Following is an English translation, from the original Latin, of the encyclical Humanum Genus, the strongest and most comprehensive papal condemnation of Freemasonry, promulgated in 1884.
POPE LEO XIII
To all venerable Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops in the Catholic world who have grace and communion with the Apostolic See:
Health and the Apostolic Benediction!
THE HUMAN RACE, after, by the malice of the devil, it had departed from God, the Creator and Giver of heavenly gifts, divided itself into two different and opposing parties, one of which assiduously combats for truth and virtue, the other for those things which are opposed to virtue and to truth. The one is the Kingdom of God on earth—that is, the Church of Jesus Christ; those who desire to adhere to which from their soul and conducively to salvation must serve God and His only begotten Son with their whole mind and their whole will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose dominion and power are all who have followed his sad example and that of our first parents. They refuse to obey divine and eternal law, and strive for many things to the neglect of God and for many against God. This twofold kingdom, like two states with contrary laws working in contrary directions, Augustine clearly saw and described, and comprehended the efficient cause of both with subtle brevity in these words: "Two loves have made two states: the love of self to the contempt of God has made the earthly, but the love of God to the contempt of self has made the heavenly." (De Civ. Dei, lib. xiv., chap.
The one fights the other with different kinds of weapons, and battles at all times, though not always with the same ardor and fury. In our days, however, those who follow the evil one seem to conspire and strive all together under the guidance and with the help of that society of men spread all over, and solidly established, which they call Free-Masons. Not dissimulating their intentions, they vie in attacking the power of God; they openly and ostensibly strive to damage the Church, with the purpose to deprive thoroughly if possible Christian people of the benefits brought by the Saviour Jesus Christ.
Seeing these evils, we are compelled by charity in our soul to say often to God: "For lo! Thy enemies have made noise; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head. They have taken malicious counsel against Thy people, and have consulted against Thy saints. They have said: Come and let us destroy them, so that they be not a nation." (Ps. lxxxii., 2-4)
In such an impending crisis, in such a great and obstinate warfare upon Christianity, it is our duty to point out the danger, exhibit the adversaries, resist as much as we can their schemes and tricks, lest those whose salvation is in our hands should perish eternally: and that the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which we have received in trust, not only may stay and remain intact, but may continue to increase all over the world by new additions.
The Roman Pontiffs, our predecessors, watching constantly over the safety of the Christian people, early recognized this capital enemy rushing forth out of the darkness of hidden conspiracy, and, anticipating the future in their mind, gave the alarm to princes and people, that they should not be caught by deceptions and frauds.
Clement XII. first signalized the danger in 1738, and Benedict XIV. renewed and continued his Constitution. Pius VII. followed them both; and Leo XII., by the Apostolic Constitution—quo graviora-recapitulating the acts and decrees of the above Pontiffs about the matter, validated and confirmed them forever. In the same way spoke Pius VIII., Gregory XVI., and very often Pius IX.
The purpose and aim of the Masonic sect having been discovered from plain evidence, from the cognition of causes, its laws, Rites and commentaries having come to light and been made known by the additional depositions of the associated members, this Apostolic See denounced and openly declared that the sect of Masons is established against law and honesty, and is equally a danger to Christianity as well as to society; and, threatening those heavy punishments which the Church uses against the guilty ones, she forbade the society, and ordered that none should give his name to it. Therefore the angry Masons, thinking that they would escape the sentence or partially destroy it by despising or calumniating, accused the Pope who made those decrees of not having made a right decree or of having overstepped moderation. They thus tried to evade the authority and the importance of the Apostolic Constitutions of Clement XII., Benedict XIV., Pius VII., and Pius IX. But in the same society there were some who, even against their own will, acknowledged that the Roman Pontiffs had acted wisely and lawfully, according to the Catholic discipline. In this many princes and rulers of States agreed with the Popes, and either denounced Masonry to the Apostolic See or by appropriate laws condemned it as a bad thing in Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Bavaria, Savoy, and other parts of Italy.
But the event justified the prudence of our predecessors, and this is the most important. Nay, their paternal care did not always and everywhere succeed, either because of the simulation and shrewdness of the Masons themselves, or through the inconsiderate levity of others whose duty required of them strict attention. Hence, in a century and a half the sect of Masons grew beyond expectation; and, creeping audaciously and deceitfully among the various classes of the people, it grew to be so powerful that now it seems the only dominating power in the States. From this rapid and dangerous growth have come into the Church and into the State those evils which our predecessors had already foreseen. It has indeed come to this, that we have serious fear, not for the Church, which has a foundation too firm for men to upset it, but for those States in which this society is so powerful—or other societies of a like kind, and which show themselves to be servants and companions of Masonry.
For these reasons, when we first succeeded in the government of the Church, we saw and felt very clearly the necessity of opposing so great an evil with the full weight of our authority. On all favorable occasions we have attacked the principal doctrines in which the Masonic perversity appeared. By our Encyclical Letter, quod apostoloci muneris, we attacked the errors of Socialists and Communists; by the Letter, Arcanum, we tried to explain and defend the genuine notion of domestic society, whose source and origin is in marriage; finally, by the letter which begins Diuturnum, we proposed a form of civil power consonant with the principles of Christian wisdom, responding to the very nature and the the welfare of people and Princes. Now, after the example of our predecessors, we intend to turn our attention to the Masonic society, to its whole doctrine, to its intentions, acts, and feelings, in order to illustrate more and more this wicked force and stop the spread of this contagious disease.
There are several sects of men which, though different in name, customs, forms, and origin, are identical in aim and sentiment with Masonry. It is the universal center from which they all spring, and to which they all return. Although in our days these seem to no longer care to hide in darkness, but hold their meetings in the full light and under the eyes of their fellow-men and publish their journals openly, yet they deliberate and preserve the habits and customs of secret societies. Nay, there are in them many secrets which are by law carefully concealed not only from the profane, but also from many associated, viz., the last and intimate intentions, the hidden and unknown chiefs, the hidden and secret meetings, the resolutions and methods and means by which they will be carried into execution. Hence the difference of rights and of duties among the members; hence the distinction of orders and grades and the severe discipline by which they are ruled. The initiated must promise, nay, take an oath, that they will never, at any way or at any time, disclose their fellow-members and the emblems by which they are known, or expose their doctrines. So, by false appearance, but with the same kind of simulation, the Masons chiefly strive, as once did the Manicheans, to hide and to admit no witnesses but their own. They seek skillfully hiding places, assuming the appearance of literary men or philosophers, associated for the purpose of erudition; they have always ready on their tongues the speech of cultivated urbanity, and proclaim their charity toward the poor; they look for the improvement of the masses, to extend the benefits of social comfort to as many of mankind as possible. Those purposes, though they may be true, yet are not the only ones. Besides, those who are chosen to join the society must promise and swear to obey the leaders and teachers with great respect and trust; to be ready to do whatever is told them, and accept death and the most horrible punishment if they disobey. In fact, some who have betrayed the secrets or disobeyed an order are punished with death so skillfully and so audaciously that the murder escaped the investigations of the police. Therefore, reason and truth show that the society of which we speak is contrary to honesty and natural justice.
There are other and clear arguments to show that this society is not in agreement with honesty. No matter how great the skill with which men conceal it, it is impossible that the cause should not appear in its effects. "A good tree cannot yield bad fruits, nor a bad tree good ones." (Matt. vii., 18.) Masonry generates bad fruits mixed with great bitterness. From the evidence above mentioned we find its aim, which is the desire of overthrowing all the religious and social orders introduced by Christianity, and building a new one according to its taste, based on the foundation and laws of naturalism.
What we have said or will say must be understood of Masonry in general and of all like societies, not of the individual members of the same. In their number there may be not a few who, though they are wrong in giving their names to these societies, yet are neither guilty of their crimes nor aware of the final goal which they strive to reach. Among the associations also, perhaps, some do not approve the extreme conclusions which, as emanating from common principles, it would be necessary to embrace if their deformity and vileness would not be too repulsive. Some of them are equally forced by the places and times not to go so far as they would go or others go; and yet they are not to be considered less Masonic for that, because the Masonic alliance has to be considered not only from actions and deeds, but from general principles.
Now, it is the principle of naturalists, as the name itself indicates, that human nature and human reason in everything must be our teacher and guide. Having once settled this, they are careless of duties toward God, or they pervert them with false opinions and errors. They deny that anything has been revealed by God; they do not admit any religious dogma and truth but what human intelligence can comprehend; they do not allow any teacher to be believed on his official authority. Now, it being the special duty of the Catholic Church, and her duty only, to keep the doctrines received from God and the authority of teaching with all the heavenly means necessary to salvation and preserve them integrally incorrupt, hence the attacks and rage of the enemies are turned against her.
Now, if one watches the proceedings of the Masons, in respect of religion especially, where they are more free to do what they like, it will appear that they carry faithfully into execution the tenets of the naturalists. They work, indeed, obstinately to the end that neither the teaching nor the authority of the Church may have any influence; and therefore they preach and maintain the full separation of the Church from the State. So law and government are wrested from the wholesome and divine virtue of the Catholic Church, and they want, therefore, by all means to rule States independent of the institutions and doctrines of the Church.
To drive off the Church as a sure guide is not enough; they add persecutions and insults. Full license is given to attack with impunity, both by words and print and teaching, the very foundations of the Catholic religion; the rights of the Church are violated; her divine privileges are not respected. Her action is restricted as much as possible; and that by virtue of laws apparently not too violent, but substantially made on purpose to check her freedom. Laws odiously partial against the clergy are passed so as to reduce its number and its means. The ecclesiastical revenue is in a thousand ways tied up, and religious associations abolished and dispersed.
But the war wages more ardently against the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff. He was, under a false pretext, deprived of the temporal power, the stronghold of his rights and of his freedom; he was next reduced to an iniquitous condition, unbearable for its numberless burdens until it has come to this, that the Sectarians say openly what they had already in secret devised for a long time, viz., that the very spiritual power of the Pope ought to be taken away, and the divine institution of the Roman Pontificate ought to disappear from the world. If other arguments were needed for this, it would be sufficiently demonstrated by the testimony of many who often, in times bygone and even lately, declared it to be the real supreme aim of the Free-Masons to persecute, with untamed hatred, Christianity, and that they will never rest until they see cast to the ground all religious institutions established by the Pope.
If the sect does not openly require its members to throw away of Catholic faith, this tolerance, far from injuring the Masonic schemes, is useful to them. Because this is, first, an easy way to deceive the simple and unwise ones and it is contributing to proselytize. By opening their gates to persons of every creed they promote, in fact, the great modem error of religious indifference and of the parity of all worships, the best way to annihilate every religion, especially the Catholic, wnich, being the only true one cannot be joined with others without enormous injustice.
But naturalists go further. Having entered, in things of greatest importance, on a way thoroughly false, through the weakness of human nature or by the judgment of God, who punishes pride, they run to extreme errors. Thus the very truths which are known by the natural light of reason, as the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, have no more consistence and certitude for them.
Masonry breaks on the same rocks by no different way. It is true, Free-Masons generally admit the existence of God; but they admit themselves that this persuasion for them is not firm, sure. They do not dissimulate that in the Masonic family the question of God is a principle of great discord; it is even known how they lately had on this point serious disputes. It is a fact that the sect leaves to the members full liberty of thinking about God whatever they like, affirming or denying His existence. Those who boldly deny His existence are admitted as well as those who, like the Pantheists, admit God but ruin the idea of Him, retaining an absurd caricature of the divine nature, destroying its reality. Now, as soon as this supreme foundation is pulled down and upset, many natural truths must need go down, too, as the free creations of this world, the universal government of Providence, immortality of soul, fixture, and eternal life.
Once having dissipated these natural principles, important practically and theoretically, it is easy to see what will become of public and private morality. We will not speak of supernatural virtues, which, without a special favor and gift of God, no one can practice nor obtain, and of which it is impossible to find a vestige in those who proudly ignore the redemption of mankind, heavenly grace, the sacraments, and eternal happiness. We speak of duties which proceed from natural honesty. Because the principles and sources of justice and morality are these, a God, creator and provident ruler of the world, the eternal law which commands respect and forbids the violation of natural order; the supreme end of man settled a great deal above created things outside of this world. These principles once taken away by the Free-Masons as by the naturalists, immediately natural ethics has no more where to build or to rest. They only morality which Free-Masons admit, and by which they would like to bring up youth, is that which they call civil and independent, or the one which ignores every religious idea. But how poor, uncertain, and variable at every breath of passion is this morality, is demonstrated by the sorrowful fruits which partially already appear. Nay, where it has been freely dominating, having banished Christian education, probity and integrity of manners go down, horrible and monstrous opinions raise their head, and crimes grow with fearful audacity. This is deplored by everybody, and by those who are compelled by evidence and yet would not like to speak so.
Besides, as human nature is infected by original sin and more inclined to vice than to virtue, it is not possible to lead an honest life without mortifying the passions and submitting the appetites to reason. In this fight it is often necessary to despise created good, and undergo the greatest pains and sacrifices in order to preserve to conquering reason ib own empire. But naturalists and Masons, rejecting divine revelation, deny original sin, and do not acknowledge that our free will is weakened and bent to evil. To the contrary, exaggerating the strength and excellency of nature, and settling in her the principles and unique role of justice, they cannot even imagine how, in order to counteract its motions and moderate its appetites, continuous efforts are needed and the greatest constancy. This is the reason why we see so many enticements offered to the passions, journals, and reviews without any shame, theatrical plays thoroughly dishonest; the liberal arts cultivated according to the principles of an impudent realism, effeminate and delicate living promoted by the most refined inventions; in a word, all the enticements apt to seduce or weaken virtue carefully practiced—things highly to blame, yet becoming the theories of those who take away from man heavenly goods, and put all happiness in transitory things and bind it to earth.
What we have said may be confirmed by things of which it is not easy to think or speak. As these shrewd and malicious men do not find more servility and docility than in souls already broken and subdued by the tyranny of the passions, there have been in the Masonic sect some who openly said and proposed that the multitudes should be urged by all means and artifice into license, so that they should afterward become an easy instrument for the most daring enterprise.
For domestic society the doctrine of almost all naturalists is that marriage is only a civil contract, and may be lawfully broken by the will of the contracting parties; the State has power over the matrimonial bond. In the education of the children no religion must be applied, and when grown up every one will select that which he likes.
Now Free-Masons accept these principles without restriction; and not only do they accept them, but they endeavor to act so as to bring them into moral and practical life. In many countries which are professedly Catholic, marriages not celebrated in the civil form are considered null; elsewhere laws allow divorce. In other places everything is done in order to have it permitted. So the nature of marriage will be soon changed and reduced to a temporary union, which can be done and undone at pleasure.
The sect of the Masons aims unanimously and steadily also at the possession of the education of children. They understand that a tender age is easily bent, and that there is no more useful way of preparing for the State such citizens as they wish. Hence, in the instruction and education of children, they do not leave to the ministers of the Church any part either in directing or watching them. In many places they have gone so far that children's education is all in the hands of laymen: and from moral teaching every idea is banished of those holy and great duties which bind together man and God.
The principles of social science follow. Here naturalists teach that men have all the same rights, and are perfectly equal in condition; that every man is naturally independent; that no one has a right to command others; that it is tyranny to keep men subject to any other authority than that which emanates from themselves. Hence the people are sovereign; those who rule have no authority but by the commission and concession of the people; so that they can be deposed, willing or unwilling, according to the wishes of the people. The origin of all rights and civil duties is in the people or in the State, which is ruled according to the new principles of liberty. The State must be godless; no reason why one religion ought to be preferred to another; all to be held in the same esteem.
Now it is well known that Free-Masons approve these maxims, and that they wish to see governments shaped on this pattern and model needs no demonstration. It is a long time, indeed, that they have worked with all their strength and power openly for this, making thus an easy way for those, not a few, more audacious and bold in evil, who meditate the communion and equality of all goods after having swept away from the world every distinction of social goods and conditions.
From these few hints it is easy to understand what is the Masonic sect and what it wants. Its tenets contradict so evidently human reason that nothing can be more perverted. The desire of destroying the religion and Church established by God, with the promise of immortal life, to try to revive, after eighteen centuries, the manners and institutions of paganism, is great foolishness and bold impiety. No less horrible or unbearable is it to repudiate the gifts granted through His adversaries. In this foolish and ferocious attempt, one recognizes that untamed hatred and rage of revenge kindled against Jesus Christ in the heart of Satan.
The other attempt in which the Masons work so much, viz., to pull down the foundations of morality, and become co-operators of those who, like brutes, would see that become lawful which they like, is nothing but to urge mankind into the most abject and ignominious degradation.
This evil is aggravated by the dangers which threaten domestic and civil society. As we have at other times explained, there is in marriage, through the unanimous consent of nations and of ages, a sacred and religious character; and by divine law the conjugal union is indissoluble. Now, if this union is dissolved, if divorce is juridically permitted, confusion and discord must inevitably enter the domestic sanctuary, and woman will lose her dignity and children every security of their own welfare.
That the State ought to profess religious indifference and neglect God in ruling society, as if God did not exist, is a foolishness unknown to the very heathen, who had so deeply rooted in their mind and in their heart, not only the idea of God, but the necessity also of public worship, that they supposed it to be easier to find a city without any foundation than without any God. And really human society, from which nature has made us, was instituted by God, the author of the same nature, and from Him emanates, as from its source and principle, all this everlasting abundance of numberless goods. As, then, the voice of nature tells us to worship God with religious piety, because we have received from Him life and the goods which accompany life, so, for the same reasons, people and States must do the same. Therefore those who want to free society from any religious duty are not only unjust but unwise and absurd.
Once grant that men through God's will are born for civil society, and that sovereign power is so strictly necessary to society that when this fails society necessarily collapses, it follows that the right of command emanates from the same principle from which society itself emanates; hence the reason why the minister of God is invested with such authority. Therefore, so far as it is required from the end and nature of human society, one must obey lawful authority as we would obey the authority of God, supreme ruler of the universe; and it is a capital error to grant to the people full power of shaking off at their own will the yoke of obedience.
Considering their common origin and nature, the supreme end proposed to every one, and the right and duties emanating from it, men no doubt are all equal. But as it is impossible to find in them equal capacity, and as through bodily or intellectual strength one differs from others, and the variety of customs, inclinations, and personal qualities are so great, it is absurd to pretend to mix and unify all this and bring in the order of civil life a rigorous and absolute equality. As the perfect constitution of the human body results from the union and harmony of different parts, which differ in form and uses, but united and each in his own place form an organism beautiful, strong, useful, and necessary to life, so in the State there is an infinite variety of individuals who compose it. If these all equalized were to live each according to his own whim, it would result in a city monstrous and ugly; whereas if distinct in harmony, in degrees of offices, of inclinations, of arts, they co-operate together to the common good, they will offer the image of a city well harmonized and conformed to nature.
The turbulent errors which we have mentioned must inspire governments with fear; in fact, suppose the fear of God in life and respect for divine laws to be despised, the authority of the rulers allowed and authorized would be destroyed, rebellion would be left free to popular passions, and universal revolution and subversion must necessarily come. This subversive revolution is the deliberate aim and open purpose of the numerous communistic and socialistic associations. The Masonic sect has no reason to call itself foreign to their purpose, because Masons promote their designs and have with them common capital principles. If the extreme consequences are not everywhere reached in fact, it is not the merit of the sect nor owing to the will of the members, but of that divine religion which cannot be extinguished, and of the most select part of society, which, refusing to obey secret societies, resists strenuously their immoderate efforts.
May Heaven grant that universally from the fruits we may judge the root, and from impending evil and threatening dangers we may know the bad seedl We have to fight a shrewd enemy, who, cajoling Peoples and Kings, deceives them all with false promises and fine flattery.
Free-Masons, insinuating themselves under pretence of friendship into the hearts of Princes, aim to have them powerful aids and accomplices to overcome Christianity, and in order to excite them more actively they calumniate the Church as the enemy of royal privileges and power. Having thus become confident and sure, they get great influence in the government of States, resolve yet to shake the foundations of the thrones, and persecute, calumniate, or banish those sovereigns who refuse to rule as they desire.
By these arts flattering the people, they deceive them. Proclaiming all the time public prosperity and liberty; making multitudes believe that the Church is the cause of the iniquitous servitude and misery in which they are suffering, they deceive people and urge on the masses craving for new things against both powers. It is, however, true that the expectation of hoped-for advantages is greater than the reality; and poor people, more and more oppressed, see in their misery those comforts vanish which they might have easily and abundantly found in organized Christian society. But the punishment of the proud, who rebel against the order established by the providence of God, is that they find oppression and misery exactly where they expected prosperity according to their desire.
Now, if the Church commands us to obey before all God, the Lord of everything, it would be an injurious calumny to believe her the enemy of the power of Princes and a usurper of their rights. She wishes, on the contrary, that what is due to civil power may be given to it conscientiously. To recognize, as she does, the divine right of command, concedes great dignity to civil power, and contributes to conciliate the respect and love of subjects. A friend of peace and the mother of concord, she embraces all with motherly love, intending only to do good to men. She teaches that justice must be united with clemency, equity with command, law with moderation, and to respect every right, maintain order and public tranquillity, relieve as much as possible public and private miseries. "But," to use the words of St. Augustine, "they believe, or want to make believe, that the doctrine of Gospel is not useful to society, because they wish that the State shall rest not on the solid foundation of virtue, but on impunity of vice."
It would, therefore, be more according to civil wisdom and more necessary to universal welfare that Princes and Peoples, instead of joining the Free-Masons against the Church, should unite with the Church to resist the Free-Masons' attacks.
At all events, in the presence of such a great evil, already too much spread, it is our duty, venerable brethren, to find a remedy. And as we know that in the virtue of divine religion, the more hated by Masons as it is the more feared, chiefly consists the best and most solid of efficient remedy, we think that against the common enemy one must have recourse to this wholesome strength.
We, by our authority, ratify and confirm all things which the Roman Pontiffs, our predecessors' have ordered to check the purposes and stop the efforts of the Masonic sect, and all these which they establish to keep off or withdraw the faithful from such societies. And here, trusting greatly to the good will of the faithful, we pray and entreat each of them, as they love their own salvation, to make it a duty of conscience not to depart from what has been on this point prescribed by the Apostolic See.
We entreat and pray you, venerable brethren, who co-operate with us, to root out this poison, which spreads widely among the Nations. It is your duty to defend the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Keeping before your eyes those two ends, you shall lack neither in courage nor in fortitude. To judge which may be the more efficacious means to overcome difficulties and obstacles belongs to your prudence. Yet as we find it agreeable to our ministry to point out some of the most useful means, the first thing to do is to strip from the Masonic sect its mask and show it as it is, teaching orally and by pastoral letters the people about the frauds used by these societies to flatter and entice, the perversity of its doctrines, and the dishonesty of its works. As our predecessors have many times declared, those who love the Catholic faith and their own salvation must be sure that they cannot give their names for any reason to the Masonic sect without sin. Let no one believe a simulated honesty. It may seem to some that Masons never impose anything openly contrary to faith or to morals, but as the scope and nature is essentially bad in these sects, it is not allowed to give one's name to them or to help them in any way.
It is also necessary with assiduous sermons and exhortations to arouse in the people love and zeal for religious instruction. We recommend, therefore, that by appropriate declarations, orally and in writing, the fundamental principles of those truths may be explained in which Christian wisdom is entertained. It is only thus that minds can be cured by instruction, and warned against the various forms of error and vice, and the various enticements especially in this great freedom of writing and great desire of learning.
It is a laborious work, indeed, in which you will have associated and companioned your clergy, if properly trained and taught by your zeal. But such a beautiful and important cause requires the co-operating industry of those laymen who unite doctrine and probity with the love of religion and of their country. With the united strength of these two orders endeavor, dear brethren, that men may know and love the Church; because the more their love and knowledge of the Church grows the more they will abhor and fly from secret societies.
Therefore, availing ourselves of this present occasion, we remind you of the necessity of promoting and protecting the Third Order of St. Francis, whose rules, with prudent indulgence, we lately mitigated. According to the spirit of its institution it intends only to draw men to imitate Jesus Christ, to love the Church, and to practice all Christian virtues, and therefore it will prove useful to extinguish the contagion of sects.
May it grow more and more, this holy congregation, from which, among others, can be expected also this precious fruit of bringing minds back to liberty, fraternity, and equality; not those which are the dream of the Masonic sect, but which Jesus Christ brought into this world and Francis revived. The liberty, we say, of the children of God which frees from the servitude of Satan and from the passions, the worst tyrants; the fraternity which emanates from God, the Father and Creator of all; the equality established on justice and charity, which does not destroy among men every difference, but which, from variety of life, offices, and inclinations, makes that accord and harmony which is exacted by nature for the utility and dignity of civil society.
Thirdly, there is an institution wisely created by our fore-fathers, and by lapse of time abandoned, which in our days can be used as a model and form for something like it. We mean the colleges or corporations of arts and trades associated under the guidance of religion to defend interests and manners, which colleges, in long use and experience, were of great advantage to our fathers, and will be more and more useful to our age, because they are suited to break the power of the sects. Poor working-men, for besides their condition, deserving charity and relief, they are particularly exposed to the seductions of the fraudulent and deceivers. They must, therefore, be helped with the greatest generosity and invited to good societies that they may not be dragged into bad ones. For this reason we would like very much to see everywhere arise, fit for the new times, under the auspices and patronage of the Bishops, these associations, for the benefit of the people. It gives us a great pleasure to see them already established in many places, together with the Catholic patronages; two institutions which aim to help the honest class of workingmen, and to help and protect their families, their children, and keep in them, with the integrity of manners, love of piety and knowledge of religion.
Here we cannot keep silence concerning the society of St. Vincent de Paul, celebrated for the spectacle and example offered and so well deserving of the poor. The works and intentions of that society are well known. It is all for the succor and help of the suffering and poor, encouraging them with wonderful tact and that modesty which the less showy the more is fit for the exercise of Christian charity and the relief of human miseries.
Fourthly, in order more easily to reach the end, we recommend to your faith and watchfulness the youth, the hope of civil society. In the good education of the same place a great part of your care. Never believe you have watched or done enough in keeping youth from those masters from whom the contagious breath of the sect is to be feared. Insist that parents, and spiritual directors in teaching the catechism may never cease to admonish appropriately children and pupils of the wicked nature of these sects, that they may also learn in time the various fraudulent arts which their propagators use to entice. Those who prepare children for first communion will do well if they will persuade them to promise not to give their names to any society without asking their parents' or their pastor's or their confessor's advice.
But we understand how our common labor would not be sufficient to outroot this dangerous seed from the field of the Lord, if the Heavenly Master of the vineyard is not to this effect granting to us His generous help. We must, then, implore His powerful aid with anxious fervor equal to the gravity of the danger and to the greatness of the need. Inebriated by its prosperous success, Masonry is insolent, and seems to have no more limits to its pertinacity. Its sectaries bound by an iniquitious alliance and secret unity of purpose, they go on hand in hand and encourage each other to dare more and more for evil. Such a strong assault requires a strong defence. We mean that all the good must unite in a great society of action and prayers. We ask, therefore, from them two things: On one hand, that, unanimously and in thick ranks, they resist immovably the growing impetus of the sects; on the other, that, raising their hands with many sighs to God, they implore that Christianity may grow vigorous; that the Church may recover her necessary liberty; that wanderers may come again to salvation; that errors give place to truth and vice to virtue.
Let us invoke for this purpose the mediation of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, that against the impious sects in which one sees clearly revived the contumacious pride, the untamed perfidy, the simulating shrewdness of Satan, she may show her power, she who triumphed over him since the first conception.
Let us pray also St. Michael, the prince of the angelic army, conqueror of the infernal enemy; St. Joseph, spouse of the most Saintly Virgin, heavenly and wholesome patron of the Catholic Church; the great Apostles Peter and Paul, propagators and defenders of the Christian faith. Through their patronage and the perseverance of common prayers let us hope that god will condescend to piously help human society threatened by so many dangers.
As a pledge of heavenly graces and of our benevolence, we impart with great affection to you, venerable brethren, to the clergy and people trusted to your care, the Apostolic benediction.
Given at Rome, near St. Peter, the 20th of April, 1884, the seventh year of our pontificate.
LEO, PP. XIII.