To Father Themann:
Please advise us of your seminary formation on the subject of Freemasonry?
We suggest you re-read this excerpt from Pope Leo XIII's ENCYCLICAL HUMANUM GENUS over the weekend and be prepared for a test on Monday.
Bishop Williamson will call you at 9:30AM MST to administer the test and your grade will be posted on Catholic Info.
FREEMASONRY, we must remember always, appeared generally and spread generally, too, in the interests of all that Voltaire aimed at, when it best suited his purpose. The first lodge established in France under the English obedience was in 1727.
Its founder and first master was the celebrated Jacobite, Lord Derwentwater. It had almost immediate acceptance from the degenerate nobility of France, who, partly because of the influence of English and Scotch Jacobite nobles, and partly because of its novelty, hard swearing, and mystery, joined the strange institution. Its lodges were soon in every considerable city of the realm. The philosophers and various schools of Atheists, however, were the first to enter into and to extend it. For them it had special attractions and special uses, which they were not slow to appreciate and to employ. Now, though it very little concerns us to know much of the origin of this society, which became then and since so notorious throughout the world, still, as that origin throws some light on its subsequent history, it will not be lost time to glance at what is known, or supposed to be known, about it. Mgr. Segur,1 Bishop of Grenoble, who devoted much time to a study of Freemasonry, is persuaded that it was first elaborated by Faustus Socinus, the nephew of the too celebrated Laelius Socinus, the heresiarch and founder of the sect of Unitarians or, as they are generally called after him, Socinians. Both were of the ancient family of the Sozini of Sienna. Faustus, like many of his relatives, imbibed the errors of his uncle, and in order to escape the vigilance of the Inquisition, to which both Italy and Spain owed much of the tranquillity they enjoyed in these troublesome times, he fled to France. While in that country at Lyons, and when only twenty years of age, he heard of the death of his uncle at Zurich, and went at once to that city to obtain the papers and effects of the deceased. From the papers he found that Laelius had assisted at a conference of heretics at Vicenza in 1547, in which the destruction of Christianity was resolved upon, and where resolutions were adopted for the renewal of Arianism – a system of false doctrine calculated to sap the very foundations of existing Faith by attacking the Trinity and the Incarnation. Feller, an authority of considerable weight, in his reference to this conference, says: “In the assembly of Vicenza they agreed upon the means of destroying the religion of Jesus Christ, by forming a society which by its progressive successes brought on, towards the end of the eighteenth century, an almost general apostasy. When the Republic of Venice became informed of this conspiracy, it seized upon Julian Trevisano and Francis de Rugo, and strangled them. Ochinus and the others saved themselves. The society thus dispersed became only the more dangerous, and it is that which is known today under the name of Freemasons.” For this information Feller refers us to a work entitled Le Voile Levé, by the Abbé Le Franc, a victim of the reign of terror in 1792. The latter tells us that the conspirators whom the severity of the Venetian Republic had scattered, and who were Ochinus, Laelius Socinus, Peruta, Gentilis, Jacques Chiari, Francis Lenoir, Darius Socinus, Alicas, and the Abbé Leonard, carried their poison with them, and caused it to bear fruits of death in all parts of Europe. The success of Faustus Socinus in spreading his uncle’s theories was enormous. His aim was not only to destroy the Church, but to raise up another temple into which any enemy of orthodoxy might freely enter. In this temple every heterodox belief might be held. It was called Christian but was without Christian faith, or hope, or love. It was simply an astutely planned system for propagating the ideas of its founders; for a fundamental part of the policy of Socinus, and one in which he well instructed his disciples, was to associate either to Unitarianism or to the confederation formed at Vicenza, the rich, the learned, the powerful, and the influential of the world. He feigned an equal esteem for Trinitarians and anti-Trinitarians, for Lutherans and Calvinists. He praised the undertakings of all against the Church of Rome, and working upon their intense hatred for Catholicism, caused them to forget their many “isms” in order to unite them for the destruction of the common enemy. When that should be effected, it would be time to consider a system agreeable to all. Until then, unity of action inspired by hatred of the Church should reign amongst them.
He therefore wished that all his adherents should, whether Lutheran or Calvinist, treat one another as brothers; and hence his disciples have been called at various times “United Brethren”, “Polish Brothers”, “Moravian Brothers”, “Brother Masons”, and finally “Freemasons”. Mgr. Segur informs us, on the authorities before quoted, as well as upon that of Bergier, and the learned author of a work entitled, Les Franc-Maçons Ecrasés – the Abbé Lerudan – printed at Amsterdam, as early as the year 1747, that the real secret of Freemasonry consisted, even then, in disbelief in the Divinity of Christ, and a determination to replace that doctrine, which is the very foundation of Christianity, by Naturalism or Rationalism. Socinus having established his Sect in Poland, sent emissaries to preach his doctrines stealthily in Germany, Holland, and England. In Germany, Protestants and Catholics united to unmask them. In Holland they blended with the Anabaptists, and in England they found partisans amongst the Independents and various other sects into which the people were divided.
The Abbé Lefranc believes (Le Voile Levé, Lyons, 1821), that Oliver Cromwell was a Socinian, and that he introduced Freemasonry into England. Certainly, Cromwell’s sympathies were not for the Church favoured by the monarch he supplanted, and were much with the Independents. If he was a Socinian, we can easily understand how the secret society of Vicenza could have attractions for one of his anti-Catholic and ambitious sentiments. He gave its members in England, as Mgr. Segur tells us, the title of Freemasons, and invented the allegory of the Temple of Solomon, now so much used by Masonry of every kind, and which meant the original state of man supposed to be a commonwealth of equality with a vague Deism as its religion. This temple, destroyed by Christ for the Christian order, was to be restored by Freemasonry after Christ and the Christian order should be obliterated by conspiracy and revolution. The state of Nature was the “Hiram” whose murder Masonry was to avenge; and which, having previously removed Christ, was to resuscitate Hiram, by rebuilding the temple of Nature as it had been before.
Mgr. Segur, moreover, connects modern Freemasonry with the Jews and Templars, as well as with Socinus. There are reasons which lead me to think that he is right in doing so. The Jews for many centuries previous to the Reformation had formed secret societies for their own protection and for the destruction of the Christianity which persecuted them, and which they so much hated. The rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon was the dream of their lives. It is unquestionable that they wished to make common cause with other bodies of persecuted religionists. They had special reason to welcome with joy such heretics as were cast off by Catholicism. It is, therefore, not at all improbable that they admitted into their secret conclaves some at least of the discontented Templars, burning for revenge upon those who dispossessed and suppressed the Order. That fact would account for the curious combination of Jewish and conventual allusions to be found in modern Masonry.2 Then, as to its British History, we have seen that numbers of the secret brotherhood of Socinus made their way to England and Scotland, where they found rich friends, and, perhaps, confederates. I have, therefore, no doubt but that the Abbé Lefranc is correct when he says that Cromwell was connected with them. At least, before he succeeded in his designs, he had need of some such secret society, and would, no doubt, be glad to use it for his purposes. But it is not so clear that Cromwell was the first, as Lefranc thinks, to blend that brotherhood with the real Freemasons. The ancient guild of working masons had existed in Great Britain and in Europe for many centuries previous to his time They were like every other guild of craftsmen – a body formed for mutual protection and trade offices. But they differed from other tradespeople in this, that from their duties they were more cosmopolitan, and knew more of the ceremonies of religion at a period when the arts of reading and writing were not very generally understood. They travelled over every portion of England and Scotland, and frequently crossed the Channel, to work at the innumerable religious houses, castles, fortifications, great abbeys, churches and cathedrals which arose over the face of Christendom in such number and splendour in the middle and succeeding ages. To keep away interlopers, to sustain a uniform rate of wages, to be known amongst strangers, and, above all, amongst foreigners of their craft, signs were necessary; and these signs could be of value only in proportion to the secrecy with which they were kept within the craft itself. They had signs for those whom they accepted as novices, for the companion mason or journeyman, and for the masters of the craft. In ages when a trade was transmitted from father to son, and formed a kind of family inheritance, we can very well imagine that its secrets were guarded with much jealousy, and that its adepts were enjoined not to communicate them to anyone, not even to their wives, lest they become known to outsiders. The masons were, if we except the clockmakers and jewellers, the most skilled artisans of Europe. By the cunning of their hands they knew how to make the rough stone speak out the grand conceptions of the architects of the middle ages; and often, the delicate foliage and flowers and statuary of the fanes they built, remind us of the most perfect eras of Greek and Roman sculpture. So closely connected with religion and religious architecture as were these “Brothers Masons”, “Friars”, “Fra”, or “Free Masons”, they shared to a large extent in the favour of the Popes. They obtained many and valuable charters. But they degenerated. The era of the so-called Reformation was a sad epoch for them. It was an era of Church demolition rather than of church building. Wherever the blight of Protestantism fell, the beauty and stateliness of Church architecture became dwarfed, stunted, and degraded, whenever it was not utterly destroyed. The need of brothers Masons had passed, and succeeding Masons began to admit men to their guilds who won a living otherwise than by the craft. In Germany their confraternity had become a cover for the reformers, and Socinus, seeing it as a means for advancing his Sect – a method for winning adepts and progressing stealthily without attracting the notice of Catholic government – would desire no doubt to use it for his purposes. We have to this day the statute the genuine Freemasons of Strasbourg framed in 1462, and the same revised as late as 1563, but in them there is absolutely nothing of heresy or hostility to the Church. But there is a curious document called the Charter of Cologne dated 1535, which, if it be genuine, proves to us that there existed at that early period a body of Freemasons having principles identical with those professed by the Masons of our own day. It is to be found in the archives of the Mother Lodge of Amsterdam which also preserves the act of its own constitution under the date of 1519. It reveals the existence of lodges of kindred intent in London, Edinburgh, Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris, Lyons, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Madrid, Venice, Goriz, Koenigsberg, Brussels, Dantzig, Magdeburg, Bremen and Cologne; and it bears the signatures of well-known enemies of the Church at that period, namely – Hermanus or Herman de Weir, the immoral and heretical Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, placed for his misdeeds under the ban of the Empire; De Coligny, leader of the Huguenots of France; Jacob d’Anville, Prior of the Augustinians of Cologne, who incurred the same reproaches as Archbishop Herman; Melancthon, the Reformer; Nicholas Van Noot, Carlton, Bruce, Upson, Banning, Vireaux, Schroeder, Hoffman, Nobel, De la Torre, Doria, Uttenbow, Falck, Huissen, Wormer. These names reveal both the country and the celebrity of all the men who signed the document. It was, possibly, a society like theirs, which the Venetian Government broke up and scattered in 1547, for we find distinct mention of a lodge existing at Venice in 1535. However this may be, Freemason lodges existed in Scotland from the time of the Reformation. One of them is referred to in the Charter of Cologne, and doubtless had many affiliations. In Scotland, as in other Catholic countries, the Templars were suppressed; and there, if nowhere else, that Order had the guilds of working masons under its special protection. It is therefore possible, as some say, that the knights coalesced with these Masons, and protected their own machinations with the aid of the secrets of the craft. But while this and all else stated regarding the connection of the Templars with Masonry may be true, there is no real evidence that it is so. Much is said about the building of the Temple of Solomon; and that the Hiram killed, and whose death the craft is to avenge, means James Molay, the Grand Master, executed in the barbarous manner of his age for supposed complicity in the crimes with which the Templars were everywhere charged. There is tall talk about such things in modern Masonry, and a great deal of the absurd and puerile ritual in which the sect indulges when conferring the higher grades, is supposed to have reference to them. But the Freemasonry with which we have to deal, however connected in its origin with the Templars, with Socinus, with the conspirators of Cologne, or those of Vicenza, or with Cromwell, received its modern characteristics from Elias Ashmole, the Antiquary, and the provider, if not the founder, of the Oxford Museum. Ashmole was an alchemist and an astrologer, and imbued consequently with a love for the jargon and mysticism of that strange body so busied about the philosopher’s stone and other utopias. The existing lodges of the Freemasons had an inexpressible charm for Ashmole, and in 1646 he, together with Colonel Mainwaring, became members of the craft. He perfected it, added various mystic symbols to those already in use and gave partly a scriptural, partly an Egyptian form to its jargon and ceremonies. The Rosecroix, Rosicrucian degree, a society formed after the idea of Bacon’s New Atlantis, appeared; and the various grades of companion, master, secret master, perfect master, elect, and Irish master, were either remodelled or newly formed, as we know them now. Charles I was decapitated in 1649, and Ashmole being a Royalist to the core, soon turned English Masonry from the purposes of Cromwell and his party, and made the craft, which was always strong in Scotland, a means to upset the Government of the Protector and to bring back the Stuarts. Now “Hiram” became the murdered Charles, who was to be avenged instead of James Molay, and the reconstruction of the Temple meant the restoration of the exiled House of Stuart. On the accession of Charles II the craft was, of course, not treated with disfavour; and when the misfortunes of James II drove him from the throne, the partisans of the House of Stuart had renewed recourse to it as a means of secret organization against the enemy.
To bring back the Pretender, the Jacobites formed a Scotch and an English and an Irish constitution. The English constitution embraced the Mother Lodge of York and that of London, which latter separated from York, and with a new spring of action started into life as the Grand Lodge of London in 1717. The Jacobite nobles brought it to France chiefly to aid their attempts in favour of the Stuarts. They opened a lodge called the “Amity and Fraternity”, in Dunkirk, in 1721, and in 1725 the Lord Derwentwater opened the famous Mother Lodge of Paris. Masonry soon spread to Holland (1730), to Germany in 1736, to Ireland in 1729, and afterwards to Italy, Spain and Europe generally. All its lodges were placed under the Grand Lodge of England, and remained so for many years.
I mention these facts and dates in order to let you see that precisely at the period when Freemasonry was thus extending abroad, the Infidelity, which had been introduced by Bayle and openly advocated by Voltaire, was being disseminated largely amongst the corrupt nobility of France and of Europe generally. It was, as we have already seen, a period of universal licence in morals with the great in every country, and the members of the Grand Lodge in England were generally men of easy virtue whose example was agreeable to Continental libertines.
Voltaire found that the Masonry to which he had been affiliated in London was a capital means of diffusing his doctrines among the courtiers, the men of letters and the public of France. It was like himself, the incarnation of hypocrisy and lying. It came recommended by an appearance of philanthropy and of religion. Ashmole gave it the open Bible, together with the square and compass. It called the world to witness that it believed in God, “the great Architect of the Universe.” It had “an open eye”, which may be taken for God’s all-seeing providence, or for the impossibility of a sworn Mason escaping his fate if he revealed the secrets of the craft or failed to obey the orders he was selected to carry out. It made members known to each other, just as did the ancient craft, in every country, and professed to take charge of the orphans and widows of deceased brethren who could not provide for them. But, in its secret conclaves and in its ascending degrees, it had means to tell the victim whom it could count upon, that the “Architect” meant a circle, a nothing;3 that the open Bible was the universe; and that the square and compass was simply the fitness of things – the means to make all men “fraternal, equal and free” in some impossible utopia it promised but never gave. In the recesses of its lodges, the political conspirator found the men and the means to arrive at his ends in security. Those who ambitioned office found there the means of advancement. The old spirit breathed into the fraternity by Socinus, and nourished so well by the heretical libertines of the England and Germany of the seventeenth century, and perfected by the Infidels of the eighteenth, was master in all its lodges. Banquets, ribald songs and jests, revelling in sin, constituted from the beginning a leading feature in its life. Lodges became the secure home for the roué, the spendthrift, the man of broken fortunes, the Infidel, and the depraved of the upper classes. Such attractive centres of sin, therefore, spread over Europe with great rapidity. They were encouraged not only by Voltaire, but by his whole host of Atheistic writers, philosophers, encyclopaedists, revolutionists, and rakes. The scoundrels of Europe found congenial employment in them; and before twenty years elapsed from their first introduction the lodges were a power in Europe, formidable by the union which subsisted between them all, and by the wealth, social position, and unscrupulousness of those who formed their brotherhood. The principles fashionable – and indeed alone tolerated – in them all, before long, were the principles of Voltaire and of his school. This led in time to the Union and “Illuminism” of Freemasonry.
THE UNION AND “ILLUMINISM” OF FREEMASONRY
WITH the aid of Voltaire, and of his party, Freemasonry rapidly spread amongst the higher classes of France and wherever else in Europe the influence of the French Infidels extended. It soon after obtained immense power of union and propagandism. In France and everywhere else it had an English, a Scotch, and a local obedience. These had separate constitutions and officers, even separate grades, but all were identical in essence and in aim. A brother in one was a brother in all. However, it seemed to the leaders that more unity was needed, and aided by the adhesion of the Duke of Chartres, subsequently better known as the Duke of Orleans, the infamous Philippe-Egalité, who was Grand Master of the Scotch Masonic Body in France, the French Masons in the English obedience desiring independence of the Mother Lodge of England, separated and elected him the first Grand Master of the since celebrated Grand Orient of France. Two years after this, the execrable “Androgyne” lodges for women, called “Lodges of Adoption” were established, and had as Grand Mistress over them all the Duchess of Bourbon, sister of Egalité. The Infidels, by extending these lodges for women, obtained an immense amount of influence, which they otherwise never could attain. They thus invaded the domestic circle of the Court of France and of every Court in Europe. Thus, too, the royal edicts, the decrees of Clement XII and Benedict XIV against Freemasonry, and the efforts of conscientious officers, were rendered completely inoperative. After the death of Voltaire, the extension of Freemasonry became alarming; but no State effort could then stop its progress. It daily grew more powerful and more corrupt. It began already to extend its influence into every department of state. Promotion in the army, in the navy, in the public service, in the law, and even to the fat benefices “in commendam” of the Church, became impossible without its aid1; and at this precise juncture, when the political fortunes of France were, for many reasons, growing desperate, two events occurred to make the already general and corrupt Freemasonry still more formidable. These were the advent of the Illuminism of Saint Martin in France, and that of Adam Weishaupt in Germany, and the increased corruption introduced principally by means of women-Freemasons.
A Portuguese Jew, named Martinez Pasqualis, was the first to introduce Illuminism into the Lodge of Lyons, and his system was afterwards perfected in wickedness by Saint Martin, from whom French Illuminism took its name. Illuminism meant the extreme extent of immorality, Atheism, anarchy, levelling, and bloodshed, to which the principles of Masonry could be carried. It meant a universal conspiracy against the Church and established order. It constituted a degree of advancement for all the lodges, and powerfully aided to make them the centres of revolutionary intrigue and of political manipulation which they soon became in the hands of men at once sunk in Atheism and moral corruption.
An idea of these lodges may be obtained from a description given of that of Ermanonville, by M. Le Marquis de Lefroi, in Dictionnaire des Erreurs Sociales, quoted by Deschamps, vol. ii, page 93.
“It is known”, he says, “that the Chateau de Ermanonville belonging to the Sieur Girardin, about ten leagues from Paris, was a famous haunt of Illuminism. It is known that there, near the tomb of Jean-Jacques, under the pretext of bringing men back to the age of nature, reigned the most horrible dissoluteness of morals. Nothing can equal the turpitude of morals which reigns amongst that horde of Ermanonville. Every woman admitted to the mysteries became common to the brothers, and was delivered up to the chance or to the choice of these true ‘Adamites’.” Barruel in his Mémoires sur le Jacobinisme, vol. iv. p. 334, says “that M. Leseure, the father of the hero of La Vendée, having been affiliated to a lodge of this kind, and having, in obedience to the promptings of conscience, abandoned it, was soon after poisoned.” He himself declared to the Marquis de Montron that he fell a victim to “that infamous horde of the Illuminati.”
The Illuminism of Saint Martin was simply an advance in the intensity of immorality, Atheism, secrecy, and terror, which already reigned in the lodges of France. It planned a deeper means of revolution and destruction. It became in its hidden depths a lair in which the Atheists of the period could mature their plans for the overthrow of the existing order of things to their own best advantage. It gave itself very captivating names. Its members were “Knights of Beneficence”, “Good Templars”, “Knights of St. John”, &c. They numbered, however, amongst them, the most active, daring, and unscrupulous members of Masonry. They set themselves at work to dominate over and to control the entire body. They had no system, any more than any other sort of Masons, to give the world instead of that which they determined to pull down. The state of nature, goods and the sexes in common, no God, and instead of God a hatred for everything sustaining the idea of God, formed about the sum total of the happiness which they desired to see reign in a world where people should be reduced to a level resembling that of wild cattle in the American prairies. This was the Illumination they destined for humanity; yet such was the infatuation inspired by their immoral and strange doctrines that nobles, princes, and monarchs of the period, including Frederick II of Prussia and the silly Joseph II of Austria, admitted to a part of their secrets, were the tools and the dupes, and even the accomplices, of these infamous conspirators.