Pontifical Acts – November 7, 2012 – Pope Benedict XVI appointed Brother Vanderlei Salvador Bagnato, Professor of Physics at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Professor Bagnato, a Freemason, is a member of Estrela da Libertade Lodge #2877 of Sao Carlos, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient of Sao Paulo State, federated to the Grand Orient of Brazil.
Some in the Roman Catholic Church have long stated that no Catholic may hold membership in Freemasonry and the Church at the same time; that the Church and the fraternity are incompatible.
As a Catholic Freemason – who sought guidance from the Church before joining the fraternity – I tend to believe that the “some” don’t seem to understand the rules – the Canons – that Catholics are supposed to follow.
It’s true that since 1738 when the Papal Bull In Eminenti Apostolatus was issued Catholics were “sort of” forbidden from joining Freemasonry. It wasn’t until the 1917 Code of Canon Law was issued – which codefied Canon 2335 – that joining the fraternity was specifically forbidden. Canon 2335 states “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.”
In 1983 the Church revised the Code of Canon Law. Canon 2335 was replaced with the much-changed Canon 1374, which states “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.”
Canon 1375 is the present legislation of the Church.
No longer is Freemasonry explicitly mentioned in the Code of Canon Law. Is this a softening of the stance against Freemasonry by the Church? Well … maybe. Maybe the Church finally recognized that Freemasonry isn’t a religion, isn’t competition for the Church, and doesn’t plot against the Church. Many good men are, after all, Freemasons.
There was a letter from the Office of the Inquisition (now renamed the kinder, gentler “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”) penned by then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now known as the Pope), that seems to indicate that the “present canonical discipline remains in full force and has not been modified in any way,” and that “neither the excommunication nor the other penalties envisaged have been abrogated.”
While the letter would seem to reinforce the opinion of that previously mentioned “some” who believe Freemasonry and Catholicism are incompatible, it’s important to remember that the letter doesn’t carry the force or effect of the Code of Canon Law; it’s an opinion letter.
To reinforce that last statement, I congratulate Freemason and Brother Vanderlei Bagnato to his appointment – by the same guy who penned the letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, now known as the Bishop of Rome and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church – to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. For those of you keeping score on an old tyme bit of parchment by the light of a whale-oil lantern: a FREEMASON has been appointed to the CHURCH’S Academy of SCIENCE. There’s a sentence the close-minded never thought would be penned, eh? Sir Issac Newton is certainly smiling from the Great Beyond!
Congratulations to Brother Bagnato and to the Catholic Church on recognizing a truly good man!
To read more about the Code of Canon Law, CLICK HERE.