Papal Apostolic Constitution
Renewal of the Automatic Excommunication
Of Catholics who Join the Freemasons
Thursday, March 18, 1751
We reckon that the Providential Laws and Sanctions of the Roman Pontiffs, Our Predecessors, not only those whose force We fear can be weakened or extinguished either by a failing of the times or by the neglect of men, but also those which maintain their initial force and full strength, must be strengthened and confirmed by a new buttressing of Our Authority when just and weighty reasons demand it.
Reasonably, Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pope Clement XII, by his Apostolic Letter in the 1738th year of the Incarnation of the Lord, on the 28th day of April, given in the 8th year of his Pontificate, and written to all of Christ's Faithful, the beginning of which is In Eminenti, has forever condemned and prohibited several societies, assemblies, meetings, gatherings, fellowships, or associations commonly called de` Liberi Muratori or Francs-Macons, or identified by whatever other designation, having been dispersed widely then in certain regions, and each day becoming more powerful, admonishing each and every one of Christ's faithful, under pain of excommunication ipso facto without any declaration needing to be incurred, from which no one would be able to be absolved by any other than the Roman Pontiff then Reigning, unless on the point of death, so that anyone might nor dare or presume to enter or propagate, or to foster, receive, conceal societies of this kind, to be inscribed in, attached to or be among them or otherwise involved according as it is contained more broadly and richly in the same Letter, the text of which is above.
Since, however, as We have learned, there have been some who have not hesitated to declare and to boast openly that the stated penalty of excommunication imposed by Our Predecessor, as is shown above, no longer carries any force, because of the fact that the very Constitution before introduced has not been confirmed by Us, as if in fact, express confirmation of a Pontifical Successor were required for the continuation of Apostolic Constitutions published by a Predecessor.
And since it has also been recommended to Us by some Pious and God-fearing men that it would be exceedingly expedient for destroying all the deceptions of the calumniators, and for making public the uniformity of Our disposition with the mind and will of the same Predecessor, to add the fresh voice of Our Confirmation to the Constitution of the above mentioned Predecessor.
Although, while We have hitherto willingly granted, not only on numerous occasions formerly, but also especially within the year of jubilee having now passed, to many of Christ's faithful truly repenting and lamenting for having violated the laws of the same Constitution, and willingly professing that they will withdraw entirely from the condemned societies or associations of this kind and that they are in the future never going to return to those societies and those associations, or while We have communicated to the penitentiaries appointed by Us the faculty of being capable of imparting, in Our name and by Our Authority, to those types of penitents, who have recourse to them, the same absolution, also, while We have not neglected with a restless zeal for vigilance to insist earnestly that action be taken by competent Judges and Tribunals against the violators of that very Constitution according to the measure of the crime, which action in fact was often taken, We have given indeed not merely probable arguments, but clearly evident and certain arguments, from which Our disposition and steadfast and deliberate will in regard to the force and continuance of the censures imposed by Clement, Our said Predecessor, as is shown above, ought clearly enough to be concluded. But if any contrary opinion was passed around on Our account, We would be able to disregard it in all security, and to abandon our cause to the just judgment of the Omnipotent God, using those words, which it is certain had at one time been recited in the Sacred Liturgy: 'Grant, We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we do not trouble ourselves about the contradiction of spurious minds, but once that very wickedness has been spurned let us pray that you suffer us neither to be frightened by the unjust criticisms, nor to be attracted to the insidious flatteries, but rather to love that which Thou dost command:--' as is found in the ancient Missal, which is attributed to Saint Gelasius, and was published by the Venerable Servant of God, Joseph Maria Cardinal Thomasius, in the Mass, which is entitled Contra Obloquentes.
Nevertheless, so that it might not be able to be said that something, by which We could easily be able to take away kindling and shut the mouth of false accusations, had been unguardedly neglected by Us, once that the Counsel of several of Our Venerable Brothers, Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church had earlier been heard. We decided to confirm with this present Letter, in forma specifica, that same Constitution of Our Predecessor inserted above word for word, which is considered the strongest and most effective, accordingly. From certain knowledge and the fullness of Our Apostolic Authority, We confirm, strengthen, renew, that Constitution by the text of this present Letter in all things and on account of all things just as if It had been published firstly by Our own motion, by Our Authority and in Our name, and We will and Decree that it have perpetual force and efficacy.
Furthermore, among the gravest causes of the aforementioned prohibition and condemnation reported in the Constitution inserted above, the first is that in societies and associations of this type men of any religion and sect whatever are united with each other, from which matter it is evident enough how great a destruction is able to be brought to the purity of the Catholic Religion. The next is the strict and impenetrable pledge of a secret, by which those things which are done in associations of such like are hidden, to which, therefore, that sentence is able fittingly to be applied which Caecilius Natalis cited before Municius Felix in an indisputably diverse case: Honest things always rejoice in the public, crimes are secret. The third is the oath by which they bind themselves for preserving inviolably this type of secret, as if it were allowed to someone to protect himself under cover of a promise or swearing, having been questioned by legitimate power, without being held to confess all things, whatsoever things are sought after for discerning whether something is done in meetings of this kind, which is contrary to the welfare and Laws of the State and Religion. The fourth is, that societies of this kind are known to be against Canonical not less than civil sanctions, since, namely, all colleges and sodalities united contrary to public authority are forbidden, as is to be seen in Book XLVII of the Pandects, tit. 22 de collegiis ac corporibus illicitis, and in the renowned letter of C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus,, which is XCVII, lib. X, in which he says that by his own edict in accord with the decrees of the emperor it has been forbidden that there be, (heretical sects) that is, that societies and assemblies are not able to be entered or established without the authority of the prince. The fifth is, that already in many regions the previously mentioned societies and fellowships have been proscribed by the laws of secular princes, and eliminated. The last, finally, that before prudent and approved men the same societies and fellowships were being perceived in an evil light and by their judgment whoever would enroll in the same would incur the mark of depravity and perversion.
Finally, the same Predecessor in the Constitution inserted above rouses the Bishops and superior Prelates, and other Ordinaries of places, that they do not neglect to invoke the help of the secular branches, if there be need, for the execution of it.
Which things, each and every, are not only approved and confirmed by Us and are commended and enjoined to the same Ecclesiastical Superiors respectively, but also We Ourselves, in accord with the Duty of the Apostolic Vigilance, invoke with this Letter the strength and aid of the Catholic Princes and of all the secular powers as to the accomplishment of the matters presented above, and We demand with earnest desire, since the same Supreme Princes and Powers have been chosen by God as the Defenders of the Faith and Protectors of the Church, and therefore it is their Duty to accomplish by every suitable means, that obedience due to the Apostolic Constitutions and consideration of every kind be rendered, which for them the Fathers of the Council of Trent, sess. 25 cap. 20, and much before, the Emperor Charles the Great had made exceedingly clear in tit. I, cap. 2 of his Capitularies, where after the observance of Ecclesiastical Sanctions committed to all those subject to him, he added: 'For in no way are we able to understand how they can be faithful to us, who have shown themselves unfaithful to God and disobedient to their Priests.' Wherefore, enjoining all the rulers and ministers of his domains, that they should by all means constrain each and every one to offer the obedience due to the Laws of the Church, and also imposed the gravest penalties against those who neglect to render this, supplying among other things: 'But whoever will have been found in these things (that it be absent!) at least neglecting and disobeying them, let them know that neither do they retain any honors in our empire, although they will have even been our sons, nor a place in our palace, neither do they have either any association or communication with us, but rather let them undergo penalties in difficulty and dryness.'
We will, however, that absolutely the same faith which would be applied to the original Letters, if it would be produced or shown, be applied to duplicates, likewise to printed copies, of the present letter signed by the hand of some public notary, and secured by the seal of a person constituted in Ecclesiastical Dignity.
It is allowed to no man to falsify this letter of Our confirmation, renewal, approbation, commission, invocation, the demand of Our Decree and will, or to oppose it by a rash boldness. But if anyone presumes to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God, and of His Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
Given at Rome in Saint Mary Major, in the 1751st year of the Incarnation of the Lord, on the 18th day of March, in the 11th year of Our Pontificate.”