Are there Freemasons in the Catholic Church?

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A detail of the Masonic apron depicted on a statue of George Washington in the Masonic hall in New York City. On Nov. 15 the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith released a reminder that Catholics enrolled in Freemasonry are "in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion." (OSV News photo/Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons CC-SA 4.0 license)

Question: I read with interest recent articles on the Church reemphasizing its prohibition against membership in the Masonic Orders. I certainly understand the rationale for the prohibition. What is confusing is that there continues to be reports of high-ranking members of the curia being Masons. How is this allowed? 

Richard Bucci, Binghamton, New York

Answer: It is not formally allowed. If clergy of any rank are clearly determined to be a Freemason, they can be suspended. What we are often dealing with in terms of “high-ranking” members of the curia being Masons is a matter of accusation or rumor, not clear facts. Hearsay is not usually an actionable basis for removal or other punitive measures. Since Freemasonry is a kind of secret society, such rumors are hard to verify. One is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. 

Many Americans are puzzled at the restrictions on membership in the Masons. Most see it as a harmless men’s group. But historically the Freemasons are strong opponents of the Catholic Church and have a quasi-religious doctrine at odds with the Catholic faith. Purportedly, some of their internal documents speak to a plan to weaken the Catholic Church through infiltration and the proposal of an alternative “religion” that replaces doctrinal and moral principles with a kind of “brotherhood of man.” It is a kind of syncretistic blend of many religious outlooks with an emphasis on merely natural virtues. The Church also prohibits membership in Freemasonry because Masonic principles and rituals are irreconcilable with Catholic doctrines. These views undermine Catholic faith, the authority of the Church and the unique claims of Jesus Christ and the Church he founded. 

Clearly no member of the Catholic hierarchy can be a member of the Freemasons. But as you state, “reports of high-ranking members of the curia” being members are often hard to prove. Hence, it is not “allowed” since proof is lacking. We can only hope such allegations are not true. 

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at Send questions to