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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The "Smoke of Satan" Finally Revealed?

Ever since Pope Paul VI uttered his famous words on June 29, 1972 that "the smoke of Satan had entered through a crack in the Church", Catholics worldwide have wondered what part of the Mystical Body of Christ the former pontiff was referring to. Most believe he was criticizing Vatican II, a reasonable deduction considering the problems surrounding the council and its implementation, such as the alleged discovery that Archbishop Annibale Bugnini (Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship) was a closet Freemason; and the allowance of Protestant observers to participate in discussions about the formation of the Novus Ordo Mass. However, in a new translation published in The American Catholic, Father Stephanos Pedrano asserts that the "smoke" Pope Paul VI was referring to was actually scientism. (Scientism is defined as the belief that the assumptions, methods of research, etc., of the physical and biological sciences are equally appropriate and essential to all other disciplines, including the humanities and the social sciences.)

Pope Paul VI was not anti-science, but he was frightened about the insidious influence of science over all aspects of people's lives. As SpiritDaily.com explains it, the pope was worried that " the Church was succumbing to modern notions of 'research' and 'objectivity,' which, instead of accenting the genius of God, sought to cast doubt at every turn and negate the very roots of Christianity: mysticism and supernaturality." According to Father Pedrano's summary, among the branches of science that Pope Paul VI most distrusted is modern psychology. He believed that psychology sought to discard spirituality. "There is no longer trust in 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 a formula for true life."

Pope Paul VI also added, "Science exists to give us truths that do not separate us 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 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 absurd contradictions."

It is difficult to argue with Pope Paul VI about the dangers of scientism. Many great things have been accomplished through science, such as vaccines and the cures of many diseases, but like anything else scientific knowledge can be abused, or even worse, worshiped as a god unto itself. Science for science sake and its resulting disregard for human life can be found in abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and the secret testing of human subjects. And let's not forget the damage being caused to ourselves and the environment through pesticides, additives, and preservatives.

The former pontiff's words are growing more relevant with each passing day.

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