Exorcists to Jesuit Superior General: Devil Is Real

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by Martina Moyski  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 26, 2019   

Caution those who believe he is 'only a symbol'

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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - The International Association of Catholic Exorcists (IEA) affirmed on Thursday that the existence of Satan as "a real and personal being is a truth of Christian doctrine."

The IEA's affirmation came just days after remarks by Superior General of the Society of Jesus Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal who declared the "devil exists only as symbolic reality."

"We have formed symbolic figures such as the devil to express evil," said Sosa. "Social conditioning can also represent this figure, since there are people who act [in an evil way] because they are in an environment where it is difficult to act to the contrary."


The Jesuit superior also declared:

It exists as the evil personified in different structures but not in people, because it is not a person, it is a way of implementing evil. He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life.

Good and evil are in a permanent struggle in human consciousness, and we have ways to indicate them. We recognize God as good, entirely good. Symbols are part of reality, and the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality.

Sosa made the remarks during an interview published in the online magazine Tempi published on Aug. 21.

The IEA called Sosa's remarks "grave and confusing" in a press release issued on Aug. 22, saying, "Some doctrinal clarifications are necessary."

The position of Sosa falls outside the ordinary and solemn magisterium, according to the association, who point to the "solemn magisterium expressed in the IV Lateran Council on angels and demons."

The Lateran Council of 1215 declared, "The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith."

Further, the council said, "The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition."


Moreover, the association said the truth of the Fourth Lateran Council "is confirmed by a document of the Congregation of the Faith, published by L'Osservatore Romano on June 26, 1975" and corresponds to "the whole tradition of the Fathers of the Church and of the Popes."

Referring to the teaching of Pope Paul VI, who in 1975 explained evil in the world as "the occasion and effect of an intervention in us and in our world of an obscure and enemy agent, the devil. Evil is no longer just a deficiency, but a living, spiritual, perverted and perverted being," they likewise refuted Sosa's remarks.

The devil 'is the number one enemy, he is the tempter par excellence. We know that this dark and disturbing being really exists.'

Paul VI added that the devil "is the number one enemy, he is the tempter par excellence. We know that this dark and disturbing being really exists."

The exorcists also rebutted Sosa's remarks by pointing to Pope Francis' insistence on, and affirmation of, the reality of the devil throughout his papacy.

They refer to particularly to chapter five of the apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exultate, where Pope Francis wrote, "Nor can this battle be reduced to the struggle against our human weaknesses and proclivities (be they laziness, lust, envy, jealousy or any others). It is also a constant struggle against the devil, the prince of evil."

The Pope added, "Jesus himself celebrates our victories. He rejoiced when his disciples made progress in preaching the Gospel and overcoming the opposition of the evil one: 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven' (Lk 10:18).

Directly refuting Sosa, Francis cautions about the dangers of looking at the devil as a symbol:

We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice.

When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. "Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

Francis also referred to the last request of the Lord's Prayer, i.e., "to be freed from evil": "The expression that is used there does not refer to evil in the abstract, but properly and concretely indicates the Evil One, which is a personal being," said the exorcists.

Francis' references to the Gospel of Mark which describe "the work of Jesus as a struggle against Satan (cf. Mk 1, 23–28; 32–34; 39; 3, 22–30 and passim)" speak to the existence of the evil one. 

The life of His disciples, too, involve a battle that "is not against creatures made of flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the spirits of evil (Eph 6:12)."

Father Sante Babolin, known as the "exorcist of Padua," underscored what the association of exorcists stated in their press release, stating, "It was standard Church teaching that Satan was a fallen angel."

"God created everything — including those spirits that became evil," also referring to the Magisterium of the Fourth Lateran Council.

"The devil and other demons were created by God good in nature, but they themselves through themselves have become wicked," Babolin quotes the council.

Dr. Edward Peters, a canon lawyer who serves as referendary of the Apostolic Signatura, corroborates the IAE position, writing, "The existence of the devil as a personal reality, and not merely as a symbol of evil, is an article of faith."

Peter adds, "Denial of an article of faith is an element of the canonical crime of heresy ... an act punishable by measures up to and including excommunication, dismissal from the clerical state, and/or loss of ecclesiastical office."

The canon lawyer acknowledges that "few in ecclesiastical leadership (including most orthodox members thereof!) wish to 'pull the trigger' in such cases and, as a result, utterances such as Sosa's provoke little, usually no, response from Church leaders with inevitable harm to the faithful."

The IEA recommends that Catholics educate themselves about the Church's teaching on angels and demons. Its members recommend the Catechism of the Catholic Church, biographies of the saints, such as St. Martin of Tours, an exorcist, and "The Differential Diagnosis between Psychopathological Disorders and the Extraordinary Action of the Devil," published on the IAE website.

Exorcists recommend specific prayers "to combat any form of evil that may be oppressing an individual."

One prayer is the Anima Christi:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me; Body of Christ, save me; Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Christ, wash me; Passion of Christ, strengthen me; O good Jesus, hear me; within Thy wounds, hide me; let me never be separated from Thee; from the evil one, deliver me; at the hour of my death, call me and bid me come to Thee, that with Thy saints, I may praise Thee forever and ever. Amen.

Father Gabriele Amorth, former chief exorcist of Rome, recommends that prayers be joined with the sacrament of confession and the frequent reception of Holy Communion.

In addition, prayers should be said "with humility, recognizing the fact that God is the one who expels evil from our midst. We do not have any power over Satan; only the Lord of Heaven and Earth possesses such authority."

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