Catholic Masons
January 10, 2011 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Hi, a friend of mine is a Mason and is encouraging me to put myself forward to join with him as my sponsor. My issue is, I'm a practicing Roman Catholic and understand there's an element of history between the 2 organisations. Looking at the web, all I can see is the polarised for and against arguments. Are there any Catholic Masons on here who could give some advice? Set up if anyone wants to get more detail.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, the Knights of Columbus is the Catholic answer to the Masons. The two orgs don't get along, like, at all.
posted by LN at 11:28 AM on January 10, 2011

You are a practicing Catholic? Talk to your pastor!
posted by Cranberry at 11:31 AM on January 10, 2011

It is absolutely not OK with the Catholic Church. The current Pope was the chief author of the 1983 document stating that Catholics who joined the Masons were in "a state of grave sin."

If you want to be part of a group that gathers for dinners and does charitable work, the Lions Club is a great non-sectarian group. Then there's always the Knights of Columbus.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:38 AM on January 10, 2011

To be fair Empath, that is the same for Catholics who divorce or have abortions or a whole host of other (arguably) petty offenses against the church.

My aunt and her husband are masons, and are very actively involved in their catholic church. How they square these two things, I don't know. So, I guess, I can't answer the question very well except to say that there are people who do it and they haven't been struck dead by lightning or anything.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:39 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

An element of history is putting it mildly. My father considered joining once and soon learned from his priest that he'd be excommunicated for it, or at least banned from communion in their church (UK, 1970s). It's still a no-go area for Catholics today, but to be fair, the wikipedia link above shows how those waters have been muddied over the years. You'll need to choose one or the other.
posted by dowcrag at 11:42 AM on January 10, 2011

If you join the Masons and tell your priest about it, you're essentially excommunicated. It's a secret society, so actually the goal is to not tell anyone you are a Mason. Tricky right? Think of the masons like a good friend who enjoys drinking, gaudy necklaces and costumes. There are lots of games all prescribed in a book, which will make it all more fun. The rest of the time you have a reason to have fun, meet new people twice your age (mostly) and talk about something other than what your friends at church are talking about. Have fun with it.
posted by parmanparman at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am a Mason. I've known several openly Catholic members and in practice, it just wasn't a big deal. Maybe they didn't go talking to their priest about it, but it wasn't a huge secret. In fact, Masons do not make secret who is a member or where they meet. Like Pogo_Fuzzybutt says, there are Catholic Masons just as there are divorced Catholics and Catholics who've had abortions.
Personally, I think the antinomy between Masonry & Catholicism is petty and antiquated and those old Papal Bulls will eventually crumble.
posted by mattbucher at 11:51 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have to admit I'm a bit unclear about whether you'd want to join the Masons if all things were equal. You've mentioned that your friend wants you to join, and you've mentioned that you've found dissent between the two parties. But - would you want to join if there WERE no such dissent?

I think that may be your answer right there; I'm unclear whether you're asking because:

"my friend wants me to join and I'm all gung-ho, but I noticed this controversy, am I screwed?"

or whether you're asking because:

"my friend wants me to join, and I'm not sure about it -- I also found this out, is this a way I could bow out of joining?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:52 AM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's a secret society, so actually the goal is to not tell anyone you are a Mason.

The Masons aren't that secret. I know a few Masons and have a close friend who strongly considered joining - all of them have talked openly with me about their membership, and we've even joked about how someday they need to "tell me all their super-kewl secrets about the Illuminati." There's also a huge Masonic temple in my neighborhood (next door to a Catholic church, interestingly enough), and it's open to the public a lot of the time. People come and go, hang out openly on the grounds, chat with neighbors, etc.

So I'm pretty sure that Masons aren't sworn to secrecy about the fact that they are Masons, no.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2011

I think you meant "antipathy" actually, mattbucher.

And it depends on the priest. In my little hometown, we used to have a priest who was all "Don't even go to the Masonic Lodge for a spaghetti supper!" and now we have a priest who's all "Whatever" but there still aren't any Catholics in the Masons there.

OP, talk with your priest and see what he thinks. Don't not talk with your priest if you take your religion seriously.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:11 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Masons are permitted to out themselves but not others. The degree of secrecy differs depending on where you are - in Germany where they were persecuted by the Nazis the emphasis on secrecy is stronger than in the motherland UK or the USA.

These days, confessing to being a mason rarely leads to excommunication, at the discretion of your priest, or not being permitted to partake in communion. Personally, I'd just not mention it in Catholic company.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:14 PM on January 10, 2011

So I'm pretty sure that Masons aren't sworn to secrecy about the fact that they are Masons, no.

The only way to become a Mason is to ask one to sponsor you (2B1Ask1). If Masons had to keep their membership a secret, it'd be counterproductive to say the least. This is one of the reasons why Masonic car emblems, rings, and bumper stickers are so widespread.

This also means that the OP's friend might be a bit un-Masonish in asking him to join; Masonry frowns on recruiting (though like Omnomnom said, the extent to which asking people to join is a no-no depends on the local lodge).
posted by vorfeed at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2011

Where do you live?

In Australia there are differing histories of antipathy; in the old-school public service the unofficial segregation was so strong that in some branches you found it very difficult to get promoted unless you either joined or converted. On the other hand in country towns, especially remote ones it was the done thing to join every organisation going—I've heard of Catholic men in NSW country towns who were active churchgoers, Masons, trade unionists and National Party (a conservative ruralist party) members all at the same time.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2011

You can't be a Mason and a Catholic.
posted by KMH at 1:38 AM on March 9, 2011

Anecdata: There are a couple of guys who self-identify as Catholics in my Masonic lodge, and feel absolutely no compuctions whatsoever. I assume they don't discuss it with their Priest, but I don't think they're particularly secretive about it either. Whenever I read discussions about this, I get the impression that it's one of those "Easier to ask forgiveness than permission" things; if you ask your Priest beforehand, he will tell you in no uncertain terms that Catholics can't be Masons. If you join and your Priest finds out, you might be able to say "whoops, sorry!" and quit the Lodge. (I have no idea if that's how it might work; I assume a Parish Priest has some kind of latitude in dealing with something like this?)

I am not a Catholic, so I don't really know exactly what the equation for a decision like this is... but it seems like the parameters are:

* How you keep your faith (Are you OK with directly contradicting Quaesitum est?)
* How your Priest and/or Parish keep the faith (if you get "caught", what would the reaction/consequences be?)

Also: because of the Vatican's anti-Freemasonry stance, the common assumption is that the Masons as an institution are anti-Catholic. This is not the case; I have never seen or heard of any kind of organized antipathy by the Freemasons towards Catholics, the Catholic Church, or the Knights of Columbus. One of the most appealing things about the fraternity is the fact that it brings together people off all faiths, including any Catholics who choose to join under the entirely nebulous requirement of "belief in a supreme being".

That's really the principal objection to the Freemasonry by the Vatican and many evangelical Christian sects; that the fraternity holds that a Muslim's god is as valid as a Jew's god is as valid as a Christian's god is as valid as another person's notion that there's something bigger than us that's not necessarily a bearded guy in the sky. (This was a particularly subversive idea in the 18th century, when the first Papal ban was enacted.)
posted by usonian at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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