Vol. XXXIII No. 10 — October 1955

Church Opposition

Certain churches are opposed to freemasonry. Many people not members of such churches, and, indeed, many who are members, have little or no comprehension of the reasons given by church authorities for this opposition.

In 1954, this Association published an exhaustive study of the enemies and opponents of Freemasonry, prepared by Alphonse Cerza, noted Masonic student. From his pages the following has been abstracted to give in short form the opposition of the principal churches opposed to Freemasonry and the reasons therefore.

The first official pronouncement issued by the Catholic Church was by Pope Clement XII, on April 28, 1738. The Bull may be summarized as follows:

We condemn the Society called Freemasonry under the pain of excommunication in order that orthodox religion may be preserved and the dangers of disturbances may be repelled. These Freemasons are increasing in strength daily; these men of every religion and sect are associating themselves in close bonds in accordance with rules framed by themselves; and they are binding themselves by stringent oath upon the Sacred Volume to keep secret what occurs in their meetings. These secret meetings arouse our suspicion and being taught by the divine word that it is our duty to protect the hearts of the simple we therefore condemn these societies. The faithful are directed to oppose Freemasonry and the penalty of excommunication is imposed upon the violators. The inquisition is directed to enlist the aid of the civil authorities in its enforcement.

This church has issued a number of other Bulls against the Craft. The principal ones are:

Benedict XIV, on May 17, 1751; Pius VII, on September 13, 1821; Leo XII, on March 13, 1825; Pius VIII, on May 21, 1829; Gregory XVI, on August 15, 1832; Pius IX, on November 9, 1846.

The last important Papal Bull was issued by Pope Leo XIII on April 20,1884, and may be summarized as follows:

The human race is divided into two groups: (1) the Church of Jesus Christ, which fights for truth and virtue, and (2) the kingdom of Satan. Both of these groups are constantly fighting each other. It is our duty to call attention that the Masonic Sect is established against law and honesty and is therefore a danger to Christianity and society. Although this organization has been prohibited by the Church for a century and a half, and also by many rulers, it has grown and it appears to be the only dominant power. We call attention to the following characteristics of the organization: men of all religions, races, and creeds meet together in secret meetings, take an oath that they will not expose their doctrines; because they meet thus in secret, it is contrary to honesty and natural justice. The organization believes in the principle of naturalists, they deny that anything has been revealed by God, and admit no religious dogma or truth. These members are free to do as they like and preach the separation of Church and state. They are left free to attack the Roman Catholic Church and her divine privileges are not respected. The Masons wage war against the Pope and the exercise of any civil power by him. By permitting men of every religion to join the lodges they encourage religious indifference and thereby bring about the destruction of all religion. Freemasons believe that marriage is a civil contract that can be broken at will, that their children shall not receive religious instruction, that their children not be educated by Catholic Priests, that the people are sovereign, and that Church and state should be separate. The following should be done to destroy Freemasonry: All members are to join in upholding the attitude of the Church and to cooperate in destroying the organization; that sermons and writings be spread everywhere to stop them; that the members join church organizations rather than the lodges; educate their children so that they will not join any organization without the consent of their parents or a priest.

The objections of the Roman Catholic Church to Freemasonry, as expressed by these Papal Bulls, may be summarized as follows:

  1. Freemasonry is a secret society, its members take secret oaths and they meet in secret.
  2. Freemasonry preaches naturalism.
  3. Freemasonry preaches the separation of Church and state.
  4. Masons are left free to attack the Roman Catholic Church and thereby encourage religious indifference.
  5. Freemasonry believes in democracy, that marriage is a civil contract, and that children should be taught by the state.

In 1902 there was published a book by J. W. Book, entitled Thousand and One Objections to Freemasonry. (A new edition was published in 1925.) This book has the official approval of the Archbishop of St. Louis. He argues a new point: That Masons are not “free” because they spend time away from their families; they are not “Masons” because Masons are supposed to “build.” His chief objections are that Freemasonry is a religion, and that the oath is unlawful, and that Masonic charity is restricted to Masons only. The extent of his knowledge of Masonry may be illustrated by one quotation from his page 65:

In some places the hatred of Masonry against Catholicism is so great, that the members empower their Masonic brethren to keep the priest away from their death-bed, so that they not be reconciled to the Church and to God, but that they may die impenitent, and be buried without religious rites, but with Masonic Ritual. We have many examples of Masons watching night and day to prevent access by a priest to a dying Mason, in spite of his entreaties to have them or someone else call a priest.

He cites as examples Voltaire, d’Alembert, and Victor Hugo.

The Knights of Columbus were incorporated on March 29, 1882, and the first lodge was formed on April 6, 1882, at New Haven, Connecticut. The Supreme Council was formed on May 16, 1882. The ritual was written by Joseph McGivney, an assistant in St. Mary’s Church of New Haven, was approved by Bishop McMahon, and adopted on July 7, 1883. This society is devoted to promoting the interests of the Roman Catholic Church. On March 9, 1916, The Chicago Evening American reported that Bishop George Mundelein stated to a group of Knights of Columbus:

I am your leader, your thinker, and your director. I will tell you what to do and will expect you to do it. I need you men. Never differ with your Bishop. He thinks for you.

For many years the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, has been actively opposed to Freemasonry. The Concordia Publishing House, of St. Louis, Missouri, has issued a number of booklets opposing the Craft. From time to time the conventions of this Church have passed resolutions opposing all secret societies, and individual pastors have at various times taken an active opposition to Freemasonry.

One of the pamphlets issued is entitled Does God Want You To Be a Lodge Member? The argument against Freemasonry is as follows:

The New Testament says “Beware of false prophets,” the lodge excludes Christ and preaches a new religion of its own. Excluding Christ makes the organization irreligious. Freemasonry teaches that a new life can be attained in heaven without the aid of Christ.

In the booklet Is Masonry a Religion?, the author, Dr. Theodore Graebner, urges the following points against the Craft:

  1. A candidate must deny Christianity.
  2. The candidate must take an unlawful oath.
  3. There are prayers said at the meetings, the building where the lodge meets is called a temple, certain officers are called priests, chaplains, Bible is furniture of the lodge, Scriptures are read; Masonry has a religion, but the religion of Masonry is not Christianity.
  4. Masonry does not accept the Bible as the word of God. All others may join together.
  5. Salvation comes by virtue of good works and a pious life.

In their travels west, Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, became Masons, had a lodge, did many un-Masonic acts, were finally expelled from the order. It is perhaps but natural that the Church of Latter Day Saints has since then been an opponent of Freemasonry. But it was not so much of an opponent but that it based its Temple ceremonies on Freemasonry, adopted many of Masonry’s symbols (the Bee Hive is the most commonly displayed symbol of the Mormon Church) and made the Masonic obligations and penalties those of its own ceremonies. Add that Mormons preached and practiced polygamy, a violation of this nation’s laws, and it is easily understood why Freemasonry, struggling for its life in the midst of multitudes of Mormons, was originally as opposed to the Church of Latter Day Saints as that Church was to Freemasonry and, indeed to all “secret societies.” The reasons for its oppositions are as follows:

  1. The Church provides many organizations for the use of one’s time; members should not find it necessary to go outside the Church.
  2. Joining other organizations causes young men to divide their allegiance between man-made organizations and the Church.
  3. Members of secret societies must have secrets that they must keep from the Church.
  4. Members of secret societies must defend other members whether they are right or wrong.
  5. Resolutions have been passed by the Church that members who join secret societies cannot serve as officers of the Church. This should be good reason for not joining a lodge.
  6. All members must act in harmony. Joining a lodge prevents such action.

Sam H. Goodwin (P.G.M., Utah) in The Builder (vol. 8, February 1922, p. 48) sets out the following reasons why Freemasonry and the Mormon Church are incompatible:

  1. Historical: Attitude of the Nauvoo (Illinois), Masons toward Masonic customs and law.
  2. Clandestinism: Temple ceremonies and use of Masonic language and symbols.
  3. Priesthood: unlimited power of and right to direct and dictate in all things, temporal and spiritual — the “mouthpiece of God.”
  4. Polygamy: This is taught:
    1. In original revelation that has not been annulled or repealed, nor can it be.
    2. In positive declarations of belief in it by leaders and prominent teachers.
    3. In the literature of the organization, and
    4. By the example of the leaders who “live their religion.”
  5. Attitude toward law: Enforcement of law against polygamy was “persecution,” and is so held and taught.
  6. Petition: Inability of applicant honestly to answer one question in petition.
  7. Great Light: Substitution of living Oracles (Priesthood) of the Bible.
  8. Deity: Conception of male and female deity out of harmony with that of Anglo-Saxon Masonry.
  9. Membership prohibited: The Latter Day Saints hold Masonry to be “of the evil one” and is opposed to members having connection therewith.

For many years there was much Mormon feeling against the Craft. The matter now is improved as a result of the passage of time and closer association, making for better understanding, an example of how men can live in peace and harmony always even though they do not agree.

The Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers) has always been opposed to secret societies. As early as 1809 at the New England yearly meeting the Discipline (as the rules of conduct are called) warned its members not to join any secret societies. Since that time, practically every Yearly Meeting in the United States has contained a similar provision. In 1893 the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting offered a lengthy opposition to such societies; and in 1896 the Tract Association of Friends, of Philadelphia, published a sixteen page pamphlet entitled “Secret Societies,” which was widely circulated and which was mainly directed against Freemasonry by name.

In recent years, the opposition of the Society has been directed chiefly among its members and there has been no active campaign against the Craft. The Quaker Approach, published in 1952, devotes only a few lines of the introduction to the subject: “Quakers cannot become members of secret societies, because such societies by their nature narrow this unity and deny this liberty.”

The National Christian Association, issued more anti-Masonic material than all other opponents of the Craft put together. In addition to the various books, booklets, and tracts issued, it also published the Christian Cynosure, a monthly periodical.[1]

The Association lists twenty-eight cloth bound books ranging in price from $2.50 to $6.00; sixty-five tracts selling at five cents each; and listing the Christian Cynosure, a 16-page monthly, at 15 cents a copy, or one year subscription at $1.50. At the bottom of the list, eleven Masonic books are listed including Newton’s The Builders, Mackey’s Encyclopedia, and Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence. Reduced prices on the tracts and other items are set forth if ordering large quantities.

The majority of the material relates to Freemasonry, but some relates to other societies, such as the Odd Fellows, and the Knights of Pythias. There is also one in opposition to the Boy Scouts!!! A few of the items are in opposition to certain religious sects; such as the tracts entitled Congregationalism and Secret Societies, Catholic Doctrine in the Bible.

Here is a sample list of titles of the tracts sold:

  1. A Conspiracy of Silence
  2. Freemasonry vs Christianity
  3. Jesus Christ opposed to Secret Societies
  4. Modern Prophets of Baal
  5. The Devil’s Servants
  6. The Pagan God of Masonry
  7. The Worship of Secret Societies Offered to Satan

One of the tracts by Charles G. Finney is entitled Why I Left Freemasonry. He states that the Craft is anti-Christian and lists the following things Masons agree to do as the reasons for his opposition:

  1. It is anti-Christian because it excludes Christ.
  2. Secret oaths are sinful.
  3. Freemasonry is a religion.
  4. It encourages unlawfulness by protecting crimes with an oath of secrecy.
  5. Christians cannot be linked with non-Christians.
  6. Christians should have no time for lodge Meetings.
  7. Lodges are man-made.
  8. Lodges encourage sinful activities such as dances and parties.
  9. Money spent at lodge should be spent at church.
  10. Good work is not enough, it must be in the name of Christ.
  11. A high moral code is not a substitute for Christianity.
  12. Lodge uses blasphemous titles.
  13. A Christian cannot have a dual allegiance.
  14. Christ could not have been a lodge member.
  15. Masonic charity is exclusive.
  16. Masons brag about their charity.
  17. George Washington was not a practicing Mason.

Freemasonry does not retaliate for these oppositions. The Craft does not contend against any of these several religions. Freemasons recognize the inherent rights of any man to believe as he will, and worship as seems right to him.

But it may be emphasized that the Bull of Clement XII in 1738, noted that “Freemasons are increasing in strength daily.” The growth of the order from the few hundred Freemasons in the world then, to the six million of today, would seem to indicate that the opposition of the largest and most powerful of the churches has not been effective!

Note: MSA published in 1994 a more comprehesive response to religious objections to Freemasonry — Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris, Is It True What They Say about Freemasonry? (1994; Silver Spring, MD: Masonic Service Association of North America, 1997). The fourth edition is available through

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  1. The Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections has an extensive collection of NCA materials and states the NCA disbanded in 1983.

The Masonic Service Association of North America