Masonry & the Church

In the Masons' rituals and in their tenets, I saw the challenge to Catholicism



Several members of my family were initiated into the worldwide, secretive fraternal organization called Freemasonry, including my deceased father who became a Master of two lodges and rose to 33rd degree in the Scottish Rite. I recall him pacing our living room with a small code book reciting from memory whole passages for an upcoming ceremony. It was a passion for him, a chance to commingle with other influential businessmen and advance in social standing from his humble beginnings. One of my brothers joined up. My dad’s sister, her daughter, and my sister joined the female auxiliaries, Rainbows, and the Order of the Eastern Star.

The Church had a fraternal service organization in the Knights of Columbus, while the Freemasons had the Shriners. Dad had friends among the Knights, including one of his own brothers. But as he put it, “The Church never reached me.” I suppose that meant he had issues with what he observed as aloofness, arrogance, or hypocrisy in its hierarchy, similar to what some people experience today.

He once took me to a Masonic ceremony, no doubt with the hope I’d join up. I recall us gathered around a long mahogany conference table, each with a half glass of wine, called upon to “participate” in unison. It was reminiscent of the Catholic eucharistic ritual. In the Masons’ ritual and in their tenets, I could see the challenge to Catholicism. (Long ago the Church banned Freemasonry due to its erroneous philosophy and promotion of religious indifferentism.)

The animosity between Freemasonry and Catholicism played out in the history of our American democracy. Most of our founding fathers were Masons, including George Washington. The U.S. dollar was designed to portray the Masonic perspective of a mystical “Holy See,” depicted as a detached triangular segment atop an Egyptian pyramid. Catholicism was regarded by our Founders with caution and fear, given its centuries of influence and dominance over governmental authority in Europe. Of course the separation of church and state — the Establishment Clause — was made an article of the U.S. Constitution, at least in part to prevent meddling by the Catholic religion. Later in our history, Masonic opposition to Catholic schools and politicians would become vehement.

At Dad’s Masonic Temple, the men would promenade wearing white fleeces as aprons, which I suppose symbolized each member as a “Lamb of God.” There were numerous references to Scripture in paintings that supported a quasi-mystical ideology that promoted high virtue. Symbolism linked to the ancient guild of masonry, such as the compass and right angle, I interpreted as edifying characteristics of the active Masonic member in his affairs among men. Surprisingly, nowhere did I notice condemnation of Catholicism, though my father privately discouraged my candidacy for the monastic priesthood. “So, you want to wear ‘the cloth,'” as he put it.

A recent article in The Pillar (“What’s the problem with Freemasonry, anyway? Mar. 29) clearly explains Masonry and the reason the Church still rejects Catholics’ involvement in it. (Click here:  Apparently the bishops of the Philippines recently queried the Vatican about whether the Church’s stance against Freemasonry has changed.

If what the abovementioned article reveals is factual about Masonry’s macabre indoctrination at the 30th degree of the Scottish Rite, then I can understand why my father was vigorously opposed to my entering the Trappists to be a priest. He admirably restrained himself, allowing me to choose my path, however perilous. In the end I joined neither the Trappists nor the Masons.


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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