The previous article took us through the years leading towards the Unification of Italy and a little regarding French Freemasonry, especially the Grand Orient of France. In this article we shall return to the beginning of the 19th century and discuss the formation and membership of Italian Freemasonry, namely the Grand Orient of Italy. In the early years many of those that supported Italian unification were Freemasons and some financed groups that ‘plotted’ for this to happen. This was one reason why Freemasonry continued to be condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as any secret group was deemed Masonic. The Italian Freemason’s Grand Orient Web pages state that its formation was heavily influenced by English, French and German Freemasonry and they also state that its main influence came from the English Mother Grand Lodge. Research is more inclined to point to French Freemasonry rather than the English as Napoleon had brought the Italian kingdoms into his wars between 1804 and 1815.
The Grand Orient of Italy was formed in 1805, with Milan becoming the seat of this Grand Lodge; the first Grand Master was Viscount Eugene of Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson. Napoleon gradually annexed the Kingdoms of Italy, and in 1809 he abolished temporal power of the Pope (Pius VII) and annexed Rome and the remainder of the Papal States. Pope Pius VII responded by excommunicating Napoleon, who in response held him prisoner.1 In a Papal Brief issued in 1809, where Pope Pius VII vaguely eluded to Freemasonry, not mentioned by name but by reference to two former Popes, was this sentence:
“Young people unwary and other citizens were invited, coaxed and co-opted in suspicious meetings, strictly prohibited by both civil and ecclesiastical, under pain of excommunication imposed by Our predecessors Clement XII and Benedict XIV.”
Napoleon, Emperor of France, became the King of Italy, directly controlling all of the Northern and Central parts of Italy (including the Papal States). During Napoleon’s reign, the Italian legal codes were translated from the French with little regard for Italian traditions. Marriage and family life was almost exclusively within the control of the Roman Catholic Church and governed by canon law.2 The rights of the individual citizen were introduced, with properties that were held in mortmain, the old feudal ecclesiastical tenure (specifically those of the regular clergy), transferred to the state and sold. The remaining feudal rights and jurisdictions were abolished, roads were improved everywhere, and both primary and higher education were strengthened. All of this greatly upset Pope Pius VII, as his governance was lost and especially, perhaps, that the first Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy was Napoleon’s stepson.
However, in 1814-15 the Congress of Vienna was held to restore pre revolutionary Europe’s political status quo which, of course, included the Papal States, but this brought about increasing government centralisation. Educated men who had held positions of responsibility under Napoleon’s French and Italian governments resented bitterly the restoration of clerical control over all aspects of public life.
After the Restoration, Freemasonry dispersed and only in a few geographic areas, especially in the South, was the continuity of the lodges guaranteed, which awakened with the advent of the Risorgimento, a movement for the unification of Italy. In 1859 the Ausonia Lodge in Turin inspired by fervent patriots became the constitutive cell of that Great Orient which, inspired by the solid structure of the Napoleonic period, over time assumed the identity of the national institution known today as the Grande Oriente d’Italia. Like some Freemasons in France, some members of the Grand Orient played an important role in the unification process, which was obviously well known to the Roman Catholic Church. For example, Adriano Lemmi was a radical nationalist and a staunch supporter of Giuseppe Mazzini, the former financed the Risorgimento, the latter founded the Young Italians, a clandestine organisation whose sole aim was the unification of Italy. Both these men went on to become Grand Master’s of the Grande Oriente d’Italia. Young Italians was one of the “secret sects” mentioned in Papal Encyclicals as inspired by Freemasonry, more correctly by a few men who were Freemasons.
In the war of independence against Austria in 1848, mentioned in the previous chapter, Giuseppe Garibaldi offered the fight for Pope Pius IX, but his offer was refused, he volunteered to fight for Charles Albert, the King of Piedmont-Sardinia, but this was refused also, so he went to the aid of Milan, where Mazzini had already arrived and had given the war of liberation a more republican and radical turn.3
The Papal Encyclicals of the aforementioned period were the subject of the third of these research articles. In 1884 the most condemnatory Encyclical was issued by Pope Leo XIII called Humanum Genus – On Freemasonry. He had previously issued an Encyclical in 1878, Quad Apostolici Muneris – on Socialism. The latter possibly because the Risorgimento, which referred to the reforms introduce by the French, as mentioned earlier. The final unification of Italy came about after the annexation of Venetia in1866, and Papal Rome in 1870.5 In 1879 the Encyclical Aterni Patris was issued on the restoration of the Christian Philosophy, which was mostly about training young clerics in the way of Catholicism and diverting them from the teachings of the new science and philosophy:
“,,,the minds of Christ’s faithful are apt to be deceived and the integrity of the faith to be corrupted among men by philosophy and vain deceit.”
“,,,,,,a fruitful cause of the evils which now afflict, as well as those which threaten us lies in this: that false conclusions concerning divine and human things, which originated in the schools of philosophy, have now crept into all the orders of the State, and have been accepted by the common consent of the masses.”
More of the fight back against the Age of Reasoning and the new science and philosophical thought?
In 1881, an Encyclical named Diuturnum – the Origin of Civil Power. In this Pope Leo XIII makes vague reference to the Age of Enlightenment with this statement:
“,,,,as was especially the case in the sixteenth century, when a fatal novelty of opinions infatuated many. Since that epoch, not only has the multitude striven after a liberty greater than is just, but it has seen fit to fashion the origin and construction of the civil society of men in accordance with its own will”
“Indeed, very many men of more recent times, walking in the footsteps of those who in a former age assumed to themselves the name of philosophers,** say that all power comes from the people; so that those who exercise it in the State do so not as their own, but as delegated to them by the people, and that, by this rule, it can be revoked by the will of the very people by whom it was delegated. But from these, Catholics dissent, who affirm that the right to rule is from God, as from a natural and necessary principle.”
** This is a reference to Voltaire, who was definitely a Freemason, and d’Alembert and Diderot [by papalencyclicals.net], both of whom are said also to have been Freemasons.
It has to be noted that the final unification of the Italian States, including the Papal States, has removed from the Pope the “right to rule as affirmed by God.” In the following paragraph Leo XII seems to agree that there is no reason why the Church should not approve of this, providing that it be just, to the common advantage, and continues:
“,,,Wherefore, so long as justice be respected, the people are not hindered from choosing for themselves that form of government which suits best either their own disposition, or the institutions and customs of their ancestors.”
But then it contradicts the above:
“But, as regards political power, the Church rightly teaches that it comes from God,,,”
It must be recalled that from the year circa 800 at the start of the Holy Roman Empire in Europe, the Popes had immense power, and if not ruling directly, anointing the heads of state until around 1400, including those in England up to and including Henry VIII. Diuturnum continues :
“In truth, that the source of human power is in God, the books of the Old Testament in very many places clearly establish. “By me kings reign . . . by me princes rule, and the mighty decree justice.”And in another place: “Give ear you that rule the people . . . for power is given you of the Lord and strength by the Most High.” The same thing is contained in the Book of Ecclesiasticus: “Over every nation he hath set a ruler.”
,,,,“That there are kingdoms, and that some rule, while others are subject, and that none of these things is brought about by accident or rashly . . . is, I say, a work of divine wisdom.”
I am sure that no regular Freemason would doubt the above thinking, but surely it covers all, not just elite kings and princes, but all people. Freemasonry philosophises as in the address to the Brethren after the installation of a Master [Emulation Ritual]:
“,,, as some must of necessity rule and teach, so others must of course learn, submit and obey. Humility in each is an essential qualification.”
Referring to the free will of the people and the Catholic opposition to the separation of Church and State [Diuturnum]:
“Let every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power but from God, and those that are, are ordained of God.”
There is much more in this Encyclical that refers to the position that the Pope finds himself after his ruling authority, not just of the Papal States, but also of his criticism of the removal of the Church’s influence on the rule of the Unified Italy. For this, it it understood, he blames Freemasonry entirely. Here are the final extracts from Diuturnum:
“,,,the supreme forethought and courage of Our predecessors have been shown, especially of Clement XI, Benedict XIV, and Leo XII, who, when in their day the evil of vicious doctrine was more widely spreading and the boldness of the sects was becoming greater, endeavoured by their authority to close the door against them. And We ourselves have several times declared that great dangers are impending, and have pointed out the best ways of warding them off. To princes and other rulers of the State we have offered the protection of religion, and we have exhorted the people to make abundant use of the great benefits which the Church supplies.”
We earnestly exhort them in our Lord to defend religion, and to consult the interest of their Lord to defend religion, and to consult the interest of their States by giving that liberty to the Church which cannot be taken away without injury and ruin to the commonwealth.”
It is implied, by the use of the term “sect,” that Freemasonry was behind the overthrow of the lands once governed directly by the Roman Catholic Church and the direct influence it once had over the rulers of other states that has slowly dwindled over time (beginning long before Freemasonry); this has culminating in the separation of the Church and State. In Clement XII’s time, the Prime Minister of France was Cardinal Fleury and the Roman Church had influence over much of the Italian States. The American Revolution culminated in a new republic and the removal of the influence the Church over the State, although in this case it was the Church of England, not the Roman Catholic Church. Then the French Revolution created a government separating the Church from this new republic, this was followed by the unification of Italy where the direct influence of the Pope was removed with the loss of Papal government in the Papal States of the Central Italian peninsular. Apparently this was the end of direct Roman Catholicism rule over the governments of many parts of Europe.
There is no way to defend the fact that prominent men, many who were Freemasons, had a great involvement over the revolutionary changes that took place in the 19th century. However, they were formed as a consequence of the Age of Enlightenment which began a century of two earlier and Freemasonry was just one group out of many that felt their meetings should take place in secrecy. This was perhaps because their thinking was out of alignment with that of the Church at the time, and maybe not just the Roman Catholic Church. Science, over the previous three centuries began to question the doctrines of Christian thinking, which when spoken of openly often lead to an inquisition, which, in some cases resulted in death. Who would not keep secret such new scientific thoughts?
But history has a way of showing that Christianity has a strength that proved their influence remained, it just manifested its presence in a different, but no less powerful, way.
Our story doesn’t end here as it is the Encyclicals Etsi Nos and Humanum Genus that provides the most anti Masonic rhetoric from Leo XIII, which will be the focus of the next chapter in this fascinating research.
DISCLAIMER: To the Roman Catholic and irregular Freemason reader, the purpose of this article is to present a factual understanding of the course of Papal history that began with Roman Catholics being forbidden to join Freemasonry in 1738. The path this research is taking is from a purely Papal Encyclical route, with the activities of the Freemasons as individuals rather than the body of Freemasonry. The researcher himself, as a mature regular Freemason, believes much of the Catholic thinking is in error. There is no intent of the researcher to offend either Roman Catholicism or irregular Freemasonry, the intention is pure research, and to understand and publish the findings as they have evolved over this time period of history.
These articles are written and researched 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.
© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved