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CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Secret Societies

The Catholic Church and Secret Societies (Classic Reprint)

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  • The Catholic Church secret societies and membership in them, and Opus Dei investigators have frequently claims that this organization is acting in secrecy to further a sinister agenda.

    The Catholic Church secret societies and membership in them, and Opus Dei investigators have frequently claims that this organization is acting in secrecy to further a sinister agenda.

  • —"By a secret society was formerly meant a society which was known to exist, but whose members and places of meetings were not publicly known. Today, we understand by a secret society, a society with secrets, having a ritual demanding an oath of allegiance and secrecy, prescribing ceremonies of a religious character, such as the use of the Bible, either by extracts there from, or by its being placed on an altar within a lodgeroom, by the use of prayers, of hymns, of religious signs and symbols, special funeral services, etc." (Rosen, "The Catholic Church and Secret Societies", p. 2). Raich gives a more elaborate description: "Secret societies are those organizations which completely conceal their rules, corporate activity, the names of their members, their signs, passwords and usages from outsiders or the 'profane'. As a rule, the members of these societies are bound to the strictest secrecy concerning all the business of the association by oath or promise or word of honor, and often under the threat of severe punishment in case of its violation. If such secret society has higher and lower degrees, the members of the higher degree must be equally careful to conceal their secrets from their brethren of a lower degree. In certain secret societies, the members are not allowed to know even the names of their highest officers. Secret societies were founded to promote certain ideal aims, to be obtained not by violent but by moral measures. By this, they are distingushed from conspiracies and secret plots which are formed to attain a particular object through violent means. Secret societies may be religious, scientific, political or social (Kirchenlex., V, p. 519). Narrowing the definition still more to the technical meaning of secret societies () in ecclesiastical documents, Archbishop Katzer in a Pastoral (January 20, 1895) says: "The Catholic Church has declared that she considers those societies illicit and forbidden which (I) unite their members for the purpose of conspiring against the State or Church; (2) demand the observance of secrecy to such an extent that it must be maintained even before the rightful ecclesiastical authority; (3) exact an oath from their members or a promise of blind and absolute obedience; (4) make use of a ritual and ceremonies that constitute them sects."

    STEVENS, The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities (New York, 1907); COOK, Revised Knights of Pythias Illustrated-Ritual for Subordinate Lodges of the Knights of Pythias Adopted by the Supreme Lodge (Chicago, 1906); IDEM, Revised Odd-Fellowship Illustrated — The Complete Revised Ritual (Chicago, 1906); CARNAHAN, Pythian Knighthood (Cincinnati, 1888); F.J.L., The Order of the Knights of Pythias in the Light of God's Word (Lutheran Tract) (New Orleans, 1899); DALLMAN, Odd-Fellowship Weighed — Wanting (Pittsburgh, 1906); GERBER, Der Odd-Fellow Orden. u. Das Decret vom 1894 (Berlin, 1896); MACDILL AND BLANCHARD, Secret Societies (Chicago, 1891); DALLMANN, Opinions on Secret Societies (Pittsburgh, 1906); H.C.S., Two Discourses Against Secret Oath-Bound Societies or Lodges (Columbus, O., s.d.); KELLOGG, College Secret Societies (Chicago, 1894); ROSEN, The Catholic Church and Secret Societies (Hollendale, Wis., 1902); IDEM, Reply to my Critics of the Cath. Church and Secret Societies (Dubuque, 1903). See also the extended bibliography appended to article .

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