Somewhat lost among all the commentary about what the Pope had to say about homosexuality in that press conference, is his passing reference to another ‘lobby’ that may or may not be at work in the Vatican.
“The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me,” he said.
The idea that there is a lobby (or to be more accurate, a secret society, which is what the Italians intend by their use of the word) of masons at work in the Vatican, is an old one. At one time or another several leading persons in the Vatican have been denounced as masons, including Cardinal Villot (Paul VI’s Secretary of State) and Mgr Annibale Bugnini, the famous liturgist. When one points out that there is no shred of evidence that these men were ever masons, the very lack of evidence is supposed to be decisive. After all, the masons are experts at covering things up.
A few years ago, when a famous churchman in Italy was cleared by a court of the charge of being in collusion with the Mafia, the popular reaction was that this was ‘proof’ he really was a Mafioso. After all, only people not protected by the honoured society are ever sent down. The real Mafiosi are too powerful to touch.
Italians love conspiracy theories, and with some justification. Italy is a land of mysteries. No one knows who was behind the bombing of Piazza Fontana, or the massacre of Ustica, for example, and we are never likely to know now. But are there really freemasons in the Vatican?
Most English people would laugh at the idea of a masonic mafia at work in the Vatican. I am not sure, though, that we should. Masonry is far from harmless. There is a strong belief – on what evidence is not clear – that Continental masonry is markedly different from the British variety. While the British masons are supposed to be well represented in the police and the courts, Italian masonry is strongly identified with big business and banking, and the powerful secretive elites that are supposed to be the ‘real’ government of the country. Masonry is also seen as strongly anti-clerical; thus a masonic lobby in the Vatican would be opposed to virtually everything the Church stands for, and a real enemy within.
What are the beliefs of the masons? Masonry has its roots in the Scottish Enlightenment and the first masons came to England in the train of King James VI and I. The claims that masonry has its origins in the medieval guilds or in the builders of the Temple of Solomon are not historically sustainable. The programme of masonry, if it can be called such, is nothing more than Deism, the belief that while God exists, He does not intervene in the world, and the well-being of the world is not dependant on grace (the existence of which is denied) but on human rational progress and “science”.
The opposite of “science” is of course “superstition” or organised religion in its current forms. Masonry seem to me to have a close relation to the Whig theory of history, the belief in the inevitability of progress. Such beliefs, of course, completely deny the existence of sin, and the need for grace and repentance. Oddly, much of what the freemasons seem to believe is close to the neo-atheism of many of our contemporaries – except of course the masons believe in the Great Architect of the Universe – though why they bother themselves with this retired architect, I am not sure. After all, he is not bothered with them, is he?
If there is a masonic lobby in the Vatican, it could mean that there are Deists in the Vatican – people with a watered down version of the Church, religious indifferentists, people who no longer believe in the efficacy of the sacraments except as pieces of theatre, certainly not outward signs of inward grace. These sort of people would see the Church’s utility as that of an NGO like the UN. It is to be noted that the Pope has constantly warned of the desacralisation of the Church, and its turning into an NGO. Is he warning us against the agenda of the masonic lobby?
Secondly, the masonic lobby, if it exists, could be the lobby of Italian big business and Italian banking. As such it might have an interest in the way the Vatican bank is run; or it could be trying to undermine the Church’s social teaching. It could – historically – have been steering the Vatican away from compromises with the Italian left, the traditional enemy of the masons.
There again, the lobby could be a combination of both of the above. That is a truly frightening thought. Let us hope and pray that there is no masonic lobby in the Vatican. But the very fact the Holy Father has mentioned it, makes one wonder.