The Vatican has affirmed its stand to prohibit Roman Catholics from becoming members of Freemasonry, after Bishop Julito Cortes wrote to the Pope expressing concern about the phenomenon of the “continuous rise in the number of faithful enrolled in Freemasonry” in the Dumaguete Diocese.
Bishop Cortes had asked for advice on how to deal with the doctrinal and pastoral implications of the reality of the situation as he explained that membership in Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines, involving even a large number of sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced there is no opposition between membership of the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges.
To address the issue, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican issued a statement dated Nov. 13 telling the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to come up with a strategy among individual Bishops on the doctrinal and pastoral levels.
The Vatican reminded the Bishops that the Church forbids a member of the faithful from active membership in Freemasonry “because of the irreconcilability between Catholic doctrine and Freemasonry”.
It cited a 1983 statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the guidelines published by the CBCP in 2003, which apply to those who are formally and knowingly enrolled in Masonic Lodges, and have embraced Masonic principles, as well as any clerics enrolled in Freemasonry.
The Vatican also advised the Philippine Bishops to conduct catechesis regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic Faith and Freemasonry, and wether they should make a public pronouncement on the matter.
Dumaguete businessman Don Terng Ramas Uypitching, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons, said he is not worried about the Vatican pronouncement after the concern was raised by his “good friend Bishop Cortes”.
“He [Bishop Cortes] may just have been misinformed.” Ramas Uypitching explained that Freemasonry is not a religion but is, in fact, the world’s oldest fraternity, having been founded more than 500 years ago.
“FreeMasonry is all about character-building, about building our respective temples inside the hearts of men. I’m not Catholic; in fact, I have no religion, only a very strong faith as a true Christian,” he continued.
Ramas Uypitching also said majority of the 25,000-strong members under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines are Roman Catholics.
Several Roman Catholic Masons also commented on the Vatican statement after some national news outlets posted it on their social media pages. Andy Calica, who describes himself as Catholic since birth and a Freemason for more than 40 years, wrote that Masonry is not a religion but that the Masons are religious, starting and ending a meeting with a prayer on the Holy Bible. “Before we start nay important undertaking, we first invoke the blessing of God.”
Calica said he does not see any doctrinal conflict between Freemasonry and his religion. “You have to be a member of Freemasonry so you will know and understand what is Freemasonry,” he said.