I tried to research this online, but was not coming up with very many conclusive answers, so I decided to post my question on the Transitional Genealogists Forum. This forum is a place where professional genealogists and those en route to becoming professional genealogists can meet and discuss questions and issues they have.
Here is what I wrote:
"I was wondering if Catholics could historically be members of
free-Mason-like fraternities like Independent Order of Odd Fellows or
Knights of Pythias?
My understanding is that becoming a Mason requires a belief in God, but
beyond that almost no other religious qualifications, and if you were a
member, you probably would not know the religious affiliation of your
However, I also had read some online threads that discussed a historic
anti-fraternity sentiment (or perhaps an official decree?) that meant that
most of the time Catholics would not become members of them. Here's a link:
I really don't know if I trust that site. I definitely trust you guys more,
especially to lead me to where to search.
I'm doing some research for someone who thinks that her ancestors were
Catholic, but isn't sure. In the ancestor's obituary he is definitely
listed as being a member of I.O.O.F. (several times this is listed, with
several different lodge numbers etc.) and Knights of Pythias. These clues
make me wonder if he really wasn't Catholic."
You can view the responses to this thread here. Basically, the first 5ish responses were, "Catholics were officially forbidden from joining Masonic organizations." The next 5ish responses were, "So and so in history or that I know in person is Catholic and a Mason."
My take away is:
- Masonic organizations didn't prohibit Catholics from joining
- The Catholic church does not/did not approve of Catholics joining
- Some Catholics join(ed) anyway
Knowing that a person is a member of a Masonic organization doesn't disprove that they are Catholic, but it could be a hint about their religion.