Watch Evening News weeknights at 6:30 p.m. ET.
VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A clerical staff member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is using his position to recruit Freemasons in the Roman Curia, well-placed sources have revealed.
Outraged Catholics called for Fr. Michael Weninger to be excommunicated, after Church Militant reported that the Vatican cleric, a Freemason, published a 500-page book defiantly claiming that Catholics could join a masonic lodge and "certainly not" be excommunicated.
The Austrian priest, who was outed as a Freemason chaplain to three lodges, launched his 500-page doctoral dissertation in popular format Loge und Altar: Über die Aussöhnung von Katholischer Kirche und regulärer Freimaurerei (Lodge and Altar: On the Reconciliation of the Catholic Church and Regular Freemasonry) last Wednesday in Vienna, accompanied by Austrian Lodge Grand Master Georg Semler on the dais.
Weninger disingenuously asserted that the confusion over whether Catholic Freemasons are excommunicated stems from a contradiction between the 1983 Code of Canon Law — which, he contends, removed the condemnation of Freemasonry contained in the 1917 code — and a damning 1983 declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
However, an expert in Canon Law demolished Weninger's claim as "nonsense." Speaking to Church Militant on condition of anonymity, the canonist insisted that "the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church still provides that a censure of Excommunication for Freemasons is incurred automatically ('latae sententiae') pursuant to canon 1364, par. 1 CIC 1983, because Freemasons constitute an heretical sect and Freemasonry universally is a heretical belief system."
Canon 1364 §1 reads: "An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of Can. 194 §1, n. 2; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with the penalties mentioned in Can. 1336 §1, nn. 1, 2 and 3."
"This clearly results from the Pontifical Code Commission's Relatio published in 1981," he explained.
"It is nonsense to reference the abrogation of can. 2335 CIC 1917 [on 'Affiliation With Masonic or Similar Societies'] as somehow rehabilitating Freemasonry because can. 1374 still punishes any Catholic who is registered as a Freemason with a ferendae sententiae penalty." A ferendae sententiae excommunication comes after a formal canonical trial, and is often a matter of public record.
The canonist told Church Militant that the punishment was actually double what it was under the 1917 Code of Canon Law.
"The 1983 Code therefore provides two penalties, not just the one censure that the 1917 Code previously provided," he categorically stated.
Sources also cautioned against bombastic claims being made for Fr. Weninger's position in the Vatican, which would be touted to justify his recent claims for the compatibility between Catholicism and Freemasonry.
"Weninger is listed on page 1214 of the 2019 edition of the Annuario Pontificio as an 'Addetto di Segreteria' (secretary). He is not a member, not a superior, and not even an official of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He is an entry-level staffer," a source said.
The expert in canon law also questioned Weninger's qualifications on the subject of Canon Law — a highly complex and specialized discipline.
"Weninger's doctorate is in spirituality, he has no expertise in Canon Law. His claims that the beliefs of the 'masonic sect' are reconcilable with Catholicism, that Freemasons can receive Holy Communion in violation of can. 915 CIC 1983, and most of all that Masons are not automatically excommunicated is dangerous apart from untenable," he said.
Catholic apologist and Episcopal convert to Catholicism Dr. Taylor Marshall told Church Militant that Weninger's openness about his own Freemasonry and his book commending the Masonic religion to Catholics was a vindication of his book on the masonic infiltration of the Church.
"When Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within was first published in 2019, some pundits on the Left were quick to dismiss the book as 'conspiracy theory,'" Marshall observed.
"Within less than a year we have seen new rotten fruits exposed in the public square from McCarrick details to Pachamama worship. And now we have explicit confirmation of what St. Pius X warned us about: Freemasonry lives within the Church like a parasite on its host organism," he confirmed.
Marshall recounted how "Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope St. Pius X, these three popes, spoke openly and in magisterial documents against 'Freemasonry' and secret societies' waging war against the Catholic Church and her doctrines."
Eight popes in the course of 200 years have issued 20 legal interdicts condemning Freemasonry and never have any of the pronouncements been revoked.
In 2013, Bishop Yves Boivineau of Annecy in southeastern France suspended Fr. Pascal Vesin, 43, for his membership in a masonic lodge of the Grand Orient of France. The priest was relieved of his ministerial duties only after he repeatedly refused to renounce Freemasonry.
Vesin was outed as a Freemason following an anonymous letter sent to the apostolic nunciature in Paris, and suspended on the order of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He joined the lodge in 2001, five years after his 1996 ordination.
In a brazen show of impudence, Vesin made a 40-day walking "pilgrimage" to Rome to plead his case with the Holy Father.
Pope Francis refused to meet him and, through certain contacts in the Curia, Vesin was only able to secure a meeting with the undersecretary of the CDF.
"He considered me a negligible quantity," and only "reminded me of the law" and the famous text of 1983, lamented the Mason, who is still hoping for a rapprochement between Catholicism and Freemasonry.
A 2013 book by Italian investigative journalists Giacomo Galeazzi and Ferruccio Pinotti described the extent of Masonic infiltration in the Vatican.
In Vaticano Massone: Un patto segreto e una finta inimicizia (Vatican Freemason: A secret pact and a fake enmity) the authors explicitly asked Catanian Grand Master Vincenzo Di Benedetto, head of the Most Serene Grand Lodge of Piazza del Gesù:
"'Various sources indicate the existence of masonic lodges also in the Vatican; do you consider it possible?' He replied without hesitation: 'Yes, absolutely, regardless of whether you use the name [Freemason] or not.'"