originally published July 7, 2015
updated on APRIL 30, 2016
Papal Decree Banning Clergy from Rotary Club Membership
Pope Francis, Rotary Club Member Since 1999
Catholicism and Rotary – An Open Question
The Masons and Pope Francis
The Catholic Church's Position on Freemasonry
On January 11, 1951, The Vatican issued a Decree banning "members of the clergy" from belonging to a Rotary club association. According to the Decree, lay people are permitted to join as long as they adhere to the provisions set forth in Canon Law, but priests are explicitly forbidden from belonging to Rotary or participating in their meetings. The WILD VOICE continues to research this, but to the best of our knowledge at this time the Decree has never been officially lifted, rescinded or annulled. We are most interested in providing true and accurate information and so now respectfully reach out and ask any qualified parties (Canon lawyers, Vatican historians, etc.) to please contact us if they are aware of any credible documentation detailing exactly on what date and by whose authority this Papal Decree was officially abrogated, nullified, or amended, if it ever was. We will immediately update and edit this article as necessary with respect to any new verifiable information.
Here below is the full text of the Papal Decree issued on January 11, 1951.
Papal Decree – Pope Pius XII
Jan 11, 1951
First published in Osservatore Romano, Vatican City daily
(English translation below by the Archdiocese of Chicago)
"The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office: a decree. Wednesday, Dec. 20, 1950.
"The question has been asked of this Supreme Sacred Congregation whether Catholics may be members of the association commonly called "the Rotary club."
After ascertaining the opinion of the Reverend Fathers Consultors, Their Eminences the Cardinals, charged with safeguarding faith and morals, decreed in their plenary meeting of Wednesday, Dec. 20, 1950 as follows:
Members of the clergy may not belong to a Rotary club association or take part in its meetings; laymen are to be urged to observe the provisions of Canon 684 of Canon Law.
And on the 26th of the same month and year, His Holiness Pope Pius XII approved the resolution and ordered it published, after hearing it in an audience granted to His Excellency the Assessor of the Holy Office.
Given in Rome at the offices of the Holy Office on Jan. 11, 1951.
Marino Marani, Notary of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office."
Pope Francis, while he was still Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, was elected to and accepted an honorary membership in the Rotary Club in 1999. This fact is proudly displayed on The Rotary Club website, and below you will see a copy of Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio's letter of acknowledgement and acceptance to Juan Carlos Becciu, president of the Buenos Aires Rotary Club (along with an English translation of the text).
Rotary International explains the relationship of The Rotary Club and The Catholic Church in a website article titled "Catholicism and Rotary" (below). It incorrectly states that Pope Pius VI addressed The Rotary Club in 1970 (Pope Pius VI died in 1799). We have found a speech Pope Paul VI gave to conference attendees of Rotary International in Italy on March 20, 1965 (The Rotarian, June, 1965 issue), and also in Rome in November of 1970, and again in Milan, 1974. However, there is no evidence in any of his speeches that he had actually and formally reversed the Papal Decree of Pope Pius XII forbidding priests from Rotary membership.
As the article points out, it is true that Pope John Paul II spoke to Rotary International members in Italy both in 1979 and (as part of a larger meeting with other groups) in the year 2000. Nowhere in these speeches though does he say that the ban on Catholic priests from belonging to Rotary International had ever been lifted. An important distinction should and must be made between giving a speech to a group of people and holding or endorsing membership in an organization. Pope John Paul II also spoke to banking associations and space research conference attendees at one time or another, but that obviously does not make him either an investment banker or an astronaut.
Pope Francis is the first known Pope to receive and accept a Rotary Club Membership.
The article also states that The Catholic Truth Society declared that "Rotary is neither secret nor seditious". However, The Catholic Truth Society is only a publishing house based in London and of course holds no real Church authority to reverse a Papal Decree.
It would be only logical to assume that if indeed the Rotary Club was able to concretely demonstrate that the Papal Decree of 1951 specifically prohibiting clergy from belonging to The Rotary Club was ever officially reversed then they would certainly mention it. They don't.
The problem seems to have started in Spain in 1928 when a bishop laid charges that Rotary was nothing but a new Satanic organization. The church also criticized and condemned Rotary for showing a concept of life of service without reference to church teaching. Indeed, it seems that the church believed it was a secret society with quasi-religious overtones. For whatever reason, the Vatican took up the reins and in 1929 it issued a decree that “it is not expedient” for Catholic priest to participate in Rotary either as members or guest. This decree and its application was worrisome to many Catholics in Rotary not the least of which was then RI President Tom Sutton who was himself a Catholic.
Critical and at times disparaging articles regularly appeared in Catholic newspapers. Sutton’s attempts to convince the Secretary of State at the Vatican were fruitless and the anti-Rotary articles continued to be published.
The factual errors were shown to be false and by 1933 there was a mood swing in the Vatican. Priests were now allowed to use their discretion about attending or even joining Rotary. Nevertheless, one of the results of the church attitude was a slow development of Rotary in predominantly Catholic countries such as Ireland.
The uneasy peace continued until 1951 when yet another Vatican decree warned Priests that they should not join Rotary and that the faithful should be aware of seditious and suspected organizations.
But the world was changing and the decree caused an immediate angry response among others, from the then-Catholic and RI President Arthur Laqueux, and even from the Rotarian, Catholic Bishop of Fort Wayne Indiana who publicly declared the decree “quite incomprehensible.”
Fairly soon, the Vatican begin to react and by the end of the decade, the Catholic Truth Society was able to declare that Rotary is neither secret nor seditious. Gradually there was a thaw in the relationship between the church and Rotary. In 1970 Pope Pius VI addressed Rotarians in Italy and in 1979 Pope John Paul II spoke at the Rotary International convention in Rome praising many of Rotary’s humanitarian programs. Later, Pope John Paul II accepted a Paul Harris Fellowship and a World Understanding and Peace award from Rotary.
Finally, before becoming Pope Francis, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio accepted an honorary membership in the Rotary Club of Buenos Aires.
'ROTARIAN JUBILEE' – AT POPE FRANCIS INVITATION
On April 30, 2016 Pope Francis greeted Rotary members at a special Jubilee audience.
According to Vatican Radio nearly 9,000 Rotary members attended the Jubilee Audience in St. Peter’s Square at the invitation of Pope Francis. Rotary kicked off the Rotarian Jubilee the day before with a conference on the challenges refugees are facing worldwide.
The conference was organized by the Jesuit Refugee Service – in partnership with Rotary, UNHCR and WFP – and entitled “Helping Refugees to Start Over”.
Mr. Ravindran, President of Rotary International, called Pope Francis a model for Rotarians, saying "he is doing exactly what every Rotarian should be doing. So we see a great synergy of thought with this Pope, and being here, receiving his blessing, I think is something quite wonderful for us."
The Jesuit Refugee Service also reported on the 'Jubilee of Rotarians' on their website: "Rome, 22 April 2016 – On 29 April, at LUMSA University, Fr Thomas H Smolich SJ, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) International Director, will speak on a panel discussion hosted by Rotary International to discuss the needs and challenges of refugees as well as sustainable solutions. Fr Smolich will speak alongside Carlotta Sami, Spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office for Southern Europe, and John Hewko and K.R. Ravindran, General Secretary and President of Rotary International respectively, to discuss the theme "Helping refugees to start over." The conference is the opening event of the Jubilee of Rotarians programme, organised for Rotarians from all over the world for the Year of Mercy. The programme will continue with a private audience with the Pope on Saturday, 30 April."
Father Linus Clovis recently stated the following in a speech about 'The Francis Effect':
"I came across a quote from someone who knew him (Pope Francis) in Argentina. ‘Apparently, he loves to be loved by all and please everyone, so one day he could make a speech on TV against abortion, and the next day, on the same television show, bless the pro-abortion feminists in the Plaza de Mayo; He can give a wonderful speech against the Masons and, a few hours later, be dining and drinking with them in the Rotary Club.' So, how can you make a decision about a man like this, who is everybody’s friend?"
It should also be remembered that on March 14, 2013, the very day after the election of Pope Francis, the Grand Master of the Grand Orient Masonic Lodge of Italy gave a speech congratulating Jorge Bergoglio on his win. The high-level mason's words, just one day after the release of 'Pope Francis' onto the world seem highly improbable and even eerily prophetic to say the least:
"A man of the poor and far from the Curia. Fraternity and dialogue are his first concrete words: maybe in the new Church nothing will ever be like before. It is our auspicious that the Francesco’s pontificate, the pope who ‘comes from the end of the world’ may signify the return of the Church-Word versus the Church-institution, promoting an open relationship with the contemporary world, with non believers and not through the springtime of Vatican II". The Jesuit who is close to the last of history has the great opportunity to show the world the face of a Church that must recuperate the annunciation of a new humanity, not the weight of an institution sheltered in defense of its own privileges. Bergoglio knows real life and will remember the lesson of one of his landmark theologists, Romano Guardini, who said truth and love cannot be separated. The simple cross that he wore on his white vest gives us hope that a Church of the people may find again the ability to dialogue with all men of good will and with Free Masonry which, as the Latin America experience teaches, works for the common good and progress of humanity, following Bolivar, Allende and Jose’ Marti’ to mention a few. This is the ‘white smoke’ that we are waiting for from the Church of our time" – Gustavo Raffi, Grand Master, Grande Oriente d' Italia, March 14, 2013.
It is also most curious to find Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio demonstrating this easily recognizable masonic "hidden-hand" sign while posing for a snapshot photo in 2008 in Argentina. Masons learn this secret hand signal as part of completing the 13th Degree ("The Royal Arch Degree") of Scottish Rite Freemasonry and knowledge of it permits the initiate to go through the 'second veil' during the ceremony. Other famous masons and powerful men have often been known to exhibit this hidden-hand sign in portraits throughout history. Some examples include: Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Napoleon Bonaparte, Salomon Rothschild, and George Washington.
Another very strange coincidence is that on 12.13.14 the city of Bologna, Italy erected a public light display with obvious occult significance and masonic icons partly in remembrance of the sinister P2 Masonic Lodge's bombing of a train station in the city in 1980. This date, December 13, 2014 happens to also be the 45th anniversary of the day that Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained as a priest (12.13.69). For much more on this story, please see The Lights & Darkness of Christmas.
It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into what freemasonry really is and its history with the Catholic Church. For more on that topic please see The Church's Enemies Within The Church.
Here is a brief synopsis of some of the Catholic Church's recent positional statements on freemasonry:
1980 – The German Bishops Conference produced a report on Freemasonry with the following findings:
1) Freemasonry denies revelation and objective truth
2) Religious indifference is fundamental to Freemasonry
3) Freemasonry is Deist and denies the possibility of divine revelation
4) The sacramental character of Masonic rituals was seen as signifying an individual transformation, offering an alternative path to perfection and having a total claim on the life of a member
5) All masonic lodges are forbidden to Catholics, including 'Catholic-friendly lodges'
1983 – Prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the personal approval of Pope John Paul II, issues a Declaration on Masonic Associations, which reiterated the Church's objections to Freemasonry. It states:
"The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion…." and "…the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association(s) remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden."
1985 – The U.S. Catholic Conference Bishops' Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices concludes in a letter to U.S. Bishops:
"the principles and basic rituals of Masonry embody a naturalistic religion, active participation in which is incompatible with Christian faith and practice."
2007 – Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary stated that membership in Masonic organizations "remains forbidden" to Catholics and called on priests who had declared themselves to be Freemasons to be disciplined by their direct superiors.
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Again, in the interest of fair and truthful reporting, we eagerly invite any qualified parties (Canon lawyers, Vatican historians, etc.) to please contact us if they are aware of any credible documentation detailing exactly on what date and by whose authority the Papal Decree issued on January 11, 1951 banning clergy from membership in The Rotary Club was officially abrogated, nullified, or amended, if it ever was. We will gladly edit and update this article with any verifiable information immediately upon receipt and confirmation. Thank you.
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