secret society

Article

An organization whose members are so bound to secrecy that they may not disclose its purposes, practises, or activities to competent civil or ecclesiastical authority. As such secrecy may be and commonly is used as an instrument for the benefit of the members to the disadvantage of others in the community, and as it has been too frequently used to control and use civil authority lor questionable political purposes, usually to the detriment of religion, the Church considers such organizations unlawful. Some of them, moreover, as for instance the Freemasons, are really sectarian bodies, having their own formulas of belief about God, the soul, conscience, etc., and their own secret as well as public ritual, so that a Catholic may not consistently belong to them any more than he may be a member of any other Church than his own. Among the societies, specially forbidden are the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, and Sons of Temperance.

Masons or Freemasons

An international fraternal organization, dating in its present form from the first quarter of the 18th century, although reputed by some to date from earliest antiquity. The Universal Manual of Freemasonry defines it as, “the activity of closely united men who, employing symbolical forms borrowed principally from the mason’s trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving morally to enoble themselves and others and thereby to bring about a universal league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale.” Freemasonry professes the empiric or positivist geometrical method of reason and deduction in the investigation of truth, is essentially Naturalism, hence opposed to Supernaturalism, and is opposed not only to Catholicism and Christianity, but also to the whole system of supernatural truth. It systematically promotes religious indifferentism, and its ultimate purpose is “the overthrow of the whole religious, political, and social order based on Christian institutions and the establishment of a new state of things according to their own ideas and based in its principles and laws on pure Naturalism.” Although claiming religious toleration as one of its principles. it openly attacks Catholicity. Since 1738 Catholics are under penalty of excommunication incurred ipso facto and reserved to the pope, strictly forbidden to enter Masonic societies or promote them in any way.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows

An international, fraternal, beneficiary society with headquarters in the United States. It was formed in England in 1812 as an outgrowth of rivalry to the Masons, introduced into America in 1819. Its distinctive feature is financial care of sick and distressed members and their families.

Knights of Pythias

A benevolent and charitable society founded in Washington, DC in 1864 by prominent Freemasons headed by J. H. Rathbone.

Sons of Temperance

An order founded in New York in 1842, and introduced into England in 1846, with the object of making permanent the temperance movement of that time. The organization had a highly restricted membership as a man had to be nominated by an existing member and pass an investigation by three other brothers. There was a two-dollar initiation fee, equal to a week’s wages of an ordinary worker. It had secret rituals, signs, passwords, hand grips and regalia, acted as an insurance company, required its members to visit the sick, and paid death benefits and funeral expenses.

A decree of 18 January 1896 allows a nominal membership in the last three, if these conditions are fulfilled

  • that the society was entered in good faith
  • that there be no scandal
  • that grave temporal injury would result from withdrawal
  • that there be no danger of perversion

MLA Citation

  • “secret society”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 8 August 2013. Web. 18 November 2017. <>