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Arthur Preuss refutes old lies…

Were Popes Benedict XIV and Pius IX Freemasons?

In 1884, Pope Leo XIII addressed the threat of Freemasonry against Holy Mother Church:

At every period of time each [the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan] 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 seem 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.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Humanum Genus, n. 2)

The false popes of the Vatican II Church — John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis — have advanced the infernal agenda of Freemasonry more effectively than any other person on earth could have, so much so that at this point in time, the Modernist Vatican is unabashedly and openly promoting the ideas of the Freemasons.

Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti testifies most eloquently to that fact. It is no coincidence that it quickly received the applause of the Lodge, for Masonic tenets feature prominently throughout the text, and the French Revolution’s triad of “liberty, equality, fraternity” is explicitly endorsed in it (see Fratelli Tutti, n. 219 and subsection title above n. 103).

Another example of the Unholy See’s unashamed promotion of Freemasonry can be found in the person of “Fr.” Michael Weninger, a Vatican official who is also an overt Mason, serves as chaplain to three lodges, and has just published a book on reconciling Freemasonry with Catholicism.

The question whether any of the Vatican II “popes” are or were card-carrying Masons themselves is practically irrelevant, however. The reason is that it is the result that counts, and that is the same regardless of whether the heads of the counterfeit church have official Masonic enrollment or not.

All this stands in stark contrast to the true Roman Catholic Church and her genuine Popes, who from the beginning have condemned Freemasonry, refuted its nefarious teachings, and penalized membership in the Lodge most harshly.

In apparent retaliation for the Church’s severity, the Masons began spreading the outlandish claim that even some Popes themselves had joined the Lodge. Two such targets were Popes Benedict XIV (r. 1740-1758) and Pius IX (r. 1846-1878). In the present post, we offer a response to the baseless accusations against them by making available a text written in the early 20th century by Mr. Arthur Preuss (1871-1934).

On this web site, we had addressed the false charges against Pope Pius IX a few times before, spread in our day by recognize-and-resist traditionalists, perhaps in the hopes of having found historical precedent for Popes who abandoned Catholicism. This would allow them to consider the papal impostors of the last 60 years as simply another batch of “bad Popes”. But the facts present a different picture:

The following text is Chapter XIII of the book A Study in American Freemasonry, edited by Arthur Preuss, 2nd ed. (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1908), pp. 267-272. The book’s copyright has expired. The full text is available online here; a hardcopy facsimile reprint of the original can be purchased here.

Footnotes have been converted into endnotes and so are found appended to the end of the excerpt; the numbering has been adjusted accordingly. All italics are given in the original.


Were Benedict XIV and Pius IX Freemasons?

“But how,” it will be asked, “if Masonry be so anti-Catholic and anti-Christian, could Catholic bishops and even popes have been members of the Craft? If popes could be Masons, ordinary Catholics ought to be allowed.” So in the New Age, a Masonic magazine published in Washington, D.C., a writer argues in the January number for 1905, pp. 81, 82.

“We have not the slightest prejudice against the Roman Catholic Church,” he says; “we regard its condemnation of Freemasonry as the result of ignorance of the true nature and aims of the fraternity. It is related by Lenning in his German Freemason’s Lexicon, that after Pope Benedict XIV had confirmed the Bull of Pope Clement XII, his predecessor, against the Freemasons, one of his courtiers, a zealous Freemason, induced him to be privately initiated into the Order. A Roman Mason named Tripolo delivered an address at the Pope’s reception into the Order, and it is a fact that during the latter part of his pontificate, the enlightened and liberal Pope did cease to persecute the Freemasons, thus lending strong support to Lenning’s statements.”

Again:

“Pope Pius IX was a Freemason, and if Bishop Le Nordez, of Dijon, is really a member of the fraternity, he has only followed the lead of high dignitaries of his own Church.”

And the inevitable conclusion:

“If the popes and bishops can be Masons, why should not the members of the same Church join the society?”

The argument seems plausible to Protestants, who misunderstand entirely the relation of the Pope to Catholicity: “The Pope has done so — therefore any Catholic may.” There is no argument for the Catholic in this. Every Catholic knows that Popes and Bishops may do wrong: may sin grievously. May Catholics, therefore, with good conscience, do the same? Evidently not. The guide of the Catholic conscience is not what the Pope does; nor even what he teaches as a private person; but what he teaches in his public capacity as Vicar of Jesus Christ. Now, in their public capacity, all Pontiffs who have spoken of Freemasonry have condemned it in the clearest of terms: and among such condemnations none are plainer and clearer than those of Benedict XIV and Pius IX. These utterances are the guide, then, of Catholic consciences, not the personal actions of either pontiff.

But when one considers the two Pontiffs selected by the Craft as members, he cannot but be astonished at the blindness of the Brethren. Dr. Mackey, better instructed, gives quite a different character to Benedict XIV than Lenning does.

“He was distinguished,” says the Doctor, (Encyclopædia, p. 113), “for his learning and was a great encourager of the arts and sciences. He was, however, an implacable enemy of secret societies, and issued on the 18th of May, 1751, his celebrated Bull renewing and perpetuating that of his predecessor which excommunicated the Freemasons.” The Doctor has erred slightly in the date. The Bull was signed May 13th and published May 28th.[1]

But though a slight error has crept into the Doctor’s account as regards the date, there is no error as regards the Pontiff’s sentiments. The Bull was published in the eleventh year of a reign which lasted only seventeen years, eight months, and sixteen days, and when the Pope was already seventy-six years old.

Here is what Benedict XIV says in his memorable condemnation.

“Lest however,” he says, “it might be asserted that something had been carelessly overlooked by us, and that we may the more easily take away the food for lying calumny and close its mouth, having first taken counsel with some of our venerable brethren, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, we have decided to confirm by these presents, in specific form, which is considered to be the most ample of all and the most efficacious, the preceding Constitution of our predecessor, which, word for word, we have inserted in our own; in as much as of our own certain knowledge and by the fulness of our own Apostolic power, by the tenor of these letters, in everything and as regards everything, just as if they had been published of our own initiative, we, in our own name, and by our own authority, confirm, strengthen and renew such Constitution, and will and decree that it have perpetual force and efficacy.”[2]

This is the Pontiff whom Lenning would make a Mason. Benedict confirms in specific form the condemnation of his predecessor, introduced into his own, word for word; after careful examination, he, moreover, makes it perpetual; and yet, between the age of seventy-six and eighty-two, a certain Mason, with various other uncertainties, initiates the Pontiff and makes him a Freemason. When, where, how, — poetic fancy may supply. The solemn condemnation is never revoked, it subsists in full force, — and Benedict dies leaving it so. “But,” says the writer, “it is a fact that during the latter part of his pontificate, the enlightened and liberal Pope did cease to persecute the Freemasons, thus lending strong support to Lenning’s statements.” What the writer understands by “the latter part” of Benedict’s pontificate we confess we are not able to fathom. We should imagine that so strong a document from a man of seventy-six, six years before a demise at the advanced age of eighty-two, was sufficiently near the “latter” part of his reign. We are glad that Bro. Mackey had more regard for the intelligence of his readers, than to make Benedict XIV a Mason.

The story of the sainted Pius IX is cut from the same cloth. “It started in Germany,” says John Gilmary Shea, in his Life of Pope Pius IX, pp. 291, 292, “and they thought that by putting the scene in America, they would escape detection. They declared positively that Pius IX had been received into a Masonic lodge in Philadelphia, cited his discourses, and declared that a number of his autographs were preserved in the lodge. Unfortunately for the story, Philadelphia is in the civilized world. People there could read and write. They examined and found that there was no Masonic lodge in that city by the name given; they found that no lodge in Philadelphia had ever received John Mary Mastai [Pius IX’s baptismal name]; they could find no trace of his ever having been there, as he never was; no lodge had any of his autograph letters; Masons themselves attested that the whole was a pure invention. The slander thus refuted has been revived from time to time, but in later versions, care is taken not to specify the lodge or city too distinctly.”

The fabled time of the Pope’s initiation long antedates the famous allocution of Sept. 25, 1865, and even the elevation of John Mary Mastai to the papal throne. But what consolation any of the Brethren can gather from imagining Pope Pius IX to have been a member of the Masonic Order is beyond comprehension.

“Among the many wiles and arts,” he himself says, “by which the enemies of the Christian name are wont to assail the Church of God, and, though vainly, endeavor to ruin and destroy it, must be undoubtedly numbered, Venerable Brethren, that wicked society of men which is commonly called Freemasonry and which, having at first gathered in secret places and darkness, hence burst forth for the common ruin of religion and human society.”

And later: “We by our Apostolic authority reprobate and condemn the Masonic society and all others of the same nature . . . and we wish that by all the faithful of Christ, of whatever degree or dignity, throughout the whole world, such societies be held as reprobated and condemned by us, under the same penalties as those contained in the above-mentioned Constitution of our predecessors.”

The contention of Masons that Pius IX belonged to the Craft, far from favoring their cause, is its most crushing condemnation; for it closes absolutely every loophole for pretending ignorance in him who so solemnly and publicly and scathingly denounced Masonry as the enemy of God’s Church and of humanity, and makes the condemnation the pronouncement of one who by personal experience knew of what he spoke: — knew that it was wicked, that it was the enemy of supernatural religion and society as constituted; as false to true humanity as to the true God.[3]

Is this the brother that Masonry claims? Bro. [Albert] Pike, in a passage already quoted, claims no fraternity with him.

The writer in the New Age has excused the condemnation of the Church on the score of ignorance. We fear the ignorance is on his own part. Bro. Pike (Morals and Dogma, p. 50) could have enlightened him.

“Because true Masonry, unemasculated, bore the banners of Freedom and Equal Rights,” he says, “and was in rebellion against temporal and spiritual tyranny, its Lodges were proscribed in 1735, by an edict of the States of Holland. In 1737, [King] Louis XV. forbade them in France. In 1738, Pope Clement XII. issued against them his famous Bull of Excommunication, which was renewed by Benedict XIV.; and in 1743, the Council of Berne also proscribed them.”

He does not deny the fact of rebellion; he seeks to justify it by stigmatizing the spiritual and temporal authority of the time as tyrannous.


Footnotes

[1] Bullarium Benedicti XIV, vol. iii, p. 286.

[2] Bullarium Benedicti XIV, vol. iii, p. 285.

[3] In a solemn allocution, on April 20, 1849, Pius IX feelingly referred to the rumor connecting him with Masonry, and denounced it as “the blackest of all calumnies” ever uttered against his sacred but much-maligned person. (Cf. Pachtler, Der Götze der Humanität. Freiburg 1875, pp. 721-722).


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