The "Catholic part" of the Abu Dhabi declaration was drawn up by the pope alone and "the Vatican Curia 'did not put a pen' in the drafting of the text," claims Freemason Pierluigi Cascioli in the latest issue of Nuovo Hiram, the journal of the Freemasons of the Grand Orient of Italy.
The "Human Fraternity for World Peace and Common Co-existence" pact was signed between the pontiff and Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb. It was born out of a personal friendship that grew between the two after some meetings, even though it began "under the banner of mutual distrust," notes Cascioli, citing an informed Vatican source.
"The document was exchanged several times between the two parties before it was signed," he writes.
"The appeal for greater fraternity is based both on the faiths of the authors of the document," Cascioli explains, expressing his hope that the Catholic Church will "formalize this doctrine" in a magisterial text as it has formalized its "social doctrine" in magisterial statements.
Pope Francis and Ahmed al-Tayeb ground the appeal to human fraternity on "values which not only are fully compatible with each of their the specific faiths but which arise from their two distinct faiths," he says.
"The appeal for greater fraternity is addressed to all humanity, even to the five billion people who don't share one of their two faiths" as they fully share the values in the declaration based on the "lowest common denominator" of reason. "It is thus an appeal to everyone: erga omnes ... ." he emphasizes.
The Freemason concedes that both Catholics and Sunnis will object to the deal and say of their respective religious leaders: "He shouldn't have signed a document together with him."
Given the opposition to the document "it would be illusory to expect immediate major upheavals," Cascioli recognizes. "Pope Francis and the Grand Imam express avant-garde positions: How many of their followers will follow them? How far are the two leaders ahead of their respective 'bases?' Pope Francis is far from his base. The Grand Imam is very far from his."
However, "borrowing a term from the world of medicine," Cascioli views the Abu Dhabi Document as "a slow-release drug."
"Pope Francis and the Grand Imam have built an airport runway. A plane to ascend must give itself a strong impulse, with which it overcomes the force of gravity and takes off. Human beings (Catholics, or Sunnis, or the remaining 5 billion) should give themselves the 'courage of fraternity,' which is driven to take off towards a better world," he writes.
Cascioli notes that the "equality" goals of the document face obstacles when it comes to the rights of women and homosexuals.
Regarding women's rights, "Sunnis are further behind than Catholics" even though Catholics "should do more to ensure effective equality between women and men."
Noting that the declaration condemns "discrimination" and invites all to "mutual respect," the Freemason questions whether this includes "respect for women and men who have homosexual or bisexual tendencies."
Every human being is "called to live eroticism according to one's specific personal sensitivity. Every human being has the right (or rather, the duty) to live his eroticism according to his nature. According to nature, yes as nature has shaped it," he stresses.
"According to recent estimates, there are 21 Islamic states that prescribe the death penalty for homosexual acts," he laments, specifying Brunei, where according to the new Sharia code from April 3, 2019, homosexual acts are punishable by stoning to death.
"In sailing competitions, boats must go around a buoy. If the declaration is implemented, Abu Dhabi — a city located on the sea, on the edge of a desert — will constitute a buoy of civilization," he concludes.
Throughout history, the Catholic Church, through its Magisterium, has condemned any attempt towards "unity" with other sects or religions. "Certainly, such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy," Pope Pius XI declared in Mortalium Animos (1928), his encyclical against religious unity and the ecumenical movement.
Significantly, Pius XI recognized that such an initiative can arise from a "desire both of strengthening and of extending to the common welfare of human society that fraternal relationship which binds and unites us together."
Eight popes in the course of 200 years have issued 20 legal interdicts condemning Freemasonry and never have any of the pronouncements been revoked.
Pope Leo XIII in Humanum Genus emphasizes that "the ultimate and principal aim" of Freemasonry "was to destroy to its very foundations any civil or religious order established throughout Christendom, and bring about in its place a new order founded on laws drawn out of the entrails of naturalism."
In his bull In eminenti apostolatus (1738), Pope Clement XII condemned Freemasonry for its reliance on mere natural virtue while ignoring Christ's unique role as Savior.
In the postwar period, Freemasonry was banned in almost all the Arab countries and in 1978 was condemned by the religious authority of Mecca as the "most dangerously destructive organization to Islam and to Muslims."
Writing in the scholarly Brill Handbook of Freemasonry, academic Charles Porset observes that Freemasonry "presents itself as a secular religion lodged in the cracks of the Roman Catholic Church after the Council of Trent" and is a "religion of the modern age," of which "the lodges are the crucible."