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Quaesitum est is a declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith forbidding Catholics from joining Masonic organizations. It is also known in English as the Declaration on Masonic Associations. The document asserts that Catholics who join Masonic organizations 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 XVI on April 19, 2005.
History of Canon Law regarding Freemasonry
Catholic canon law has forbidden membership in Masonic organizations since at least 1738, with Pope Clement XII's papal bull In Eminenti. Later popes continued to ban Masonic membership through the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries. When canon law was codified into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, these existing prohibitions were preserved in the code, especially in Can 2335. The 1917 code 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. [p. 924.]
The 1983 Code of Canon Law superseded the 1917 Code. Specific mention of Masonry was omitted from the new code. However, membership in organizations that "plot against the Church" is prohibited.
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.
In the 1917 code, Masonry was specifically mentioned, but in the 1983 code it was 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. The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion."
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 Masonry dated April 19, 1985 by Cardinal Bernard Law.
- "Quaesitum est," Acta Apostolicae Sedis 76 (1984) 300. (From EV, No. 553, pp. 482-87)
- Declaration on Masonic Associations, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Holy See
- 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.