Humanum genus

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Leo XIII: "“As Our predecessors have many times repeated, let no man think that he may for any reason whatsoever join the Masonic sect, if he values his Catholic name and his eternal salvation as he ought to value them.” Humanum Genus Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Freemasonry (1884).

Humanum Genus Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Freemasonry,[1] or more simply referred to as Humanum Genus, is a papal encyclical promulgated on April 20, 1884, by Pope Leo XIII.

Released in the ascent of the industrial age, Marxism and the aftermath of the September 20, 1870 Capture of Rome by the Kingdom of Italy military forces from the Papal States, the Humanum Genus is a reactionary pronouncement principally condemning Freemasonry by stating that the late 19th Century was a dangerous era for the Roman Catholic Church, largely due to numerous concepts and practices attributed to Freemasonry in this encyclical, such as naturalism (essentially equal rights), popular sovereignty (government elected by the people) and the separation of church and state.

Some of the strictures found in the Humanum Genus still remain in force today.

Historical circumstances[edit]

Following the French withdraw of its military garrison in Rome in the anticipation of the Franco-Prussian War, the 1870 Capture of Rome itself was a major battle within the long process of Italian unification known as the Risorgimento,[2] marking the final military defeat of the Papal States under Pope Pius IX by the Kingdom of Italy.

Kingdom of Italy troops breaching the Aurelian Walls at Porta Pia during the Capture of Rome. Breccia di Porta Pia Ademollo (1880), by Carlo Ademollo.

This unification of the Italian peninsula by King Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy ended the approximate 1,116 year temporal reign (754 to 1870 CE) of the Papal States by the papacy[3]

The Humanum Genus encyclical asserted that the late 19th century was a time of particular danger for Roman Catholics 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 being contrary to Catholic doctrine, but according to the Humanum Gensus encyclical, the nature of Freemasonry was changing as Freemasons were now far more open in society their practices and affiliations.

Humanum Genus specifically condemned certain practices of the Freemasons, such as: religious indifference;[1][4] 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";[1][5] 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.[6]

The Holy See has forbidden Roman Catholics from becoming Freemasons since 1738 with the issuing of the papal bull In eminenti. This prohibition remains in effect today.


Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian Unification Risorgimento leader and Honorary Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy (1867).

Several popes before Leo XIII had addressed the problems that they associated with Freemasonry and how that Masonic principles of that secret society were incompatible with the teaching of the Church. Previous Papal pronouncements on Freemasonry were:

Leo XIII's Humanum Genus denunciation of Freemasonry can be seen as a call for Roman Catholics to oppose it, also 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 Holy See to have an enormous amount of secret discipline of its members – which was seen by the Pope as enslavement.[7] So by this definition, although individual Masons may be decent people, these same individuals were being led to do evil things through their participation within the membership of Masonic Lodges.

Two kingdoms; two cities[edit]

Humanum Genus leads with the presentation of the Augustinian dichotomy 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,"[7] which was "led on or assisted" by Freemasonry:

An allegorical photograph depiciting of the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State.

...At every period of time each has been in conflict with the other, with a variety and multiplicity of weapons and of warfare, although not always with equal ardour and assault. At this period, however, the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons. No longer making any secret of their purposes, they are now boldly rising up against God Himself. They are planning the destruction of holy Church publicly and openly, and this with the set purpose of utterly despoiling the nations of Christendom, if it were possible, of the blessings obtained for us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Lamenting these evils, We are constrained by the charity which urges Our heart to cry out often to God: "For lo, Thy enemies have made a noise; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head. They have taken a malicious counsel against Thy people, and they have consulted against Thy saints. They have said, 'come, and let us destroy them, so that they be not a nation.

The fundamental doctrine of Freeasonry was also depicted as being grounded in naturalism by Humanum Genus, with the assertion that naturalism (equal rights) leads to Deism and gnosticism. This was seen as driving Freemasons headlong toward a fundamental clash with the Roman Catholic Church, due to Freemasons supporting the separation of church and state with their efforts both to enact and to enforce civil constitutional obstacles to the establishment of state churches by elected governments.

Freemasonry condemned[edit]

Humanum Genus criticizes a number of other Masonic 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.[8]

Some of the strictures found in the 1884 Humanum Genus papal encyclical still remain in force today.

Section 2335 of the Code of Canon Law (1917) states “Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See.””[9]

Benedict XVI. (October 17, 2010.)

The Code of Canon Law was updated in 1983 with the prior Section 2335 being amended by Section 1374, with the revision omitting a direct reference to Freemasonry: “A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or takes office in such an association is to be punished with an interdict.””[9]

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II and himself elected as Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005, issued the November 26, 1983 Declaration on Masonic Associations,[10] which in part states, “Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion...In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.”[9]

Finally, the Humanum Genus encyclical condemns what it presents as the Masonic idea of the 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.[8]

During a July 28, 2013 interview with reporters on a return flight to Rome, Pope Francis identified political lobbying at the Vatican, and specifically addresses the influence of "Masonic lobbying" as being a component of the "most serious problem" confronting his papacy.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Humanum Genus Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Freemasonry". April 20, 1884.
  2. ^ See Timeline of Italian unification.
  3. ^ Schnürer, G. (1912). States of the Church. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 14, 2015 from New Advent.
  4. ^ "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
  5. ^ "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, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Freemasonry
  6. ^ "Humanum Genus, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Freemasonry">
  7. ^ a b "Human Genus, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Freemasonry">
  8. ^ a b Paragraph 22, Humanum Genus
  9. ^ a b c "Pope Francis: ‘Masonic Lobbies … This Is The Most Serious Problem for Me’., retrieved, October 18, 2015.
  10. ^ "Declaration on Masonic Associations". Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, November 26, 1983.
  11. ^ Pope Francis: ‘Masonic Lobbies … This Is The Most Serious Problem for Me

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