In eminenti: Condemnation of Freemasonry by Pope Clement XII

Freemasonry has existed for a long time, perhaps many centuries depending on the definition. There are many lodges and factions but one could simplistically consider that it consolidated into its modern form in the year 1717. As an anti-Christian force, it is the higher levels that are of concern, the lower levels possibly oblivious to its objectives.


Although it is obvious the Roman church has been infiltrated at the highest levels today by freemasonry, it is not uncommon for some to over-simplistically describe, explicitly or otherwise, that the Vatican and some religious orders (particularly the Jesuits and Templars) as always having been bad or something along those lines. That is not true and unhelpful.


Pope Clement XII (b. 16 April 1652 – d. 6 February 1740), born Lorenzo Corsini, began his pontificate on 23 April 1730. During his 10-year reign, he was totally blind for eight. No doubt he also suffered much dealing with Spanish King Philip V and his son Charles III, both of questionable character.


On 28 April 1738, Clement XII issued a papal bull condemning freemasonry. The document is just over 900 words in 7 paragraphs. It does not explain what freemasonry is or what their aims are. It simply acknowledges the “common gossip” regarding their existence, that they operate in secret.

…and men of any Religion or sect, satisfied with the appearance of natural probity, are joined together, according to their laws and the statutes laid down for them, by a strict and unbreakable bond which obliges them, both by an oath upon the Holy Bible and by a host of grievous punishment, to an inviolable silence about all that they do in secret together. But it is in the nature of crime to betray itself and to show itself by its attendant clamor. … For if they were not doing evil they would not have so great a hatred of the light. Indeed, this rumor has grown to such proportions that in several countries these societies have been forbidden by the civil authorities as being against the public security, and for some time past have appeared to be prudently eliminated.

Pope Clement XII
Pope Clement XII

Clement XII obviously thought it prudent to have freemasonry and the like “condemned and prohibited … valid for ever” and as well to prohibit any of the faithful to join “under pain of excommunication … and from which no one can obtain the benefit of absolution, other than at the hour of death, except through Ourselves or the Roman Pontiff of the time.”


Although the document seems to lack substance since Clement XII does not explain what freemasonry is—either he was uncertain of details and did not wish to put down in writing about what was uncertain and/or he assumed the audience was aware of the “common gossip”—such a strongly conditioned threat of excommunication is rare and is quite telling of what the pope thought of secret societies. This was the first time the Roman church formally and publicly condemned freemasonry, and not the last time to address the subject.

 

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