In February 2020, the Catholic internet was taken aback by the release of a German-language book entitled Loge und Altar: Über die Aussöhnung von Katholischer Kirche und regulärer Freimaurerei (Lodge and Altar: On the Reconciliation of the Catholic Church and Regular Freemasonry), which was written by Father Michael Heinrich Weninger, a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and also an Austrian Freemason – belonging to the Grand Lodge of Austria AF&AM (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons) and is also a Chaplain in at least three Masonic lodges and also in 2014 presided over a ‘Commemoration Mass’ celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the Consecration of New Quarries Mark Master Mason’s Lodge and the Consecration of St Margaret’s Mark Master Mason’s Lodge was held in the Castle Church.
Weninger was ordained a Catholic priest in 2011, and his ‘self-interested’ and ‘self-justifying’ 500-page book is based upon his 2019 doctoral dissertation Über die Aussöhnung von Katholischer Kirche und regulärer Freimaurerei (On the Reconciliation of the Catholic Church and Regular Freemasonry), which he completed at the Pontifical Gregorian University. This book is the immediate culmination of an effort by Weniger to minister to Catholic Freemasons and assure them that they are not excommunicated from the Church; many of whom, according to Weniger, are suffering from having to choose between freemasonry and the Church and are suffering mental problems because they cannot make that choice.
The central premise of Über die Aussöhnung von Katholischer Kirche und regulärer Freimaurerei is that Masonic politics and the ‘external’ expression of Masonic principles are all that matters. Despite the fact that no Pope or Canon Law has ever given credence to Masonic political distinctions between who is regular and who is irregular, Weniger posits in his work that it was only the ‘irregular’ Freemasons, such as the Grand Orient of France and Italy that the Catholic Church found to have plotted against it; that ‘regular’ Grand Lodges, such as those who descend from the Mother Grand Lodges of England, Ireland, and Scotland are the good guys and are compatible with Catholicism.
There are further distinctions to be made between subset ‘irregular’ Masonic groups, such as Le Droit Humain (International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain/Human Law), which both Anglo and Continental Freemasons have pronounced as being irregular due to that sect initiating people without care of gender or religion. On February 14, 2020, EWTN’s National Catholic Register published an interview with Serge Abad-Gallardo, a member of Le Droit Humain, in which he claimed to have heard a prayer to the name of Lucifer during a Le Droit Humain Scottish Rite ritual. Of course, both Anglo and Continental Scottish Rite Freemasons would assert that the rites of Le Droit Humain are not identical to their systems, and the name of Lucifer has not pronounced anywhere in their rituals. Perhaps Le Droit Humain changed the password to the 17th degree (Knight of the East and West) of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite from Abaddon (meaning ‘destruction’) (Gk. Apollyon – meaning, ‘one who destroys’) to Lucifer or Satan. Here, as in many other instances, the password for a Masonic degree is borrowed from sacred Scripture: “They have a king over them; the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, he is called Apollyon” (Revelation 9:11).
As I outlined in my comprehensive and detailed 300-page book The Catholic Catechism on Freemasonry: A Theological and Historical Treatment on the Catholic Church’s Prohibition Against Freemasonry and its Appendant Masonic Bodies, while there are some unique aspects between what is distinguished as Anglo versus Continental Freemasonry, what the Catholic Church has always held to be the principles of Freemasonry; namely, indifferentism, secularism, naturalism, and relativism, is present in every sect of Freemasonry, regardless of inside political disputes between Grand Lodges about their ‘regularity’ (i.e., pedigree and praxis).
As I stated on page 113 of my book, Blessed Pope Pius IX’s 1873 encyclical Etsi Multa was the first Papal document that most clearly addressed the argument the Church’s prohibition against Freemasonry was not global, stating, “Teach them that these decrees refer not only to Masonic groups in Europe, but also those in America and other regions of the world.” By 1873, the dispute between the Anglo and Continental Freemasons was well-known, and it was also well-known by Catholic Bishops that Masonic membership was a prevalent problem in bringing Black American men into the Catholic Church (see pages 238 – 242). Yet, despite that, Pius IX refused to make any distinctions in the prohibition against Freemasonry being based upon inside Masonic politics.
Weninger’s self-interested and self-justifying hope of reconciling Catholicism with Freemasonry was cosigned on February 11, 2020, book presentation in Vienna by his Grand Master, Georg Semler, also a Catholic. Semler “praised Weninger’s book as an important step towards reconciliation with important clarifications. He also underlined that Freemasonry was not a religion, and party politics and religion were not topics in the lodges. But maybe one or the other official gesture of reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Freemasons would be needed” (Vienna: a plea for reconciliation between church and Freemasons).
The Masonic talking point that Freemasonry is not a religion is an important topic that I devote an entire chapter to in my book, The Catholic Catechism on Freemasonry. In that chapter, I prove that Freemasonry is a religion, not only according to its own founding constitution, in which it twice calls itself a universal religion, but also proves itself to be a religion through the conferral of its sacraments.
According to self-reporting statistics, 20% (235,000) of current American Masons also profess to be Catholics. In his book, Weninger claims that there are at least two million Catholic Freemasons globally. It is to this captive audience and men like Missouri Grand Master Malcolm Morris (also a Catholic) that Weninger’s book and ministry will offer the greatest hope.
The Problem of Austrian Freemasons
Some have wondered whether Father Weniger will suffer the same fate that Father Pascal Vesin suffered in 2013 when he was suspended on the order of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith given to his Bishop Yves Boivineau of Annecy in southeastern France after the priest was anonymously outed for being as a member of a Masonic lodge belonging to the Grand Orient of France and repeatedly refused to renounce Freemasonry. Vesin had been initiated into Freemasonry in 2001, five years after his 1996 ordination.
That is unlikely to be the fate of Father Michael Heinrich Weninger, given that he had openly and proudly announced to the reporters at his press conference that he had given a copy of his new book to Pope Francis and influential members of the Curia.
If Weniger’s and his Grand Master, Georg Semler’s, already ipso facto/latae sententiae excommunication is not publically enforced by the Vatican, they will join a long list of Austrians who flaunted their Masonic membership and prove to be immune to the enforcers of Catholic orthodoxy.
Indeed, Austria has been a sanctuary country for Catholic Freemasons for centuries and one of the greatest Masonic success stories outside of England and the United States. Although Maria Theresa appealed to the Catholic Church’s prohibition against Freemasonry during her forty-year reign as sovereign ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian police never chose to pursue aristocrats known as Freemasons. It did not help the cause for consistency that her Catholic husband, Emperor Francis I, was also a Freemason.
After Maria Theresa’s death, her son Joseph II lifted the suppression of Freemasonry in Vienna, Austria, and membership into the Masonic Order Freemasonry became one of the mandatory status symbols that one endeared to high social standing would ensure have attained. Freemasonry was the norm in Catholic Austria in eighteenth-century Vienna “even the symbols of Freemasonry found their way onto women’s clothing, and it became fashionable to wear white gloves like the Freemasons” (The Catechism on Freemasonry, pg. 81).
“Freemasonry in Vienna was known for its gathering together of intellectuals and artists. Such notable Catholics who had become Freemasons in Austria include composer and virtuoso pianist Johan Nepomuk Hummel, mineralogist and metallurgist Ignaz von Born, composer, conductor, music teacher, and violinist Leopold Mozart, Angelo Soliman (born Mmadi Make in around the Gulf of Guinea Africa), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Joseph Haydn. Also notable among this group was composer, conductor, and teacher Alexander von Zemlimsky, whose parents were Catholic, but himself was born a Jew due to his parents converting to Judaism, the religion of his great grandmother” (ibid).
In my book, I write more in-depth about Mozart and Haydn because their experiences in Freemasonry were so unique from each other, although it was Mozart who had courted the elder into the lodge Zur Wahen Eintracht. Yet, on the night of Haydn’s initiation, the journey of these two brilliant composers, Catholics, and Freemasons, ended. For, Haydn realized that he had been duped into joining a pagan religion, while Mozart had found both home and fame in the Masonic mysteries.
For his part, Father Michael Heinrich Weninger reminds me of Mozart in that he is far too sunken deep in the bottomless pit to smell the stench of his own pride or to see Satan laughing at him. What a pity!