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56 Jurist 735 (1996)
The Evolution of the Church's Prohibition against Catholic Membership in Freemasonry

handle is hein.journals/juristcu56 and id is 745 raw text is: THE JURIST 56 (1997) 735-755

The 1917 Codex luris Canonici, drawing on two hundred years of
anti-masonic legislation, levied an ipso facto excommunication reserved
to the Holy See against Catholics who joined the Order of Freemasons.
The 1983 code retained neither the penalty nor any mention of the
Masons. This led some canonists and bishops to conclude that the cen-
turies-old ban on membership in the Masons had been lifted by the new
law. In response to these claims, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, in November 1983, issued a declaration stating that the ban was
still in force, and that Catholic Masons were barred from receiving Com-
munion. 1 The congregation's response, however, did not quell debate on
the issue. Questions remained as to the precise legal nature of the con-
gregation's document, its applicability to Catholic Masons, and the dis-
cretion of ordinaries in determining whether or not a particular Masonic
lodge truly promoted heretical teachings or conspired against the inter-
ests of the Church.
This article addresses the development of the Church's law on
Catholic membership in Masonic lodges in order to clarify some of the
issues involved in the ongoing struggle to determine the legal status of
Catholic Masons. Following a concise presentation of the Church's
stance regarding the Masons prior to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, it
will examine the Church's position vis-A-vis the Freemasons as it devel-
oped from the close of the Second Vatican Council, through the revision
of the code, to the 1983 code itself. The paper will conclude with an
* J.C.L. (The Catholic University of America, 1996). J.C.D.-Cand., The Catholic
University of America.
1 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaratio de associationibus mas-
sonicis, November 26, 1983: AAS 76 (1984) 300.

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