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FAQs on Freemasonry

Square and Compass

The following are FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) that I commonly receive regarding Freemasonry. My answers, while providing some general information about Masonry, only scratch the surface of why Freemasonry is incompatible with the Christian faith. By way of background, I was a 32nd degree Mason and Shriner, as well as a Blue lodge officer and Proficiency cardholder. A Proficiency card is a rare Masonic credential conferred upon those Masons who are considered experts in Masonic ritual. 

I spent several years in Freemasonry before rediscovering the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church. By God's grace, I have written a book on the religious and moral teachings of Freemasonry and why these teachings are incompatible with Christianity. The book also discusses my personal struggles with Masonry and how I left the Lodge. My hope is that this book will serve as the most comprehensive resource in explaining why the teachings of the Lodge are irreconcilable with the Christian faith.

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What is Freemasonry?

There are many misunderstandings among the general public about the organization called Freemasonry (also known as "Masonry" or "the Lodge"). While much of the public thinks that Freemasonry is just a fraternity, Masonry has been judged by every Christian church that has studied it to be a religion that is incompatible with Christianity.

Freemasonry has a very formal religious system which includes a belief in God as the Grand Architect of the Universe, the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Masonry also believes that man can achieve salvation by his good works, independent of God's gift of grace. Notwithstanding its belief in God, resurrection of the body, and salvation by works, Masonry does not require its members to believe in Jesus Christ or His Church.

Freemasonry is also controversial because it keeps its religious and moral teachings secret behind the Lodge doors. To that end, Masonry requires its members to swear to God an oath that they will never reveal the teachings of the Lodge lest they be worthy of a gruesome death (for example, being worthy of having one’s throat cut across, heart plucked out, and body severed in two). While Masonry conditions its members to believe that Freemasonry is just a fraternity, it slowly draws its Christian members away from Jesus Christ by offering them a different plan of salvation through Masonic virtue and good works. By God's grace, more and more men are leaving the Lodge each year and revealing the incompatibilities between Freemasonry and the Christian faith.

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How does Freemasonry define itself?

While Masons claim that Freemasonry is just a fraternity, Masonry universally defines itself as "a regular system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols." Thus, its own definition reveals that it is more than a fraternity. Freemasonry defines itself as such because it teaches a system of morality through allegory and symbolism that, when faithfully practiced, leads all Masons to “the celestial lodge above,” irrespective of their individual religious beliefs. Freemasonry is far more than a social club.

From a Christian perspective, any organization that claims to be a system of morality (especially one whose moral teachings are secret and are said to lead Masons to eternal life) must be evaluated in light of Scripture and the teachings of the Church. If the moral teachings of an organization are not rooted in God's Revelation in Jesus Christ, they present incompatibilities with the Christian faith. As applied to Masonry, these incompatibilities include a denial of God’s gift of grace in the process of justification and salvation which come to us exclusively through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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What is the origin of Freemasonry?

The origins of Freemasonry are debated, even among Masons. Most Masons, however, agree that the birth of modern Freemasonry occurred in 1717 in England during the dawn of the Enlightenment period. During this period, there was an intellectual movement that spread throughout Europe called Rationalism, whereby human reason was exalted above God's Revelation. This resulted in a religious subjectivism in which man could now decide what was true and what wasn't true on matters of faith and morals. The Christian truths of the fall, original sin, and the necessity of redemption were abandoned. Ecclesiastical authority was also forsaken. God became a deistic "Grand Architect of the Universe" that was sought and worshiped in all religions. These elements have been preserved in modern Freemasonry.

Ironically, although almost every Protestant church has condemned Freemasonry, the movement of Rationalism actually brought about the Protestant Reformation. Luther and other Protestant “reformers" substituted private judgment for the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, and this has led to thousands of divisions within Christianity. But while Protestants have removed the teaching authority of the Church from their religion, Masons have removed Christ Himself.

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What are Freemasonry's teachings and practices?

Freemasonry is governed by certain fundamental and unalterable precepts that the organization calls "Landmarks." Landmarks have been handed down from one Masonic generation to the next through secret rituals and oral tradition. While there is no consensus on all the Landmarks, most Masons agree that the Landmarks include a belief in God as the Grand Architect of the Universe, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body.

The Landmarks also include the conferral of the death and resurrection rite of the third degree (also called the Hiramic legend), the teaching of moral and religious truths through symbolism, the requirement for secrecy, the necessity for candidates to have full use of their mental faculties and limbs (no physically or mentally handicapped men can become Masons) and the requirement of swearing covenant oaths with self-curses as a condition for membership.

Freemasonry also reverences all religious writings and places these writings on par with God’s written Word found in the Bible. Thus, Masonry places all religious writings on its altar (Book of Mormon, the Vedas, Zend Avesta, the Sohar, the Kabalah, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads or any other religious writing). This is because, unlike Christianity, Freemasonry does not believe that the Bible is the revealed written Word of God. Instead, Freemasonry views all religions as equally plausible attempts to explain the truth about God which, in the end, cannot be known.

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How is Freemasonry organized?

Freemasonry is organized by lodges (also called Blue lodges) which come under the authority of a Grand Lodge and its Most Worshipful Grand Master. There are 51 Grand Lodges in the United States (one for each state and the district of Columbia). Each Grand Lodge is the governing authority for Freemasonry in a given jurisdiction, and all Blue lodges in that jurisdiction report to the respective Grand Lodge. There is, however, no single Grand Lodge or governing authority over the world's Freemasonry. The principle officer of the Blue lodge is called the Worshipful Master. The Blue lodges, under the authority of its Grand Lodge, make men Masons through the conferral of ceremonial rituals called "degrees."

There are three degrees in Freemasonry that are conferred by the Blue lodge - the Entered Apprentice (1st) degree, the Fellowcraft (2nd) degree, and the Master Mason (3rd) degree. A candidate is initiated an Entered Apprentice, passed to the degree of Fellowcraft, and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason.

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Who speaks for Freemasonry?

Masonic ritual is the principle authority that speaks for Freemasonry. While there is no exact uniformity in Masonic ritual from state to state, the rituals are essentially the same. Masons thus boast of the universality of Freemasonry. Moreover, although Masonic ritual is not identical from state to state, every Grand Lodge in the United States recognizes each other as practicing valid Freemasonry. This means that Masons from one state can visit a lodge in another state and are generally allowed to participate in the ritual work.

When a Christian criticizes the teachings of Freemasonry using the rituals, the Mason often evasively responds by saying "No one speaks for Freemasonry." Such a response is not genuine, and is really just an effort to avoid addressing the rituals. Any honest Mason would admit that his Grand Lodge's ritual is the authority that speaks for Masonry in his jurisdiction, and it is from these rituals that we learn of Masonry's teachings about God, resurrection, and eternal life, without any requirement to believe in Jesus Christ.

The other important authority that explains the meaning of Masonry is the Masonic Bible. This Bible, which is typically the King James Version of the Old and New Testament, includes an extensive addendum of Masonic definitions and terminology. This book is generally given to Masons after they receive their third degree, and can be ordered from most Grand Lodges throughout the country. Other secondary authorities include writings by the friends of Masonry, such as Henry Wilson Coil, Albert Mackey, and Albert Pike, all of whom declare that Freemasonry is a religion and that this religion is not Christianity.

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What are the higher degrees in Freemasonry?

While there are many numerically higher degrees, the third degree (or Master Mason degree) is considered the highest degree in Freemasonry. This is because the Master Mason degree, in an extensive allegorical drama in which the candidate participates, teaches Masonry's sublime belief in the resurrection of the body. This drama is also called the Hiramic legend or the legend of the third degree.

In the third degree, the candidate participates in a drama where he plays a biblical character named “Hiram Abif,” a stonemason who worked on King Solomon’s Temple. In the lodge drama, Hiram is accosted in the Temple by renegade Masons who are trying to extort from him the secret Masonic word. When Hiram refuses to divulge the secret Masonic word, the Masons kill him (the candidate is symbolically murdered by being hit over the head with a padded setting maul, knocked off his feet, and caught in a large sack by his Masonic brothers). The Masons then bury the body of Hiram Abif (the candidate is instructed to remain lying down and materials are spread over his body).

As the drama unfolds, Hiram’s body is later discovered by other Masons who work in King Solomon’s Temple. When he is discovered, King Solomon and the other Masons make a procession to the gravesite and then pray for Hiram’s salvation. After the prayer, King Solomon raises Hiram (the candidate) up by the Strong Grip of a Master Mason. The candidate is then told that he has been raised from a dead level to a living perpendicular in the Masonic faith of the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul.

After a Mason reaches the third degree, he may advance in his Masonic journey to either the Scottish Rite or the York Rite. The Scottish Rite confers the fourth through thirty-second (and honorary thirty-third) degree. The York Rite also confers advanced degrees and is known as Original or Ancient Craft Masonry. These bodies are not under the authority of the Grand Lodges but have friendly relationships with them. The purpose of these higher degrees is to amplify what the Mason learned in his Blue lodge. These degrees, like those of the Blue lodge, require oath-bound secrecy. When a man becomes either a thirty-second degree or York Rite Mason, he is eligible to join the Shriners.

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Who are the Shriners?

The Shriners are an organization of 32nd degree or York Rite Masons who are best known for their red fezzes, little motor cars and circus parades. The Shrine is also known for its hospitals and other philanthropic activities. Masons call the Shrine the "playground of Freemasonry." Most of the public is unaware of the fact that all Shriners are Master Masons (but not all Masons are Shriners).

Like the previous Masonic degrees, candidates for the Shrine are initiated with a solemn religious ceremony at the local Mosque (the Islamic gathering place of the Shrine). All candidates, including Christians, must swear an oath to Allah on the Koran declaring that they would be worthy of having their eyeballs pierced to the center with a three-inch blade, their feet flayed, and forced to walk the hot sands of the sterile shores of the Red Sea, where the flaming sun shall strike them with a livid plague, rather than to violate their Shriner Masonic oath.

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Why is Freemasonry incompatible with Christianity?

Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity because it promotes indifferentism. Indifferentism is the heretical belief that all religions are equally legitimate attempts to explain the truth about God which, but for the truth of His existence, are unexplainable. Such a view makes all truths relative and holds that God can be equally pleased with truth and error. Because Christians believe that God has definitively revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and desires that all men come to the knowledge of this truth, indifferentism is incompatible with Christian faith. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).

Freemasonry's teachings and practices also result in syncretism which is the blending of different religious beliefs into a unified whole. This is evidenced most especially by Masonry's religious rituals which gather men of all faiths around a common altar, and place all religious writings along side the Bible on the Masonic altar. This is also demonstrated by the Lodge's prayers and its unique names and symbols for God and heaven. Syncretism is the logical consequence of indifferentism.

The Lodge's practice of requiring its members to swear immoral oaths is also incompatible with Christianity. These oaths require a Christian to swear on the Holy Bible that he will uphold a code of moral conduct that prefers Masons over non-Masons, and to preserve secret passwords and handshakes. Such oaths are gravely immoral because their subject matter is trivial or does not give rise to the necessity of an oath. These oaths are also sworn under symbolic, blood-curdling penalties of physical torture and death called self-curses (e.g., having my throat cut across, and my tongue torn out by its roots). These penalties show a lack of respect for God and amount to blasphemy which is a serious sin.

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What is the Catholic Church's position on Freemasonry?

The Church, through its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has formally declared that Catholics who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.  This declaration, which is the most recent teaching of the Church, has affirmed nearly 300 years of papal pronouncements against Freemasonry on the grounds that the teachings of the Lodge are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.

The Church’s declaration on Freemasonry exposes Catholic Masons to a number of penalties under canon law. For example, a Catholic who is aware that the Church authoritatively judges membership in Freemasonry to be gravely sinful must not approach Holy Communion (c. 916). The Church imposes the duty upon all grave sinners not to make a sacrilegious communion. Such a Catholic Mason who is aware of the grave sin must receive absolution in a sacramental confession before being able to receive communion again, unless there is a grave reason and no opportunity to confess (c. 916). This confession, in order to be valid, also requires the Catholic Mason to renounce his Masonic membership.

Further, because membership in Freemasonry is an external or public condition, the Catholic Mason can be refused Holy Communion by the pastors of the Church for obstinately persevering in his Masonic membership (c. 915). Such a Catholic Mason would also be forbidden from receiving the Anointing of the Sick (c. 1007) as well as ecclesiastical funeral rites if public scandal were to result (c. 1184, §1, °3).

Canon 1364 also imposes an automatic excommunication upon apostates, heretics, or schismatics. This canon could also apply to Catholic Masons. If, for example, a Catholic Mason embraced the theological teachings of Freemasonry that the Church has condemned (indifferentism, syncretism), he would be in heresy by virtue of his belief in these teachings. Further, if a Catholic Mason knew the Church opposes membership in Freemasonry, and yet adamantly and persistently refused to submit to the pope’s authority in precluding his membership in the Lodge, he may also find himself in schism. Catholic Masons could also be subject to canon 1374 which imposes an interdict or just penalty upon those who join associations that plot against the Church.

For the canonical penalties to apply, the Catholic Mason would have to act in a gravely imputable way (that is, the Catholic would have to be aware of the Church’s teaching on Freemasonry and, after being warned about it, choose to disregard it). In my personal experience, a fair number of Catholic Masons do act in a gravely imputable way in regard to their Masonic membership. In these cases, the canonical penalties, including excommunication, apply. The Church's penalties are not meant to alienate the person on whom the penalty is levied. Instead, the penalties are meant to communicate to the person the gravity of his conduct, encourage his repentance and reconciliation with the Church, and bring him back into the one fold of Christ. After all, the mission of the Church is the salvation of souls.

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How do Masons respond to anti-Masonry?

Masons conspicuously avoid using their rituals to defend the Lodge against Christian opposition. This is because the rituals' teachings concerning God, salvation by works alone, resurrection and eternal life in the celestial lodge above are indefensible from a Christian perspective. The Mason's avoidance of using Masonic ritual to defend his craft becomes evident very quickly when one views the many Masonic web sites that have been created by Masons to defend Freemasonry. Moreover, of the many hundreds of books written about Freemasonry, there is not a single book that provides a Christian defense of the Lodge by addressing the errors of indifferentism, syncretism and immoral oaths.

Instead, the Masonic apologist generally uses an “ad hominem” argument to defend the Lodge. An ad hominem argument is an argument that attacks an opponent's character rather than answering his contentions. Because most of the information about Freemasonry comes from men who have left the lodge, Masons avoid addressing the rituals and instead focus entirely on attacking the former Mason's credibility and character.

As Christians, we do not judge individual Masons or attack their character. In fact, most Masons are good and virtuous men. Instead, we judge the teachings of Masonic ritual in light of the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. We hope that Christian Masons will open up to us by using their Masonic rituals to explain and defend the teachings of the Lodge in the light of Christian faith.

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Copyright 2001 - 2007 © by John Salza. All Rights Reserved.
johnsalza@scripturecatholic.com