While Freemasonry originated in 1717, it was in 1870, the same year the American order, the Shriners, were founded, that it began a concerted assault on the institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. It was a portentous year as the government of Italy seized the Papal States, leaving the Church with no sovereign home. It was also the year of the Franco-Prussian War, won by the Germans in a rout that was viewed by many in northern Europe as a victory over Catholicism. The Kulturkampf was instituted in Germany after the victory leading to the imprisonment of thousands of priests. In France, Church-run institutions like education and hospitals were seized and secularized. Discriminatory laws against Catholics were also passed in Switzerland and Italy.
If one were to write a history of the secularization or dechristianization of modern Europe, it would probably commence in 1870, and the author would discover that the Freemasons were primarily responsible for it. In his 1873 encyclical, Etsi Multa, an angry Pope Pius IX likened the situation to warfare:
“Some of you may perchance wonder that the war against the Catholic Church extends so widely. Indeed each of you knows well the nature, zeal, and intention of sects, whether called Masonic or some other name. When he compares them with the nature, purpose, and amplitude of the conflict waged nearly everywhere against the Church, he cannot doubt but that the present calamity must be attributed to their deceits and machinations for the most part. For from these the synagogue of Satan is formed which draws up its forces, advances its standards, and joins battle against the Church of Christ.”
The texts of Masonic oaths to secrecy and brotherhood are bizarre and cult-like. The Shriners even have an order called the “Order of Quetzalcoatl”, after the Mayan serpent-god on whose feast celebration children were sacrificed and consumed by their parents.
Ironically, the Shriners maintain two dozen children’s hospitals at which admitted children do not pay. It may seem hard to find fault with such an act of charity, but in reality it has nothing to do with charity; it is organized philanthropy. In the late nineteenth-century the secularists and Freemasons displayed an open hostility toward the concept of Christian charity. One historian observes that the terms charity and philanthropy had become antithetical concepts:
Through its Enlightenment boosters, philanthropy carried with it the hint of secularism—and often of anti-clericalism. This linkage was solidified through the term’s association with the fervor of the French Revolution. For early Jacobins ‘philanthropy‘ (along with its kin, the Enlightenment neologism ‘bienfaisance‘) served as a standing rebuke to the practice of traditional charity, which during the ancien régime had been administered almost entirely by the institutions of the Church. (link)
It was argued that philanthropy solved the problems that led to the need for charity, which they considered “indiscriminate”. The Christian concept was too focused on the giver’s act of love of neighbor and God and did not have as its goal the eradication of impoverishment. The historian even notes that the word charity was being purged from use:
[I]n the early decades of the new century [20th], many of the leading organizations and networks of social welfare provision dropped the word ‘charity’ from their titles, embracing in its stead terms like “welfare” or “service”.
The mentality behind this reverence for philanthropy as a social panacea, however, was no different than that behind Communism and the French Revolution, both of which led to tyranny. For the Christian, charitable acts are performed not just for love, but to ultimately glorify God:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16).
In my view, what was behind the secularist’s determination to replace Church-run institutions was a Satan-inspired suppression of displays of Christian charity with the purpose of redirecting the glory and praise resulting from acts of benevolence from God to man. As we know, Masonic institutions and other evil groups will commonly clothe themselves in public service; but whatever good they accomplish, Christian charity always will shine brighter as the Glory of God is made manifest.