Following my post yesterday, I’d like to record another memory. It concerns Freemasonry, about which Fathers Blake and Zuhlsdorf blogged early in January. Well, it's not really about Masonry as such; it's more about what was going on in the Church in the years following Vatican II.
As I recall (and I hope you will make allowances for some vagueness), exactly the same process occurred in regard to the question of Freemasonry, as had happened some years earlier regarding women’s headcoverings. Something was reported, and it appeared to have come from Rome, the gist of which was that British Catholics were now free to join the Masons
a) because British Masonry was much nicer than the Continental variety, which was very anti-Catholic and still forbidden, and
b) provided that there was no danger that an individual’s faith might suffer by joining.
I don’t know the figures, but I would guess that as a consequence of this apparent relaxation quite a number of Catholic men very soon became members of their local Lodges, and those who were already members now felt more at ease in their consciences.
And then lo! In no time at all, once again there came the cry: “As you were!” Britain is not an exception; you may not join the Masons.
It would surely be impossible to know how many British Catholic Masons obeyed the Church and gave up their membership following this shambles; how many have joined the Masons since then; and, and, most importantly, what effect it has had on their orthodoxy. In some cases they would have been exasperated by this apparent flip-flop, rather like the women with their headcoverings, and resolved to make up their own minds on the matter. But I have the impression that the majority of Catholics in this country, from that time on, only remember the (illusory) relaxation, and take it as read that, in this country at least, Catholics can be Freemasons.
Incidentally, it was at about this time, as I seem to remember, that I first began to hear the comment that this or that pronouncement from Rome “doesn’t apply here.”