SIR,—The letter of Mr. F. D. Chambers in your issue of December 6th prompts us to offer a few remarks on the subject of Freemasonry. The chief condemnations of Freemasonry by the Holy See arc to be found in the following documents: the Encyclical In Entinenti of Clement X11 (1738), the Encyclical Providas of Benedict XIV (1751), the Bull Pro Graviora of Leo XII (1826), the Encyclical Mirari Vos of Gregory XVI (1832), the Encyclicals Qui Pluribus (1846) and Etsi Mutt° Luctuosti (1873) of Pius IX, and the Encyclical Humanum Genus of Leo XIII (1884). From these documents it appears that Masonry is condemned on at least four grounds: as a secret society, as a religious sect, as an anti-social organisation, and because of its active opposition to the Church. (Incidentally, the secrecy of Freemasonry is condemned for two reasons: firstly, because of the form of the oath, in which the name of God and the most atrocious sanctions are invoked for the protection of " secrets " which are, on the face of them, mere trivialities; and secondly. because this secrecy affords protection to the grave abuses which have arisen in some forms of Masonry, as Masons themselves admit.) Of the grounds for condemnation thus adduced by the Holy See, the first and second apply as fully to English as to Continental Masonry. That Masonry in England is a secret society no one doubts. That it is an organisation with definite religious and moral tenets (and hence a religious sect) Freemasons themselves proclaim. It is true that the religious beliefs of English Masons have varied somewhat from time to time. Originally they were deist and humanitarian, 15 clearly appears in the famous " Constitution " of 1723. Later, they became strongly Protestant, and this, together with the growing irreligion of Continental Masonry, led to the official breach between the English Grand Lodge and the Grand Orient in 1877. a say breach. though the fact of the matter is that the Grand Lodge refused to recognise members of the Grand Orient as Masons at all, and imposed drastic penalties on any Mason who should enter into communica(ion with them. These penalties are stiff in force.) Nowadays, English Masons, like Protestants generally, seem to be tending once more towards mere .humanitarianism: for though a belief in God is still, we believe, necessary for initiation, the spirit of English Freemasonry is one of indifference to religion: a Mason may believe what he likes so long as he follows humanitarian moral principles. The same spirit of indifTerentism characterises the benevolent activities of the Rotary and of Toe H, and that is why Catholics may not belong to these societies.
There is reason enough here for the condemnation of even English Freemasonry. Whether we can go further, and say that all Masons arc tarred with the same brush, and so credit English Freemasonry with all the aberrations and excesses of, say, the Grand Orient, is another question. It would he difficult to affirm positively that we can. Freemasons are fond of asserting the essential unity of all Freemasonry, but the distinction they make between " true " and " false " Masons confuses the issue. At the international congress which they held at Geneva in 1902 they could find no common formula to express their beliefs and aims, except some vague profession of faith in
progress. The English-speaking, German, and Scandinavian delegates stood out strongly for belief in God as the necessary basis of Masonry, but this proposition found little favour with the " Latin " lodges. Yet, in spite of theoretical divergences, there is plenty of practical co-operation between English and Continental Masons, though how far this extends it is quite impossible to say.
Fr. Hogan, OP., has already noted in your solumns that English Masons have publicly 'announced their intention of helping their Continental brethren to re-establish them-Ives, if possible, in the countries from which they have been driven ; but, once again, the scope of this pledge is uncertain. It is difficult to believe that English Freemasons will lift a hand to restore the Grand Orient, which they regard as a false distortion of Masonry ; on the other hand, they have made no definite break with other Continental lodges, which stand accused of principles and practices not very much better than those of the Grand Orient itself. The truth is that the secrecy with which Masons deliberately surround themselves lays them open to grave accusations, and though we do not think these accusations altogether justified, we do not see how they can be convincingly refuted.
We can at least say definitely of English Masonry that its tendencies towards naturalism and religious indifferentism are plainly opposed to Catholic doctrine, and that, as a secret society, it is a potential danger to both Church and State ; a fact which is proved by the evils to which it has given rise in other countries. These things are certainly true, and as long as they remain true, a Catholic must oppose Freemasonry.
JOSEPH CHRISTIE, S.J.
Heythrop College, Chipping Norton.
SIR,-1 am an Anglo-Catholic, a Rotarian, but not a Freemason, nor do I intend becoming one. And as I read with pleasure and profit almost every week your admirable paper, I deplore the statement made in a letter in your issue of November 22: — " The Masonic origin of Rotary, its proved hostility to the Church, and its moral code, which in almost every particular resembles that of Freemasonry." The statement is as incorrect as many of the aspersions cast against the Holy Father over the present war.
There is one very important difference between Freemasonry and Rotary. The former is a secret society, with oaths and pass-words. Rotary is as open as the day. Non-Rotarians are not only welcomed at Rotary gatherings, but are frequently invited to address them. I assume that you have to become a Freemason more or less in the dark; not so with Rotary. Have those who make these statements about Rotary ever visited a Rotary Club? Let them " come and see '', it; let them crossquestion its officials as to its aims and deeds.
Party politics and sectarian religious discussions are banned at Rotary meetings, in order that no one, be he Catholic or Protestant, may have his conscience wounded or his feelings hurt.