THE Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office last week issued a decree forbidding priests to join Rotary Clubs or to take part in their meetings, and strongly recommending the laity to follow a similar course.
It quoted Article 6M of the , Canon Law, which warns against " secret associations, those which have been condemned as seditious and suspicious organisations, or those which seek to avoid the legitimate vigilance of the Church."
The decree stated : "This Supreme Congregation has been asked whether Catholics may subscribe to an association which is commonly called the Rotary Club. " The Most Eminent and Reverend Cardinals who have been appointed to safeguard the matters and morals of the Faith, having previously voted upon it in plenary session on December 20, 1950, decreed the following answer: "Clerics are not permitted to subscribe to the Rotary Club or to be present at their meetings. Laymen must be urged to observe the prescriptions of Article 684 of the Canon Law code.
"On the 22nd day of the same month and year. the Pope, in audience with the Most Excellent and Reverend Assessor of the Holy Office, after he had been advised of the resolutions of the Eminent Cardinals, approved and ordered this to be published."
It is understood that the question was considered at this time because of a special request to the Vatican for a clarification of its attitude towards Rotary membership.
A Vatican Secretariat of State spokesman commented : " The decree specifically forbids the clergy from belonging to the Rotary. Laymen are merely reminded of existing Canon Law and the situation for laymen in regard to the Rotary can be considered unchanged."
The spokesman recalled that Catholics are forbidden to join the Freemasons.
Mr. Arthur Lagueux, president of Rotary International. who lives in Quebec and is himself a Catholic, was reported to have stated that the movement does not seek to supplant or interfere with any religious or political group.