In previous articles on this subject, we saw that Freemasonry in continental Europe expanded to such a level that it was impossible to keep up with all the additional degrees. Initially the Grand Orient of France (finally adopting this name in 1773) followed pure Freemasonry, but as stated in the previous article, the Grand Orient of France began to accept further degrees beyond the first three.
The next Pope was Pius VIII and, in an Encyclical dated 1830, called Litteris Altero, he renews earlier condemnations of Freemasonry and in reply to a letter from the Bishops of Cologne he condemns both the influence of Freemasonry in education and the lax of morals of the new generation. Pope Pius VIII reign as Pope lasted a short 20 months.
In 1832 Pope Gregory XVI was elected, during his period there was no mention of Freemasonry, but in Encyclical Mirati Vos, he agains condemns sects (in which all is sacrilegious, infamous and blasphemous) and refers to ‘indifferentism’ (the belief that the differences of religious beliefs are of no importance) as the source of all evils. This, I believe refers to Freemasonry where only the belief in God is a requirement, how He is worshiped is an individual’s personal choice. Much of Catholicism is about the salvation of souls, totally disagreeing that the notion that the safe harbour of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. Mirati Vos also condemns the separation of Church and State:
“Nor can We predict happier times for religion and government from the plans of those who desire vehemently to separate the Church from the state, and to break the mutual concord between temporal authority and the priesthood.”
It is apparently believed by this Pope that Freemasonry is behind this, rather than a few individuals that supported the formation of an Italian Republic. Along with the Carbonari, another ‘secret’ group, known as Young Italy, was formed by Giuseppe Mazzini in 1831.The aim was if this group was to work for a united, republican Italian nation. There was much upheaval during this time period in the Italian Kingdoms.
Several further Encyclicals/addresses were issued by Pope Pius IX (a long serving Pope). Below are some with abstracts from each:
Qui Pluribus – Of Faith and Religion – 1846: “For although faith is above reason, no real disagreement or opposition can ever be found between them,,,, Human reason is convinced that it is God who has given everything the faith proposes to men for belief and behaviour.” This, I believe, is countering the philosophical reasoning of the Age of Enlightenment.
Quibus Quantisque – an Allocution – 1849: From an early paragraph, “It is clear to everyone that very dark, no less harmful societies and sects have been founded at various times by the
fabricators of lies, followers of perverse doctrines, to instil their delusions, systems and plots more incisively in souls, corrupt the hearts of the simple and open a wide way to commit all sorts of wickedness with impunity” and a later paragraph, “the horrible and most fatal system of Socialism, or also Communism, principally contrary to law and natural reason itself.” As stated, a lot was happening to cause the Popes to believe the very life of Roman Catholicism was under threat.
Nostis Et Nobiscum – 1849: Mostly ante Protestantism, “,,,sufficiently instruct the laity in Christian doctrine and the law of the Lord,,,, in your pastoral care, to ceaselessly ensure that the faithful entrusted to you are carefully taught the holy doctrines and precepts of our religion,,, ensure that the faithful are deeply and thoroughly convinced of the truth of the doctrine that the Catholic faith is necessary for attaining salvation.” the Bible Societies were condemned as heretics for supporting Unitarian Principles, which are the denial of the Triune God (Holy Trinity). “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God,,, Consequently the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, holds a primacy over the whole world and is the true Vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christians. ,,,, resist the attempts of the impious who are engaged in separating Italy from the bosom of the Church.” A grand ideal indeed.
Italian unification began in 1861.
Quanto Cinficiamur Moerore – 1863: “Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church”
The Syllabus of Errors – 1864: “,,,such a great war is being waged against the Catholic Church,,, But anyone who knows the nature, desires and intentions of the sects, whether they be called masonic or bear another name, and compares them with the nature the systems and the vastness of the obstacles by which the Church has been assailed almost everywhere, cannot doubt that the present misfortune must mainly be imputed to the frauds and machinations of these sects.” This was a request to the Cardinals regarding teaching the junior clerics, “Explain to them often and impress deeply on their souls the Papal constitutions on this subject and teach them that the masonic associations are anathematised by them not only in Europe but also in America and wherever they may be in the whole world.”
Quanta Cura – 1864: “applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of “naturalism,” that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist,,,,,From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls. ,,,,,of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.” Here the Pope is fearing the loss of his complete control over the people, the the Unification of Italy was already upon him!
Iam Vos Omnes – 1868: A letter to all Protestants and Other non Catholics to return to the Church of Rome
Note: Some of the above chosen sentences are not written sequentially, but it shows that the sentiments of these Popes was to teach hard in order to maintain the faith of the Catholic followers less they be tempted by ‘these evil sects.’
Esti Multa – 1873 – On the Church in Italy, Germany and Switzerland: There is little mention of Freemasonry in any of the above until Esti Multa, but there is much mention of the enemies of the Catholic Church, all with the aim of its destruction, and, of course, it is all down to sects and secret societies, which the Catholic Church is firmly convinced all stem from Freemasonry. Popes through the centuries had seen the gradual fall of the Holy Roman Empire (1804), the rise of the Prostanism and the remaining Papal States of Central Italy fall under the revolutions that finally united Italy, so it is not surprising that he saw this as evil powers against Catholicism. Esti Multa states:
“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.”
Under the heading of “Efforts to Defeat Heresies,” he writes:
“Since these things are so, venerable brothers, apply all your effort to protect the faithful committed to your care against the snares and contagion of these sects. Bring back those who have unhappily joined these sects. Expose especially the error of those who have been deceived or those who assert now that only social utility, progress, and the exercise of mutual benefits are the intention of these dark associations. Explain to them often and fix deeper in their minds the pontifical decrees on this matter. Teach them that these decrees refer not only to Masonic groups in Europe, but also those in America and in other regions of the world.”
Quod Apostolici Muneris – 1878 – on Socialism. “,,,,it is no matter for surprise that men of the lowest class, weary of their wretched home or workshop, are eager to attack the homes and fortunes of the rich,,,” This may not mention Freemasonry directly, but it is in here, “,,,the Roman Pontiffs Clement Xll and Benedict XIV did not fail to unmask the evil counsels of the sects,,, Later on again, when a licentious sort of liberty was attributed to man by a set of men who gloried in the name of philosophers, and a new right, as they call it, against the natural and divine law began to be framed and sanctioned, Pope Pius Vl, of happy memory, at once exposed in public documents the guile and falsehood of their doctrines,,,Their habit, as we have intimated, is always to maintain that nature has made all men equal, and that, therefore, neither honour nor respect is due to majesty, nor obedience to laws, unless, perhaps, to those sanctioned by their own good pleasure.”This is but an abstract of a few pertinent sentences to show that it appears to be an unceasing battle by the Catholic Church for control over everything.
Much of the turmoil in Italy as felt by the Catholic Church was heavily influenced by the French Revolution, so it is reasonable here to include some historical information from the pages of the Grand Orient of France. First, let’s refer to the speech of Brother Chevalier Ramsay (1737), which he sought to gain allegiance from the King of France through its Catholic Prime Minister, Cardinal Fleury; you will recall that he failed. In this oration, Brother Chevalier Ramsay said:
“Mankind is not essentially distinguished by the tongues spoken, the clothes worn, the lands occupied or the dignities with which it is invested. The world is nothing but a huge republic, of which every nation is a family, every individual a child. Our Society was at the outset established to revive and spread these essential maxims borrowed from the nature of man.
We desire to reunite all men of enlightened minds, gentle manners and agreeable wit, not only by a love of the fine arts but, much more, by the grand principles of virtue, science and religion, where the interests of the Fraternity shall become those of the whole human race, whence all nations shall be enabled to draw knowledge and where subjects of all kingdoms shall learn to cherish one another without renouncing their own country.”
This speech was rejected by the French King, and for a while Cardinal Fleury tried to ban Freemasonry, which he saw as a den Jansenists. These were considered as opponents of absolute monarchy and champions of freedom of conscience. It is also the era when the ceremonies and secrets of Freemasonry were revealed to the public in books and prints. It is in the following year (1738) that Il Eminenti (the first Papal Encyclical against Freemasonry) was issued. As in England, France has a turbulent path to form a unified Grand Lodge, this was due to the constant disputes between rival systems of “higher” degrees each vying for control, as eluded to in the first of these articles. There were several attempts to form a Grand Lodge, but all ceased in 1766. In 1773 another attempt was made to form Grand Lodge Lodge in France, after 17 meetings from representatives from all Lodges, an agreement was reached and a Grand Lodge was formed, they named it the Grand Orient of France and 90% of French Lodges joined. The creation of the Grand Orient featured a come back at the head of French Masonry of the liberal nobility and the free-thinking bourgeoisie.
Freemasons played an important role in events of 1789 (beginning of the French Revolution) and contributed in all forums and on all side in the French Revolution, but were ‘over represented among the Girondins (the French moderate Republican Party). In the years leading to the French Revolution, Freemasons have undoubtedly contributed, and perhaps unconsciously, in the dissemination of new ideas. In the years leading to the French Revolution prestigious Lodges recruited from the ‘Parti Philosophique’ (Intellectuals who supported the Enlightenment movement, as opposed to the ‘devout parti,’ Catholic and Jansenism). Throughout the entire Napoleonic Europe, Freemasonry was used as a tool to disseminate the philosophy of Enlightenment.
During the Restoration, restoring the pre-revolutionary European political status quo, explicitly progressive and political lodges were rare, but these were closely linked with opposition groups such as the Carbonari. In Freemasonry of the Bonaparte, political issues remained totally banned, however, by 1836, interests in political and social issues had become the norm. The first generation of politically involved lodges emerged in 1848.
During the Third French Republic in the 1880’s, Freemasonry heralded an overwhelming renewal of the institution. With the combined legacy of Deism, Enlightenment and the ‘spiritualism’ of 1848, the constitution of the Grand Orient stated that the principles of Freemasonry were “the existence of God and the immortality of the soul,” something that the Roman Catholics deemed uniquely theirs. However, in an era when the intellectual elites were profoundly influenced by the philosophical agnosticism of Auguste Comte (1798 -1857 – one of the founders of sociology), in practice, this requirement of a religious nature was in fact no longer followed. Thus the General Assembly of the Grand Orient de France abolished this requirement in 1877. [It was shortly after this that Freemasonry in the USA (State by State) severed amity with the Grand Orient of France.] Accordingly liberal – or non-dogmatic – Masonry was born; considering that Masonic duty is not of a religious nature, allowing its members the freedom to have a faith or not. This principle remains today in The Grand Orient of France and this principle, along with their political ideals, is the reason why pure and ancient Freemasonry is not in amity with the Grand Orient, where the belief in God is paramount. Thus, French Freemasonry today (apart from that of the National Grand Lodge of France) follows a humanist ideology allowing members the freedom to have a faith or not, and is a product of the Age of Enlightenment, where religious doctrine was questioned. Men of this era still held deeply religious beliefs, they were trying to understand the path to God, whereas the Roman Catholics followed their long held sacramental philosophy.
I am grateful for the above information which is freely available for all to read here: https://www.godf.org
Our timeline has now reached the time of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), and this article will continue with a deep look and the Papal Encyclical, Humanum Genus – 1884 – On Freemasonry.
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
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