Good evening Father Angelo
How are you? I hope you are fine and I sincerely wish you all the best.
I am writing to tell you about a heated debate that I had with a friend of mine during which she claimed that Satan is just a symbol and does not exist as an entity.
I confess that I got carried away by the situation and answered her too vehemently so that she felt offended.
But there is another reason why I am writing to you.
I wanted to ask you the following questions: What should I answer to those who make such statements, denying that Satan has his personal character traits? Secondly, If he is the accuser, is it correct to imagine that he will play a role similar to that of a public prosecutor before God the Father while Jesus, Who is our Advocate, will be our defender (obviously, for those who truly have welcomed Him as Saviour and totally relied on Him)?
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your perseverance in answering, as always.
I ask you to bless my friend and me.
May God reward you a hundredfold for your service.
The Priest’s reply
1. When we hear people say that the devil does not exist and that it is just a personification of evil conceived by men, we must answer that we derive what we certainly know about him from Divine Revelation and not from our thoughts. After all, by relying only on our reasoning abilities, what could we say about him? The devil has no human nature as he belongs to the preternatural order of creation.
2. We learned everything we know about the devil from what God revealed, that is from Divine Revelation. Sacred Scripture, as fundamental principle of Divine Revelation, says that the devil’s nature is not to be considered that of an anti-god. The devil is an entity who has an angelic nature and who, by rebelling against God, turned into a perverted being aiming to pervert God’s summit of creation, that is human beings. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read as follows: “The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: «The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing” (Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800)» (CCC 391).
3. As he is an angelic being, his nature is angelic, therefore he is endowed with a particular type of intelligence as the intelligence of the Angels is particularly intuitive; so he has the ability to understand everything immediately while man’s intelligence is rational and therefore progressive. The devil is also endowed with will so he is a conscious and free intelligent being. 4. The devil’s nature has remained the same even after his rebellion against God. As all beings who are endowed with intelligence and will are to be considered as persons, the logical consequence is that devils also have their personal character traits, this excludes that they are anonymous blind evil forces.
5. In the Sacred Scripture we can observe the devil speaking with God, with Jesus and with human beings.
Here is an example for each of the three cases:
He speaks with God: “One day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, «Whence do you come? ». Then Satan answered the Lord and said, «From roaming the earth and patrolling it»” (Job 1:6-7).
He speaks with Jesus: “I shall give to you all this power and their [all the kingdoms of the world] glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish” (Lk 4:6) “.
He addresses to human beings: “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (Ge 3:1).
6. Jesus talks with him giving orders to him using the personal pronoun «you»: “Then Jesus asked him, «What is your name? ». He replied, «Legion» because many demons had entered him. And they pleaded with him not to order them to depart to the abyss. A herd of many swine was feeding there on the hillside, and they pleaded with him to allow them to enter those swine; and he let them. The demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned” (Lk 8:30-33).
7. For this reason, the Holy Pope Paul VI in his famous General Audience held on November 15th, 1972, speaking about the presence of sin, said that this “in its turn becomes the occasion and the effect of interference in us and our work by a dark, hostile agent, the Devil. Evil is not merely an absence of something but an active force, a living, spiritual being that is perverted and that perverts others. It is a terrible reality, mysterious and frightening”.
And then again: “The Devil is the number one enemy, the preeminent tempter. So, we know that this dark disturbing being exists and that he is still at work with his treacherous cunning; he is the hidden enemy who sows errors and misfortunes in human history.
It is worth recalling the revealing Gospel parable of the good seed and the cockle, for it synthesizes and explains the lack of logic that seems to preside over our contradictory experiences: inimicus homo hoc fecit (Ma 13: 28). He is “the murderer from the beginning … and the father of lies”, as Christ defines him (Jn 8: 44-45)”.
8. In the same General Audience , Paul VI said that: “It is a departure from the picture provided by biblical Church teaching to refuse to knowledge the Devil’s existence; to regard him as a self-sustaining principle who, unlike other creatures, does not owe his origin to God; or to explain the Devil as a pseudo-reality, a conceptual, fanciful personification of the unknown causes of our misfortunes”. “It is a departure from…”, that is, it is outside the Catholic doctrine.
9. You also ask me if, on the Judgment Day, the devil will be our accuser while Jesus will be our defender.
Sacred Scripture says just like that. And this happens not only on the Judgment Day but always: Satan is our accuser, Jesus is our Advocate (the Paraclete), our defender.
In Psalm 109:6 we read: “let an accuser stand at his right hand!”.
In the Eastern courts, the accuser used to stand on the right side of the defendant asking the judge to sentence him.
Satan is disclosed as the accuser also in Revelation 12:10: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: «Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night”.
On the contrary, Jesus is our advocate. Scripture also says how He accomplishes His task: “Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them” (He 7,25); “My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world” (1 Jo 2:1-2).
With the hope that you can always be among those who approach Him as our advocate and defender, I entrust you to God and I bless you.