Secret Societies


#1

I’ve heard here and elsewhere that the Church disapproves of secret societies. What are some good examples of the types of societies that the Church would excommunicate/frown upon a person being a part of? (I realize the Masons are the big one)
I’m in a college fraternity but no priest or layperson I’ve ever talked to about it has told me that my membership in it is sinful in and of itself (or not as long as I’m abstaining from things like huge parties where people are getting drunk and hooking up, anyway) Anybody feel differenty?


#2

[quote=CollegeKid]What are some good examples of the types of societies that the Church would excommunicate/frown upon a person being a part of?
[/quote]

A “secret society” is any group/organization/club, etc where you must promise an allegiance to the society’s teachings and agenda, but you don’t learn exactly what those REALLY ARE until after you have made the promise.

Furthermore, members are usually expected to conceal or deny their membership, and not tell any outsiders about their activities.

Secret socities are somewhat common on college campuses, especailly at large, old schools. A Catholic may not join any such society.

The boisterous parties you describe are usually NOT part of a secret society’s activities (but probably good to avoid anyway).


#3

I’ve never heard of any broad prohibition against secret societies. Here is a list of specific organizations contary to the faith:

Statement issued by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (published in Southern Nebraska Register, March 22, 1996)

All Catholics in and of the Diocese of Lincoln are forbidden to be members of the organizations and groups listed below. Membership in these organizations or groups is always perilous to the Catholic Faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic Faith.[list]
*]Planned Parenthood
*]Society of Saint Pius X (Lefebvre Group)
*]Hemlock Society
*]Call to Action
*]Call to Action Nebraska
*]Saint Michael the Archangel Chapel
*]Freemasons
*]Job’s Daughters
*]DeMolay
*]Eastern Star
*]Rainbow Girls
*]Catholics for a Free Choice[/list]


#4

Secrecy per se, unless it involved making an oath of a superior allegiance, would not be problemmatic unless something else was involved.

This could be an offense against the freedom of the Church, as in
canon 1374: “A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict.” See similarly canons 1373 and 1375.

Or it could involve a philosophy entailing schism, heresy or apostasy.

Secret societies of their nature involve often, and perhaps inherently, a discrimination against non members. Some could be benign, such as a “Secret Santa” group dedicated to doing charitable works while concealing the identity of benefactors. Others could be quite offensive to the essential equality of human dignity which all people enjoy by virtue of divine law.

If a society involves different stages of membership, with the initiate climbing toward “enlightenment” or a position of control over the lives of others, it would be quite suspect.

Others are just puerile and silly and wear funny hats. None of those aspects are prohibited by law. Neither are funny handshakes, or silly songs or silly walks.

Of course, there is wisdom in the saying that bad companions make for bad morals, and one should always be cautious. Certainly the Apostle Paul warns us to avoid deeds done in darkness since we are children of the light.


#5

[quote=CollegeKid]I’ve heard here and elsewhere that the Church disapproves of secret societies. What are some good examples of the types of societies that the Church would excommunicate/frown upon a person being a part of? (I realize the Masons are the big one)
I’m in a college fraternity but no priest or layperson I’ve ever talked to about it has told me that my membership in it is sinful in and of itself (or not as long as I’m abstaining from things like huge parties where people are getting drunk and hooking up, anyway) Anybody feel differenty?
[/quote]

I was also in a fraternity during college. You just have to use your judgment for what you think your fraternity is about, and if you believe it’s making you or the men around you into better people. If your fraternity allows you live your life as a Catholic, which you noted above, there is nothing wrong with memberships in fraternities. My fraternity did many things for the community, I made some fantastic, life-long friends, and my fraternity was very different from the other organizations listed above. What’s funny, is that I was in a fraternity in Nebraska when the Bishop said that! I’m proud of my time there, and I hope you find the experience to be meaningful as well.


#6

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.