Newsletter of the District of Asia

 Jan - Mar 2002

Assisi II (Jan. 24, 2002) and the Masonic Ideal or
The Masons at work in the Philippines

by Fr. Daniel Couture


1. What the Historians say

“The freemasonry that had been introduced into the Philippines, and which played such an important role in the Revolution and its aftermath, was of the Latin type, bitterly anti-clerical, less tolerant, more intransigent and more militant than its American counterpart.  President Roosevelt himself noted this difference: ‘Do you recall how I mentioned to you what Aguinaldo and his people have turned Masonry into in the Philippines?’ he said in a letter to Philbin on 28 November 1902.  He added, ‘But our American Masonry is of a character such as we always hoped the Catholic Church would allow its members to join.’  This was of course a vain hope, for freemasonry both the rabid Latin type and the more tolerant Anglo-Saxon types is essentially at variance with the basic principles of the Catholic Church, including, for instance, such basic dogmas as the possibility and the reality of revelation and of the supernatural order of grace, which the Catholic Church believes in and freemasonry rejects.” (From Religious Revolution in the Philippines, vol.1 1860-1940, by Frs. P.S. de Achutegui S.J. and M.A. Bernad, S.J., Atheneo de Manila, 1960, p.154)


2. The Teaching of the Magisterium

Before going over the Masonic ideals implemented, no longer in the Latin Spanish style but rather in the American way in the Philippines, it will be wise to keep in mind the words of the Magisterium on this matter.

First, those of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Humanum Genus, April 20, 1884:

“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.”

And those of Pope Gregory XVI, in the encyclical Mirari Vos, August 15, 1832:

“13. Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that "there is one God, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4, 5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that "those who are not with Christ are against Him,"(Lk 11, 23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore "without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate" (Symbol S. Athanasius).  Let them hear Jerome who, while the Church was torn into three parts by schism, tells us that whenever someone tried to persuade him to join his group he always exclaimed: "He who is for the See of Peter is for me."(Epistle 57, 20)  A schismatic flatters himself falsely if he asserts that he, too, has been washed in the waters of regeneration. Indeed Augustine would reply to such a man: "The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit for it is the form, if it does not live from the root?" (In psalm. contra part. Donat)

“14. This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. "But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error," as Augustine was wont to say (Epistle 166).  When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” (Ap 9, 3) is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws -- in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.”


3. The Filipino Freemasons reply to the Church

The following texts are taken from Cabletow, vol.77,  No2, Year 2000, which is the Official Publication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.  A great part of it is a reply to the CBCP for refusing to allow a noted Mason to receive the last rites and a Catholic burial in June 2000. See our Asian Newsletter Sept. Oct. 2000, The Philippine Bishops at war with Freemasonry.

“We need to "revisit" the keynote address which the Most Reverend Julio Xavier Labayen, OCD, Bishop-Prelate of Infanta, Province of Quezon, delivered during the 82nd (1998) Annual Grand Communication of our Grand Lodge.  We must not let such an important address to go to waste since its quite difficult to invite a high-ranking member of the Catholic hierarchy in this country to speak before an assembly of Masons.

“(…) Hence, we have got to inform ourselves on the various facets of Masonry and live its teachings of practical morality and religious philosophy, thereby taking the message of Masonry into the world “out there.”

“This includes active participation in our respective churches, by means whereof we will convince the world that we Masons perform our duties to God above all our other duties.

“In the face of anti-Masonry; moreover, we have got to show that we are apostles of freedom of religion and champions of the cause of universal peace and harmony among men, which, is, as Brother Jose Rizal stated in his essay ‘Amor Patrio’ the purpose of humanity dictated by God.

“If our detractors continue to attack us, we should deal with them with love and with understanding of the greatest latitude. Masonry, after all, is not against any religion; its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.

“(…) The message of Bishop Labayen; methinks, is clear. Just as our heroic brethren, reformists and revolutionaries alike, played an invaluable role in our nation's liberation from foreign domination, we latter-day Filipino Freemasons must take the lead in "the difficult and continuing struggle... to free ourselves from the centuries old enslavery of foreign interests",  interests that are foreign to the common good of Filipinos. (Ibid., p. 56).

“(…) ‘The Catholic Bishop Conference of the PhIiIppines (CBCP) apologizes through its spokesperson, the President of the CBCP, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, for the mistakes some Church leaders committed 100 years ago by collaborating with the Spanish government in thwarting the Philippine revolution’,  Bishop Labayan.”  (Cabletow, op.cit., pp.6-7)

“The participation of Masons in this struggle (for Philippine Independence) can be aptly summarized in the words of the late Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo when he said: ‘The successful revolution of 1896 was Masonically inspired, Masonically led, and Masonically executed, and I venture to say, the first Philippine Republic, of which I was its humbly President, was an achievement we owe largely to Masonry and Masons.’ (Guest speaker before the 39th Annual Communication of Grand Lodge of the Philippines, April 26, 1955). (Cabletow, op.cit., p.46)

“Freemasonry today again faces an age-old antagonist, namely, religious extremism. In the past; our Fraternity defended its basic commitment to freedom of conscience.  Masonry's dedication is to each person's right to decide matters of faith for himself.  Freemasonry leaves each person to embrace the creed of his choice and teaches toleration.  All men of good character who believe in a Supreme Being are welcome to Freemasonry.  There they are encouraged to live according to the tenets of their respective faiths.

“What happened to one of our brethren, the late Brig. Gen. and VW Bro. Josefino Manayao is saddening.  He was denied the final rites of the Catholic Church before burial because he was a Past Master of Capitan Pepe Masonic Lodge No. 293 and a Past District Grand Lecturer.  According to Msgr. Michael Veneracion, vicar general of Cabanatuan City Diocese, it is not local practice but a universal policy of the Catholic Church that was observed in Bro. Manayao's case.  He further said that the Catholic Church all over the world prohibits the giving of sacraments and Catholic rites to members of Masonic organizations; which are made up of persons who are united for fraternal purposes and use secret signs as means of recognition.  It is in the Canon Law of the Church. (See the Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 6, 2000.)

“In 1990, through a controversial circular, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippine (CBCP) once more tried to dangle the Damoclean sword of “excommunication” over the heads of Catholics who are members of the Masonic fraternity and Masonic related groups or associations. Prudently and judiciously, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines handled the problem. Instead of issuing incendiary statements, it issued a position paper, reminding all concerned that in the late sixties and early seventies there took place a series of dialogues between the Catholic panel and its Masonic counterpart.  The issue on hand was settled in the series of dialogues.  It was agreed, among other things, that both groups let the mist of misunderstanding between them vanish, and that, in accordance with the Christian doctrine, brotherly love prevail between them. (The Cabletow, January-February 1991, p.3).

“From 1968 to 1970 the two groups met and discussed. In the end, the Catholic experts' panel was happy to report and recommend, to the CBCP-that:

• Freemasonry as such is compatible with Catholicism. It is only when the leaders interpret it badly that Freemasonry becomes anti-religious.  Otherwise, it can coexist with the Catholic Religion.

• Freemasonry's intrinsic compatibility with Catholicism rests on the following facts: in religious matters, Freemasonry requires three things from its members, namely, belief in God, the immortality of the soul and moral life. Now; there is certainly nothing wrong in this. The error comes when the leaders twist this to their own purposes, proclaiming them to be the only worthwhile religious truths.  In this way, Freemasonry becomes either naturalistic, considering all religions to be equal as long, as they accept the above truths:

• The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, is not of the Grand Orient type of Lodges which are known for their anti-clericalism. The Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines are more for fraternal and social purposes.

• Times have altered, people have changed.  Freemasons of the Philippines want a new era of mutual cooperation.  It would be unkind to accuse them of ulterior motives.

• A change of the old condemnatory attitude towards Masons of the Philippines should be adopted.  It is good and opportune that the Catholic hierarchy of the Philippines request the Vatican for the lifting of excommunication from Filipino Catholic members of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.

“The above favorable recommendation was further subjected to a rigorous review by the Episcopal Commission of the Doctrine of the Faith of the CBCP.  It similarly endorsed the report and recommendation of the panel of Catholic experts.  On the basis of this careful theological study, the CBCP sent a formal petition to the Holy See, recommending that Canon 2335 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law specifically subjecting Freemasons to major canonical penalty should not be applied to the Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines (The Cabletow, September-October 1990).

“After that, what happened? The Grand Lodge cannot decipher any reason for the turn around in the new CBCP guidelines that Masonic principles have always been considered unreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church.

“Question: What shall we do?” (Cabletow, op.cit., pp.30-31)

“More than 80% of the Masons in the Philippines are Catholic. But, instead of sowing the seeds of unity, cooperation and love among all men, the Roman Catholic Church, it seems to us; has openly adopted the principles of disinformation, discrimination, apathy and segregation as its rules of engagement.

“What happened to Bro. Manayao notwithstanding, we Masons will continue to sow the seeds of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.  It is a Masonic mission to attain equality and justice among all men and to fight for the right of every person to exercise his free-thinking abilities without fear of censorship by the State and the Church alike.  All of these Masonry will endeavor to accomplish irrespective of creed, race and nationality:” (Cabletow, op.cit., p.32)

“Much of Masonic tradition and symbolism revolves around the building of King Solomon's temple, a time before Christ was born.  Accordingly, Freemasonry is neutral being neither for or against Christ or any religion. A Christian Mason is free to choose and practice his faith but admonished as well to respect his Brothers' right to worship God in his chosen religion.

“Some Catholics and Protestants alike persist in saying that Masons are unbelievers, because Christ does not figure in, but only God the Father is featured in Masonic rites and prayers.  Christ precisely is not invoked because if He was, then Freemasonry becomes sectarian and therefore divisive.

“The Knights of Columbus, the nearest counterpart organization to Freemasonry, accepts Catholics only into its membership but not Protestants, who are also Christians, much less Jews, Muslims, Buddhists etc.  Freemasonry accepts all who profess a belief in God, for no atheist can be a Mason.

“Freemasonry is a brotherhood of men under the Fatherhood of God.  Consequently, it is a potent force in our world of never-ending turmoil for creating the living spirit of goodwill and brotherhood. How? Because Masons can sit down together as brothers; regardless of religion, race or creed in a manner, that no other institution can. As such Freemasonry is truly catholic and indeed universal.

“Freemasonry is religious but not a religion.”            (Cabletow, op.cit., p.35)


4. Assisi II and the Masonic ideal

It is very sad to see that the Days of Interreligious Meeting in Assisi, both in 1986 and in 2002, echo these teachings, as can be seen in a very recent document from the Holy Father:




To Their Excellencies

Heads of State or Government


A month ago, the Day of Prayer for Peace in the world took place in Assisi.  Today my thoughts turn spontaneously to those responsible for the social and political life of the countries that were represented there by the religious authorities of many nations.

The inspired reflections of these men and women, representatives of different religious confessions, their sincere desire to work for peace, and their common quest for the true progress of the whole human family, found a sublime and yet concrete form in the ‘Decalogue’ proclaimed at the end of this exceptional day.

I have the honour of presenting to Your Excellency the text of this common agreement, convinced that these ten propositions can inspire the political and social action of your government.

I observed that those who took part in the Assisi Meeting were more than ever motivated by a common conviction: humanity must choose between love and hatred.  All of them, feeling that they belong to one and the same human family, were able to express their aspiration through these ten points, convinced that if hatred destroys, love, on the contrary, builds up.

I hope that the spirit and commitment of Assisi will lead all people of goodwill to seek truth, justice, freedom and love, so that every human person may enjoy his inalienable rights and every people, peace. For her part, the Catholic Church, who trusts and hopes in "the God of love and peace" (II Cor 13,11), will continue to work for loyal dialogue, reciprocal forgiveness and mutual harmony to clear the way for people in this third millenium.

With gratitude to Your Excellency, for the attention you will be kind enough to give my Message, I take the present opportunity offered to assure you of my prayerful best wishes.

From the Vatican, 24 February 2002


(The text of the  Assisi ‘Decalogue’ written by representatives of 10 religions followed.)


5. Pope against Pope?

How to reconcile the above Papal Letter with previous Papal teaching, such as the following text, will be the difficult task of a future Successor of St Peter:

“But stranger still, alarming and saddening at the same time, are the audacity and frivolity of men who call themselves Catholics and dream of re-shaping society under such conditions, and of establishing on earth, over and beyond the pale of the Catholic Church, ‘the reign of love and justice’ with workers coming from everywhere, of all religions and of no religion, with or without beliefs, so long as they forego what might divide them-their religious and philosophical convictions, and so long as they share what unites them-a ‘generous idealism and moral forces drawn from whence they can.’ 

“When we consider the forces, knowledge and supernatural virtues which were necessary to establish the Christian City, and the sufferings of millions of martyrs, and the light given by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and of the self-sacrifice of all the heroes of charity, and a powerful hierarchy ordained in heaven, and the streams of Divine Grace-the whole having been built up, bound together, and impregnated by the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the Word made man-when we think, I say, of all this, it is frightening to behold new apostles eagerly attempting to do better by a common interchange of vague idealism and civic virtues. 

“What are they going to produce? What is to come out of this collaboration? A mere verbal and chimerical construction in which we see, glowing in a jumble, and in seductive confusion, the words of Liberty, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Equality and human exaltation, all resting upon an ill-understood human dignity.  It will be a tumultuous agitation, sterile for the end proposed, but which will benefit the less Utopian exploiters of the people. (…)

“We fear that worse is to come: the end result of this developing promiscuousness, the beneficiary of this cosmopolitan social action, can only be a Democracy which will be neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Jewish. 

“It will be a religion (…) more universal than the Catholic Church, uniting all men to become brothers and comrades at last in the ‘Kingdom of God’: ‘We do not work for the Church, we work for mankind.’ ”

St Pius X, Encyclical Our Apostolic Mandate, nn.38-39, August 25,1910.


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