Continental Freemasonry[edit]

Starting in the late eighteenth century, and rapidly expanding in the nineteenth, Freemasonry became polarized over the issue of whether the discussion of religion and politics was appropriate in lodges. Those Grand Lodges that adhered to the Anglo-American form of Freemasonry (a significant[quantify] majority world wide) maintained a strict rule that such discussion was banned.[2] Historian John Robinson notes this fact in reaching the conclusion that Freemasonry is not anticlerical.[3]

The Grand Lodges that followed the Continental form of Freemasonry, on the other hand, not only allowed political and religious discussions but often made official statements on political and religious topics. Some of these pronouncements can be seen as being Anticlerical[citation needed]. Such pronouncements, however, did not necessarily reflect the opinions of all Freemasons within the jurisdiction and often led to schisms and the formation of rival Grand Lodges that issued contrary opinions.

The fact that the Continental branch of Freemasonry was concentrated in traditionally Catholic countries, may account for the fact that the fraternity has been seen by Catholic critics as an outlet for anti-Catholic disaffection. Many particularly anti-clerical regimes in traditionally Catholic countries were perceived as having a strong Masonic element.[4]

Extent of the anticlericalism[edit]

According to historians Christopher Clark and Wolfram Kaiser, Freemasonry was not anticlerical from the outset. They state that this changed in the nineteenth century (in part because of measures by the Catholic Church) and that Freemasonry (mostly continental Freemasonry), developed an anticlerical outlook.[5] They note, however, that the influence of freemasonry should not be given too much weight; even in Italy it was eclipsed in influence by non-Masonic groups such as the Carbonari.[6] They also note that lodges did not hold one consistent political line, many being completely apolitical.[7]

Spain[edit]

The historian Stanley Payne believed that the influence of Freemasonry has often been overstated noting that Spanish Catholics had been accused of suffering from a "Masonic psychosis"[8] and notes that, numbering near 65,000 in 1890, “they sometimes figured prominently in Spanish liberalism and republicanism, but their direct collective influence on both politics and anticlericalism has doubtless been considerably exaggerated".[8]

Portugal[edit]

According to historian Stanley G. Payne, members of the Masonic lodges played a major role in the rise of Portuguese liberalism and anticlericalism. However, he notes that the fraternity was not always united in opinion. Masons were found on both sides of the Gomes da Freire revolt in 1817. In 1820, however, Masons were devoted almost unanimously to the liberal cause in politics, and in the 1830s they had become the principal promoters of anticlericalism. After the triumph of constitutionalism, however, Portuguese Freemasonry split into more radical and more conservative groups, and by the 1860s it had ceased to play a catalytic role in politics. The upper middle class, established in power and wealth, were less attracted to it, and by the late nineteenth century Masons were drawn mainly from the lower middle class ranks of white-collar employees. Its place in radical politics at the turn of the century was taken over largely by secret republican radical political societies, especially the non-masonic Carbonária, and by 1912 the Masons had fewer than 3,000 members.[9]

Germany[edit]

The Papal encyclical Etsi multa of Pope Pius IX in 1873 claimed that Freemasonry was the motivating force behind the Kulturkampf: "Some of you may perchance wonder that the war against the Catholic Church extends so widely. Indeed each of you knows well the nature, zeal, and intention of sects, whether called Masonic or some other name. When he compares them with the nature, purpose, and amplitude of the conflict waged nearly everywhere against the Church, he cannot doubt but that the present calamity must be attributed to their deceits and machinations for the most part. For from these the synagogue of Satan is formed which draws up its forces, advances its standards, and joins battle against the Church of Christ." [10] The Catholic Encyclopedia also claims that the Kulturkampf was instigated by Masonic lodges.[11]

Belgium[edit]

The rivalry between the Catholic Church and the Grand Orient of Belgium led to the foundation of the Free University of Brussels which was founded largely by Belgian Freemasons concerned at the expansion of Catholic influence within Higher Education.[12]

Italy[edit]

In the Papal constitution Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo (1821) Pope Pius VII linked the anticlerical Italian secret society, the Carbonari to Freemasonry.[13]

In the period between Italian unification (1870) and the Lateran Treaties (1929) there was a cold war between the Papacy and the Kingdom of Italy (see Prisoner in the Vatican). The Papal Encyclical Etsi Nos,[14] complained about the way in which post-unification Italy denigrated the role of the church,[15] which the Vatican blamed primarily on Freemasonry.[16]

The hostility to Freemasonry shaped much of the Catholic Church's strategy in regard to the newly established Italian state. For example, in the encyclical Custodi di quella fede Leo XIII warned against Catholics becoming involved with liberal groups[17] and asked Catholics to become more involved in forms of Catholic Action away from the "Masonic" state.[18]

In 2007 Italian politicians in the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats and Forza Italia accused “radical and Masonic” groups of being behind a threatened investigation by the European Commission of whether or not the tax-exempt status of the Church’s hospitals, schools, and other social service organizations should be withdrawn.[19]

Mexico[edit]

The Mexican Revolution was seen by the leadership of the Catholic Church to be both masonically inspired and anti-clerical with Cardinal William Henry O'Connell in 1914 claiming that there was a Masonic conspiracy to spread atheism and anarchy.[20][21]

The Mexican government's anticlerical stance after the Mexican Revolution coincided with a succession of presidents who were "Masons and strongly anticlerical".[22] Even recent President Vicente Fox stated, "After 1917, Mexico was led by anti-Catholic Freemasons who tried to evoke the anticlerical spirit of popular indigenous President Benito Juarez of the 1880s. But the military dictators of the 1920s were a more savage lot than Juarez." [23]

President Plutarco Elías Calles, a Freemason[24] sought to vigorously enforce the secularising provisions of the constitution and enacted additional anti-Catholic legislation known as the Calles Law, which enacted a number of anti-clerical provisions, for example fining priests for wearing clerical dress.[25] Many Catholics rebelled against the oppression in the conflict which is known as the Cristero War. On May 28, 1926, Calles was awarded a medal of merit from the head of Mexico's Scottish rite for his actions against the Catholics.[26]

In August 2007 Pedro Marquez of the Grand Lodge of the Valley of Mexico, in discussing a call by the Church to lift the ban in the Mexican constitution against Catholic schools and newspapars, stated "The Catholic hierarchy wants to dictate a political policy and that is a very grave error, as our society is no longer in the era of Christianity and priests are no longer viceroys of New Spain," and that "There is a tendency in the Church to meddle in the social and political affairs of Mexico, but the priests should return to their Churches".[27]

Ecuador[edit]

Some attributed to Freemasonry the assassination of Gabriel Garcia Moreno who twice served as President of Ecuador (1859-1865 and 1869-1875) and was assassinated during his second term, just days before he was to take office in his third term.[28] He is noted for his conservatism and Catholic religious perspective.

Part of the animosity García Moreno generated was because of his friendship toward the Society of Jesus, and during a period of their exile, he helped a group of displaced Jesuits find refuge in Ecuador. He had also advocated legislation which would outlaw secret societies.[29] This action and many similar ones encouraged the anti-Catholic parties of Ecuador, especially the Masons, to see in him an inveterate enemy. The 1869 constitution made Catholicism the established religion of the state. He was the only ruler in the world to protest the Pope's loss of the Papal States, and two years later had the legislature consecrate Ecuador to the Sacred Heart. One of his biographers writes that after the public consecration, he was condemned to die by German Freemasonry.[30]

When he was elected a third time in 1875, he and many of his supporters considered it to be a death warrant. He wrote immediately to Pope Pius IX asking for his blessing before inauguration day on August 30:

I wish to obtain your blessing before that day, so that I may have the strength and light which I need so much in order to be unto the end a faithful son of our Redeemer, and a loyal and obedient servant of His Infallible Vicar. Now that the Masonic Lodges of the neighboring countries, instigated by Germany, are vomiting against me all sorts of atrocious insults and horrible calumnies, now that the Lodges are secretly arranging for my assassination, I have more need than ever of the divine protection so that I may live and die in defense of our holy religion and the beloved republic which I am called once more to rule.

García Moreno's prediction was correct; he was assassinated exiting the Cathedral in Quito, struck down with knives and revolvers, his last words being: "¡Dios no muere!" ("God does not die!")

On August 5, shortly before his assassination, a priest visited García Moreno and warned him, "You have been warned that your death was decreed by the Freemasons; but you have not been told when. I have just heard that the assassins are going to try and carry out their plot at once. For God's sake, take your measures accordingly!" [31] García Moreno replied that he had already received similar warnings and after calm reflection concluded that the only measure he could take was to prepare himself to appear before God.[32]

"It appears he was assassinated by members of a secret society," observed a contemporary review of public events.[33]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gruber 1910.
  2. ^ Ridley, Jasper (2001), The Freemasons, New York: Arcade Publishing, p. [page needed] 
  3. ^ Robinson, John J., A Pilgrim's Path, New York: M. Evans and Company, p. [page needed] 
  4. ^ "In France, in 1877, and in Portugal in 1910, Freemasons took control of the government for a time and enacted laws to restrict the activities of the Church, particularly in education. In Latin America, the Freemasons have expressed anti-Church and anti-clerical sentiment" (Saunders 2007).
  5. ^ Clark & Kaiser 2003, pp. 54-55.
  6. ^ Clark & Kaiser 2003, p. 55.
  7. ^ Clark & Kaiser 2003, p. 213.
  8. ^ a b Payne 1984, p. 127.
  9. ^ Payne 1973, Chapter 22.
  10. ^ Para 28, Etsi Multa
  11. ^ "They also instigated the "Kulturkampf". The celebrated jurisconsult and Mason, Grandmaster Bluntschli, was one of the foremost agitators in this conflict; he also stirred up the Swiss "Kulturkampf"." From Masonry (Freemasonry) in the Catholic Encyclopedia and "German Freemasons fostered the Kulturkampf and helped further the dominance of the Prussian state." Freemasonry', New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967 ed, Volume 6, p 135, McGraw-Hill, New York.
  12. ^ Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Page 312, Historical dictionary of Brussels, by Paul F. State
  13. ^ "It also links Freemasonry with the Society of the Carbonari, known as the "Charcoal Burners", who at that time were active in Italy and were believed to be a revolutionary group." ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH LAW REGARDING FREEMASONRY by REID McINVALE, Texas Lodge of Research
  14. ^ Etsi Nos (On Conditions in Italy), promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1882
  15. ^ "If ever these perils were menacing in Italy they are surely so now, at a time when the condition of the Civil State itself disastrously imperils the freedom of religion." Paragraph 1, Etsi Nos (On Conditions in Italy)
  16. ^ "It is even reported that this year it is about to receive the deputies and leaders of the sect which is most embittered against Catholicism, who have appointed this city as the place for their solemn meeting. The reasons which have determined their choice of such a meeting place are no secret; they desire by this outrageous provocation to glut the hatred which they nourish against the Church, and to bring their incendiary torches within reach of the Roman Pontificate by attacking it in its very seat." Paragraph 3, Etsi Nos (On Conditions in Italy).
  17. ^ "Every familiarity should be avoided, not only with those impious libertines who openly promote the character of the sect, but also with 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." Para 15, Custodi di Quella Fede
  18. ^ "Masonry has confiscated the inheritance of public charity; fill the void, then, with the treasure of private relief." Para 18, Custodi di Quella Fede
  19. ^ Politicians say Masons behind investigation of the Church in Italy, Catholic News Agency, August 31, 2007
  20. ^ CALLS IT MASONIC CONSPIRACY; Cardinal O'Connell Assails Leaders of Mexican Revolution, November 16, 1914, New York Times
  21. ^ page 206, The Mexican Revolution, Alan Knight, ISBN 0803277717
  22. ^ "After the defeat and exile of the dictator in the 1910 revolution, a succession of Presidents who were Masons and strongly anticlerical ruled the country under the 1917 Constitution that maintained substantially the same liberal principles of 1857." From MEXICAN MASONRY- POLITICS & RELIGION by Oscar J. Salinas E., Past Senior Grand Warden - York Grand Lodge of Mexico (as hosted on the web page of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Mexico)
  23. ^ Fox, Vicente and Rob Allyn Revolution of Hope p. 17, Viking, 2007
  24. ^ Denslow, William R. 10,000 Famous Freemasons p. 171 (2004 Kessinger Publishing)ISBN 1417975784
  25. ^ Tuck, Jim THE CRISTERO REBELLION - PART 1 Mexico Connect 1996
  26. ^ The Cristeros: 20th century Mexico's Catholic uprising, from The Angelus, January 2002 , Volume XXV, Number 1 by Olivier LELIBRE, The Angelus
  27. ^ Mexican masons lament decline of influence and launch new attack on the Church, Catholic News Agency, August 9, 2007
  28. ^ "Gabriel García Moreno". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  29. ^ Henderson, Peter V. N. "Gabriel Garcia Moreno and Conservative State Formation in the Andes" p. 28 University of Texas Press, 2008 ISBN 0292719035
  30. ^ Maxwell-Scott, Mary Monica, Gabriel Garcia Moreno, Regenerator of Ecuador, p. 152. London 1914
  31. ^ Berthe, P. Augustine, translated from French by Mary Elizabeth Herbert Garcia Moreno, President of Ecuador, 1821-1875 p. 297 ,1889 Burns and Oates
  32. ^ Berthe, P. Augustine, translated from French by Mary Elizabeth Herbert "Garcia Moreno, President of Ecuador, 1821-1875" p. 297-298 ,1889 Burns and Oates
  33. ^ Burke, Edmund Annual Register: A Review of Public Events at Home and Abroad, for the year 1875 p.323 1876 Rivingtons

References[edit]