Apostolic Penitentiary regent, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti made the statement on Thursday at a conference on the topic of Freemasonry held at the St Bonaventure Pontifical Theological Faculty, Zenit reports.
The bishop presided over the congress held in cooperation with the Socio-Religious Research and Information Group of Italy. Officials of Masonic associations and grand masters also took part in the meeting.
Bishop Girotti reminded his listeners that the Church has always criticised the concepts and philosophy of Freemasonry, considering them incompatible with the Catholic faith.
He mentioned the last official reference document, "Declaration on Masonic Associations," which was signed by the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on 26 November 1983.
The text states that since the principles of Masonic associations "have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church," membership in them, therefore, "remains forbidden."
"The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive holy Communion," adds the declaration signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Benedict XVI.
Fr Zbigniew Suchecki, an expert in the subject, quoted number 1374 of the Code of Canon Law, which reads: "Whoever is inscribed in an association that plots against the Church must be punished with a just penalty; whoever promotes or directs that association, must be banned."
"Masonry's attempts to express divine truths are based on relativism and do not agree with the principles of the Christian faith," Fr Suchecki said.
Bishop Girotti made reference to the statements of some priests who have declared publicly their membership in Masonry and called for the intervention of "their direct superiors," not excluding the possibility that "measures of a canonical character might come from the Holy See."
Regent Restates Vatican's Anti-Masonry Position (Zenit, 2/2/07)
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5 Mar 2007