Why didn’t Catholics infiltrate the Freemasons?

In my online circles, it’s not unusual to claim that the Catholic Church was infiltrated by the Freemasons, but the counterfactual in my title will strike readers as preposterous. I won’t argue, but it’s worth asking why it is preposterous. As Henri Daniel-Rops points out, the Freemasons didn’t start out being explicitly anti-Catholic.

Too many writers are prejudiced for or against freemasons, and have argued accordingly. More unfortunately, they endow their concept of freemasonry in the eighteenth century with characteristics that belong rather to the attack it launched against the Church during the nineteenth and twentieth…

Was it at that time antichristian? The question has been debated for more than two hundred years. One fact is inescapable: the lodges contained a large number of ecclesiastics who, moreover, enjoyed the privilege of admission without inquiry as to their respectability, since ‘their profession guaranteed their character’. At Caudebec, fifteen out of eighty members of the lodge were priests; at Sens, twenty out of fifty. Canons and parish priests sat in the Venerable Assembly, while the Cistercians of Clairvaux had a lodge within the very walls of their monastery! Saurine, a future bishop of Strasbourg under Napoleon, was among the governing members of the Grand Orient. We cannot be far from the truth in suggesting that towards the year 1789 a quarter of French freemasons were churchmen; and there is no reason to think all wok, or considered themselves to be, bad Catholics. On the contrary, their must have been a great many of them who saw no incompatibility between their faith and their masonic membership, and who even regarded freemasonry as a weapon to be employed in the service of religion. One of these, in Savoy, was Joseph de Maistre, orator of this lodge at Chambery; he dreamed of creating within the bosom of masonry a secret staff which would have made the movement a papal army at the service of universal theocracy.

…in 1748 freemasonry was condemned outright by Clement XII’s Bull In minenti, and thirteen years later the Bull Providas Romanorum of Benedict XIV renewed the interdictions of his pedecessor. As things turned out, this condemnation proved almost totally ineffective…

Was it, in fact, inimical to Christianity? Strictly speaking, no–at any rate not to any great extent. It is vey rare that one finds in masonic documents of the eighteenth century, apart from those of German Illuminism, a violent attack upon the priesthood or dogmas of Holy Church. On the contrary, one comes across many pious declarations which reveal a strong attachment to the Mass as well as to Our Lady and the saints. [However], a closer look at masonic ‘religion’ shows that it had nothing whatever to do with dogma or with an established order. The rules drawn up by Anderson in the early days are quite explicit on this point: `Each mason may retain his personal beliefs , provided always he observes the precepts of that religion upon which all men are agreed and which enjoin him to be good, sincere, modest, and honourable, no matter to what religious denomination he may belong.’

Masonic ‘religion’, then, is clearly natural religion, purged of the dogmas, rites, and symbols of Christianity. Based on a form of Deism which recognizes the existence of a ‘Great Architect’, it allows Him no right of intervention in the spiritual and moral life, and identifies His activity with that of reason. It is therefore fundamentally the doctrine of the philosophes. Consequently, the Church, in condemning freemasonry, was not only within her rights but was also fulfilling a duty.

H. Daniel-Rops, “The Church in the Eighteenth Century”

Even at the end of the 18th century, Mozart would join a lodge made up of Catholics; such things were not an anomaly in Austria of the time. Furthermore, we know that in 20th century America, the masons were a harmless social club. Two principles are illustrated here. First, C. S. Lewis’ principle of “things coming to a point”: what became a great force for evil in the 19th century was in the 18th century a mix of good, evil, and muddle-headedness, and those involved in it must be judged accordingly. Second, my principle of the “ecumenism of the ash heap”: once Satan found a better, purer vessel, the enmity between masons and Catholics that had defined the 19th century faded to insignificance and disappeared.

One might ask, would things have been different if the Church had decided to convert or infiltrate the masons, as Maistre schemed, rather than condemn them?

Not significantly. Even if this program would have succeeded, anticlericals and revolutionaries would just have found another vessel for their diabolical work. Anyway, it’s hard to imagine the “papal army of universal theocracy” plan actually working. You may laugh at the idea, but in that case you’d better not be one of those conservatives who says that we need to “march through the institutions”, because the current regime is much more hostile to conservatism and Christianity than 18th century freemasonry was to papism. If you can’t take over a harmless social club, you’re not going to be able to take over the universities.

Catholics lack the art of dissimulation, whether because we’re too honest or because we’re too stupid.

Suppose one’s faction has two goals, the moderate A and the ambitious B. Society is pretty hostile to B at the moment, but one can find allies on A. The Left is very good at deploying allies, fellow travelers, and dupes in pursuit of A. They know how to remain silent about B while A is secured, even if B is a logical consequence of their own arguments (indeed, to point that out would be the “slippery slope fallacy”), avoiding incurring the resistance or unpopularity of B while carefully not explicitly disavowing B, or only disavowing it in the presence of certain audiences or through disposable “moderate” mouthpieces with the Leftist faithful sufficiently disciplined to know how seriously to take such disavowals. Once A has been won and passed into the canon of “our values”, to question which would be the mark of a dangerous extremist, then the logic can be unveiled that, yes, the logic of A demands B, and anyone who will not endorse B is a fascist. Most former allies in the fight for A will fall in line; those who don’t can be isolated easily and cast out into the impotent Right.

When Catholics are faced with the same situation, we proceed as follows. First, denounce B in the strongest terms. Deny that we or any other decent people would ever endorse B. Apologize for having supported B in the past and express shame for our ancestors in the faith while mumbling unconvincingly that while we Catholics do have much to learn from the modern world (our moral superiors), the Good News of Jesus Christ is still a valuable supplement to the Leftist regime. Meanwhile, internal argument commences about whether A may be advocated for. The conservative wing of the Church would like to forcefully endorse A, pointing out that it has always been understood to be part of the Church’s infallible magisterium. The accommodationist wing recommends against this, saying that we must first spend more time proving that we hate B (which until recently was also taught infallibly by the Church) in order to be “credible” with the modern world on A. Furthermore, A should never be promoted except as part of a package that includes many items desired by Leftists and that removes any inconvenience of A to the Left’s client groups. The pope takes a compromise position, admitting that A is indeed Catholic doctrine, but that to be consistent it can only be advocated along with utter novelty C, while B is to be rejected because…mumble, mumble…development of doctrine…Holy Spirit…light of the Gospel.

Clearly this leads to nothing but defeat. Hence the rejoinder that before Catholics can march through the institutions, we first have to infiltrate the Church. If there is a Catholic Illuminati out there somewhere, I’d love to join; I suppose they wouldn’t advertise themselves, but it would be reassuring if there were some evidence of their existence.

8 thoughts on “Why didn’t Catholics infiltrate the Freemasons?

  1. If you start with “Thou shalt not lie”, it is impossible to infiltrate anything. Our enemies used deception at each step to conquer us.

    200 years of lies against 200 years of truth and we are at their mercy.

    If power is obtained through debate and discussion, we will always lose. Our only model of success is a Christian hereditary king and nobility. When we lost this, it was a matter of time that we were goong to lose everything.

  2. Eighteenth-century conspiracy theorists like Barruel explained this with outer and inner rings. The outer rings of exoteric Masonry are a social club that any man of good morals can join, but the inner rings of esoteric Masonry are open only to the Illuminati or enlightened ones. The outer rings provide a front for the inner rings. They also serve like the farm system in major league baseball. Some men who entered the outer rings are identified as suitable for initiation (illumination) to the inner rings.

    According to Barruel and many other conspiracy theorists, initiation to successive levels of the inner rings requires performance of increasingly gross abominations. Spitting on a crucifix and performance of homosexual acts, for example. This weeded out scrupled infiltrators and placed initiates under the control of blackmail. One sees something similar in what is called the “shill test” at certain right-wing websites where participants are required to gore some liberal sacred cow..

    Christians are handicapped by their lack of a doctrine of legitimate dissimulation such as the Muslim’s ketmán or takiya. One writer calls these subterfuges “a Jesuistry not recognized or practiced by the Society of Jesus.” All religious people are further handicapped by their lack of an instrumental morality that forgives any means to a worthy end. I expect a good liberal could use the N word if this were necessary to infiltrate and inform on some racist group. A good Catholic would find it harder to defile a consecrated host, or perform an obscene act, even if doing so served a worthy end.

    From what I remember of Barruel, the initiate who declines to perform an initiatory abomination is not ejected. He simply stays in the ring he had reached, probably unaware that he has failed a test. They don’t say, “perform an act of buggery and you will be initiated to the next level.” They say “because you have performed an act of buggery, you have shown yourself worthy of initiation to the next level.”

    Your point about scoffing at “slippery slope arguments” is excellent. A never entails B until A is firmly established, whereupon B becomes a logical necessity.

    • “From what I remember of Barruel, the initiate who declines to perform an initiatory abomination is not ejected. He simply stays in the ring he had reached, probably unaware that he has failed a test. ”

      That’s correct. If you don’t spit on the crucifix, you are told that you have passed the test and you can stay where you are. You are congratulated. Then, you never go into the inner circle, but you are still in the Freemasonry so they can control you. It is the Freemason version of “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer”.

    • “One sees something similar in what is called the ‘shill test’ at certain right-wing websites where participants are required to gore some liberal sacred cow.”

      Please, oh, please, let’s have such a shill test here! It will so much fun. Useless and intellectually onanistic, perhaps, but nonetheless a pleasure.

  3. I am probably missing some detail here but somehow the question to me seems blatantly obvious. Romans martyred Christians not for what they believed but what they did not believe, like the divinity of the emperor or Sol Invictus. And when I ask what is the proof of the Resurrection, the most common answer is that so many people were willing to get martyred for it – a costly hence honest signal, if you will.

    So it seems to me not willing to infiltrate rival religions, not willing to dissimulate about religious matters is the very essence of Christianity?

  4. The text smells fishy:
    1. In Eminentis was issued in 1738.
    2. Freemasonry is founded in England by a PROTESTANT Pastor named James Anderson in 1717, two centuries after the Protestant insurrection.
    3. One of the precursors of Freemasonry is Rosicrucianism, an esoteric and gnostic movement. Gnosticism is one of the first catholic heresies, claiming that Jesus gave one message to the average people and a secret one to his closest ones.
    4. Freemasonry believes Lucifer to be a benign figure. I rest my case as this is the final nail in the coffin.
    Some Freemasons may not have started hating the Church from the moment they were admitted, but the institution was anticatholic from its inception as its dogmas and tenets are in direct opposition with the dogmas and tenets of the Catholic Church. And the fact that James Anderson was a protestant minister in an age where protestants and catholics weren’t precisely hugging each other doesn’t help.
    I would take the “but thERe WeRe PrIeSTs aMonG fReEmAsOns” with utmost caution. So there were priests among the freemasons when Mino Pecorelli got shot three times after publishing his list of catholic freemasons.
    This texts stinks of freemasonic apologetics.


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