.- In an unusual show of “openness” to the Catholic Church, a Masonic lodge in Italy has announced the appointment of a Catholic priest as chaplain. The news was announced during an address to members of the lodge by Grand Master Fabio Venzi of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Italy. During his address announcing the appointment of the priest, whom he did not identify by name, Venzi explained what he considers to be the relationship between freemasonry and the Catholic Church. “If we examine the documents at our disposal and if we look at the contrasts of the presumed incompatibility of the Catholic Church with freemasonry, we might get the impression that we find ourselves in the presence of a comedy of errors,” he said.
“The documents of the Holy See,” he continued, “are often based on Masonic realities which we consider ‘irregular,’ and therefore not representative of true Masonic tradition.” “The rituals that have been studied and are considered typical of Masonic thought are not known exactly, but this does not appear to be a question of little importance, since we know that rituals can vary from lodge to lodge.”
Likewise, Venzi stated that “the first chapter of the book Freemasonry, by Zbigniew Suchecki of the Pontifical Lateran University and published by the Liberia Editrice Vaticana, notes: ‘During the last century, the Grand Eastern Lodge of France and the Grand Eastern Lodge of Italy were among the most anti-clerical Masonic lodges in the world.’ We hope that in the future, these lodges, which historically have represented the Anglo-Saxon Masonic tradition, not be considered typical.”
On the other hand, Venzi continued, “When a small opening was conceded, this was not done with much intelligence or common sense. I am referring to Canon 2335 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Under this norm, there was a sanction for Catholics who were members of organizations that in fact machinantur contra Ecclesiam, that is, that ‘plotted against the Church’.”
Venzi noted that “we have always treated the Holy See with great respect, and we have even named a lodge after Pius II, Enea Silvio Piccolomini. This is unique in the history of freemasonry.”
At the end of address, Venzi announced the appointment of a grand official “who will probably be a part not only of the history of Italian freemasonry, but also of the history of freemasonry in the world, and I don’t think I am wrong. The grand official I am appointing is a priest of the Catholic Church. Let me say it again, of the Catholic Church.”
With this appointment, Venzi claimed to be “making a gesture of openness. Never before has a Masonic lodge made such a gesture towards the Catholic Church, distancing itself from other irregular Masonic lodges that, with their anti-clericalism, have caused much harm to the image of freemasonry in the world.”
“We have played our part and we hope the Church will lay the groundwork and have the patience to deal with the peculiarities and differences within the world of freemasonry,” Venzi said in conclusion.