The Holy See
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Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith



On 19 July 1974 this Congregation wrote to some Episcopal Conferences a private letter concerning the interpretation of can 2335 of the Code of Canon Law which forbids Catholics, under the penalty of excommunication, to enroll in Masonic or other similar associations.

Since the said letter has become public and has given rise to erroneous and tendentious interpretations, this Congregation, without prejudice to the eventual norms of the new Code, issues the following confirmation and clarification:

1) the present canonical discipline remains in full force and has not been modified in any way;

2) consequently, neither the excommunication nor the other penalties envisaged have been abrogated;

3) what was said in the aforesaid letter as regards the interpretation to be given to the canon in question should be understood – as the Congregation intended – merely as a reminder of the general principles of interpretation of penal laws for the solution of the cases of individual persons which may be submitted to the judgment of ordinaries. It was not, however, the intention of the Congregation to permit Episcopal Conferences to issue public pronouncements by way of a judgment of a general character on the nature of Masonic associations, which would imply a derogation from the aforesaid norms.

Rome, from the Office of the S. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 17 February 1981.

Franjo Cardinal Seper


Fr. Jerome Hamer, O.P.
Titular Archbishop of Lorium