Paul VI saw liturgical abuse as “smoke of Satan”

Rome, May. 16, 2008 (CWNews.com) – When Pope Paul VI spoke about the “smoke of Satan” entering the Catholic Church, he was referring to liturgical abuses, according to the prelate who served as his master of ceremonies.

Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the chief Vatican liturgist during the pontificate of Paul VI, spoke candidly about the late Pope’s concerns in an interview with the Roman Petrus web site. The Italian prelate– who was also the Vatican’s top liturgist under Pope John Paul I and the early years of the pontificate of John Paul II– is now retired, and at the age of 86 his health is failing. In his interview with Petrus he concentrated primarily on his years serving Pope Paul VI.

[The full interview has been translated by Father John Zulsdorf on his What Does the Prayer Really Say blog.]

Pope Paul accepted the liturgical reforms after Vatican II “with pleasure,” Cardinal Noe said. He added that Paul VI was not be nature a sad man, but “he was saddened by the fact of having been left alone by the Roman Curia.” Regarding the late Pope’s famous remark about the “smoke of Satan,” Cardinal Noe said that he knew what Paul VI intended by that statement. In that denunciation, he said, the Pope “meant to include all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn’t render worship to the Lord by celebrating badly Holy Mass because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dross in the name of creativity, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One. So, the smoke of Satan was nothing other than the mentality which wanted to distort the traditional and liturgical canons of the Eucharistic ceremony.”

For Pope Paul VI, the cardinal continued, the worst outcome of the post-conciliar liturgical reform was the “craving to be in the limelight” that caused many priests to ignore liturgical guidelines. Cardinal Noe recalled that the Pope himself believed in careful adherence to the rubrics of the Mass, firmly believing that “no one is lord of the Mass.”

Speaking for himself, the former top Vatican liturgist said that the liturgy must always be celebrated with reverence and careful respect for the rubrics. He said with regret that in the wake of Vatican II “it was believed that everything, or nearly, was permitted.” Cardinal Noe said: “Now it is necessary to recover– and in a hurry– the sense of the sacred in the ars celebrandi, before the smoke of Satan completely pervades the whole Church.”

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