The Bern Historical Museum is organizing an exposition from June 15 to September 3, 2017, under the title “Top Secret: The Freemasons”.
In June 1717, exactly 300 years ago, four London lodges combined to form the first Masonic "obedience": the Grand Lodge of London. This date marks the birth of the modern institution of Freemasonry. To commemorate the event, the Bern Historical Museum, with the collaboration of a lodge in Bern, is organizing this display.
The goal of the exhibition is to attempt to dispel the so-called persistent prejudices against this secret society. The exhibition, which is very didactic, shows the emergence of Freemasonry at the time of the Enlightenment, the way it promoted liberalism throughout the 19th century, and the “witch hunt” the secret societies claim to have undergone under the Fascist Italian and Nazi regimes.
Visitors are presented with some Masonic signs and symbols – those the lodges were willing to divulge. Another showcase that will be sure to draw attention: a representation of the famous “Chamber of Reflection”, with a skull and a candle, where the candidate is placed for a time in order to meditate upon his mortal nature and his motives for wishing to join the lodge, reasons which he must afterwards put into writing.
We must not forget the heart of the lodge, the “Temple”, where the ceremonies are held. Before entering this room that is ordinarily reserved for the initiated, sightseers will first see a showcase with a model of the Temple of Solomon, made according to the original temple described in the Old Testament.
A Whitewashing of History
Of course, visitors will keep in mind that this abundance of occult signs is really just a captatio benevolentiae, aimed at presenting Freemasonry as sympathetic, helping them forget how profoundly anti-Christian it is.
But nobody can be mistaken. The exposition in Bern knows who its enemy is: the Catholic Church. It mentions that, at the time of the Enlightenment, “Masonic tolerance was a threat” in the eyes of the Church. The exhibition, which clearly has no fear of amalgams, also recalls that in southern Europe, the Inquisition relentlessly hounded the Freemasons, just like the Nazis in the 20th century.
In order to emotionally mark visitors, they are shown an illustration of the Masonic legend that shows the Portuguese Inquisition torturing John Coustos, a stonemason born in Bern to Huguenot parents, who settled in Portugal, where he was condemned to penal servitude for being a Freemason in 1744.
But the exposition does avoid mentioning all the Catholic magisterium’s doctrinal condemnations of Freemasonry over the past two centuries and more, beginning with the pontifical bull In Eminenti Apostolatus, thundered by Clement XII on April 28, 1738. This document pronounced a latae sententiae excommunication against Catholics belonging to the lodges. After being repeated by the popes many times, this condemnation was inscribed in the 1917 Pio-Benedictine Code.
Current Statements from the Church
The new Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 by the Vatican no longer explicitly mentions the condemnation, but it still prescribes a penalty for anyone who “joins an association which plots against the Church”, and an interdict – which deprives a person of the sacraments, of participating in the divine office, and of burial in consecrated ground –for those who “promote or direct an association of this kind”.
Along the same lines, on November 26, 1983, John Paul II approved a “Declaration on Masonic Associations”. It was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, and it insists that “the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden.” The declaration mentions in passing that “the faithful who enroll in the Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”
If the Church is severe in her judgment on Freemasonry, it is because there are grave reasons to condemn it. The first is naturalism, that is not so much a denial of the existence of God as a refusal to recognize the consequences of His existence in the natural order. Thus society should be organized, according to the “brothers”, as if God did not exist.
Another motive for condemnation: the doctrinal relativism that hides behind the mask of “tolerance”. The Masonic method – as Richard Dupuy, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France, publicly stated on July 20, 1968, at the Convention of his obedience – consists in “perpetually questioning everything we know”. On the religious level, the disastrous consequence of this relativism is the refusal of all dogma and all revelation. Not to mention the moral level, where every sort of deviation becomes possible.
Lastly, the sworn “secrecy” of the Freemasons is denounced by the Church in the name of her Divine Founder’s own words: “For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved; but he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God” (Jn. 3:20-21)