Attitude of ecclesiastical authorities The judgment of the Church on secret oath-bound associations has been made abundantly clear by papal documents.
The Knights Templar and Other Secret Societies of the Middle Ages
The pope insists on the objectionable character of societies that commit men of all or no religion to a system of mere natural righteousness, that seek their end by binding their votaries to secret pacts by strict oaths , often under penalties of the severest character, and that plot against the tranquillity of the State.
Benedict XIV renewed the condemnation of his predecessor on 18 May, The Apostolic Constitution "Quo Graviora" of Leo XII 18 March, put together the acts and decrees of former pontiffs on the subject of secret societies and ratified and confirmed them. The dangerous character and tendencies of secret organizations among students did not escape the vigilance of the Holy See , and Pius VIII 24 May, raised his warning voice concerning those in colleges and academies, as his predecessor, Leo XII , had done in the matter of universities. On 20 Apr. The sectaries, indignant at this, thinking to elude or to weaken the force of these decrees, partly by contempt of them and partly by calumny , accused the Sovereign Pontiffs who had uttered them, either of exceeding the bounds of moderation or of decreeing what was not just.
Yet in the very society itself there were found men who unwillingly acknowledged that the Roman Pontiffs had acted within their right, according to the Catholic doctrine and discipline. The pontiffs received the same assent, and in strong terms, from many princes and heads of governments, who made it their business either to delate the masonic society to the Holy See , or of their own accord by special enactments to brand it as pernicious, as for example in Holland , Austria , Switzerland , Spain , Bavaria , Savoy and other parts of Italy.
But, what is of the highest importance, the course of events has demonstrated the prudence of our predecessors. Now, these no longer show a desire to remain concealed; for they hold their meetings in the daylight and before the public eye, and publish their own newspaper organs; and yet, when thoroughly understood they are found still to retain the nature and the habits of secret societies. Even were these purposes aimed at in real truth , yet they are by no means the whole of their object. Moreover, to be enrolled it is necessary that candidates promise and undertake to be thenceforward strictly obedient to their leaders and masters with the utmost submission and fidelity, and to be in readiness to do their bidding upon the slightest expression of their will.
Other papal utterances on secret societies are: "Ad Apostolici," 15 Oct. The societies forbidden The extension of the decrees of the Apostolic See in regard to societies hitherto forbidden under censure is summed up in the well-known Constitution "Apostolicae Sedis" of Pius IX , where excommunication is pronounced against those "who give their names to the sect of the masons or Carbonari or any other sects of the same nature, which conspire against the Church or lawfully constituted Governments, either openly or covertly, as well as those who favor in any manner these sects or who do not denounce their leaders and chiefs.
A society to be of the same kind as the Masonic , must also be a secret organization. It is of no consequence whether the society demand an oath to observe its secrets or not.
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It is plain also that public and avowed attacks on Church or State are quite compatible with a secret organization. It must not supposed, however, that only societies which fall directly under the formal censure of the Church are prohibited. The Congregation of the Holy Office issued an instruction on 10 May, , in which it says: "That there maybe no possibility of error when there is a question of judging which of these pernicious societies fall under censure or mere prohibition, it is certain in the first place, that the Masonic and other sects of the same nature are excommunicated , whether they exact or do not exact an oath from their members to observe secrecy.
Besides these, there are other prohibited societies , to be avoided under grave sin , and among which are especially to be noted those which under oath , communicate a secret to their members to be concealed from everybody else, and which demand absolute obedience to unknown leaders. Recently condemned societies The order of Odd-Fellows was formed in England in as a completed organization, though some lodges date back to ; and it was introduced into America in In the "Odd-Fellows' Improved Pocket Manual" the author writes: "Our institution has instinctively, as it were, copied after all secret associations of religious and moral character.
The Odd-Fellows have chaplains , altars, high-priests, ritual, order of worship, and funeral ceremonies. The order of the Sons of Temperance was founded in New York in and introduced into England in The "Cyclopaedia of Fraternities" says p. The order of the Knights of Pythias was founded in by prominent Freemasons Cyclop.
In number, its membership is second only to that of the Odd-Fellows. Rosen The Catholic Church and Secret Societies says: "The principal objectionable features, on account of which the Catholic Church has forbidden its members to join the Knights of Pythias, and demanded a withdrawal of those who joined it, are: First, the oath of secrecy by which the member binds himself to keep secret whatever concerns the doings of the Order, even from those in Church and State who have a right to know , under certain conditions, what their subjects are doing.
Secondly, this oath binds the member to blind obedience, which is symbolized by a test. Such an obedience is against the law of man's nature, and against all divine and human law. Thirdly, Christ is not the teacher and model in the rule of life but the pagan Pythagoras and the pagans Damon, Pythias and Dionysius" p.
The "Ritual for the subordinate Lodges of the Knights of Pythias" Chicago, shows that this organization has oaths , degrees, prelates , and a ritual that contains religious worship. The decree of the Holy Office concerning the Odd-Fellows, Sons of Temperance, and Knights of Pythias, though not declaring them to be condemned under censure, says: "The bishops must endeavour by all means to keep the faithful from joining all and each of the three aforesaid societies ; and warn the faithful against them, and if, after proper monition, they still determine to be members of these societies , or do not effectually separate themselves from them, they are to be forbidden the reception of the sacraments.
A decree of 18 Jan. The delegate, in granting a dispensation , usually requires a promise that the person will not attend any meetings or frequent the lodge-rooms, that the dues be sent in by mail or by a third party, and that in case of death the society will have nothing to do with the funeral.
Orders of women In regard to female secret societies , the Apostolic delegation at Washington, 2 Aug. As regards other female secret societies which may not be affiliated with societies condemned expressly by the Church , the confessor must in cases of members belonging to such societies , apply the principles of moral theology which treat of secret societies in general. Trades unions The Third Council of Baltimore no.
Care must be taken, however, that nothing, be admitted under any pretext which favors condemned societies ; or that the workingmen who belong to these organizations be induced, by the cunning arts of wicked men, to withhold, contrary to the laws of justice , the labor due from them, or in any other manner violate the rights of their employers. Those associations are entirely illicit, in which the members are so bound for mutual defense that danger of riots and murders is the outcome.
The Knights Templar and Other Secret Societies of the Middle Ages
If it be not plain to all that a society is to be condemned, recourse must be had to the Holy See in order that a definite judgment be obtained and that uniform discipline may be preserved in these provinces". Product Description Product Details The cultural clash between Christianity and Islam that shook the world a thousand years ago has re-emerged as the central theme of modern life for millions around the world. This book illuminates the conflict's origins, tracing the development of secret societies formed by men who sought mysteries beyond the dogma of their own faith: the Templars, warrior monks who exercised their religious devotion through force of arms; and the Assassins, Islam's first monastic military order, who fought Muslim and Christian alike to spread their doctrine.
In addition to its chronicles of the Assassins and Templars, this absorbing history profiles the secret tribunals in Westphalia known as the Fehm-Gericht, a vigilante organization that conducted trials and executions during a medieval period of lawlessness in Germany. Originally published in , this was the first book to offer information on these secret orders.
Written by an author of vast learning and deep reflection, this classic remains a foundation reference upon which many contemporary scholars rely.
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