- Quaesitum est
"Quaesitum est" is a declaration by the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faithforbidding Catholics from joining Masonicorganizations. If they do so, they are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. It was issued in 1983 by the prefect of the congregation, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVIon April 19 2005.
History of Canon Law Regarding Freemasonry
Canon Law Regarding Freemasonry (1917-1983)
This Code of Canon Law (Can 2335), forbids Catholics, under the penalty of
excommunication, to enroll in Masonic or other similar associations.
Can 2335: Affiliation With Masonic or Similar Societies. Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See. (c. 2335). [p. 924.] Simply Reserved to the Holy See (4)
1. Masonic Societies (c. 2335).
a. The censure is incurred if the society is one which plots against Church or State, openly or secretly, whether members are secret or not, bound by oath or not. Cappelo thinks Socialists are included. Communist party certainly is. Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, are forbidden as intrinsically wrong, but not under censure (Holy Office, 20 June, 1895, 18 Jan., 1896).
b. Conditions for absolution: total withdrawal from the society, promise to have nothing to do with it and pay no more dues, to repair scandal as far as possible, to turn over insignia, etc., to withdraw name from rolls as soon as this can be done without grave loss (Holy Office, 7 March 1883; Gasparri-Serédi, Fontes, n. 1080, Vol. IV, p. 412).
c. In the case of the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, no censure has been incurred. The conditions for absolution of the sin are the same as above except that, to avoid grave loss, a person may continue paying dues. The confessor must refer each case to the Apostolic Delegate or his Metropolitan (Holy Office, 18 Jan., 1896; Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. 14, p. 361). [p. 960.]
[c. 1399] Books forbidden ipso iure
8. Books Favoring Dueling, Suicide, Divorce, Masonry. Books which hold dueling, suicide or divorce licit, or which, treating of Masonic sects and other such societies, contend that they are useful and not harmful to the Church and civil society are ipso iure forbidden (c. 1399, 8°).
Canon Law Regarding Freemasonry (1983-Now)
Can. 1374. A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; one who promotes or takes office in such an association is to be punished with an interdict.
Declaration on Masonic Associations (Quaesitum est)
In Can. 2335, Masonry is mentioned, but in 1374 is not. Since the new canon law did not specifically mention Masonry, any issues or questions about Roman Catholics with Masonic associations was clarified by the document "Quaesitum est" which can be summarized by the statement, "...the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden."
It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church’s decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous Code.
This Sacred Congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance in due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.
Therefore the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.
It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the Declaration of this Sacred Congregation issued on 17 February 1981 (cf. AAS 73 1981 pp. 240-241; English language edition of L’Osservatore Romano, 9 March 1981).
In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this Declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this Sacred Congregation.
Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 26 November 1983.
Joseph Card. RATZINGER
+ Fr. Jerome Hamer, O.P.
Titular Archbishop of Lorium
Even though "Quaesitum est" is the definitive statement, for an analysis of how Bishops investigated Masonry and some their findings please see
Letter to U.S. Bishops Concerning Masonrydated April 19 1985by Cardinal Bernard Lawalso found at http://www.catholiculture.net/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=5285
Catholicism and Freemasonry
*"Quaesitum est," AAS 76 (1984) 300. (From EV, No. 553, pp. 482-87)
*Canon Law, A Text and Commentary. T. Lincoln Bouscaren, S.J.; Adam C. Ellis, S.J.; Francis N. Korth, S.J.. Fourth Revised Edition, The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee: 1963 [Imprimatur: + William E. Cousins, Archbishop of Milwaukee] LoCCN: 63-22295.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.