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The 1978 Investigation into Vatican Freemasonry: Discovering the Smoke of Satan

In its foreword, Murder in the 33rd Degree by Father Charles Murr, stipulates that since 1738 with Pope Clement XII’s encyclical, Eminenti Specula, the church’s condemnation of Freemasonry had remained the same, best expressed in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 2335: “Those giving their name to masonic sects or other associations of this sort that machinate against the Church or legitimate civil powers contract by that fact excommunication simply reserved to the Apostolic See.” The author of the foreword, an unnamed, “friend and brother priest,” concludes, “Thus, if someone in the Roman Curia was a Freemason, he was by that very fact excommunicated.” The author also presents “a significant change to Canon 2335” in 1983 as Canon 1374, which reads: “A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict.”

That the prohibition against and condemnation of Freemasonry was watered down is obvious in the text, which the author himself recognizes as a move “to limit its sanctions to those who join lodges with an anti-Catholic agenda.” But as the author correctly points out, “there remains the fact that many tenets and practices of Freemasonry are contrary to Catholic Faith.” Hence, after the issuance of the new canon, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) was prompted to assert that the prohibition against Freemasonry still stands with a lengthier rationale published in L’Osservatore Romano on March 11, 1985. As we do not have the luxury of space, we shall leave it to the reader to read Fr. Murr’s book to determine for himself whether the rationale is logically consistent (in its entirety) with Canon 1374 or if the rationale, like the “spirit of Vatican II,” attempts to go here, there, and everywhere, flirting with compromise and aggionrnamento, hence allowing a more ambiguous and equivocal interpretation that lends itself to leniency and confusion. While the author of the foreword does not make such critique, the author of this piece believes he may have intended to illustrate this and even if he did not, the rationale as published in L’Osservatore Romano, can objectively be shown to precisely be characterized by the same spirit and Hegelian dialectic that has governed the Church since the Second Vatican Council. The author of the foreword identifies the reality of Masonic infiltration in the Vatican as well as “the jettisoning of liturgical traditions on a scale unique in the history of the Church,” quoting Joseph Gelineau, S.J., who served on the Consilium to reform the liturgy, on his thoughts regarding the Novus Ordo Missae (NOM), “To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass.” Finally, the author stresses the enormity of the problem and declares:

If the man at the helm of the project, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, was in fact a Mason, this could explain why his Consilium produced texts so at variance with centuries of liturgical practice. Did the architect of ‘the new Mass’ seek to give the Church an ecumenical, enlightened liturgy that appealed to ‘modern sensibilities’ at the expense of fidelity to the Lex orandi of the Roman Rite?

Hence, in the book’s preface, the author implores, “Given the association between Lex orandi and Lex credendi, if the architect of our reformed rites wore a Masonic apron, the liturgical books now in use must receive a serious theological review.” The author of this piece, however, will argue such serious theological reviews have been published over decades and are already out there and it’s already 2023, almost 60 years after the promulgation of the NOM – have we not been going the way of the Synod on Synodality with what can now be objectively established as disastrous to Lex credendi? Much time has passed, and the Conciliar Church and Curia have only so consistently fallen to the warnings of the critics of the liturgical reform, namely, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and yet, almost 60 years after, we are still calling for a review? This brings us to the goal of this paper. On November 8, 2022, my articles published here, here, and here, utilized the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to illustrate the real errors of our time—effeminacy, naivete, and pacifism—which I will further argue with Father Charles Murr’s revelations and account.

We begin with the famous lament of Pope Paul VI in 1972, which Fr. Murr states was in reference to the state of the Church post-Vatican II: “Through some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.” Hereafter, we shall be constantly invoking Fr. Murr’s account. Two years after Paul VI’s lament, in 1974, Cardinal Dino Staffa (Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura) and Cardinal Silvio Oddi, presented “documentation of a very damning nature” to Paul VI. The documents concerned two high-ranking members of the Curia, Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio (Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops) and Bishop Annibale Bugnini (Deputy-Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship), whom they formally accused of being active Freemasons. Baggio was the one who decided who would become a bishop of the Catholic Church and nominated those who reflected his own liberal ideological views. This is human action consistent with the evidence.

As for Bugnini, we all know about his liturgical reforms, where “venerable rites, customs, and devotional practices that had been safeguarded and passed on for centuries were simply swept aside.”

Cardinals Oddi and Staffa urged the pope to bypass his Secretary of State, Cardinal Jean Villot, when dealing with the matter as they believed his ties with the accused. Hence, the project to verify the documents presented by the two Cardinals were given to Villot’s sworn enemy, Vatican Deputy Secretary of State, Cardinal Giovanni Benelli. With the help of Mario Marini, when he reported back to the pope, he said although Baggio and Bugnini were heavyweights in the scandal, they were just the tip of the iceberg. To Benelli’s disappointment, as he explained at length, the pope remained silent. Expressing Benelli’s thoughts, Fr. Murr asked, “If he was disinclined to speak about the results… how much more reluctant would he be to act?” Nonetheless, Benelli pushed forward and declared, “This calls for a top to bottom, bottom to top inquiry… A Canonical Visitation of the entire Roman Curia.” To Benelli’s delight, the pope accepted the man he proposed for the job—Archbishop Edouard Gagnon.

But all did not go smoothly. Archbishop Gagnon went through hoops and hurdles both in terms of getting an audience with the Holy Father as well as getting him to act, given the damning evidence. His first attempt was on May 16, 1978. Father Murr narrates how the Archbishop was certain, “His holiness will be so motivated to act, and act swiftly,” as he was confident of the evidence. But thrice, the Vatican cancelled the meeting, stating the pope was ‘indisposed.’

Just two months prior on March 16, 1978, Aldo Moro, former Prime Minister of Italy was kidnapped by Marxists and held hostage. Father Murr explained how this “Deeply wounded his closest friend in the world, Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Paul VI.” So affected was the Holy Father that he offered himself to the kidnappers in exchange for Moro. 54 days later, Moro’s bullet-riddled body was found and as Fr. Murr stressed, his “brutal death hit Pope Paul VI harder than almost anything had ever hit him in life.” So wounded was he, “Within the Vatican, the word ‘depression’ was a term to be avoided assiduously… Those closest to the Holy Father, noted that he was suffering from ‘melancholia.’”

But finally, on May 16, 1978, Paul VI would see the damning evidence. The following are some direct quotes from Fr. Murr’s book—of his narration of how Archbishop Gagnon presented some of this damning evidence to the depressed Pontiff.

In 1972, Secretary of State, Cardinal Jean Villot fought tooth and nail for this man—one of his closest friends and political allies—to be named Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops! Holy Father!… A Freemason naming every new bishop in the world… many of them guaranteed a cardinal’s hat and a vote in the next papal election!

Cardinal Staffa… told me that in 1972, and again in 1975, in his capacity as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura he and Cardinal Oddi came to speak with Your Holiness about this very man and about Archbishop Annibale Bugnini. They supplied Your Holiness with evidentiary documentation to verify these extremely serious accusations… They indicated that both men were and, I presume, still are, Freemasons… and that many of those connections… lead straight to the Institute for the Works of Religion (the Vatican Bank).

To this the Holy Father replied:

That is indeed true… the reports concerning Archbishop Bugnini were well-founded… On the basis of which we decided to send His Excellency to Iran as our nuncio… The matter has been dealt with. We see no need to revisit it.

At the same time, the Pope argued, Cardinal Baggio, who was also accused a Freemason by Cardinals Oddi and Staffa, had remained as Baggio himself and Villot denied the accusations. Finally, the Holy Father declared, “Dear brother, you have before you a tired and old man… who stands at the threshold of death and prepares himself, these days, to meet his Creator… and to answer for his sins and faults…” Referring to Gagnon’s documents, “We beg you to guard all of this, your invaluable research; keep it in your custody… Do not leave it here with us… when we cease to be the great burden we have become to this sacred office, you will please take this entire matter to our younger and stronger successor.”

It is interesting to note, how Paul VI referred to himself, “the great burden we have become to this sacred office.” But the Archbishop insisted, “Hundreds of others can’t wait another day… A Freemason names our bishops! The Vatican Bank is on the verge of collapse! The rector of the Lateran University is laundering millions through it every year!… Your own Secretary of State, Holy Father, is your greatest adversary!… All of this cannot simply be ignored.”

To this, Paul VI replied, “The proximate future, not the remote.” Fr. Murr declared, “Edward Gagnon simply could not believe his ears” and said to Fathers Murr and Marino, “He’s complex, our Holy Father, the pope… He’s a man, I think, who would love to make everyone in the world happy—and keep everyone in the world happy—but he’s learned how impossible that is.” As we argued in our previous article here, the Council itself, as discussed by Roberto de Mattei, was a case of “the organized progressive minority worked with much greater force and efficacy than did the conservative minority” and how Paul VI himself, in his appearance at the UN after the Council, championed ‘pacifism,’ a movement founded by Joseph Stalin, himself. In light of Our Lady’s warning of the “errors of Russia,” the pope, who supported the innovations and liturgical “reforms” of Bugnini and rolled out restrictions on the Mass of all time was naïve to Bugnini’s maneuverings in promulgating the NOM as well as Baggio’s and Villot’s assurances the evidence accusing them of Freemasonry was calumny. The pope’s failure to grant Gagnon an audience (cancelled thrice) as well as his refusal to act on the accusations and allegations, while expressing much concern, worry, and alarm (to the point of depression) over Aldo Moro’s kidnapping and eventual death, paint a Pontiff struggling with effeminacy. That Moro’s death was “harder than almost anything had ever hit him in life” (versus Freemasonry ruling the Vatican and Masons choosing who becomes bishop) is telling of the absence or lack of masculinity in the Pontiff—a problem, which seems to have invaded the hierarchy, clerics, and even lay people of every kind these days.

But soon, Archbishop Gagnon would have some reprieve in his effort to get his evidence across and finally have this problem with Freemasonry have a chance at being addressed. We cover this in our next article together with why and how this was precisely a mere reprieve as the race to get the evidence presented and the ‘smoke of Satan’ addressed from the top remained evasive and futile.

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