Clarification Concerning Status of Catholics Becoming Freemasons

The Clarification concerning status of Catholics becoming Freemasons was a February 1981 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Šeper reiterating the Church's prohibition on Catholics becoming Freemasons.

The Clarification's purpose was to clear up confusion stemming from an earlier interpretation of Canon law. The confusion arose from a private letter written in 1974 to the U.S. bishops which was interpreted by some within the Church and within Freemasonry as permitting Catholics to join Masonic lodges so long as the lodge did not directly plot against the church. The letter had become public and had "given rise to erroneous and tendentious interpretations."

The Clarification stated that the traditional prohibitions and penalties on Catholics becoming Freemasons still applied. The document specifically mentioned excommunication as a penalty. It also indicated that Bishops Conferences should not be making pronouncements about the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from the existing norms.

The Clarification letter was followed in 1983 by the Declaration on Masonic Associations, issued by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who succeeded Šeper to become the Congregation's prefect in November 1981.

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