An interesting article came to light these past few days. An interview with the aging Papal Master of Ceremonies Virgilio Cardinal Noe.... the MC of Paul VI and Pope John Paul II in the Italian paper Petrus. The upshot of the interview was Cardinal Noe's claim that Pope Paul VI's reference to "The Smoke of Satan" so oft quoted was, in fact, referring to the increasing experimentation and innovation taking place in he liturgy.
Noe goes on to explain that such innovation was never envisioned by the Holy Father, and that the "blame" has been wrongly laid on him for the development of the liturgy in that direction:
Noe: He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dry straw 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.
Petrus: It is thought that Paul VI was the real culprit as the cause of all the ills of post-Conciliar liturgy. But based on what you have revealed, Eminence, Montini compared the liturgical chaos, even if in a veiled way, actually to something hellish.
Noe: He condemned craving to be in the limelight and the delirium of almighty power that they were following the Council at the liturgical level. Mass is a sacred ceremony, he often repeated, everything must be prepared and studied adequately, respecting the canons, no one is "dominus" [lord] of the Mass. Sadly, in many after Vatican II not many understood him and Paul VI suffered this, considering the phenomenon to be an attack of the Devil.
OK... there has been a lot of discussion about this claim, most specifically why he is coming forward with this now. Cardinal Noe, now 86 years old, has nothing to gain from coming forward with this (at least nothing we know about... a future book maybe?) and he makes the point to th interviewer that this is a "scoop" for Petrus. This is something that the Cardinal wants to get out into the news.
Towards the end of the interview, the Cardinal makes another point that may give some clue as to why this statement and why now:
Noe: Liturgy must be carried out always and no matter what with decorum: even a sign of the Cross poorly made is synonymous with scorn and sloppiness. Alas, I repeat, after Vatican II it was believed that everything, or nearly, was permitted. 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. Thanks be to God, we have Pope Benedict XVI: his Mass and his liturgical style are an example of correctness and dignity.
There is a lot packed into this brief statement that can give one pause. The first is the connection of this issue to Pope Benedict and his efforts concerning the liturgy. True, this is an interview with a Cardinal, and it the interview focuses on liturgical issues, but the reference to Pope Benedict is something of a non sequitur in the context. Also strange is the insistence of the Cardinal that something must be done, and in a hurry. This brings us back to the question of why this statement, and why now?
Consider the impact of the Cardinal's statement on the debate (war?) of the past 40 years between what has come to be known as the "Hermeneutic of Rupture" and the "Hermeneutic of Continuity". The "Rupture" camp has, to a great extent, built their argument on the claim that the reforms of the 1970 Missal of Paul VI came about as a result of Pope Paul VI's desire to reform the liturgy in the "Spirit of Vatican II", and they further claim that the reforms that developed in the coming years were, if not specifically promoted by the Holy Father, were at least supported by him. In other words, the reforms that resulted had the approval of the Pope. As such, the argument with the "Continuity" camp has always been one of "Our Pope" versus "Your Pope"... a no-win situation.
Cardinal Noe's statements would indicate that this is not the case at all. Rather, they present a scenario in which the Holy Father Paul VI not only opposed the innovations and experimentation, but saw them as inspired by evil forces. Consider how that affects the argument of the "Rupture" camp.... "Their Pope" believed that the liturgical innovations were the work of Satan. Hmm...so there is a continuity of the Holy See condemning the development of the liturgy since 1970? And the "Father of the Reform" himself saw it as inspired by evil forces? That would mean that the liturgy war of the past 40 years is not a "civil war" between opposing camps within the Church, but is a war between the Church and Satan.
Perhaps this is why Cardinal Noe is somewat insistent that ...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. Clearly Cardinal Noe understands the nature of the conflict, and has made it clear that there are not two legitimate Catholic positons on this issue, but that there is a Catholic position and the position of Satan.
Something for the "Rupture" camp to consider.....