QUAERITUR: The smoke of Satan

From a reader:

I have a question regarding this document in reference to Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

In Conferentiarum Episcopalium, which was issued by the sacred Congregation of Divine Worship on October 28th, 1974, the use of the
1962 edition of the Roman Missal was “offically” abrogated — is almost all cases.

My question is this: What are your thoughts on this document? Is this part of the “smoke of satan” what Pope John XXIII spoke about at the beginning of V2? I have read rumors about how there were some problems with implimentation after V2 that Pope Paul VI tryed to correct and do away with. Is this one of them?

First, conferences of bishops don’t have the authority to abrogate a liturgical book or use of the whole Church.  Also, in the final analysis they are not competent to state whether or not something is abrogated.  Furthermore, Pope Benedict XVI specifically stated that it had not been abrogated.  That is what we go with.

Also, it was Paul VI, not John XXIII, who said that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.  Paul said this on 29 June 1972 in a sermon for the 9th anniversary of his Coronation he said that, “through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God”.

Pope Paul could have been referring to any number of factors.   Point in any direction and you will find one.  It has ever been so in the Church, since the Church is made up of sinners who betray the Lord in their sins.

“We believe in something that is preternatural that has come into the world precisely to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council, and to impede the Church from breaking into the hymn of joy at having renewed in fullness its awareness of itself.  Precisely for this reason, we should wish to be able, in this moment more than ever, to exercise the function God assigned to Peter, to strengthen the Faith of the brothers.  We should wish to communicate to you this charism of certitude that the Lord gives to him who represents him though unworthily on this earth.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. dmwallace says:

    Vatican II said of the sacred liturgy, “it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (SC 14).

    I say, if you mess around with the primary and indispensable source of anything, a crack is likely to appear.

  2. Hieronymus says:

    A fine observation, Mr. Wallace.

    I think the smoke he was referring to was coming from the sacristy, where Bugnini and his episcopal coven had started a bonfire with the liturgical books.

  3. donantebello says:

    I have no fear of the future…”O felix culpa!” If the death of the son of God brought forth the glorious fruit of Holy Mother Church flowing from His pierced side, so can a “new springtime” of the Christian intellect and spirit, ushering in a period of Catholic Renaissance, flow from this very “crack,” just as other periods of renaissance and synthesis arose out of great crises and challenges.

  4. ppb says:

    With Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict concluded that the 1962 missal was never abrogated. I’m not an expert in canon law, but I would guess that would mean he determined that the intention of Pope Paul VI in promulgating the new missal did not reach so far as abrogating the former missal, and/or that any documents that seem to claim the contrary were in some sense deficient in terms of canon law?

  5. BaedaBenedictus says:


    Perhaps he determined that Pope Paul VI didn’t have the authority to abrogate the traditional Roman rite, even if that were his intention. I think, to contextualize Summorum Pontificum, we should consult (1) Benedict’s writings on liturgical law as Cardinal Ratzinger and (2) the letter written by Benedict accompanying Summorum Pontificum:

    From The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000):

    “After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not “manufactured” by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.”

    And from the explanatory letter:

    ” In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

  6. Centristian says:

    “We believe in something that is preternatural that has come into the world precisely to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council, and to impede the Church from breaking into the hymn of joy at having renewed in fullness its awareness of itself.”

    It’s always interesting to me to read Pope Paul’s own insights regarding the collapse that was going on all around him in the Church, following the conclusion of the Council. Many regard the Council and Paul’s actions as the actual cause of the collapse. Interestingly, Paul, himself, seems to connect none of that collapse, that chaos, to the Council or to himself. It’s all the Devil’s doing. It’s all despite the Council, despite himself. He and the Council have cut peerless jewels, but the Devil has smashed and disfigured them all. Absent the Devil, everything would have been great.

  7. donantebello says:

    The documents of Vatican II only come into their fullness when interpreted through the lens of Summorum Pontificum. They just don’t make complete sense without the entire matrix of the Latin Mass and the colossal Catholic cultural edifice of education, intellectual life, spirituality, world view, politics, etc…

    “The Mass is the source and summit of our Faith…” This statement only fully makes sense when interpreted through the prism of the TLM and all the treasures which flow from it. Whenever we get this right, is when true renewal and revivification will begin to take place, thus healing the “crack.”

  8. Gail F says:

    Centristian: Maybe he was right and the Devil really DID smash up what the Council was meant to accomplish. That is an interesting thought.

  9. MichaelJ says:

    Gail F,
    there *is* an alternative explanation. As unpopular as this sentiment might be around here, perhaps the Vatican II Council was the product of God’s permissive Will instead of His positive Will.
    Maybe, just maybe, He did not inspire the Council, but simply allowed it and then stuck around (as He promised) to prevent us from doing something eggregious – like actually abrogating the “old” Mass

  10. James Joseph says:

    The smoke of Satan likely does not refer to the current dicipline (or lack thereof) of the Most Holy Sacrifice. It more than likely refers to the thing I tend to view as a long-term illness; that is, “classicalism”. Classicalism is a parasite of the ancient world and the latent disease of ambiguity it carried into the host has here and there twisted the Catholic mind. I have found esteemed company in this regard with the late midievalist Régine Pernoud. May God rest her soul.

    As to the determination of abrogation of the Mass of St. Pius V, it was under the authority of Bl. Karol Józef Pope John Paul II Wojty?a that a commssion was held in 1986 to determine the legitimacy of the 1984 Indult. The commssion determined that it had not been abrogated. This is important because it allows the full-court-press of Ecclesia Dei in 1988.

    It is good to remember that I have in possession a certain speech published by Cardinal Ratzinger where in July 1981 he obliquely said in my quick paraphrase, “…When the old Latin liturgy becomes re-instated, but it will take a long time to recover…” I also have a speech here (somewhere?) by the Pope in 1980 very clearly saying the same thing as his cardinale.

    Mayhaps I could use a librarian.

    If I might recommend Google Books. There are loads and loads of wonderful 19th century books free for download… especially old Missale that have fallen into common dis-use.

  11. William Tighe says:

    In response to MichaelJ — that is an interesting idea.

    It strikes me as conceivable that there could be a council which was “frivolously” assembled — a “pastoral” council like Vatican II or, as I sometimes surmise, the Fifth Ecumenical Council, which did indeed issue definitions, condemnations and anathemas — but more (it seems to me) at he behest of the Emperor Justinian and in attempted furtherance of his (futile) attempts to reconcile the orthodox Chalcedonians and the anti-Chalcedonian “miaphysites,” than out of any burning necessity within the Church. And when one considers the “uninspiring” conduct of Pope Vigilius during and after the council, and the schism (initially widespread in northern Itlay and not finally ended until 698, over 130 years later).

    On this account, God’s permissive will would have allowed these councils, and his promise of ecclesial indefectibility would have prevented any “egregious” or Church-destroying, consequences.

  12. William Tighe says:

    And when one considers the “uninspiring” conduct of Pope Vigilius during and after the council, and the schism (initially widespread in northern Itlay and not finally ended until 698, over 130 years later) …

    … it tends to strengthen my notion. Then, too, there are the most part of those councils held in the 12th and 13th centuries …

  13. There is nothing in the summary of Pope Paul VI’s 1972 anniversary sermon to suggest that he was thinking about liturgy at all. You can read the text for yourselves here (and, no, like Fr. Z. and Latin, I do not do Italian translations):


    The context of the quotation, which can be easily seen in the original, shows that the pope’s concern was that the voices of the “profane prophets” that dominated in the mass media had become so authoritative for many Catholics that the stability of the Faith had been undermined and put into confusion. The result was that the springtime expected in the Church’s life after the Council had failed to occur.

  14. Prof. Basto says:


    To be fair to the person who asked the question posted by you, the question you quote doesn’t say that Conferences of Bishops abrogated, or tried to abrogate, the 1962 Missal.

    The question is asking about a document, that happens to be entitled “Conferentiarium Episcopalium”, the words of its incipit. It is not a document by any Episcopal Conference, but a document of the Holy See (Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship), and was issued on October 28, 1974.

    This document indeed contained the line “the celebration of the Mass whether in Latin or in the vernacular is lawful only according to the rites of the Roman Missal promulgated by the authority of Paul VI on April 3, 1969”.

    There was, however, no approval “in forma specifica” from the Pope, and of course, only the Pope could declare the abrogation of a liturgical book; the Pope never delegated that authority to the Sacred Congregation, so that it, although a body of the Holy See, could not abrogate a Missal promulgated by a Pope without specific delegation of authority.

    And, of course, the Sacred Congregation did not abrogate the Missal; it didn’t even attempt to do so. What it does is to interpret. It concludesthat the celebration of Mass with the 1962 Missal is no longer licit because implicitly it interprets the Apostolic Constitution promulgated by Paul VI publishing a new Missal as having abrogated the previous one. That is one interpretation.

    As we know, this is one interpretation that prevailed for a long time, from the 1970’s until 2007. According to this mentality, celebration of according to the books of 1962 was only possible via an indult, or if a restoration (with the repristination of the “abrogated” Missal) were to happen.

    Higher authority than a Roman Congregation, however, adopted a different interpretation, in the one and only occasion a Pope, the supreme ecclesiastical authority, explicitly addressed the question. In his 2007 Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict explicitly declares that the 1962 Missal was never abrogated (art. 1) and, in the manner set out in the subsequent articles of that document, the Pope explicitly authorizes its continued use.

    The interpretation that the Missal of 1962 had in reality not been abrogated was not new; a Comission of Cardinals established by Pope John Paul II had reached the same conclusion in 1982.

    And so, with the clarification contained in the first article of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the interpretation announced by the SCDW in 1974 is countermanded; it is overturned. Of course, as explained in the introductory paragraphs of the Motu Proprio itself and in the papal letter sent to the Bishops together with the legal document, the Pope activelly desires the liberalization of the ancient use of the Roman Rite, appreciating the richness of this liturgical treasure.

  15. Centristian says:

    “The context of the quotation, which can be easily seen in the original, shows that the pope’s concern was that the voices of the “profane prophets” that dominated in the mass media had become so authoritative for many Catholics that the stability of the Faith had been undermined and put into confusion.”

    “The smoke of Satan likely does not refer to the current dicipline (or lack thereof) of the Most Holy Sacrifice. It more than likely refers to the thing I tend to view as a long-term illness; that is, ‘classicalism’.”

    But in this particular quote, Paul points to “something that is preternatural”. In other words, Satan. He, himself, identifies this malevolent destructor of the fruits of the Council as “Satan”. The Council did everything right, but Satan came along and ruined it all, despite what the Holy Spirit had in mind. This is in reference to the whole of the hoped for “fruits of the Ecumenical Council” which was, of course, more than just a convocation concerning the liturgy; the Council touched broadly upon all aspects of the life of the Church.

    And he isn’t saying anything like, “the Devil made me do it,” of course. Paul doesn’t seem to say, “yes, we screwed up on some things; the Devil deceived us.” No, it’s, “in all things, the Holy Ghost inspired us, we acted on his inspirations, then the Devil got his hands on it all and ruined it.” Which, actually, is an even stranger assessment than the first, if you think about it.

  16. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Prof. Basto: I have been told that in Bugnini’s memoir, he himself states that the 1962 Missal was never abrogated, simply superseded, as it were, with a newer Missal. The new Missal was to be used, but the door was not definitively closed to using the older Missal (and in fact, there were priests who with knowledge of their superiors never stopped using the 1962 Missal).

    When Bugnini realized this, he allegedly went to Paul VI with a decree which would explicitly suppress the 1962 Missal. According to my source, Bugnini was stunned when Paul VI said “no” to the document, refusing to abrogate the Usus Antiquior. Apparently, Paul VI gave such a clear “no” that Bugnini did not approach the subject again to the Pontiff.

  17. Whether one believes it was actually diabolic or not, the general pattern Paul VI suggests actually makes sense… the “spirit of VII” stuff actually has little resemblance to the documents of the real Council; similarly, the liturgical changes that happened are not those the Council called for.

    I don’t think the problem was the Council at all, actually. But the problem is that Vatican 2 happened at almost exactly the same time as the forces that were eating away Western Civilization burst into full light, in the 60s and early 70s, so it’s easy to blame it on the Council. But realistically, one can’t expect a huge civilizational crisis to leave the Church unaffected. I actually think the Church would probably be much, much worse off in “the West” (North America + Western Europe) had V2 not happened.

  18. Captain Peabody says:

    It strikes me as a little odd that anyone could explicate in the least the problems of the Catholic Church in the ’60s and ’70s onward without dealing with the massive societal changes, the massive intellectual, social, and religious movements and rebellions, and the general political and social unrest in the world during those fateful decades. That these things were conceived of apart from, outside of, and usually in opposition to the Catholic faith no one denies; that they were directly causative of many of the fundamental issues within the Church during those years seems to me something almost undeniable as well.

    When understood in this light, Paul VI’s claim that the widespread dissolution, disobedience, and other evils in the Church in the period generally following the V2 council was not the work of the council, or directly due to it, but rather due to these outside forces entering the Church through the agency of men beholden to these new movements and new heresies (and thus ultimately Satan) does not strike me as particularly unbelievable, though of course it is not the full story.

    If truly the ONLY difference between the pre-V2 and post-V2 Church was the V2 council itself, with no other possible causative candidates, then this argument would be preposterous. But given everything else, it seems to me far, far more preposterous and indeed frankly ridiculous given the actual events and intellectual climate of the ’60s and ’70s, and given the actual content of the V2 documents, to ascribe all or even the majority of the problems of those times to the causation of the V2 council.

    That these outside forces were able to enter the Church does seem due in part to a widespread perception of the V2’s “updating” of the Faith and what it entailed; but for the vast majority of the men directly responsible for this dissolution, it was to the outside culture and its intellectual pretenders to whom they looked for guidance, not the Ecumenical Council. All V2 provided was an opportunity to strike.

    But almost without a doubt, even if V2 had not happened, they would have struck, sooner or later. Whether the Church would have been better or worse off if this had happened, I leave to the judgement of others.

  19. shane says:

    To examine the Vatican II catastrophe and the impulses that paved the way for it you have to look at things through a continental lens. On the eve of the Council, the Church in the English speaking countries was in vigorous health. Churches and confessions were bursting at the seams; conversions were rapidly on the increase; pilgrimages and devotions remained highly popular. Catholics schools, where children were regimentally drilled in catechesis and Gregorian chant, were just barely able to keep up with the numbers. In the US, Archbishop Fulton Sheen had emerged as one of TV’s most watched personalities. The Church’s unimpeachable anti-communist position assured her the respect of the Protestant elite, who increasingly viewed Catholicism as a bulwark against barbarism.

    In Europe it was a totally different story, as this extract of an article from 1957 by Canon McGarry shows:

    “[…] During 1954 Professor Auber published in La Revue Nouvelle a number of articles on current trends in theological studies which were later published by Casterman under the title “La théologie catholique au milieu du XXe siécle.” In this article the author surveys the life of the Church during the ten years since the end of World War II.

    […]”The Set-backs and Hopes of the Church in the Period 1944-1954″ is the title of the article.

    […]Abbé Godin published his famous France, pays de mission? in 1944 and its appearance came as a profound shock. “The atmosphere of the years following the war was one of conquering and dynamic hope…..In Easter 1946 L’Union des Oeuvres held at Besancon in a spirit of joyous ardour a congress of the theme ‘The Parish, a Christian and Missionary Community’ and one of the bishops confided to the editor of Études: ‘We are living at the dawn of a great revolution.’ Many young priests, discouraged by the apparent uselessness of their efforts thrilled to the news of the setting up of the Mission de Paris and the Mission de France and followed with excitement the beginnings of the priest worker experiment.”

    […] Professor Auber concludes his article by noting the aspects of the decade 1944-1954 in which the church seemed to have made unmistakable progress. These are the growth of the biblical movement particularly in Germany and France; the progress of the liturgical movement, helped particularly by the encyclical Mediator Dei in 1947; the general renewal of pastoral methods; the growth of the employment of sociological techniques as an aid in pastoral work; the spread of the ecumenical spirit; and the growth of the lay apostolate in the Church. The author makes a point about the growing emphasis on the spiritual in the lay apostolate, which is such a feature of the decade that has passed.

    […] M. Auber concludes his survey in these words:

    “What is unquestionably the great thing about all the work of thought and action of the past ten years is that in a whole series of departments of the Church’s life we have become aware of problems that were latent for years, perhaps for generations. With all the enthusaism of youth attempts have been urgently made to deal with these problems discovered after so many years; and, as was to be expected, the event proved the undertaking to be more delicate, more difficult and more slow than was at first anticipated. But the problems are uncovered for the future and even though the solutions attempted appear to have been premature, there has been no withdrawing from the resolve to find a solution. That will be the work of the years to come and it is a work begun under good conditions for in spite of the manifest fears of timorous spirits, a courageous Pope has not hesitated to take initiatives one would have shrunk from before now and to encourage by his supreme authority solutions which he considered advisable.” (Pastoral Briefs, J.G. McGarry, The Furrow, Vol. 8, No. 3, (March, 1957), pp. 186-190.

  20. shane says:

    I recently picked up a fascinating little booklet entitled ‘Keeping Your Balance in the Modern Church’ by Fr. Hugh J O’Connell, C.SS.R. PhD, which was published in 1968 by Liguorian Pamphlets. It bears the Imprimatur of the Archbishop of St Louis, John J. Carberry (mine’s is also signed in pen by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin). He notes how the American Church was totally unprepared for the Second Vatican Council (I think this could be extended to the Church in all the English speaking countries):

    The Church in North America — laity, priests, nuns and even bishops — was almost completely unprepared for the way things turned out at Vatican Council II. This was the result of a number of factors.

    1) Americans had remained relatively untouched by World War II. They experienced little of the ferment and unrest, the need to reassert the value of the individual person, which in Europe flowed from the struggle against Nazism and Fascism.

    2) Americans, including theologians and bishops, had little or no acquaintance with the new personalist and existentialist philosophy. This had been developed in Europe, chiefly outside the church. Introduced by certain European theologians, this philosophy exerted a powerful influence on the deliberations of Vatican II and on Catholic life and teaching since the Council.

    3) American Catholics were for the most part unaware of the writings of Protestant theologians, both orthodox and liberal. The ecumenical temper of the times brought these ideas to the attention of Catholic theologians, particularly in Germany, France and Holland.

  21. shane says:

    Fr O’Connell also writes that:

    A good many of the religious problems of the average Catholic laymen, priests and nuns, who make no claim to be specialists or scholars, stem from the new air of freedom of theological thought and discussion resulting from Vatican II.

    […]The great danger, as every reasonable man must recognize, is that freedom brings with it the possibility that it will be abused. In the days before Vatican II, there was actually a very considerable amount of theological speculation and innovation; there were battles quite as heated as those going on today. The only difference was that such ideas were quietly presented in theological journals, and were subjected by experts to analysis and investigation, to weighing of reasons pro and con, to a more or less general acceptance or rejection by qualified theologians before they ever came to public attention.

    Moreover, among Catholics the shock of new religious ideas on the minds of those who were not experts was cushioned by the censorship of books and articles and by the index of prohibited books. Before a book treating on religion could be published by a Catholic, it had to be submitted for censorship in order to obtain an imprimatur. If the book was considered to contain opinions contrary to Catholic doctrine, to the decrees of the Holy See, or even too wild and revolutionary, permission to print would be denied. To the liberal, who claimed the right to make up his own mind about religious truth, such censorship was intolerable. To the person who felt no competence to judge between truth and error in complex religious questions, it was a comfort.

    To highlight the confusion among Catholics in the US since the earthquake of Vatican II he quotes Donald J. Thorman: “It seems to me that if labels are useful, the one I’d have to pin on today’s laity: The Uncertain Catholic. The characteristic note of today’s American Catholic is confusion, indecision; we are treading water, waiting, wondering what is going to happen next. This is the age of the question mark. We no longer feel certain we have all the answers to all of men’s problems. We are no longer certain if we know all the right questions” (America, Jan. 14, 1967, p.39)

  22. MichaelJ says:

    I’ve seen this same effect on a micro level with my own family. Whenever I have relaxed the expectations I have on my sons or couched my language in such a way to avoid giving offense or “alieneating” them their behavior has declined rather dramatically.

    This is precicely what happened , in my opinion, with Vatican II. Nobody can say with a straight face that the documents are clear and precice or that they are not open to multiple interpretations.

    So while I can agree that Vatican II, in and of itself, is not the cause of the problems currently facing the Church, I am certain that the Council was their enabler.

  23. St. Rafael says:

    When the Vatican finally releases the missing part of the 3rd secret of Fatima, the whole truth about Vatican II, the liturgy, and the last 50 years is going to come out. Pope Paul VI’s “smoke of Satan” will be understood for the warning and understatment it was of these times.

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