I noted last week that L'Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, recently quoted Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna to the effect that Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not a Mason.
"There's no foundation for his frequently mentioned membership in the Masons," L'Avvenire cited Schönborn as saying.
The statement was puzzling, since it's a matter of established historical fact that Mozart was initiated into a Masonic lodge in Vienna at the age of 28, and eventually became a Master Mason.
Speaking from Vienna, Schönborn spokesperson Erich Leitenberger told me this week the cardinal was misquoted. Schönborn's comment came in a brief interview shortly before a Mass in Chieti, Italy, Leitenberger said, and was misunderstood.
"The cardinal told me that the young lady from L'Avvenire obviously did not understand what he explained to her," Leitenberger told NCR.
"He said that all historians are of the opinion that Mozart was a Mason, there is much evidence for this. But at the same time it is necessary to understand that Freemasonry in the 18th century was a completely different thing from Freemasonry in the 19th or 20th centuries. There was no problem to be a deeply convinced Catholic and a Mason -- as is illustrated by the examples of many priests, abbots, etc. [who were Masons] in the late 18th century."
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is firstname.lastname@example.org