Sunday, 20 October 2013


(The English Independent.)

THE correspondents who have discussed in the Times during the past week the reasons pro and con. for the Pope having put the Masons under a ban are evidently very much in the dark on the whole subject; nor do we think that the writers in the leading columns of the Times itself understand the question enough to throw much light upon it. In this case, as in some others we could name, the Jupiter of the Press is seated uncomfortably high on a cloud of generalities, in some Olympian height of his own, and has not deigned to give—perhaps because he cannot—a clear explanation of the cause of offence, which renders it impossible for the Marquis of Ripon to reconcile his duties to the Church of his adoption with the discharge of his duties as Grand Master of the English lodges of Masonry. We should like to know, and have consulted in vain the daily Press for the reasons.
What helps to complicate the matter in the eyes of the British public is that the Church of Rome will not deign to give an explanation of the real ground of her quarrel. She contents herself with a general denunciation of Masonry in common with all secret societies, which leads writers like "Nemo" to rush to her rescue with a strange piece of casuistry as to the unlawfulness of secret oaths in general, irrespective of the subject matter of the oath itself. Into that question of casuistry we do not mean to enter, as we believe that case morality is very much like case law—one side is good till the other is stated, and the right or wrong very much depends on the animus imponentis. The fact is, that such writers are throwing dust in our eyes, and helping to keep up the delusion that the quarrel of Rome with Masonry is on account of its being a secret society. It is no such thing. The Church of Rome is too wary to waste powder and shot on such small birds as these.
To find the real grounds on which the Church of Rome has put a ban on Masonry, we must look into the history of the suppression of the Jesuits a century ago. This was effected partly by the general advance of the age, but principally by the action of the many secret societies of Theosophists, Rosicrucians, Illuminati, and others, who undertook to revolutionise society last century, particularly in Bavaria, Austria, and Italy, and who were organised under the name of Masons. This was the disguise under cover of which they carried on their operations, and as the Church of Rome then, as now, being much under the guidance of the Jesuits, could not get at them in any other way, it denounced them as Masons. The struggle between a reforming and a conservative party in the Church of Rome was long and keen during the latter half of last century. Bavaria was the centre of that struggle, and Ingoldstadt, which was the University of the Jesuits, was, as we might expect, the very point where the anti-Jesuit movement took its rise and spread by means of a counter-society organised to oppose them. Adam Weishaupt was then a professor of civil law at Ingoldstadt, and he took the lead in this counter conspiracy against the Jesuits. He set himself up as the head of a new sect called the Illuminati, or pretended masters of light, who adopted the badges of Masonry, and used its harmless ceremonial and solemn rites of initiation as a blind for his real aims, which were to carry on a war to the death against the Jesuits. This Professor Weishaupt, who does not seem to have been as wise-headed as his name, carried his new creed, which was only Deism thinly disguised, to the most extravagant length. Schlesser, the historian, from whom we have derived much information as to the real aim of this sect, observes that "almost all the dealers in secrets and the revolutionary party in politics and religion during the repressive times before the outburst of the French Revolution sought to avail themselves of symbols, hieroglyphs, and Freemasons' lodges, for the promotion of their objects, and the innocent foolery of this secret society was much and variously abused. Initiation, oaths, solemnities, subordination, and ranks allured them to orders. Symbols and hieroglyphs inspired simpletons and fools with the hope of learning important secrets for their money. Men of the world, lovers of pleasure and adventures, sought and found in these orders, protectors, acquaintances, recommendations and social enjoyment, which was seasoned by its exclusive character. In these secret societies the doubter might more freely express his opinions than in the common intercourse of social life, where they were carefully and minutely watched by both the civil and ecclesiastical police. Those who wished to avail themselves of an order in these times for the promotion of their objects allured their brethren the Freemasons and others, by the forms of lax or strict observance of Zinzendorfians, Rosicrucians, Martinists, and Templars."
Society thus was honeycombed, particularly in Roman Catholic countries, where the confessional was used as an instrument of police, with conspiracies against this repressive form of government. These societies called themselves by the innocent name of Masons, and this explains the intense hatred of the Church of Rome against Freemasonry, which would be unaccountable if there were no other rites of Masonry than those known in this country. It does not say much for the candor of the Church of Rome, or even for its common sense, that having to do battle with secret societies which were banded together against her, she could not strike at them except through the body of Masonry behind which these Deists and Freethinkers in disguise had crept in to conceal themselves. What confirms this account of the matter, and explains the singular confusion in Germany between Masons and this anti-Catholic league of Illuminists, is the fact that, till the early part of the last century, Freemasonry was scarcely known at all in Germany ; in fact, it did not exist there until it was introduced from England in 1732, the first lodge being planted in Hamburg by some British merchants settled there. From Hamburg, Freemasonry spread with great rapidity all over Germany, but it was some time before it attracted the attention of the Papal authorities, who were not slow to scent heresy. The Jesuits, being a secret society themselves, could brook no rivals, and so a conflict began between the Catholic League, as we may describe the Jesuits, and the anti-Catholics, which ended, as everyone known, in the temporary triumph of the Liberal party and the suppression of the Jesuits every where in Europe. It is exactly a hundred and one years ago since the Bull for the suppression of the Jesuits was put out by Pope Clement XIV., Ganganelli, who died so mysteriously a year after—poisoned by the Jesuits, as every Italian firmly believes. Be that as it may, the fact is that the Jesuits, who never forget a grudge or forgive a foe, bore into exile an undying hatred against the sect of Theophilanthropists (to use one of their cant terms), who passed themselves off as Masons in Germany. As soon, then, as they were restored as an order by Pius VII., in 1814, their first act was to get the Pope to fulminate a Bull against secret societies in general, not forgetting to class the Masons with Josephists, Rosminians, Fabricians, and all others who had taken any part during the last century in the long attack on the Order.
The common sense, then, of the matter is this—that the modern Church of Rome having sold itself to the Jesuits, will not tolerate any secret society that pretends to be, or possibly may become, a rival to the Jesuits. She makes this a test of obedience, and those who are willing to take her for their spiritual guide, and to put their consciences in her keeping, have no right to complain if she exacts this as a test of the sincerity of their conversion. Forsaking all other, will they keep only to her?—to use the words of the English marriage service. A good Romanist is to have no other allegiance than hers ; and as the husband is entitled to prescribe what society his wife shall keep, and what friends she shall surround herself with, so the Church of Rome lays down the same terms to those who wish to enter her communion.
It is no use to say to us that this is intolerable tyranny thus to confound civil and religious rights in one, and to exalt a priest into the arbiter of our common daily duties and relaxations. So it is ; but this is the Church of Rome, and those who take her must take her as a wife takes the husband whose name she adopts, for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. It is true that Masonry is not in Germany and Italy what it was a century ago—the covert for attacks on priestcraft. The Liberal party do not need the protection now of a secret society, with oaths, initiation, and other signs of mystery. Still the old grudge remains, and therefore, to show her impartiality, the Church of Rome denounces all secret societies alike, including even that innocent band of convivialists who have now the honor of claiming the Prince of Wales as their Grand Master, vice the Marquis of Ripon, who has gone over to Rome.
We hope that there is nothing ominous in this example of the late Grand Master, for the consequences would be much more serious in the case of the Prince of Wales. We need not discuss them here, but point out, in conclusion, the moral which this story of Lord Ripon's sudden secession to Rome suggests to us. It is an instance of what the old school of physicists called nature abhorring a vacuum. The phrase is absurd as applied to unconscious matter; nature has no more abhorrence of a vacuum than of a plenum. But in the spiritual world it expresses a great truth. The mind recoils from a religious vacuum, and the sense of our spiritual emptiness is no sooner felt than we rush on to fill it, anyhow and with anything. Here is our danger, and here it is that Rome finds her opportunity. It is from the sceptical and the frivolous that she gathers her recruits most readily. Romanism is as much in our day what Charles II. said it was in his day—the only religion for a gentleman. We shall not dispute the remark if a Charles II. is to be the standard of what a gentleman ought to be. We do not wish to reflect on those who have taken the same step as the Marquis of Ripon ; but it certainly diminishes our alarm when we find that this Romeward movement is almost entirely confined to the Upper Ten, and to those foolish persons who think it the thing to reflect their prejudices. When it begins to spread among the middle classes we shall begin to take alarm, but not till then.

 The Queenslander 9 January 1875,

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