These are excellent questions that probably apply to thousands, if not millions, of Americans.
For those who are not familiar with this organization, Masonry (also known as "Freemasonry" or "the Lodge") is a fraternal organization that has a formal religious system which includes belief in God as the Grand Architect of the Universe, the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Masons believe man can achieve salvation by their own good works and do not require members to believe in Jesus Christ. All religious writings are considered to be on par with the Bible (Book of Mormon, the Vedas, Zend Avesta, the Sohar, the Kabbalah, Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, etc.) because Masons generally view all religions as plausible attempts to explain the truth about God.
The Blue Lodge (regarded as the oldest and most authentic version of Freemasonry) accepts only white males of at least twenty-one years of age and all members must participate in oaths sworn in secrecy never to reveal the religious and moral teachings of the Lodge. There are many degrees of membership which require rituals for each degree. The York Rite confers three degrees after which a member may enter the Scottish Rite and ascend through twenty-nine more degrees. The highest ranking degree is the 33rd degree.
Several of our Founding Fathers were Masons, including Ben Franklin, Paul Revere and Alexander Hamilton. Fourteen American presidents were Masons, including George Washington, James Monroe, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. Five Chief Justices of the Supreme Court were also Masons, including John Marshal (who was the Grand Master of his lodge) and Earl Warren.
There is great disagreement within the Lodge as to whether or not their organization is considered a religion, but the Catholic Church never had any doubts about it. No less than eight Popes have condemned the Lodge, and the Church has issued 14 documents condemning freemasonry.
The first was issued in 1738, when Pope Clement XII declared in In Eminente that all Catholic Masons were automatically excommunicated. Not long afterward (1751), Benedict XIV issued another condemnation of Masonry citing five reasons - secrecy, oaths, indifferentism, anti-Catholicism and immorality. In 1766 Clement XIII said in Christianae Republicae that Masonry duplicates Manichean and Gnostic heresies. Pope Leo XII said in 1825 that Masonry is anathema because it denies the divinity of Christ (Quo Graviora) and Gregory XVI sounded the alarm in 1832 that Masonry had penetrated the Church (Miari Vos).
In the 20th Century, the 1917 Code of Canon Law reconfirmed that Catholic Masons are automatically excommunicated and Pius XII called Masonry the "mother root" of modern apostasy in a pastoral letter.
In 1983, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued a "Declaration on Masonic Associations" explaining that since Masonic associations "have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church" membership in them "remains forbidden." This document goes on to say that "the faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion."
Masonry is considered to be a grave evil, as is the other organization mentioned in EO's e-mail - Eastern Star. Known as the Order of the Eastern Star, this is a lodge open to women who are related to Masons and Master Masons, such as their wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, etc. Requirements for membership include belief in a Supreme Being, freedom from alcohol addiction and upstanding moral character.
In answer to EO's question about whether or not there are ramifications for the souls of those who belong to these organizations the answer is yes. As stated above, membership in these groups is considered to be a mortal sin, which is why such persons are not to present themselves for Communion unless they have sincerely repented of this sin in sacramental confession and quit the lodge.
As for whether or not this grave sin of membership can be passed on to the descendants of Masons, I sought the expert advice of our former theological advisor, Fr. Edmund Sylvia, CSC.
"Yes the taking of oaths and the curses one applies to oneself [if they divulge materials, etc] can have effects on one’s family and down through generations," Fr. Ed told me. "There are no specifics of how long etc. but this is taken VERY SERIOUSLY by everyone I know involved in deliverance ministries and the exorcists I have spoken with."
The website of Msgr. Stephen Rossetti includes prayers the laity can use to renounce freemasonry and any generational sin associated with it.
I'm hoping that this information will be of help and healing to souls who have become involved in this organization, especially those who believe it's "just a guy's group" or who think that because they don't take the oaths seriously they're somehow not affected by the evil inherent in the Lodge. If this sin can be passed onto innocent ancestors, imagine what it does to the souls of these so-called "disinterested" members!
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