The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), in a document signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Victor Fernandéz, and approved by Pope Francis, has reaffirmed that Catholics are forbidden from joining Freemasonry. There was no new teaching elucidated upon in this note, but simply a reaffirmation of what the Catholic Church has always taught: that Catholicism and Freemasonry are irreconciled, and it is a grave sin for a Catholic to belong to any Masonic associations. The Catholic Church teaches that Grave sin “deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes up incapable of eternal life . . .” (CCC 1472).
The occasion for this note from the DDF was a plea for help from His Excellency, the Most Rev. Julito Cortes, Bishop of Dumaguete, Philippines, asking for suggestions on how the Filipino Bishops should respond to the continuous rise in the number of faithful enrolled in Freemasonry. In this note, the DDF repeats Bishop Cortes assessment of the situation, “Membership in Freemasonry is very significant in the Philippines; it involves not only those who are formally enrolled in Masonic Lodges but, more generally, a large number of sympathizers and associates who are personally convinced that there is no opposition between membership in the Catholic Church and in Masonic Lodges.”
This DDF note follows a March 24, 2023, negative statement against Freemasonry by the Commission on the Doctrine of Faith of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Freemasonry has become a cultural phenomenon in many places in the world. Still, there are only two places where it has been a cultural phenomenon amongst the middle class: the Philippines, the Caribbean Islands, and Black America. In other places, such as Austria, Cuba, and Liberia, where Freemasonry was cultural but only cultural to the milieu of the upper class, once the economy collapsed or there was a revolution that disempowered the ruling class, the influence of Freemasonry largely evaporated. When Freemasonry is cultural amongst the middle class, it becomes immune to dramatic changes in social and economic climates.
I have spoken in other places about the permeance of Freemasonry in the Black American Culture (here and here) and the Caribbean Islands. In this essay, I will focus on the Philippines, the efforts of the Catholic Church to uproot Freemasonry, and the four steps I recommend to uproot Freemasonry out of the Filipino Catholic Church in just ten years.
Catholicism and Freemasonry as Spanish Export to the Philippines
The Philippines has been a predominantly Catholic country since the Spanish colonial period, which began in 1521. Catholicism was introduced by Spanish missionaries and settlers, who converted most of the native population to Christianity. Catholicism became the official religion of the Spanish empire, and the Catholic Church played a significant role in the Philippines’ administration, education, and culture. According to the Catholic Church in the Philippines, about 80% of the population is Catholic as of 2021.
Freemasonry was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish naval officers and settlers in the 19th century under the auspices of various grand lodges from Europe. However, native Filipinos were not allowed to join the lodges until the late 19th century, when Filipino nationalists living in Spain founded their lodges under the Grande Oriente Español (i.e., the Continental Sect of Freemasonry). These lodges, such as Logia Revolución and Logia Solidaridad, became the centers of the Propaganda Movement, which advocated for social and political reforms in the Philippines.
Today, according to a 2023 report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, “of the 108,667,043 household population in 2020, nearly four-fifths or 85,645,362 persons (78.8%) reported Roman Catholic as their religious affiliation. Islam followed it with 6,981,710 persons (6.4%), and Iglesia ni Cristo (Protestant) with 2,806,524 persons (2.6%). In 2015, these were also the top three religious affiliations in the country. Completing the top ten religious affiliations in 2020 are Seventh Day Adventist and Aglipay (0.8% each); Iglesia Filipina Independiente (0.6%); Bible Baptist Church (0.5%); and United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Jehovah’s Witness, and Church of Christ (0.4% each).”
Catholic Freemasons Lead the Revolution for Filipino Freedom
It is important to appreciate why Filipino Freemasonry affectionately speaks of and promotes their organization as being the ‘Cradle of Heroes’ and the ‘Builders of a Nation.’ In no other country today does Freemasonry identify so closely with nationalism.
As I have discussed in other places, in particular my book The Catholic Catechism on Freemasonry, since Freemasons have always fought on both sides of wars, the Masonic principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity have always inspired men to believe that they could do better than their current situation and that they could find other likeminded me to join them in the struggle. From the American Revolution to the French Revolution to the Revolutions of 1848 to the Philippine Revolution of 1896, we have always found Freemasons to be the leading revolutionaries.
Yet, typically, it is not the Masonic lodge where the revolutionaries organize because, again, not all Freemasons are on the same page concerning the. As it was before the American Revolution, it was the Sons of Liberty (formed in Boston in 1765) where Freemasons organized with a small group of like-minded men, the Filipino Freemasons organized in the Katipunan (formed in Manila in 1892).
The Sons of Liberty and the Katipunan had many similarities and differences in their history, goals, and methods. Some of the similarities and differences are:
- Both groups were formed in response to the oppressive colonial rule of a foreign power, which imposed unjust taxes and laws on the colonists or the natives. Both groups sought independence and self-government for their respective nations.
- Both groups were not Masonic organizations, but many of their members and leaders were Freemasons who shared the values of liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice. Freemasonry influenced the values and ideals of both groups and the symbols, rituals, and codes they used to communicate and organize their activities.
- Both groups used violent and non-violent means to resist the colonial authorities, such as protests, boycotts, raids, assassinations, and battles. Both groups also had a famous act of rebellion.
Most importantly, the Katipunan and the Sons of Liberty had famous Freemason members and important figures in their respective revolutions.
Some famous Freemasons who were members of the Sons of Liberty were Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. They played vital roles in the American Revolution in 1775 against British colonial rule. Samuel Adams was the leader and organizer of the Sons of Liberty, who orchestrated the Boston Tea Party, the most famous act of rebellion. John Hancock was the president of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Paul Revere was the messenger of the Sons of Liberty, who alerted the colonists of the British invasion in 1775. Patrick Henry, the orator of the Sons of Liberty, uttered the famous words, “Give me liberty or death,” in 1775. Benjamin Franklin was the diplomat and scientist of the Sons of Liberty, who secured France’s alliance in 1778. George Washington was the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, who led the colonists to victory in 1783.
Some famous Freemasons who were members of the Katipunan were Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, Emilio Aguinaldo, Antonio Luna, and Apolinario Mabini. These men used the platform, symbols, rituals, codes, and doors Freemasonry afforded them to express their ideals and aspirations to Masonic leaders in the United States, Spain, and Europe to engage them in the first for their freedom. They also played critical roles in the Philippine Revolution of 1896 against the Spanish colonial rule. Andres Bonifacio was the founder and leader of the Katipunan, who initiated the Cry of Pugad Lawin, the first act of rebellion. Emilio Jacinto was the brains of the Katipunan, who wrote the Kartilya ng Katipunan, the primer of the society. Emilio Aguinaldo was the revolutionary government president who declared the Philippines’ independence in 1898. Antonio Luna was the revolutionary army general who fought bravely against the Spanish and American forces. Luna also founded newspapers and publications that advocated for civil rights, secular education, and representation for the Filipinos. Apolinario Mabini was the prime minister of the revolutionary government who drafted the Malolos Constitution, the first republican constitution in Asia.
Filipino Freemasonry also inspired Catholic Freemasons such as Marcelo H. del Pilar (later a leader of the anti-Friar movement) and Father Graciano Lopez Jaena (who subsequently renounced his priesthood and became a journalist) in the reform movement and the propaganda work that aimed to expose the abuses and injustices of the Spanish colonial government.
The Appeal to Filipino Freemasonry is Culture, Tradition, and Family
For these historical factors, Freemasonry in the Philippines is deeply rooted in the political and cultural identity of what it means to be a free Filipino people, and that cultural identity is not detached in any way from their religious, cultural identity as a Catholic Filipino people. Trying to separate these two things would be like trying to surgically separate conjoined twins who share the same heart and lungs.
I have written in other places about how the Black American culture was intertwined with the Black Protestant Church and Prince Hall Freemasonry from the late 18th century until the end of the Civil Rights Movement and currently how intertwined Catholicism is with Freemasonry in Haiti, but nothing compares to what we find in the Philippines today, where Masonic lodges participate in the public processions during Catholic solemnities, where Filipino priests openly contradict Church teaching against Freemasonry, and where Masonic monuments are erected just a mile away from the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Cabanatuan. To be a Filipino Catholic Freemason is a point of pride and national heritage.
In 2020, the Dumaguete City government broke ground for the construction of an 18-floor Masonic obelisk to be called the “Dumaguete Tower” at the historic Manuel L. Quezon Park, located in front of the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral. In response, the Cathedral Parish Pastoral Council petitioned the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to intervene on the matter. As of now, the project is still in its early stages and the outcome is uncertain. The proponents and the opponents (including scientists, fishers, and civil society organizations) of the project are still engaged in a legal and social battle that may take a long time to resolve.
In addition to the historical allegiance to Freemasonry and its heroes, the Filipino appeal to Freemasonry is the same appeal many have to the Traditional liturgies. Freemasonry is static, traditional, and consistent. Aside from minor differences in the rituals between jurisdictions and sects, Freemasonry has stayed the same for centuries; the way Freemasons dress has not changed, and the buildings have not changed. Cultural people like cultural things. Things that are not consistent are not viewed as being trustworthy.
Another critical understanding of Freemasonry in the Philippines is that it is very communal and expressed in a Catholic way. It reminds me of how Freemasonry is expressed in the Scandinavian countries. Here, you have a majority of men who belong to the same religion who view their organization as a fraternity of men of that religion who perform works of charity that are consistent with their religion. So, when you tell a Filipino that Freemasonry is incompatible with Catholicism, they will flatly disagree because they believe that their expression of Freemasonry, alongside other Catholic men, is very Catholic. How could it be anything else but who they are?
Filipino men even find Freemasonry to be very family-oriented. Of their nearly 420 active Masonic lodges, spread around the islands of the Philippines, 293 hold their monthly meeting on Saturday; another 70 meet on Friday. This is completely different from the United States, where Freemasonry primarily meets on the weekdays. Weekend meetings not only encourage members to travel to each other lodges for fellowship but also mean that their lodge brothers are considered family members because the weekend is for family time.
How to Uproot Freemasonry from the Philippines
The DDF did not give specifics on how to uproot Freemasonry out of the Catholic Church in the Philippines but only recommended that “On the pastoral level, the Dicastery proposes that the Philippine Bishops conduct catechesis accessible to the people and in all parishes regarding the reasons for the irreconcilability between the Catholic Faith and Freemasonry.”
For all the reasons above, to culture, tradition, history, and family, the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines will not get anywhere with that. That is not how you operate on conjoined twins. The synodal/subsidiarity approach does not work in this instance. Bishop Cortes asked for specific guidance from the Vatican and the DDF should have given it to him. A more aggressive strategy than what the DDF recommends is needed here! These excommunicated Catholics must be forced to choose between Heaven and Hell, Catholic or Freemason. Here are the four easy steps to force the issue and resolve it within just one generation.
- For the next ten years, require the priest celebrant at every Mass to remind all congregants before communion to state, “Anyone who is in grave sin, including holding membership in any Masonic body, is not eligible to receive Holy Communion at this time, but are invited to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation immediately following Mass. Thank you.”
- Create and heavily fund, organize, and promote an annual program that promotes national Catholic pride that celebrates Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Saint Pedro Calungsod and all of the Beatified, Venerables, and Servants of God of the Filipino People as the true heroes of the Philippines rather than the revolutionaries who could be in Hell right now. Teach the faithful that what it means to be a faithful Catholic is obedience to Church teaching like the saints.
- Initiate a Penance and Reconciliation Revival where every month for the next ten years, on a Saturday, on a different island, the bishops hold a festival for people who celebrate and receive the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
- Give every Catholic in the Philippines a copy of The Compendium of the Catholic Catechism on Freemasonry. I’ll translate it into Filipino, no problem.
If you do these four things for the next ten years, the only Catholics who will remain Freemasons are those who are possessed by a demon.
Some might suggest the Knights of Columbus (KofC) be promoted more aggressively in the Philippines as a substitute fraternity for Catholic Freemasons. If it is the case that the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines are not infested with Freemasons, as we have found in other places, then that could be recommended. But if the KofC is just another meeting of Freemasons pretending to be Catholic, then they also need to be uprooted.