The Vatican’s doctrinal body has urged the Philippine bishops to adopt a ‘coordinated strategy’ against the growing number of Filipino Catholics joining Masonic lodges.
Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, reiterated that Catholics are still prohibited from joining Masonic lodges, as their principles have always been regarded as irreconcilable with the Church’s doctrines.
“It should be remembered that active membership in Freemasonry by a member of the faithful is forbidden because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry,” Fernández said in a note.
The Argentine cardinal said that membership in masonry among Catholics is “very significant” in the nation, including those who believe there is nothing wrong with joining Masonic associations.
Approved by Pope Francis, the dicastery’s note, dated Nov. 13 and made public Nov. 15, was a response to a request from Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete regarding the “best pastoral approach” to the issue.
The bishop had repeatedly voiced concern about the rising number of faithful enrolled in masonic groups in his diocese.
Cortes particularly sought suggestions on how to respond to “this reality” from a pastoral point of view and its “doctrinal implications”.
Catholics have been prohibited from joining the Masons since Pope Clement XII’s decree “In Eminenti” in 1738.
The 1917 Code of Canon Law declared that anyone who joins a Masonic lodge incurs excommunication. In 1983, the Vatican reaffirmed that being enrolled in a Masonic association is a serious sin, and those individuals may not approach Holy Communion.
The dicastery encouraged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines “to put in place a coordinated strategy” based on doctrinal and pastoral approaches” to address the issue appropriately.
It also advised the bishops to “conduct catechesis accessible to the people and in all parishes regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic faith and Freemasonry.”
Over the past three years, the CBCP has released at least three statements on the issue: Pastoral guidelines in dealing with individual Catholics – members of Masonry, initially released in February 2020 and updated in September 2023; as well as A clarification on the CBCP’s position on Freemasonry and a note on Canon 1374 of the CIC issued in February 2023.