What are the historic and current views of the Catholic Church concerning Masons?
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The Roman Catholic Church has offered the most persistent opposition to Freemasonry. The Church has prohibited its members from being Freemasons since 1738. Since then the Church made it clear that membership in Masonic associations will lead to excommunication.
The Catholic Church accuses that the Free Masons incorporate Deism and Naturalism as part of their masonic beliefs. Both of these philosophies have been condemned by the Church as atheistic.
After the Second Vatican Council many thought that the Church was going soft on Free Masonry. Questions arose in particular because the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law removed specific mention of Freemasonry from Canon 1374, which penalized "person[s] who join an association which plots against the Church".
In response to these questions, the Church position was reiterated by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1983. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger being the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the apostolic approval of Pope John Paul II, issued a Declaration on Masonic Associations, which reiterated the Church's objections to Freemasonry. The Declaration states:
Responding specifically to the question of why mention of Freemasonry had been removed from the Code of Canon Law, Cardinal Ratzinger stated:
That is, the editors chose not to list specific organizations by name, but rather to prohibit the entire category regardless of the names of individual organizations.
Many Catholics believe that the prophecy in revelation about the second beast (Revelation 13:11) is made about the Free Masons. But the Church has never openly made any such claims.
Catholics (and all Christians and people of goodwill) are called to do what is right in all circumstances and follow the dictates of a well formed conscience so there are a few serious problems with Free Masonry, most of which can be said of any secret society.