Why did Pope Paul VI state in 1972 that the "smoke of satan" has entered the Church?

Does his statement point to a crisis in the Church during that period of time? I’m thinking about numerous possibilities but I can’t be sure to pin point why he said what he said.

Yes, he did say it, though it was in Italian and not really official.

It isn’t really known to whom it was directed, though there supposedly was a context.

Yes, it is rather difficult to investigate since the complete text of the homily is not available (as far as I know). He made the statement during the homily for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, 1972. On the Vatican website, there is a summary of the homily with quotations and paraphrases (made by somebody). So, did he actually say those words or did the scribe make a mistake? Here is the pertinent paragraph, “translated” by Google:

Referring to the situation of the Church today, the Holy Father says he has the feeling that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation. No longer trust the Church; We trust the first profane prophet who comes to talk to some newspaper or some social movement to chase him and ask him if he has the formula of true life. And we do not feel we have instead of being masters and teachers. Doubt has entered our consciences, and was for windows instead had to be opened to the light. From science, which is made to give us the truth that God does not stand out but they make us try even harder and celebrate with greater intensity, she came rather criticism, came to doubt. Scientists are those who more thoughtfully and more painfully bend the front. And end up teaching, “Do not know, do not know, we can not know.” The school gym becomes confusing and contradictory at times absurd. It celebrates the progress to then be able to demolish the strangest and most radical revolutions, to deny everything that has won, returning after so primitive exalted the progress of the modern world.

In the Church this state of uncertainty reigns. It was believed that after the Council there would be a sunny day in the history of the Church. It came instead a day of clouds, stormy, dark, research, uncertainty. We preach ecumenism and we depart more and more from others. We seek to dig abysses instead of closing them.

Original text: vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/homilies/1972/documents/hf_p-vi_hom_19720629_it.html


Way to track it down, Dan! :thumbsup:

Really, the “smoke of Satan” has always found ways to seep through the cracks. Even at the dawn of creation, Satan found a way to slither into the very sanctuary of the Garden of Eden in order to tempt our first parents. And it has been that way ever since. He is always trying to find somewhere to slip through and cause damage.

Thank God for the Holy Spirit, though. He’s the fire that protects us from the smoke. :slight_smile:

Yep! Christ referred to Satan as the ruler of the world, so it is not news today, or in 1972.

And perhaps Paul VI carefully chose the word “smoke”, as smoke is an indication of “fire” being close by, he may have been giving a simple warning that the Church must stand vigilant, rather than it being a dire proclamation of certain doom.

After all, he knew, as well as we know, that as Christ told us, “…the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it”.

Jimmy Akin had a post on that on his blog from nearly eight years ago.

Referring to the situation of the Church today, the Holy Father affirms that he has a sense that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” There is doubt, incertitude, problematic, disquiet, dissatisfaction, confrontation. There is no longer trust of the Church; they trust the first profane prophet who speaks in some journal or some social movement, and they run after him and ask him if he has the formula of true life. And we are not alert to the fact that we are already the owners and masters of the formula of true life. Doubt has entered our consciences, and it entered by windows that should have been open to the light. Science exists to give us truths that do not separate from God, but make us seek him all the more and celebrate him with greater intensity; instead, science gives us criticism and doubt. Scientists are those who more thoughtfully and more painfully exert their minds. But they end up teaching us: “I don’t know, we don’t know, we cannot know.” The school becomes the gymnasium of confusion and sometimes of absurd contradictions. Progress is celebrated, only so that it can then be demolished with revolutions that are more radical and more strange, so as to negate everything that has been achieved, and to come away as primitives after having so exalted the advances of the modern world.

This state of uncertainty even holds sway in the Church. There was the belief that after the Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. Instead, it is the arrival of a day of clouds, of tempest, of darkness, of research, of uncertainty. We preach ecumenism but we constantly separate ourselves from others. We seek to dig abysses instead of filling them in.

As Jimmy’s analysis says:

  1. It is thus clear–if the reportage of what Paul VI said is even remotely right, that he was not claiming that there were Satanists in the Vatican (as some have claimed), nor is he linking the “smoke of Satan” with the Second Vatican Council itself or the liturgical reforms that followed it or anything like that. He perceives the work of the Council as a good thing that has been thwarted–or partially thwarted–by the social crisis that was breaking out in the developed world at this time. In other words, he’s responding to the cultural crisis of the late 1960s and early 1970s and its impact on the Church using a poetic image and attributing it (rightly) to the work of the devil, but he is not making the kind of sensationalistic claims that some have used to interpret this phrase.

(Speaking of which…wow, seven to eight years since that came out. I’m surprised because I still quite remember the time when Jimmy wrote that blog post. That was when I was still an annoying brat. :D)

Thanks very much for this thread and to all who posted on it. Being a new Catholic, I’ve heard all sorts of meanings attributed to this one out of context statement, all of them scary and confusing. Some even caused a thread of doubt to enter my mind briefly about the Church’s future. This clears up so much. I wish I’d known about that Akin article before now. -chuckles-

God Bless You,

Not a Philosophy topic…

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