On February 17, 1981, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church reaffirmed its centuries-old ban against its membership affiliating with Freemasonry, and imposed the threat of excommunication.
As would be expected the fraternity reacted with some alarm and consternation. Undoubtedly, this reaffirmation would have created some effect upon the Craft had it been enforced, especially upon our present Catholic members. It was doubtful, however, that it would have produced any pronounced long-lasting effect. In January 1982, the Roman Catholic Church broadly revised its Code of Canon Law. The revision replaced the 1917 Code and went into effect on November 27, 1983. In the sixth book of the Code, the prohibition against joining our fraternity has been deleted.
There is no way of determining what effect the initial Papal Bull has had on Freemasonry for the past 245 years but history relates that the Craft has flourished in spite of it. I would suggest that the current Protestant trends pose a far greater threat to Freemasonry, yet we have shown a little alarm.
If you were asked to design an organization that would emphasize and reinforce support of religion, could you design anything superior to Freemasonry? If you were to try to develop a philosophy that would promote the concept of the brotherhood of all men, could you conceivably improve upon the philosophy of the Craft?
Robert Frost in his poem, “Mending Wall,” has the old farmer saying:
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

Perhaps we should seek to find within our churches what they are walling in or walling out. There appears to be an attempt to wall out freedom of thought and choice, and wall in the membership so as to avoid influences outside of itself.
Albert Pike wrote:
It is the crowning glory of Freemasonry that, requiring only that a candidate shall believe and put his trust in a living and personal God, the beneficent and protecting Providence, to whom it is not folly to pray; and shall believe the continued existence of the soul of man after the death of the body, it receives into its lodges the Christian of every sect, the Hebrew, the Moslem, the Pharisee and unites them into the holy bonds of brotherhood.
Masonry is not a religion …. But Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenants of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundations of all religions.
It would be difficult for any religion to find anything objectionable in these precepts, but many Christian leaders feel that if we are not a supporter solely of Christianity, we are anti-Christian. I quote from the booklet The Antichrist in the Lutheran Church, “Masonry is acknowledged to have a creed, but it is not Christian, therefore it is Antichrist.

We are not now and never could be defenders of only the Christian religion, but of all religions professing these precepts. For this very reason, we have been able to develop a brotherhood that no single religious faith could ever hope to. Masonry is said to be the realization of God by the practice of brotherhood, but it also promotes the brotherhood of man by developing the manhood of the brother. There can be no denying the religious relationship of Masonry but we are not a religion. Religions are many; religion is one. In this respect, Masonry supports religion.
The time is long past due for us to question the motive of church leadership who oppose Freemasonry. It is not a new attitude. It is, however, far more pervasive and vicious, at least in America than it has been in the past. We know that Freemasonry has not changed; therefore the change must lie within church leader­ship.
Freemasonry has no quarrel with any church but there will always be within the clergy those who desire a monopoly on financial contributions and time of their parishioners and will express resentment against any organization which they determine are competing with them for the fulfillment of this desire.
Even before becoming a member of our fraternity, I was well aware of the anti-Masonic attitude taken by the Roman Catholic Church, and it became evident shortly thereafter that some Protestant denominations also profess similar settlements. A brother with whom I was entered, passed and raised, a minister of a Protestant denomination was discharged from his church for his association with Freemasonry.
This trend is not altogether a recent phenomenon but it appears to have gained momentum recently. In the “Introduction of Freemasonry, and Interpretation,” we find, “we have long since felt that the secret societies system, with Masonry at its head is responsible in a large measure for the rationalistic negative criticism of the Bible that is threatening ruin to the church of Christ.”
This is no longer the situation. It was well documented in the early nineteen sixties, the position the United Lutheran Church took in its reorganization concerning affiliation by its ministers. This restriction is based upon article VII, section 4 of the Constitution of the Lutheran Church of America which states:
No person who belongs to any organization which claims to possess in its teachings and ceremonies that which the Lord has given solely to his church shall be ordained or otherwise received into the ministry of this church, nor shall any person so ordained or received by this church be retained in its ministry which sub-sequently joined such an organization. Violation of this rule shall make such minister subject to discipline.
Other Protestant churches have advanced similar anti-Masonic overtures.
Some Masonic scholars find no threat present, because it affects only those in the ministry and they see no possibility of its encompassing lay members. Other Masonic scholars who are also ministers of the church feel otherwise. For those who feel that such a force could not be created by the leaders of the church, it would be well not to lose sight of the fact that in 1738, when Pope Clement XII issued the first Papal Bull against the fraternity, a large percentage of its members were Roman Catholics.
Why is this attitude becoming influential enough today to cause major changes in church policy? If the change does not lie within the fraternity, it must lie within the church. I am suggesting that we make a more critical analysis of our church leaders and use our influence more substantially as a guiding force, before we find that we have lost our capability to do so. We have a tendency to cover our church leaders with an aura of infallibility because of their very relationship with the church, and thus accept decisions affecting our lives which we would never accept from other bodies. Try to visualize, for example, our reaction to a governmental decree telling us that we could not associate with the fraternity. Yet our defense to just such a decree by the church is at the very best weak, indeed.
It might be well if our church leaders were to recognize that there is a possibility that their decisions may be a factor affecting loss of support and not outside influences. I am not alone in my resentment of such actions as antigovernment demonstrations in violation of our government laws by the clergy nor to their championing causes to which we are opposed.The church’s contributions to the “World Council of Churches” are being used to promote ­anti-American propaganda in third world countries. Terrorism is an antithesis to both religious and ­Masonic philosophies. Many have become greatly disillusioned with the leadership of our churches and find it difficult, in good faith, to continue to support them.
In as much as I am far from alone in my sentiments, I would suspect that this reaction carries a much greater impact of the loss of church support than they would care to admit. The basic precepts of Freemasonry are in direct opposition to any actions in violation of our country’s laws and anti-patriotic involvement, and whereas we tend to attract those who follow these precepts, it is only natural that we as individuals should oppose actions or decisions of this nature.
The objection expressed by the Roman Catholic Church and also to a degree by some Protestant denominations is that we are a secret society, and the church objects to secret societies. Certainly, we are not a secret society. All Masons should know that the only secrets we harbor are some portions of our ritual and our means of recognition, but even if we were to fall into this category, why should this factor generate church opposition. Is it justification enough for the church to oppose any organization it does not understand?
The objection most frequently promulgated today is that Freemasonry is in competition with the church. For those of us who know Freemasonry, the very thought of such competition is an absurdity. Masonry has no quarrel with any church, Protestant or Catholic.
Perhaps the following excerpt from the booklet, “The Antichrist in the Lutheran Church,” published by the National Christian Association relates most accurately the feelings leading up to our current conflict:
Those who have joined its [Freemasonry’s] ranks paying yearly dues, do so to the detriment of the Christian church, for to remain in good standing in this anti-Christian organization, the member must pay the stipulated dues and also the high initiation fees if he desires to advance, while he permits the church to worry along as best it can.
The Moody Monthly, a publication of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, has Freemasonry listed in its “A Catalog of Cults.” The list is prefaced with these words: “Jesus Christ’s deity is what truly separates Christianity from a cult.”
There is probably no organization in the world which encourages more church support and devotion than our gentle fraternity, but recent actions by the clergy makes this increasingly difficult to do so.
Objections expressed by church leaders must either be due to ignorance or envy and resentment of the support that the fraternity has been able to generate from its members. It is possible that there are lessons the church could learn from our fraternity.There is no organization even approaching in magnitude the philanthropic work of Freemasonry. Recently it was revealed that in one year, as nearly as could be determined, Freemasonry contributed a sum in dollars for its philanthropic work, equivalent approximately to 50% of the entire United Fund’s goal in the nation.
Freemasonry has withstood many assaults in the past and has emerged with no greatly reduced strength, the most notable being the anti-Masonic political movement during the early 19th century. During this period in our history, however, there were those who continued to fight and resist this movement.
To give an insight in how venomous the attacks by some church leaders against the fraternity are, I give you one more quote. This is from the last paragraph of an article titled “The Anti-Christ in the Lutheran Church” by William Meyer. He says: “I hate this secret Lodge, especially Masonry, the whore-mother of all lodges, but my heart goes out to the erring brother, who has never heard his pastor say to him, ‘this is the way, walk ye in it.’”
If nothing else results from this affront to our Craft, it should cause us to re-examine ourselves and our place in history. Make no doubt about it, it is great. Freemasonry has been an attractive force for some of the greatest men this world has ever produced and now we deal with a concern that action by the Southern Baptist Convention could impact 15 million of their members, for whom Freemasonry has been one of their greatest supporters.
A century ago, the Grand Lodge of New York proposed the following summary of the teachings of Freemasonry, later known as the Creed of a Mason:
Masonry teaches man to practice charity and benevolence, to protect chastity, to respect the ties of blood and friendship, to adopt the principles and revere the ordinances of religion, to assist the people, guide the blind, raise up the downtrodden, shelter the orphan, guard the Altar, support the government, inculcate morality, promote learning, love man, fear God, implore His mercy and hope for happiness.
Is this not worth fighting for? The world needs our influence as perhaps never before. Let us seek to find why our churches are building walls and what they fear and why.
There are many within the ranks of our leadership who feel that we should not disagree with church leadership. But, let us recognize clearly that there is no religion that is an enemy of ours, there are religious leaders who are enemies of ours and there is no infallibility in religious leaders. It must be remembered that in the church, the Bible is not the supreme authority in matters of religious faith and practice.The church and not the book has the final say and the Ministry is the spokesperson of the church.
We will not involve ourselves in quarrels, but we must not refuse to use our influence as a guiding factor in establishing church policy. We cannot sit back and allow our potential membership to be diluted without any attempt to generate an understanding with church leaders of the compatibility of Freemasonry and the church. We must not remain passive while the richest source of future membership is removed from us. We owe this much to our brethren of the past and to the future of our great fraternity. 

Excerpt from: Thomas W. Jackson, North American Freemasonry – Idealism & Realism, Plumbstone, Washington DC, 2019, pp 206-214