Since the early 18th Century, Popes have been warning Catholics about Freemasonry. Let's take a look at why.
Most Freemasons are pillars of the community in which they live. They will probably be on the city council, they will usually be coaching kids' sports, and they generally will be community activists in their field of expertise. Most Freemasons are very good and upright citizens. George Washington, Davy Crockett, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Buzz Aldrin were all Masons. Freemasons also sponsor a lot of great charities.
So why does the Church forbid membership in this fraternal organization? The answer is that the Church considers Freemasonry to be much more than just a fraternal organization. The Church sees Freemasonry as an alternate religion, with its own set of symbols, rites, oaths, names for God, route to heaven, and moral codes - and all with no mention of Jesus Christ. Just look at the picture above and see if it doesn't have religious overtones. Famous Freemasons like Coil, Mackey, and Pike have all written that Freemasonry is a religion unto itself. They also believe in a radical version of "the separation of church and state" that seeks to keep all public displays of religion silent. This is so evident today in the annual war on Christmas in the US, where radical law groups continuously sue towns and cities that dare to publicly celebrate the official US holiday called Christ-mas with manger scenes and religious carols. Freemasons also are proponents of moral relativism - What is true for you may not be true for me. Most of the Supreme Court rulings in the USA that have incorporated this alleged "separation of church and state" (words not found in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, by the way), came about because Franklin Roosevelt, himself a Freemason, stacked the Supreme Court with his fellow Freemasons during the 1930s and 1940s.
Freemasonry began as a workers' guild of stonemasons in Europe. However, with the advent of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the building of beautiful cathedrals and large churches in Europe slowed considerably. In order to survive, the guild then started accepting non-masons into its craft. The founding of modern freemasonry is generally considered to have started on 24 June 1717, when 4 Grand Lodges in England joined to become one. For the record, Freemasonry considers its origins to go all the way back to King Solomon and the building of his temple. They also claim to be the descendants of the Knights Templar from the Crusades. However, there is no independent proof of any of this.
This particular era coincided with the age known in history as "The Enlightenment". The Enlightenment enshrined the heretical belief of Rationalism- that man could decide for himself what was right and wrong, independent of The Church that Jesus Christ started back in 33 AD (Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH, Matthew 16:18). Freemasonry today has kept this philosophy of enlightened rationalism. In contrast, the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is The Light of the world (John 8:12), not "rational human thought".
Freemasonry has many things which the Catholic Church considers to be heresy. During the initiation rite, the initiate is blindfolded, stripped down to his underwear, and has a sword placed next to his throat. He has to take a solemn oath before God that he will not reveal any of the Masonic secrets (which he doesn't even know yet!). This oath includes a desire on the part of the initiate to have his bowels torn out and to be dismembered should he ever reveal the Masonic secrets. A typical Masonic oath is as follows:
I, _________, of my own free will and accord, in the presence of Almighty God, and this Worshipful Lodge, erected to Him and dedicated to the holy St. John, do hereby and hereon most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, that I will hail, ever conceal, and never reveal any of the secrets, arts, parts, point or points, of the Master Mason's Degree, to any person or persons whomsoever, except that it be a true and lawful brother of this Degree, or in a regularly constituted Lodge of Master Masons, nor unto him, or them, until by strict trial, due examination, or lawful information, I shall have found him, or them, as lawfully entitled to the same as I am myself. I furthermore promise and swear, that I will stand to and abide by all laws, rules, and regulations of the Master Masons Degree, and of the Lodge of which I may hereafter become a member, as far as the same shall come to my knowledge; and that I will ever maintain and support the Constitution, laws, and edicts of the Grand Lodge under which the same shall be holden. Further, that I will acknowledge and obey all due signs and summons sent to me from a Master Masons' Lodge, or given me by a brother of that Degree, if within the length of my cable tow. Further, that I will always aid and assist all poor, distressed, worthy Master Masons, their widows and orphans, knowing them to be such, as far as their necessities may require, and my ability permit, without material injury to myself and family. Further, that I will keep a worthy brother Master Mason's secrets inviolable, when communicated to and received by me as such, murder and treason excepted. Further, that I will not aid, nor be present at, the initiation, passing, or raising of a woman, an old man in his dotage, a young man in his nonage, an atheist, a madman, or fool, knowing them to be such. Further, that I will not sit in a Lodge of Clandestine-made Masons, nor converse on the subject of Masonry with a clandestine-made Mason, nor one who has been expelled or suspended from a Lodge, while under that sentence, knowing him or them to be such. Further, I will not cheat, wrong, nor defraud a Master Masons' Lodge, nor a brother of this Degree, knowingly, nor supplant him in any of his laudable undertakings, but will give him due and timely notice, that he may ward off all danger. Further, that I will not knowingly strike a brother Master Mason, or otherwise do him personal violence in anger, except in the necessary defense of my family or property. Further, that I will not have illegal carnal intercourse with a Master Mason's wife, his mother, sister, or daughter knowing them to be such, nor suffer the same to be done by others, if in my power to prevent. Further, that I will not give the Grand Masonic word, in any other manner or form than that in which I shall receive it, and then in a low breath. Further, that I will not give the Grand Hailing Sign of distress except in case of the most imminent danger, in a just and lawful Lodge, or for the benefit of instruction; and if ever I should see it given, or hear the words accompanying it, by a worthy brother in distress, I will fly to his relief, if there is a greater probability of saving his life than losing my own. All this I most solemnly, sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steady resolution to perform the same, without any hesitation, myself, under no less penalty than that of having my body severed in two, my bowels taken from thence and burned to ashes, the ashes scattered before the four winds of heaven, that no more remembrance might be had of so vile and wicked a wretch as I would be, should I ever, knowingly, violate this my Master Mason's obligation. So help me God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same.
Several more things about this Masonic solemn oath before God - The Bible says in
James 5:12 "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation."
Sacred oaths before God to tell the truth are allowed by the Church when it comes to testifying in court, but to take a sacred oath before God to not reveal a handshake or a secret password is frivolous at best, sacrilegious at worst. And for sure, God our loving Father does not want us disemboweled or dismembered. Rather, He loves us and wants the best for us. Jesus Christ didn't require that His apostles take an abominable oath like this, so why should anyone else? One of the 10 Commandments is to not take The Name of the Lord thy God in vain. This oath certainly violates that Commandment. The oath above also seems to indicate that the initiate will not have sexual relations with a wife of a Mason, but doesn't say anything about non-Masonic wives or daughters. It also places a premium on helping out fellow Masons' widows and orphans, but says nothing about helping out non-Masonic widows and orphans.
Another heretical teaching of the Freemasons is that you can work your way to the Celestial Lodge Above (heaven) by doing good works, all without Jesus Christ. No mention of Jesus Christ is allowed in the Lodge, because the Freemasons consider all religions to be equal and good, and all roads lead to the celestial lodge in the sky if you obey the teachings of the Craft. In American lodges, a Masonic Bible (yes, they have their own version of the Bible!) is usually placed on the altar in the Lodge Hall, but there is no mention of any need of believing anything that's in it. In some lodges, the Koran or the Book of Mormon is placed on the altar of the Lodge. In some cases, the Koran and the Bible are both placed on the Altar, while the members pray to something called "The Grand Architect of the Universe" (GAOTU). No mention of Yahweh or Jehovah or Jesus or a loving Father is allowed, only the impersonal GAOTU. This belief that all religions are equal is known as the heresy of indifferentism. The Catholic Church teaches that all are saved through the Catholic Church and Jesus Christ. And by not mentioning Jesus Christ, the non-Christians are not offended (This is certainly NOT "where 2 or more are gathered in MY NAME, there am I in their midst).
The Freemasons also use syncretism, which is the blending of different forms of religious practices and beliefs. For example, the Shriners (the fun denomination of Freemasonry) take their oath on the Koran in a mosque, and wear a fez with a scimitar and the crescent moon/star Islamic symbol. The lodges are usually dedicated to St. John, and there is a resurrection ceremony sans Jesus Christ (The rite includes a non-Christian resurrection ceremony, led by the leader of the lodge, who is actually called "The Worshipful Master". The person resurrected is an ancient Egyptian craftsman named Hiram Abif, who is murdered for not revealing the secrets of Freemasonry). Some of the Jewish Psalms are read, along with teaching about the Holy of Holies and Moses. And they don't leave out secular humanist thought either. They teach that truth can be discerned by the 5 human senses (The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is The Truth, from John 14:6). The blood oaths taken while being stripped down to underwear are taken from Wicca and the Occult.
Proverbs 14:12 says - " There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."
Colossians 2:8 says - "See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. "
Galatians 1:6-12 says: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
One of their secret ceremonies is The Kadosh (thirtieth degree). It has the initiate trample on the papal tiara and the royal crown. The purpose of this offense against the Catholic Church is to take vengeance on the Catholic Church for the murder of Jacque DeMolay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar (no Christian forgiveness here !) by King Phillip IV of France, a Catholic. The rite is supposed to symbolize the deliverance of mankind "from the bondage of Despotism and the thralldom of spiritual Tyranny (i.e., the Catholic Church)." Some people think that the secularist French Revolution was instigated by the Freemasons as payback for DeMolay's murder.
And what really goes on behind locked doors where businessmen, politicians, judges, real estate agents, and publishers get together in total secrecy anyway? Does money change hands? Do real estate agents get the inside information from politicians where the new highway is going in, before everyone else does? Are political favors granted to people who skirt the law? Do publishers write articles that make fun of everyone who dares to question what really goes on in the total secrecy of major power brokers behind closed doors? Who knows for sure, because it's all said and done in secret in every major town in the US.
And what about the following from an actual Masonic website FAQ section? They admit they are into spirituality (of the self, rather than in Jesus Christ), and that they actually believe all religions (Islam, Buddhism, Wiccan, etc.) are the same. And they even refuse to condemn aberrant political systems like communism and fascism. Catholics should know that their Church is the one true church founded by Jesus Christ, and that communism and fascism are inherently evil political systems.
"Freemasonry is a post collegiate male fraternity dedicated to the spiritual development of the initiate into a broader sense of the self, and the initiates as he relates to the divine and their relative place in the world."
"The two cardinal rules not to talk about in lodge are religion and politics, as Freemasonry is concerned specifically with neither. The practice of Freemasonry does promote and teach a sort of ecumenical philosophy of tolerance, which is the over arching idea. It does not imply one system of politics or religion is right or wrong."
For almost 300 years, the Church has warned its flock about the dangers of Freemasonry, since its beliefs, teachings, and practices are so opposed to what the Church teaches. For this reason, any Catholic who is a Mason is automatically excommunicated from the Church, and cannot receive Holy Communion. Here is what Cardinal Ratzinger said in 1983, the last official pronouncement of the Church regarding Freemasonry:
Issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on November 26, 1983.
It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church's decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous Code.
This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance is due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.
Therefore the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.
It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981 (cf. AAS 73  pp. 240-241).
In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.
Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983.
JOSEPH Card. RATZINGER
+ Fr. JEROME HAMER, O.P.
Titular Archbishop of Lorium
During the early 20th Century, both Portugal and Mexico were taken over by Freemasons. The officials at Fatima, Portugal who persecuted the three children for their Virgin Mary visions were Masons. In Mexico, the Cristero War broke out as a result of the Masonic brotherhood in charge of the government limiting religious freedom in Mexico.
And never try to argue with a Freemason about what the Craft teaches. They are under orders from their Worshipful Master to not reveal anything about what really goes on behind the locked doors of their windowless lodges, shrines, and temples. Therefore, they will come up with evasive answers when you quote what Mackey, Coil, and Pike wrote about Freemasonry being a religion, like "Their writings are their own personal opinions, because no one person speaks for Freemasonry". Your immediate reply should be, "Well fine, then neither do you. Good Bye". In other cases, they will say that "Freemasonry is religious, but is not a religion." Truly smart people will understand that exchanging a noun with an adjective is nothing more than double-talk. Freemasons pray in their temples and shrines to the GAOTU, they have their own Masonic Bible, they have a resurrection ceremony, and they have a burial rite that gets the deceased into the "celestial lodge above". That's a religion!
9. After nineteen centuries of Christian civilization, this sect tries to overthrow the Catholic Church and to cut off its divine sources. It absolutely denies the supernatural, repudiating every revelation and all the means of salvation which revelation shows us. Through its plans and works, it bases itself solely and entirely on such a weak and corrupt nature as ours. Such a sect cannot be anything other than the height of pride, greed, and sensuality. Now, pride oppresses, greed plunders, and sensuality corrupts. When these three concupiscences are brought to the extreme, the oppressions, greed, and seductive corruptions spread slowly. They take on boundless dimensions and become the oppression, plundering and source of corruption of an entire people.
10. Let Us then show you masonry as an enemy of God, Church, and country. Recognize it as such once and for all, and with all the weapons which reason, conscience, and faith put in your hands, defend yourselves from such a proud foe. Let no one be taken in by its attractive appearance or allured by its promises; do not be seduced by its enticements or frightened by its threats. Remember that Christianity and masonry are essentially irreconcilable, such that to join one is to divorce the other. You can no longer ignore such incompatibility between Catholic and mason, beloved children: you have been warned openly by Our predecessors, and We have loudly repeated the warning.