The Vatican has officially confirmed its longstanding prohibition on Catholics becoming Freemasons, a secret society that has historically been viewed with suspicion by the Catholic Church. The Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a letter on Nov. 13, endorsed by Pope Francis, in response to a concerned bishop from the Philippines reporting a rise in Freemasonry membership in his country.
The Vatican’s statement explicitly stated, “Active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is prohibited because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry.” This position echoes a 1983 declaration signed by the late Pope Benedict XVI, then the Vatican’s doctrine chief, asserting that Catholics involved in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and are not eligible to receive Holy Communion.
The recent letter addressing Freemasonry follows another from the same Vatican office, asserting that transgender individuals can be baptised, serve as godparents, and act as witnesses at Catholic weddings.
Freemasonry, known for its male-only lodges and associations with arcane symbols and rituals, has been a subject of conspiracy theories alleging undue influence on global affairs. The United Grand Lodge of England, representing Freemasonry, describes itself as one of the world’s oldest social and charitable organisations, tracing its roots to mediaeval stonemasons. The organisation claims 180,000 male members, with an additional 5,000 in two parallel female lodges in England, estimating the global membership at around six million.
Prominent historical figures listed as Freemasons include Prince Philip, the late husband of Queen Elizabeth II, former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, actor Peter Sellers, soccer manager Alf Ramsey, and authors Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle.