To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic

World in Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the

Giver of heavenly gifts, "through the envy of the devil," separated into

two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for

truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue

and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true

Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be

united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and

His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The

other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all

whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first

parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who

have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also

against God.

2. This twofold kingdom St. Augustine keenly discerned and described

after the manner of two cities, contrary in their laws because striving

for contrary objects; and with a subtle brevity he expressed the

efficient cause of each in these words: "Two loves formed two cities: the

love of self, reaching even to contempt of God, an earthly city; and the

love of God, reaching to contempt of self, a heavenly one."[1] At every

period of time each has been in conflict with the other, with a variety

and multiplicity of weapons and of warfare, although not always with

equal ardor and assault. At this period, however, the partisans of evil

seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united

vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread

association called the Freemasons. No longer making any secret of their

purposes, they are now boldly rising up against God Himself. They are

planning the destruction of holy Church publicly and openly, and this

with the set purpose of utterly despoiling the nations of Christendom, if

it were possible, of the blessings obtained for us through Jesus Christ

our Savior. Lamenting these evils, We are constrained by the charity

which urges Our heart to cry out often to God: "For lo, Thy enemies have

made a noise; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head. They have

taken a malicious counsel against Thy people, and they have consulted

against Thy saints. They have said, 'come, and let us destroy them, so

that they be not a nation'."[2]

3. At so urgent a crisis, when so fierce and so pressing an onslaught is

made upon the Christian name, it is Our office to point out the danger,

to mark who are the adversaries, and to the best of Our power to make

head against their plans and devices, that those may not perish whose

salvation is committed to Us, and that the kingdom of Jesus Christ

entrusted to Our charge may not stand and remain whole, but may be

enlarged by an ever-increasing growth throughout the world.

4. The Roman Pontiffs Our predecessors, in their incessant watchfulness

over the safety of the Christian people, were prompt in detecting the

presence and the purpose of this capital enemy immediately it sprang into

the light instead of hiding as a dark conspiracy; and, moreover, they

took occasion with true foresight to give, as it were on their guard, and

not allow themselves to be caught by the devices and snares laid out to

deceive them.

5. The first warning of the danger was given by Clement XII in the year

1738,[3] and his constitution was confirmed and renewed by Benedict

XIV.[4] Pius VII followed the same path;[5] and Leo XII, by his apostolic

constitution, Quo Graviora,[6] put together the acts and decrees of

former Pontiffs on this subject, and ratified and confirmed them forever.

In the same sense spoke Pius VIII,[7] Gregory XVI,[8] and, many times

over, Pius IX.[9]

6. For as soon as the constitution and the spirit of the masonic sect

were clearly discovered by manifest signs of its actions, by the

investigation of its causes, by publication of its laws, and of its rites

and commentaries, with the addition often of the personal testimony of

those who were in the secret, this apostolic see denounced the sect of

the Freemasons, and publicly declared its constitution, as contrary to

law and right, to be pernicious no less to Christendom than to the State;

and it forbade any one to enter the society, under the penalties which

the Church is wont to inflict upon exceptionally guilty persons. The

sectaries, indignant at this, thinking to elude or to weaken the force of

these decrees, partly by contempt of them, and partly by calumny, accused

the sovereign Pontiffs who had passed them either of exceeding the bounds

of moderation in their decrees or of decreeing what was not just. This

was the manner in which they endeavored to elude the authority and the

weight of the apostolic constitutions of Clement XII and Benedict XIV, as

well as of Pius VII and Pius IX.[10] Yet, in the very society itself,

there were to be found men who unwillingly acknowledged that the Roman

Pontiffs had acted within their right, according to the Catholic doctrine

and discipline. The Pontiffs received the same assent, and in strong

terms, from many princes and heads of governments, who made it their

business either to delate the masonic society to the apostolic see, or of

their own accord by special enactments to brand it as pernicious, as, for

example, in Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Bavaria, Savoy, and

other parts of Italy.

7. But, what is of highest importance, the course of events has

demonstrated the prudence of Our predecessors. For their provident and

paternal solicitude had not always and every where the result desired;

and this, either because of the simulation and cunning of some who were

active agents in the mischief, or else of the thoughtless levity of the

rest who ought, in their own interest, to have given to the matter their

diligent attention. In consequence, the sect of Freemasons grew with a

rapidity beyond conception in the course of a century and a half, until

it came to be able, by means of fraud or of audacity, to gain such

entrance into every rank of the State as to seem to be almost its ruling

power. This swift and formidable advance has brought upon the Church,

upon the power of princes, upon the public well-being, precisely that

grievous harm which Our predecessors had long before foreseen. Such a

condition has been reached that henceforth there will be grave reason to

fear, not indeed for the Church--for her foundation is much too firm to

be overturned by the effort of men--but for those States in which

prevails the power, either of the sect of which we are speaking or of

other sects not dissimilar which lend themselves to it as disciples and


8. For these reasons We no sooner came to the helm of the Church than We

clearly saw and felt it to be Our duty to use Our authority to the very

utmost against so vast an evil. We have several times already, as

occasion served, attacked certain chief points of teaching which showed

in a special manner the perverse influence of Masonic opinions. Thus, in

Our encyclical letter, Quod Apostolici Muneris, We endeavored to refute

the monstrous doctrines of the socialists and communists; afterwards, in

another beginning "Arcanum," We took pains to defend and explain the true

and genuine idea of domestic life, of which marriage is the spring and

origin; and again, in that which begins "Diuturnum,"[11] We described the

ideal of political government conformed to the principles of Christian

wisdom, which is marvelously in harmony, on the one hand, with the

natural order of things, and, in the other, with the well-being of both

sovereign princes and of nations. It is now Our intention, following the

example of Our predecessors, directly to treat of the masonic society

itself, of its whole teaching, of its aims, and of its manner of thinking

and acting, in order to bring more and more into the light its power for

evil, and to do what We can to arrest the contagion of this fatal plague.

9. There are several organized bodies which, though differing in name, in

ceremonial, in form and origin, are nevertheless so bound together by

community of purpose and by the similarity of their main opinions, as to

make in fact one thing with the sect of the Freemasons, which is a kind

of center whence they all go forth, and whither they all return. Now,

these no longer show a desire to remain concealed; for they hold their

meetings in the daylight and before the public eye, and publish their own

newspaper organs; and yet, when thoroughly understood, they are found

still to retain the nature and the habits of secret societies. There are

many things like mysteries which it is the fixed rule to hide with

extreme care, not only from strangers, but from very many members, also;

such as their secret and final designs, the names of the chief leaders,

and certain secret and inner meetings, as well as their decisions, and

the ways and means of carrying them out. This is, no doubt, the object of

the manifold difference among the members as to right, office, and

privilege, of the received distinction of orders and grades, and of that

severe discipline which is maintained.

Candidates are generally commanded to promise--nay, with a special oath,

to swear--that they will never, to any person, at any time or in any way,

make known the members, the passes, or the subjects discussed. Thus, with

a fraudulent external appearance, and with a style of simulation which is

always the same, the Freemasons, like the Manichees of old, strive, as

far as possible, to conceal themselves, and to admit no witnesses but

their own members. As a convenient manner of concealment, they assume the

character of literary men and scholars associated for purposes of

learning. They speak of their zeal for a more cultured refinement, and of

their love for the poor; and they declare their one wish to be the

amelioration of the condition of the masses, and to share with the

largest possible number all the benefits of civil life. Were these

purposes aimed at in real truth, they are by no means the whole of their

object. Moreover, to be enrolled, it is necessary that the candidates

promise and undertake to be thenceforward strictly obedient to their

leaders and masters with the utmost submission and fidelity, and to be in

readiness to do their bidding upon the slightest expression of their

will; or, if disobedient, to submit to the direst penalties and death

itself. As a fact, if any are judged to have betrayed the doings of the

sect or to have resisted commands given, punishment is inflicted on them

not infrequently, and with so much audacity and dexterity that the

assassin very often escapes the detection and penalty of his crime.

10. But to simulate and wish to lie hid; to bind men like slaves in the

very tightest bonds, and without giving any sufficient reason; to make

use of men enslaved to the will of another for any arbitrary act; to arm

men's right hands for bloodshed after securing impunity for the

crime--all this is an enormity from which nature recoils. Wherefore,

reason and truth itself make it plain that the society of which we are

speaking is in antagonism with justice and natural uprightness. And this

becomes still plainer, inasmuch as other arguments, also, and those very

manifest, prove that it is essentially opposed to natural virtue. For, no

matter how great may be men's cleverness in concealing and their

experience in Iying, it is impossible to prevent the effects of any cause

from showing, in some way, the intrinsic nature of the cause whence they

come. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor a bad tree produce good

fruit."[12] Now, the masonic sect produces fruits that are pernicious and

of the bitterest savor. For, from what We have above most clearly shown,

that which is their ultimate purpose forces itself into view--namely, the

utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world

which the Christian teaching has produced, and the substitution of a new

state of things in accordance with their ideas, of which the foundations

and laws shall be drawn from mere naturalism.

11. What We have said, and are about to say, must be understood of the

sect of the Freemasons taken generically, and in so far as it comprises

the associations kindred to it and confederated with it, but not of the

individual members of them. There may be persons amongst these, and not a

few who, although not free from the guilt of having entangled themselves

in such associations, yet are neither themselves partners in their

criminal acts nor aware of the ultimate object which they are endeavoring

to attain. In the same way, some of the affiliated societies, perhaps, by

no means approve of the extreme conclusions which they would, if

consistent, embrace as necessarily following from their common

principles, did not their very foulness strike them with horror. Some of

these, again, are led by circumstances of times and places either to aim

at smaller things than the others usually attempt or than they themselves

would wish to attempt. They are not, however, for this reason, to be

reckoned as alien to the masonic federation; for the masonic federation

is to be judged not so much by the things which it has done, or brought

to completion, as by the sum of its pronounced opinions.

12. Now, the fundamental doctrine of the naturalists, which they

sufficiently make known by their very name, is that human nature and

human reason ought in all things to be mistress and guide. Laying this

down, they care little for duties to God, or pervert them by erroneous

and vague opinions. For they deny that anything has been taught by God;

they allow no dogma of religion or truth which cannot be understood by

the human intelligence, nor any teacher who ought to be believed by

reason of his authority. And since it is the special and exclusive duty

of the Catholic Church fully to set forth in words truths divinely

received, to teach, besides other divine helps to salvation, the

authority of its office, and to defend the same with perfect purity, it

is against the Church that the rage and attack of the enemies are

principally directed.

13. In those matters which regard religion let it be seen how the sect of

the Freemasons acts, especially where it is more free to act without

restraint, and then let any one judge whether in fact it does not wish to

carry out the policy of the naturalists. By a long and persevering labor,

they endeavor to bring about this result--namely, that the teaching

office and authority of the Church may become of no account in the civil

State; and for this same reason they declare to the people and contend

that Church and State ought to be altogether disunited. By this means

they reject from the laws and from the commonwealth the wholesome

influence of the Catholic religion; and they consequently imagine that

States ought to be constituted without any regard for the laws and

precepts of the Church.

14. Nor do they think it enough to disregard the Church--the best of

guides--unless they also injure it by their hostility. Indeed, with them

it is lawful to attack with impunity the very foundations of the Catholic

religion, in speech, in writing, and in teaching; and even the rights of

the Church are not spared, and the offices with which it is divinely

invested are not safe. The least possible liberty to manage affairs is

left to the Church; and this is done by laws not apparently very hostile,

but in reality framed and fitted to hinder freedom of action. Moreover,

We see exceptional and onerous laws imposed upon the clergy, to the end

that they may be continually diminished in number and in necessary means.

We see also the remnants of the possessions of the Church fettered by the

strictest conditions, and subjected to the power and arbitrary will of

the administrators of the State, and the religious orders rooted up and


15. But against the apostolic see and the Roman Pontiff the contention of

these enemies has been for a long time directed. The Pontiff was first,

for specious reasons, thrust out from the bulwark of his liberty and of

his right, the civil princedom; soon, he was unjustly driven into a

condition which was unbearable because of the difficulties raised on all

sides; and now the time has come when the partisans of the sects openly

declare, what in secret among themselves they have for a long time

plotted, that the sacred power of the Pontiffs must be abolished, and

that the papacy itself, founded by divine right, must be utterly

destroyed. If other proofs were wanting, this fact would be sufficiently

disclosed by the testimony of men well informed, of whom some at other

times, and others again recently, have declared it to be true of the

Freemasons that they especially desire to assail the Church with

irreconcilable hostility, and that they will never rest until they have

destroyed whatever the supreme Pontiffs have established for the sake of


16. If those who are admitted as members are not commanded to abjure by

any form of words the Catholic doctrines, this omission, so far from

being adverse to the designs of the Freemasons is more useful for their

purposes. First, in this way they easily deceive the simple-minded and

the heedless, and can induce a far greater number to become members.

Again, as all who offer themselves are received whatever may be their

form of religion, they thereby teach the great error of this age--that a

regard for religion should be held as an indifferent matter, and that all

religions are alike. This manner of reasoning is calculated to bring

about the ruin of all forms of religion, and especially of the Catholic

religion, which, as it is the only one that is true, cannot, without

great injustice, be regarded as merely equal to other religions.

17. But the naturalists go much further; for, having, in the highest

things, entered upon a wholly erroneous course, they are carried headlong

to extremes, either by reason of the weakness of human nature, or because

God inflicts upon them the just punishment of their pride. Hence it

happens that they no longer consider as certain and permanent those

things which are fully understood by the natural light of reason, such as

certainly are--the existence of God, the immaterial nature of the human

soul, and its immortality. The sect of the Freemasons, by a similar

course of error, is exposed to these same dangers; for, although in a

general way they may profess the existence of God, they themselves are

witnesses that they do not all maintain this truth with the full assent

of the mind or with a firm conviction. Neither do they conceal that this

question about God is the greatest source and cause of discords among

them; in fact, it is certain that a considerable contention about this

same subject has existed among them very lately. But, indeed, the sect

allows great liberty to its votaries, so that to each side is given the

right to defend its own opinion, either that there is a God, or that

there is none; and those who obstinately contend that there is no God are

as easily initiated as those who contend that God exists, though, like

the pantheists, they have false notions concerning Him: all which is

nothing else than taking away the reality, while retaining some absurd

representation of the divine nature.

18. When this greatest fundamental truth has been overturned or weakened,

it follows that those truths, also, which are known by the teaching of

nature must begin to fall--namely, that all things were made by the free

will of God the Creator; that the world is governed by Providence; that

souls do not die; that to this life of men upon the earth there will

succeed another and an everlasting life.

19. When these truths are done away with, which are as the principles of

nature and important for knowledge and for practical use, it is easy to

see what will become of both public and private morality. We say nothing

of those more heavenly virtues, which no one can exercise or even acquire

without a special gift and grace of God; of which necessarily no trace

can be found in those who reject as unknown the redemption of mankind,

the grace of God, the sacraments, and the happiness to be obtained in

heaven. We speak now of the duties which have their origin in natural

probity. That God is the Creator of the world and its provident Ruler;

that the eternal law commands the natural order to be maintained, and

forbids that it be disturbed; that the last end of men is a destiny far

above human things and beyond this sojourning upon the earth: these are

the sources and these the principles of all justice and morality.

If these be taken away, as the naturalists and Freemasons desire, there

will immediately be no knowledge as to what constitutes justice and

injustice, or upon what principle morality is founded. And, in truth, the

teaching of morality which alone finds favor with the sect of Freemasons,

and in which they contend that youth should be instructed, is that which

they call "civil," and "independent," and "free," namely, that which does

not contain any religious belief. But, how insufficient such teaching is,

how wanting in soundness, and how easily moved by every impulse of

passion, is sufficiently proved by its sad fruits, which have already

begun to appear. For, wherever, by removing Christian education, this

teaching has begun more completely to rule, there goodness and integrity

of morals have begun quickly to perish, monstrous and shameful opinions

have grown up, and the audacity of evil deeds has risen to a high degree.

All this is commonly complained of and deplored; and not a few of those

who by no means wish to do so are compelled by abundant evidence to give

not infrequently the same testimony.

20. Moreover, human nature was stained by original sin, and is therefore

more disposed to vice than to virtue. For a virtuous life it is

absolutely necessary to restrain the disorderly movements of the soul,

and to make the passions obedient to reason. In this conflict human

things must very often be despised, and the greatest labors and hardships

must be undergone, in order that reason may always hold its sway. But the

naturalists and Freemasons, having no faith in those things which we have

learned by the revelation of God, deny that our first parents sinned, and

consequently think that free will is not at all weakened and inclined to

evil.[13] On the contrary, exaggerating rather the power and the

excellence of nature, and placing therein alone the principle and rule of

justice, they cannot even imagine that there is any need at all of a

constant struggle and a perfect steadfastness to overcome the violence

and rule of our passions.

Wherefore we see that men are publicly tempted by the many allurements of

pleasure; that there are journals and pamphlets with neither moderation

nor shame; that stage-plays are remarkable for license; that designs for

works of art are shamelessly sought in the laws of a so-called verism;

that the contrivances of a soft and delicate life are most carefully

devised; and that all the blandishments of pleasure are diligently sought

out by which virtue may be lulled to sleep. Wickedly, also, but at the

same time quite consistently, do those act who do away with the

expectation of the joys of heaven, and bring down all happiness to the

level of mortality, and, as it were, sink it in the earth. Of what We

have said the following fact, astonishing not so much in itself as in its

open expression, may serve as a confirmation. For, since generally no one

is accustomed to obey crafty and clever men so submissively as those

whose soul is weakened and broken down by the domination of the passions,

there have been in the sect of the Freemasons some who have plainly

determined and proposed that, artfully and of set purpose, the multitude

should be satiated with a boundless license of vice, as, when this had

been done, it would easily come under their power and authority for any

acts of daring.

21. What refers to domestic life in the teaching of the naturalists is

almost all contained in the following declarations: that marriage belongs

to the genus of commercial contracts, which can rightly be revoked by the

will of those who made them, and that the civil rulers of the State have

power over the matrimonial bond; that in the education of youth nothing

is to be taught in the matter of religion as of certain and fixed

opinion; and each one must be left at liberty to follow, when he comes of

age, whatever he may prefer. To these things the Freemasons fully assent;

and not only assent, but have long endeavored to make them into a law and

institution. For in many countries, and those nominally Catholic, it is

enacted that no marriages shall be considered lawful except those

contracted by the civil rite; in other places the law permits divorce;

and in others every effort is used to make it lawful as soon as may be.

Thus, the time is quickly coming when marriages will be turned into

another kind of contract--that is into changeable and uncertain unions

which fancy may join together, and which the same when changed may


With the greatest unanimity the sect of the Freemasons also endeavors to

take to itself the education of youth. They think that they can easily

mold to their opinions that soft and pliant age, and bend it whither they

will; and that nothing can be more fitted than this to enable them to

bring up the youth of the State after their own plan. Therefore, in the

education and instruction of children they allow no share, either of

teaching or of discipline, to the ministers of the Church; and in many

places they have procured that the education of youth shall be

exclusively in the hands of laymen, and that nothing which treats of the

most important and most holy duties of men to God shall be introduced

into the instructions on morals.

22. Then come their doctrines of politics, in which the naturalists lay

down that all men have the same right, and are in every respect of equal

and like condition; that each one is naturally free; that no one has the

right to command another; that it is an act of violence to require men to

obey any authority other than that which is obtained from themselves.

According to this, therefore, all things belong to the free people; power

is held by the command or permission of the people, so that, when the

popular will changes, rulers may lawfully be deposed and the source of

all rights and civil duties is either in the multitude or in the

governing authority when this is constituted according to the latest

doctrines. It is held also that the State should be without God; that in

the various forms of religion there is no reason why one should have

precedence of another; and that they are all to occupy the same place.

23. That these doctrines are equally acceptable to the Freemasons, and

that they would wish to constitute States according to this example and

model, is too well known to require proof. For some time past they have

openly endeavored to bring this about with all their strength and

resources; and in this they prepare the way for not a few bolder men who

are hurrying on even to worse things, in their endeavor to obtain

equality and community of all goods by the destruction of every

distinction of rank and property.

24. What, therefore, sect of the Freemasons is, and what course it

pursues, appears sufficiently from the summary We have briefly given.

Their chief dogmas are so greatly and manifestly at variance with reason

that nothing can be more perverse. To wish to destroy the religion and

the Church which God Himself has established, and whose perpetuity He

insures by His protection, and to bring back after a lapse of eighteen

centuries the manners and customs of the pagans, is signal folly and

audacious impiety. Neither is it less horrible nor more tolerable that

they should repudiate the benefits which Jesus Christ so mercifully

obtained, not only for individuals, but also for the family and for civil

society, benefits which, even according to the judgment and testimony of

enemies of Christianity, are very great. In this insane and wicked

endeavor we may almost see the implacable hatred and spirit of revenge

with which Satan himself is inflamed against Jesus Christ.--So also the

studious endeavor of the Freemasons to destroy the chief foundations of

justice and honesty, and to co-operate with those who would wish, as if

they were mere animals, to do what they please, tends only to the

ignominious and disgraceful ruin of the human race.

The evil, too, is increased by the dangers which threaten both domestic

and civil society. As We have elsewhere shown, in marriage, according to

the belief of almost every nation, there is something sacred and

religious; and the law of God has determined that marriages shall not be

dissolved. If they are deprived of their sacred character, and made

dissoluble, trouble and confusion in the family will be the result, the

wife being deprived of her dignity and the children left without

protection as to their interests and well being.--To have in public

matters no care for religion, and in the arrangement and administration

of civil affairs to have no more regard for God than if He did not exist,

is a rashness unknown to the very pagans; for in their heart and soul the

notion of a divinity and the need of public religion were so firmly fixed

that they would have thought it easier to have city without foundation

than a city without God. Human society, indeed for which by nature we are

formed, has been constituted by God the Author of nature; and from Him,

as from their principle and source, flow in all their strength and

permanence the countless benefits with which society abounds. As we are

each of us admonished by the very voice of nature to worship God in piety

and holiness, as the Giver unto us of life and of all that is good

therein, so also and for the same reason, nations and States are bound to

worship Him; and therefore it is clear that those who would absolve

society from all religious duty act not only unjustly but also with

ignorance and folly.

25. As men are by the will of God born for civil union and society, and

as the power to rule is so necessary a bond of society that, if it be

taken away, society must at once be broken up, it follows that from Him

who is the Author of society has come also the authority to rule; so that

whosoever rules, he is the minister of God. Wherefore, as the end and

nature of human society so requires, it is right to obey the just

commands of lawful authority, as it is right to obey God who ruleth all

things; and it is most untrue that the people have it in their power to

cast aside their obedience whensoever they please.

26. In like manner, no one doubts that all men are equal one to another,

so far as regards their common origin and nature, or the last end which

each one has to attain, or the rights and duties which are thence

derived. But, as the abilities of all are not equal, as one differs from

another in the powers of mind or body, and as there are very many

dissimilarities of manner, disposition, and character, it is most

repugnant to reason to endeavor to confine all within the same measure,

and to extend complete equality to the institutions of civil life. Just

as a perfect condition of the body results from the conjunction and

composition of its various members, which, though differing in form and

purpose, make, by their union and the distribution of each one to its

proper place, a combination beautiful to behold, firm in strength, and

necessary for use; so, in the commonwealth, there is an almost infinite

dissimilarity of men, as parts of the whole. If they are to be all equal,

and each is to follow his own will, the State will appear most deformed;

but if, with a distinction of degrees of dignity, of pursuits and

employments, all aptly conspire for the common good, they will present

the image of a State both well constituted and conformable to nature.

27. Now, from the disturbing errors which We have described the greatest

dangers to States are to be feared. For, the fear of God and reverence

for divine laws being taken away, the authority of rulers despised,

sedition permitted and approved, and the popular passions urged on to

lawlessness, with no restraint save that of punishment, a change and

overthrow of all things will necessarily follow. Yea, this change and

overthrow is deliberately planned and put forward by many associations of

communists and socialists; and to their undertakings the sect of

Freemasons is not hostile, but greatly favors their designs, and holds in

common with them their chief opinions. And if these men do not at once

and everywhere endeavor to carry out their extreme views, it is not to be

attributed to their teaching and their will, but to the virtue of that

divine religion which cannot be destroyed; and also because the sounder

part of men, refusing to be enslaved to secret societies, vigorously

resist their insane attempts.

28. Would that all men would judge of the tree by its fruit, and would

acknowledge the seed and origin of the evils which press upon us, and of

the dangers that are impending! We have to deal with a deceitful and

crafty enemy, who, gratifying the ears of people and of princes, has

ensnared them by smooth speeches and by adulation. Ingratiating

themselves with rulers under a pretense of friendship, the Freemasons

have endeavored to make them their allies and powerful helpers for the

destruction of the Christian name; and that they might more strongly urge

them on, they have, with determined calumny, accused the Church of

invidiously contending with rulers in matters that affect their authority

and sovereign power. Having, by these artifices, insured their own safety

and audacity, they have begun to exercise great weight in the government

of States: but nevertheless they are prepared to shake the foundations of

empires, to harass the rulers of the State, to accuse, and to cast them

out, as often as they appear to govern otherwise than they themselves

could have wished. In like manner, they have by flattery deluded the

people. Proclaiming with a loud voice liberty and public prosperity, and

saying that it was owing to the Church and to sovereigns that the

multitude were not drawn out of their unjust servitude and poverty, they

have imposed upon the people, and, exciting them by a thirst for novelty,

they have urged them to assail both the Church and the civil power.

Nevertheless, the expectation of the benefits which was hoped for is

greater than the reality; indeed, the common people, more oppressed than

they were before, are deprived in their misery of that solace which, if

things had been arranged in a Christian manner, they would have had with

ease and in abundance. But, whoever strive against the order which Divine

Providence has constituted pay usually the penalty of their pride, and

meet with affliction and misery where they rashly hoped to find all

things prosperous and in conformity with their desires.

29. The Church, if she directs men to render obedience chiefly and above

all to God the sovereign Lord, is wrongly and falsely believed either to

be envious of the civil power or to arrogate to herself something of the

rights of sovereigns. On the contrary, she teaches that what is rightly

due to the civil power must be rendered to it with a conviction and

consciousness of duty. In teaching that from God Himself comes the right

of ruling, she adds a great dignity to civil authority, and on small help

towards obtaining the obedience and good will of the citizens. The friend

of peace and sustainer of concord, she embraces all with maternal love,

and, intent only upon giving help to mortal man, she teaches that to

justice must be joined clemency, equity to authority, and moderation to

lawgiving; that no one's right must be violated; that order and public

tranquillity are to be maintained and that the poverty of those are in

need is, as far as possible, to be relieved by public and private

charity. "But for this reason," to use the words of St. Augustine, "men

think, or would have it believed, that Christian teaching is not suited

to the good of the State; for they wish the State to be founded not on

solid virtue, but on the impunity of vice."[14] Knowing these things,

both princes and people would act with poitical wisdom,[15] and according

to the needs of general safety, if, instead of joining with Freemasons to

destroy the Church, they joined with the Church in repelling their


30 .Whatever the future may be, in this grave and widespread evil it is

Our duty, venerable brethren, to endeavor to find a remedy. And because

We know that Our best and firmest hope of a remedy is in the power of

that divine religion which the Freemasons hate in proportion to their

fear of it, We think it to be of chief importance to call that most

saving power to Our aid against the common enemy. Therefore, whatsoever

the Roman Pontiffs Our predecessors have decreed for the purpose of

opposing the undertakings and endeavors of the masonic sect, and

whatsoever they have enacted to enter or withdraw men from societies of

this kind, We ratify and confirm it all by our apostolic authority: and

trusting greatly to the good will of Christians, We pray and beseech each

one, for the sake of his eternal salvation, to be most conscientiously

careful not in the least to depart from what the apostolic see has

commanded in this matter.

31. We pray and beseech you, venerable brethren, to join your efforts

with Ours, and earnestly to strive for the extirpation of this foul

plague, which is creeping through the veins of the body politic. You have

to defend the glory of God and the salvation of your neighbor; and with

the object of your strife before you, neither courage nor strength will

be wanting. It will be for your prudence to judge by what means you can

best overcome the difficulties and obstacles you meet with. But, as it

befits the authority of Our office that We Ourselves should point out

some suitable way of proceeding, We wish it to be your rule first of all

to tear away the mask from Freemasonry, and to let it be seen as it

really is; and by sermons and pastoral letters to instruct the people as

to the artifices used by societies of this kind in seducing men and

enticing them into their ranks, and as to the depravity of their opinions

and the wickedness of their acts. As Our predecessors have many times

repeated, let no man think that he may for any reason whatsoever join the

masonic sect, if he values his Catholic name and his eternal salvation as

he ought to value them. Let no one be deceived by a pretense of honesty.

It may seem to some that Freemasons demand nothing that is openly

contrary to religion and morality; but, as the whole principle and object

of the sect lies in what is vicious and criminal, to join with these men

or in any way to help them cannot be lawful.

32. Further, by assiduous teaching and exhortation, the multitude must be

drawn to learn diligently the precepts of religion; for which purpose we

earnestly advise that by opportune writings and sermons they be taught

the elements of those sacred truths in which Christian philosophy is

contained. The result of this will be that the minds of men will be made

sound by instruction, and will be protected against many forms of error

and inducements to wickedness, especially in the present unbounded

freedom of writing and insatiable eagerness for learning.

33. Great, indeed, is the work; but in it the clergy will share your

labors, if, through your care, they are fitted for it by learning and a

well-turned life. This good and great work requires to be helped also by

the industry of those amongst the laity in whom a love of religion and of

country is joined to learning and goodness of life. By uniting the

efforts of both clergy and laity, strive, venerable brethren, to make men

thoroughly know and love the Church; for, the greater their knowledge and

love of the Church, the more will they be turned away from clandestine


34. Wherefore, not without cause do We use this occasion to state again

what We have stated elsewhere, namely, that the Third Order of St.

Francis, whose discipline We a little while ago prudently mitigated,[16]

should be studiously promoted and sustained; for the whole object of

this Order, as constituted by its founder, is to invite men to an

imitation of Jesus Christ, to a love of the Church, and to the observance

of all Christian virtues; and therefore it ought to be of great influence

in suppressing the contagion of wicked societies. Let, therefore, this

holy sodality be strengthened by a daily increase. Amongst the many

benefits to be expected from it will be the great benefit of drawing the

minds of men to liberty, fraternity, and equality of right; not such as

the Freemasons absurdly imagine, but such as Jesus Christ obtained for

the human race and St. Francis aspired to: the liberty, We mean, of sons

of God, through which we may be free from slavery to Satan or to our

passions, both of them most wicked masters; the fraternity whose origin

is in God, the common Creator and Father of all; the equality which,

founded on justice and charity, does not take away all distinctions among

men, but, out of the varieties of life, of duties, and of pursuits, forms

that union and that harmony which naturally tend to the benefit and

dignity of society.

35. In the third place, there is a matter wisely instituted by our

forefathers, but in course of time laid aside, which may now be used as a

pattern and form of something similar. We mean the associations of guilds

of workmen, for the protection, under the guidance of religion, both of

their temporal interests and of their morality. If our ancestors, by long

use and experience, felt the benefit of these guilds, our age perhaps

will feel it the more by reason of the opportunity which they will give

of crushing the power of the sects. Those who support themselves by the

labor of their hands, besides being, by their very condition, most worthy

above all others of charity and consolation, are also especially exposed

to the allurements of men whose ways lie in fraud and deceit. Therefore,

they ought to be helped with the greatest possible kindness, and to be

invited to join associations that are good, lest they be drawn away to

others that are evil. For this reason, We greatly wish, for the salvation

of the people, that, under the auspices and patronage of the bishops, and

at convenient times, these gilds may be generally restored. To Our great

delight, sodalities of this kind and also associations of masters have in

many places already been established, having, each class of them, for

their object to help the honest workman, to protect and guard his

children and family, and to promote in them piety, Christian knowledge,

and a moral life. And in this matter We cannot omit mentioning that

exemplary society, named after its founder, St. Vincent, which has

deserved so well of the lower classes. Its acts and its aims are well

known. Its whole object is to give relief to the poor and miserable. This

it does with singular prudence and modesty; and the less it wishes to be

seen, the better is it fitted for the exercise of Christian charity, and

for the relief of suffering.

36. In the fourth place, in order more easily to attain what We wish, to

your fidelity and watchfulness We commend in a special manner the young,

as being the hope of human society. Devote the greatest part of your care

to their instruction; and do not think that any precaution can be great

enough in keeping them from masters and schools whence the pestilent

breath of the sects is to be feared. Under your guidance, let parents,

religious instructors, and priests having the cure of souls use every

opportunity, in their Christian teaching, of warning their children and

pupils of the infamous nature of these societies, so that they may learn

in good time to beware of the various and fraudulent artifices by which

their promoters are accustomed to ensnare people. And those who instruct

the young in religious knowledge will act wisely if they induce all of

them to resolve and to undertake never to bind themselves to any society

without the knowledge of their parents, or the advice of their parish

priest or director.

37. We well know, however, that our united labors will by no means

suffice to pluck up these pernicious seeds from the Lord's field, unless

the Heavenly Master of the vineyard shall mercifully help us in our

endeavors. We must, therefore, with great and anxious care, implore of

Him the help which the greatness of the danger and of the need requires.

The sect of the Freemasons shows itself insolent and proud of its

success, and seems as if it would put no bounds to its pertinacity. Its

followers, joined together by a wicked compact and by secret counsels,

give help one to another, and excite one another to an audacity for evil

things. So vehement an attack demands an equal defense--namely, that all

good men should form the widest possible association of action and of

prayer. We beseech them, therefore, with united hearts, to stand together

and unmoved against the advancing force of the sects; and in mourning and

supplication to stretch out their hands to God, praying that the

Christian name may flourish and prosper, that the Church may enjoy its

needed liberty, that those who have gone astray may return to a right

mind, that error at length may give place to truth, and vice to virtue.

Let us take our helper and intercessor the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so

that she, who from the moment of her conception overcame Satan may show

her power over these evil sects, in which is revived the contumacious

spirit of the demon, together with his unsubdued perfidy and deceit. Let

us beseech Michael, the prince of the heavenly angels, who drove out the

infernal foe; and Joseph, the spouse of the most holy Virgin, and

heavenly patron of the Catholic Church; and the great Apostles, Peter and

Paul, the fathers and victorious champions of the Christian faith. By

their patronage, and by perseverance in united prayer, we hope that God

will mercifully and opportunely succor the human race, which is

encompassed by so many dangers.

38. As a pledge of heavenly gifts and of Our benevolence, We lovingly

grant in the Lord, to you, venerable brethren, and to the clergy and all

the people committed to your watchful care, Our apostolic benediction.

Given at St. Peter's in Rome, the twentieth day of April, 1884, the sixth

year of Our pontificate.

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1. De civ. Dei, 14, 28 (PL 41, 436).

2. Ps. 82:24.

3. Const. In Eminenti, April 24, 1738.

4. Const. Providas, May 18, 1751.

5. Const. Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo, Sept. 13, 1821.

6. Const. given March 13, 1825.

7. Encyc. Traditi, May 21, 1829.

8. Encyc. Mirari, August 15, 1832.

9. Encyc. Qui Pluribus, Nov. 9, 1846; address Multiplices inter, Sept.

25, 1865. etc.

10. Clement Xll (1730-40); Benedict XIV (1740-58), Pius Vll

(1800-23);Pius IX (1846-78).

11. See nos. 79, 81, 84.

12. Matt. 7:18.

13. Trid., sess. vi, De justif, c. 1. Text of the Council of Trent:

"tametsi in eis (sc. Judaeis) liberum arbitrium minime extinctum esset,

viribus licet attenuatum et inclinatum. "

14. See Arcanum, no. 81.

15. Epistola 137, ad Volusianum, c. v, n. 20 (PL 33, 525).

16.(Sept. 17, 1882), in which Pope Leo Xlll had recently glorified St.

Francis of Assisi on the occasion of the seventh centenary of his birth.

In this encyclical, the Pope had presented the Third Order of St. Francis

as a Christian answer to the social problems of the times. The

constitution Misericors Dei filius (June 23, 1883) expressly recalled

that the neglect in which Christian virtues are held is the main cause of

the evils that threaten societies. In confirming the rule of the Third

Order and adapting it to the needs of modern times, Pope Leo Xlll had

intended to bring back the largest possible number of souls to the

practice of these virtues.


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