Local Input~ 1878 -- Authentic portrait of Pope Leo XIII from the Vatican album of the Ecumenical Council. Wikipedia / Library of Congress

Why Catholics are forbidden to be Freemasons – 5

The unification of Italy was mostly over by 1860, except for Rome; Florence was declared the capital city. In 1870 Italian troops entered Rome, ending more than 1000 years of Papal control over the city. However, the Pope did not accept unification over the peninsula and took refuge in the Vatican; Vatican City was declared independent in 1929.1 The existence of Freemasonry in Italy was certainly in contention with Pope Leo XIII, but Freemasonry wasn’t really the main worry for the Church of Rome.

Continuing with Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical, his next was Etsi Nos – On Conditions in Italy, issued in 1882. In this Encyclical his attention is drawn to the “external salvation of souls which occupies us and causes anxiety” and the belief that “the condition of the Civil State itself disastrously imperils the freedom of religion.” Pope Leo XIII points out the duties incumbent upon individual Christians, whilst “the evils continue to increase,,,, We desire to point them out,,, for fear that the Catholic faith should be torn from them.”

He points out, as did his predecessors, that:

“a pernicious sect,,,, has established itself for some time back in Italy; after having declared war against Jesus Christ it is attempting to rob the people of their Christian institutions.”

He then points out that “the church is wounded on all sides” and that a “a cruel and deplorable war without limit and without measure declared against the Apostolic See,,,, and the Roman Pontiff finds himself reduced to extreme anguish. For, despoiled of his Civil Princedom, he has of necessity fallen into the hands of another Power.” 

“More than this: Rome, the most august of Christian cities, is now a place laid open to all the enemies of the Church; profane novelties defile it; here and there, temples and schools devoted to heresy are to be found. It is even reported that this year it is about to receive the deputies and leaders of the sect which is most embittered against Catholicism, who have appointed this city as the place for their solemn meeting.

From the above extracts, although it was the Carbonari, Pope Leo XIII is convinced that this “pernicious sect” is Freemasonry, and has established itself in Rome with its desire “to bring their incendiary torches within reach of the Roman Pontificate by attacking it in its very seat.” However, our research has found no reference to the headquarters of the Grand Oriente d’Italia being located in Rome before 1901; we remain open minded on the exact date.

This Encyclical continues with the statement that the Church, without doubt, will in the end be triumphant and will baffle the impious conspiracies of men, and of that there is no doubt, but as we know today, without the land it once governed. One thing that doesn’t change is that the Pope strongly blames Freemasonry for its impediment. There is no doubt that Freemasons of the ‘Ausonia’ lodge in Turin, the constitutive cell of the Grande Oriente, went hand in hand with the unification process as stated on the Grande Oriente d’Italia’s web pages. Turin was the Grande Oriente’s first location, then it was the turn of Florence and finally Rome. Among its great masters was Giuseppe Garibaldi; he was appointed the first Freemason in Italy “ad vitam” (for life) in 1864.

Pope Leo XIII remains convinced that Freemasonry’s intention is “to rob the people of their Christian institutions” and “that their designs aim at nothing less than the destruction of the whole system of the Church with its Head, and the abolition, if it were possible, of all religion.”

Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, but with the revolution that has just preceded, it is difficult not to accept that, on the surface, it certainly appears to the Pope that way. However, as time passed we can see that the Roman Catholic Church still remains a very strong and influential today. This particular Encyclical (Etsi Nos), depicts Pope Leo XIII’s understanding of the “forces” behind the unification, and apparently the Grand Oriente d’Italia somewhat agrees, but to include all  Freemasonry in this conspiracy is quite unfair, as this was peculiar to Italy alone. However, Roman Catholics in other lands were also being challenged, as detailed a little later.

It is important to interject one extremely important aspect of Freemasonry, forming part of the Old Charges, now incorporated into the Emulation Ritual, is that a Freemason is told during the Initiation ceremony:

“To be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties, by never proposing or at all countenancing any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society, by paying due obedience to the laws of of any State that may become your place of residence,,,”

The above is the modern version. In the old Constitutional charges of a stone mason, in a copy published by J. Roberts in 1722, where the term Free-Mason is to be found, the second of these Old Charges states:

“To be true to our Sovereign Lord the King, his Heirs and lawful Successors; committing no Treason, Misprision of Treason, or Felony; and if any man shall commit Treason that you know of, you shall forthwith give notice thereof to his majesty, his Privy Counsellors, or some other person that hath Commission to enquire thereof.

In this document there is a tailpiece entitled “Additional Orders and Constitutions made and agreed on at a General Assembly held at ————— [the location is missing], on the Eight Day of December 1663,” implying that the real issue date was not 1722, nor 1663, but perhaps even earlier.

It is important to note that the first of these Old Charges states:

“I am to admonish you to honour God in his holy Church; that you use no heresy, schism and Error in your Understandings, or discredit Men’s Teachings.”

As stated, these Old Charges were drafted on or before 1633 and the Emulation Ritual came about from the creation of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement which was formed in 1823, both quite some time before the unification of Italy, and even the first date was before the first Papal Encyclical against Freemasonry in 1738.

Reference to the above Charges does not imply in any way that the writings of Pope Leo XIII were incorrect, as it is definitely true that those mentioned, who undoubtedly played and important role in the Risorgimento, were Freemasons.

There is one other striking feature of this Encyclical, Etsi Nos,  that is expressed in the sixth paragraph, and that is this part sentence:

“It is to the Church and the Roman Pontiffs that Italy especially owes gratitude for having spread her glories in all lands,,,,,, for having enriched her cities with numerous and immortal monuments of science and of art.”

In the “The Old Constitutions belonging to the Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons” mentioned above you will find these words in the preface:

“,,,, it is not to be express’d what mighty Fabricks they have erected, what glorious buildings they have rais’d, from the Temple of Solomon to the magnificent Pile of St. Peter’s at Rome.”

So to give credit where credit is due, it was the stonemasons that built these “immortal monuments of science and of art” to which Pope Leo XIII refers, and the Old Charges of these stonemasons form the basis of Freemasonry, and these stone masons were Roman Catholic Christians.

Whilst these articles are about the Roman Catholic’s disdain for Freemasonry, there was nothing to suggest that Freemasonry had any disdain for the Roman Church. However, in the 19th century, the Roman Catholic Church was under frequent attacks from the rising tide of liberal nationalism throughout Europe which saw the existence of a multi-national Church loyal to the Pope as a threat. The Third Republic of France attacked the loyalty of the clergy of Rome and tried to make the priesthood dependent upon the state. The newly created secular Italian kingdom was eager to suppress the influence of the Catholic Church, and following the seizure of Rome in 1870, the papacy was deprived of what remained of its temporal powers. 2

One of the most virulent and best known of these “attacks” on the Church was the German Kulturkampf (“Cultural Struggle”). The Kulturkampf refers to the efforts of Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to break the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the newly established German Empire.2

But a lot of this was not aimed directly at the Pope, but more at the local Roman Catholic influence on political parties of the time, for example the Centre Party (Zentrumsparty) in Germany, which was Roman Catholic and lead by Ludwig Windthorst.

However, in Britain, William Gladstone’s pamphlet, published in 1874, called, “The Vatican Decrees and Their Bearing on Civil Allegiance” was aimed directly at the Pope, Pius IX in particular. Replies to this pamphlet were published by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Henry Edward Manning, and the Roman Catholic Lord Acton in The Times of London.2/3

Gladstone’s pamphlet was a response to Pope Pius IX’s Encyclical Syllabus Errorum (the Syllabus of Errors), where Pius IX lists a series of opinions held against the Roman Church that he considered to be errors. Below are some extracts from Gladstone’s Pamphlet:

“From the language used by some of the organs of Roman Catholic opinion, it is, I am afraid, plain that in some quarters they have given deep offence. They have been hastily treated as an attack made upon Roman Catholics generally, nay, as an insult offered them.”

“The Rome of the Middle Ages claimed universal monarchy. The modern Church of Rome has abandoned nothing, retracted nothing.”

“I find it faulty, inasmuch as it seems to imply that a “convert” now joining the Papal Church, not only gives up certain rights and duties of freedom, but surrenders them by a conscious and deliberate act.”

On the admittance of a Roman Catholic to enter Parliament, Gladstone writes:

“from the nature and claims of the Papal power, it was not possible for the consistent Roman Catholic to pay to the crown of this country an entire allegiance, and that the admission of persons, thus self disabled, to Parliament was inconsistent with the safety of the State and nation,,,”

“Absolute obedience, it is boldly declared, is due to the Pope, at the peril of salvation, not alone in faith, in morals, but in all things which concern the discipline and government of the Church. Thus are swept into the Papal net whole multitudes of facts, whole systems of government, prevailing, though in different degrees, in every country of the world.”

“I should feel less anxiety on this subject had the Supreme Pontiff frankly recognised his altered position since the events of 1870; and, in language as clear, if not as emphatic, as that in which he has proscribed modern civilisation, given to Europe the assurance that he would be no party to the reestablishment by blood and violence of the Temporal Power of the Church.”

Basically, William Gladstone, Prime Minister of Britain (four times between 1868 and 1894) where resided 5 million Roman Catholics, who had exactly the same rights in law as the other 25 million citizens, felt that loyalty to the Pope over loyalty to Britain was a situation that the Pope was promoting, clinging to the past and refusing to accept the modern liberalisation of the European countries the Roman Church once dominated with autocratic rule.

Of course, as Britain was one of those liberal countries (in the eyes of the rulers, bearing in mind the class system was still in full swing), so it was only natural that, given the freedom of speech, Roman Catholics leaders could respond, and they did.

Of the replies from two Prominent Roman Catholics, Henry Manning, Archbishop of Westminster, and Lord Acton, in addressing the issue of British Catholics they both stated clearly that all were loyal British citizens. One of Gladstone’s issues, however, was that the loyalty of Roman Catholics was to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic faith where obedience is to the Pope who reigns supreme and is infallible.

As a final note, all the way back to Boniface VIII in the Encyclical entitled Unam Sanctam – One God, One Faith, One Spiritual Authority from 1302, in the very last sentence this Pope proclaims:

Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Not much appears to have changed.

William Gladstone was NOT a Freemason, was raised in an evangelical (Protestant) home and, as a young man, he dedicated his life to Christ. Before embarking on a political career; he had seriously considered taking holy orders. He considered his service in political life to be a “most blessed calling.” He once said to Queen Victoria, “my political or public life is the best part of my life; it is that part in which I am conscious of the greatest effort to do and avoid as the Lord Christ would have me do and avoid.” 

It is clear from the above that it really was the people and the new Nation States that were against the historic power of the Papacy, not Freemasonry, but it cannot be denied, among the leaders and the people, some were undoubtedly Freemasons.

In the next article, we will examine the Encyclical Humanum Genus – On Freemasonry in depth, as thus far into our research, this is the most damning Encyclical against Freemasonry uncovered.

1 https://www.rome.net/rome-capital-italy

2 http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/history/79-history/394-kulturkampf.html  

3 https://archive.org/details/cu31924029359225/page/n81/mode/2up 


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 or Provincial Grand Lodge.

© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved

About Steve

Steve is part of the publishing team of Al-Khabar. He was initiated into Neptune Lodge 5150 EC In 1986 and completed his third degree by being exalted into Neptune’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1989; he also enjoyed two successive years in the Chair of KS in 1993/4. He has also enjoyed being a Mark Master Mason and a Royal Ark Mariner. He has been honoured with the position of Past Provincial Deputy Grand Registrar. All the articles are his own and represent no Official Masonic Body

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