Bulletin Q&A published 9-18-22:
Who are the Knights Templar?
After Mass last week, a couple stopped me with a question. They had a small medal with a Latin inscription: “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini tuo da gloriam.” They had translated the words into English as: “Not for us, My Lord, not for us, but to your Name give the glory.” In the process of their investigation they had determined that the motto was that of the Knights Templar, and they asked if I knew anything about them. I quickly, and unfortunately incorrectly, indicated that it was another name for the Freemasons.
I should have known more about the Knights Templar, and I apologize to the family for my ignorance. (Sorry, I never read or watched the Da Vinci Code.) While Masons do indeed call themselves Knights Templar, it was a name they co-opted from the true Knights Templar which was a Catholic military order established in 1119, shortly after the end of the Crusades. Their intended purpose was to provide protection for Christians making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. They were officially disbanded by Pope Clement V who suppressed the order in 1312 amid accusations of heresy and under great pressure from King Phillip IV of France who wanted them abolished. There are tales of tortured confessions, and the grand master of the order was reportedly burned at the stake. It didn’t appear that Pope Clement ever made a decision regarding their guilt or innocence, however. The story goes that in 2001, a secret Vatican document was discovered in the archives which indicates that Pope Clement had actually absolved the Knights Templar and wanted to reform the order.
It is conjectured that the Freemasons co-opted the name because it associated them with a group that they saw was mistreated by the Church. It may have helped justify their attacks on the authority of the Church. But there is no direct connection between the Knights Templar religious order and the Knights Templar of Freemasonry.
The history of the Knights Templar is an interesting story. If you want to learn more, here are a few online references you might want to check out.