" What is the truth alum( Freemasonry? " (P. S.)
Under this question, a reply was recently given which read: " . . . we do not know. We recommend you to read Freemasonry, by A Past Master. Wastibourne." P. S. kindly points out that this is misleading: the reason is that we unduly compressed the question, which should have read: What is the truth about the ritual and ceremonial of Freemasonry?
For the sake ot readers who may have been misled, and for general interest, we will restate the Church's teaching on this matter, and indicate some of the reasons. Canon Law says: " All those who enrol their names in the sect of Freemasonry or similar associations which plot against the Church or the legitimate civil authorities, incur by the very fact Me penalty of excommunication, absolution from which is reserved simpliciter to the Holy See. Certain other references also occur in Canon Law.
Freemasonry has been condemned by the Church ever since 1738. The classical statement for the reasons is the Encyclical of Leo XIII, " Humanurn Genus," April 20, 1884, which alleges as the fundamental evil of Freemasonry the fact that it is intimately based an philosophical Naturalism. In this system, Man is proposed as the norm and criterion of all things; it teaches " that human nature and human reason should be in all things the supreme rulers." Leo allows (and this may apply to Anglo-Saxon Masonry) that not every Mason is necessarily an evil man: his condemnation'" must be understood of the Masonic sect generically . . . not, howevet, of individual members . . ." These, perhaps, do not participate in the criminal acts or endorse the extreme conclusions of Masonry; they may not be conscious of its real aims. Nevertheless they cannot be excused, for in spirit and principles, if not in acts and accomplished results, they are too closely linked with the worst forms of Masonry. 'Their " moderation" is due to the curbing effects of time, place and circumstance, but fundamentally their principlea remain vicious.
Irrefutable facts can be cited to justify the strong attitude taken by the Church in this matter. A good presentation of them will be found in Freemasonry and the AntiChristian Movement, by Cahill, S.J., Dublin. 1932 (try Herder). Brief statements are available in Freemasonry, by Thurston, Si., C.T.S., 2d.; ana Freemasonry, by Clund, C.T.S. of Ireland, 2d.
What is the attitude of the Church towards the Oxford Group movement and the practice of " Listening to God "? (T. H. P. and T. P. D.) The Church's attitude towards the Oxford Group movement is precisely the same as her attitude towards any other non-Catholic religious organization: that is, while Catholics are forbidden to belong to the Oxford Group, because of the danger to their faith, they arc not forbidden to co-operate with Groupists in non-religious activities, such as social service.
Many of the aims of this movemenf are in accord with Catholic teaching, and So are many of the beliefs of Anglicans and Presbyterians; and just as Catholics may join with Anglicans and Presbyterians in (for instance defending the doctrine of belief in God against atheistic communism, so they may join with the Groupists in trying to establish social justice. But the fact remains that the beliefs and practices of the Oxford Group are derived from Evangelical Protestaatism, and many of them are repugnant to Catholic teaching.
The practice of e Listenine to God " is a case in ppint. God has told us to pray to Him, and has promised to hear our prayers, but He has nevei promised to give us that special inspiration or guidance for every action we perfoim which the Groupists expect from Him. On the contrary, God wishes us to use the brains and judgment He has given us: any extra help we receive depends largely on the way in which we use our netural gifts. The Groupist practice appears to be an extension of the old Protestant idea of private judgment, and is likely to lead to an unhealthy emotionalism, and a too-great dependelice on supposedly
supernatural inspirations. By all means pray to God for guidances-but use your own brains as well; it is through them that the guidance will come.
What is the Sword of the Spirit? (1'. D.) The Sword of the Spirit movement, taking tts inspiration flout the words of St. Paul in Ephesians, chapter 6, " and take unto you the helmet of salvation. and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God," was officially inaugrirated by Cardinal Hinsfey on August 1, 1940. The fundamental aim of the society is the restoration in Europe of a Christian basis for both public and private life, by the return to the principles of international order and Christian freedom. The society, therefore, is opposed to those aspects of Totalitarianism which are inimical to the principles for which it stands, is in support of the war as a necessary defence of those principles, and strives to propagate sufficient knowledge of relevant Christian principles to influence the peace and resettlement of Europe. The methods adopted are: intensification of the spiritual life, widespread lectures, the production and distribution of suitable literature, and the formation at study groups.
With the approval of the Hierarchy, the Sword ot the Spirit has organised many successful meetings in different parts of the country, the most notable of which was the two-day meeting held in the Stoll Theatre, Kingsway, under the joint auspices of Cardinal Hinsley and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in May 1941. The society issues its own literature, out with the co-operation of the Catholic Press articles by members have appeared in all the weekly Catholic papers and in most of the leading periodicals. The aim of the study groups, many of which exist in civil and military life is to help those interested to acquire sufficient knowledge of Christian philosophy to enable them to form correct judgments on current problems.
Along with this intellectual activity goes a deep spiritual life, and the whole spirit of the society is expressed in its choice of patrons—St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher.
How can you reconcile the acceptance by the Papacy of an indemnity for the loss of Its temporal possessions with the poverty of Christ? (G. J. M.) The motive of the Papacy in insisting upon sovereign independence is best expressed in the words used by the reigning Pope at the time of the signing of the Treaty of the Lateran. " A treaty which recognises and assures to the Holy See a true, proper and real territorial sovereignty, because, at least up till now, no other form of sovereignty is acknowledged in the world as real and proper unless it is likewise territorial, a sovereignty which evidently belongs to him who stands invested with the Divine mandate and the Divine representation, one who cannot be the subject of any earthly sovereign."
The wisdom of the Papacy in this matter has neve' been more apparent than it is to-day, when many of its enemies doubt its impartiality for no other reason than that , the Papal State lies close to the domain of Mussolini and Inc Fascist party. Had the Popes not jealously guarded their rights from
the time of the confiscation onwards tin position of the present Pope during this war would have been much more difficult than it is. When the Treaty of thc I.ateran was signed the Italian Government freely recognised that snIne monetaiy compensation was due to the Papacy in view of the possessions relinquished in the treaty. On its side the Papacy cut down its demands to the " barest necessity " in consideration of the financial and economic condition of the State and the people. It is difficult to understand how this action can be confused with an undignified and unworthy desile for wealth.
In addition to the enormous organization of the whole Church, the Pope is also responsible (as he pointed out) for the Church in the City of Rome, and the need for some source of income to carry on this work is obvious Our Lord, it is true, was not burdened by any such need, but he established a Church and envisaged its organization in every country in the world. The policy of the Papacy appears to have been just and politic while its manner of carrying it out was generous and Christlike.
Hoes the Orthodox Church claim authority to canonize saints, and have they canonized the wife of Pontius Pilate?
I. As the Grcck Orthodox Church, cornposed of a number of autocephalous National Churches, claims to be " the only true Church of Christ," she claims the right to canonize saints. In fact all the national Churches, Russian, Greek, Serbian, Japanese, etc., are entitled to canonize their own saints, who may be venerated either locally or throughout all the national Churches.
2. Neither the wife of Pontius Pilate nor he himself arc s-ecognized as saints by any of the autocephalous Churches of the Byzantine Orthodox Church. The only Church which recognizes both as saints is the Abyssinian Church (Coptic Rite). Her commemoration is on June 19, together with her husband, who on the strength of the apocryphal "Apodosis Pilati " is believed to have been converted, and eventually martyred under Tiberius.
Can a Home Guard attend Church Parade Service in a Protestant church? (C. M. 9.) Catholics are never allowed to take part in non-Catholic religious services. To be present at such a service without taking part in it is also generally forbidden because it endangers faith, causes scandal, and gives encouragement to the false idea that one religion is as good as another. The Church, in rare cases, where these evils are absent and there is an important reason Inn attendance, allows exceptions to this second rule. The circumstances of a Flame Guard would not normally demand such an exception being made. He should certainly not attend a Protestant Parade Service without the approval of the parish priest of the place concerned.
Christ's words in Matthew xvii, 9-13, imply that John the Baptist was a re-incarnation of Elias; but the Baptist himself denied that he was Elias. How is this contradiction to be explained? (N. C. R.)
When Christ said, " Elias is already come and they knew him not," He was as the context shows referring to St. John; but His words are not to he taken literally. They do not mean that St. John was Elias in the flesh; but have a figurative sense. The Baptist is referred to as Elias because he prepared the way for Christ's first coming just as an Elias will, according to the prophecy of Malachias, prepare the way for Christ's second coming at the end of the world. The Jews, not clearly distinguishing between the two comings, expected Elias' return to precede the first advent of the Messiah. Christ corrected this mistake.
1,Vbat is the Church's attitude to Church Parades? (T. P. D.)
We presume that our correspondent is asking about the compulsory aspect of church parades. The object the military authorities have in view is the common good of the Army, to which individual convenience must sometimes be subjected. Catholics should be in agreement with this point of view ; for though they recognize that the system of parades may, in individual cases, cause some hardship, the advantages to be gained from each man being given opportunity and encouragement to practise his religion publicly once a week outweighs this disadvantage. We hope this meets the question. If not, we will be pleased to reply again on receiving further particulars.
As " Here's the Answer " Is now only a fortnightly feature, the delay in publishing replies is necessarily prolonged. Some questions will theretore be a month or six weeks old before the replies appear in print. Correspondents, therefore, requiring an immediate answer should send a stamped addressed envelope.