Skip to content

Milan archbishop to attend ‘dialogue’ seminar with Italian Freemasons

The Archbishop of Milan on Friday will attend a conference to discuss the incompatibility of Freemasonry with Catholicism, the Italian masonic grand lodge announced.

Pope’s move in Milan confirms that a ‘Francis bishop’ doesn’t have to mean rupture
Archbishop Mario Enrico Delpini of Milan. Credit: Radiolombardia

According to a notice on the website of the Grand Orient of Italy, Archbishop Mario Enrico Delpini will attend a seminar at the Ambrosianum Cultural Foundation at which the head of Italian Freemasonry, Grand Master Stefano Bisi will deliver a paper on the Catholic Church and Freemasonry.

According to the Grand Orient, the confederating and governing body of masonic lodges in Italy, the “historic” seminar will address the “complex” relationship between masonry and Catholicism within the theme of “Freemasonry between Ratzinger and Bergoglio.”

Billing the event as “an important moment of dialogue,” the Grand Orient said that the seminar “will allow [Catholics] and Masons to confront freely and with conciliarism the irreconcilability of Masonic values with Catholic ones.”


Looking ahead to the February 16 event, Italian newspaper Il Messagero also reported that Archbishop Delpini will be joined by the president of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, Bishop Antonio Staglianò, and the retired former head of the Vatican’s dicastery for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio.

The event comes some two months after the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith called for the bishops of the Philippines to adopt a “coordinated strategy” to oppose “a large number of [Masonic] sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced that there is no opposition between membership in the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges.” 

Catholics who join Masonic associations are, according to the DDF’s consistent teaching, in a state of grave sin, and unable to receive the Eucharist. 

Canonically, Membership of masonic lodges and similar organizations is prohibited by canon 1374 of the Code of Canon Law, which constitutes it a crime for a Catholic to join “societies which plot against the Church.”

The Church has prohibited Catholics from joining Masonic lodges since 1738, when Pope Clement XII banned Freemasonry, and said it promoted religious indifferentism — the idea that it doesn’t matter what individuals believed about God, as long as they were good Masons, because everyone in the lodge was serving a higher notion of natural virtue.

From Clement until the promulgation of the first universal Code of Canon Law in 1917, eight popes issued encyclicals or papal bulls denouncing Freemasonry and imposing a penalty of automatic excommunication reserved to the Holy See for any Catholic who joined.

The Church has continuously condemned the idea of Freemasonry because it removed Catholics from legitimate ecclesiastical oversight while they were being, effectively, catechised into a new philosophy — a different way of looking at the world. 

In the decades following the Second Vatican Council, Masonic lodges in some countries argued that the Church’s prohibition on Catholic membership had changed, since the revised Code of Canon Law no longer specifically listed Masonic lodges by name in the laws describing societies Catholics are prohibited from joining.

The textual change in the Church’s law gave rise to an erroneous impression in some territories, and among some canonists, that Catholic membership of the Freemasons was no longer prohibited. 

In fact, the committee responsible for the revision of the Code of Canon Law proposed and decided to remove explicit reference to Freemasonry in the canon on prohibited societies because of concerns the canon would otherwise be too narrowly interpreted — that Catholics might think only Masonic societies were banned by the law.

But since the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the Vatican has repeatedly stated that Masonic membership and philosophy is totally incompatible with the Catholic faith, and that joining such organizations incurs penal sanctions.

Subscribe now

Masonic lodges began as trade guilds of stoneworkers in Medieval England and Scotland. 

Despite historical fictions pretending to links to ancient Egypt and the construction of Solomon’s Temple, the modern iteration of Freemasonry, as a club for would-be alchemists, pseudo-philosophers, political dissidents, religious non-conformists, began in a London pub in 1717.

Shortly thereafter, Masonic lodges spread throughout Europe. 

In the territory which would become modern Italy, Masonic societies often acted as violent terrorist cells within the papal states, in addition to banned philosophical societies. 

In 1821, Pius VII’s apostolic constitution Ecclesiam a Iesu Christo repeated the papal ban on masonic societies, including those attempting to violently overthrow the papal states. But, the pope taught that the true threat came from the masonic philosophy of religious indifferentism, and promotion of what is today called “secularism.”

In one of several encyclicals condemning Freemasonry, Leo XIII explained masonic the secuarist agenda which, he said, included “the State, which [Freemasonry believes] ought to be absolutely atheistic, having the inalienable right and duty to form the heart and the spirit of its citizens,” as well as the treatment of marriage as a merely civil contract which could be dissolved at will.

Freemasonry in Italy enjoyed considerable social prominence in the years follow the Risorgimento, the military campaign to unify the various states of the Italian peninsula, led by Victor Emmanuel (later styled as “King of Italy”) and the mercenary general Giuseppe Garibaldi, themselves prominent Freemasons.

Garibaldi founded the Grand Orient of Italy in Palermo in 1861 and served as its first Grand Master. Italian masonic lodges were then suppressed during the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, but reintroduced after World War II with the support of American masons present among U.S. troops.

Since the war, masonic lodges in Italy have featured in several prominent scandals, including alleged plots to subvert the political process or influence the government. By law, masonic lodges in Italy are required to register their membership to the government. 

The most famous of Italian masonic scandals was the 1981 “P2” scandal, named for Propaganda Due, an unregistered masonic lodge whose membership roles were discovered in a police raid on the home of its master, Licio Gelli. 

The membership list included prominent politicians, generals, judges, the heads of all three Italian intelligence services, businessmen, and the heir to the Italian throne. 

Also on the list was Roberto Calvi, the president of Banco Ambrosiano, which was majority owned by the Vatican’s Institute for Works of Religion. 

A 1981 report by Italian banking authorities found Banco Ambrosiano had illegally transferred billions of lire out of Italy, leading to the eventual collapse of the bank, the Vatican paying hundreds of millions of dollars to its creditors, as well as Calvi’s apparent murder the following year.

Calvi's body was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London. The members of P2 referred to each other in seized documents as frati neri; Calvi's pockets had been filled with pieces of masonry.

Subscribe now

Comments 30