Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: English Italian

Question

Good evening, father Angelo.
I’ve read the answer you gave to a person who asked if the devil can read our thoughts and your answer was reassuring.
Even though I was already convinced about this, my certainty was destroyed when I watched a video-interview to father Gabriele Amorth. The exorcist tells about a father who suspected his son was possessed and while they were at the table he thought “Hail Mary” triggering the immediate reaction of his son (that is the reaction of the spirit who possessed him). The son exploded saying:”Dad, STOP IT!”. 
Now I am sure only that the devil can do everything except one thing, that is prevent man from exercising his own free will choosing between the evil and the good (even though he has many weapons to try to influence him). I honestly doubt very much that the devil cannot directly read minds (which is a brain activity that in my opinion is not identifiable with the soul). 

If you will answer to my considerations I’ll be glad.
I greet and thank you for your attention.
May Jesus Christ be praised.
Luigi


Answer of the priest

Dear Luigi,

1. I primarily must make a premise. 

Thinking is not identifiable with a brain activity and the brain is not identifiable with the soul.

Until we are within this world, human thinking is always accompanied by brain activity.

However, brain activity is a sensorial activity, while thinking is a spiritual activity in itself. 

2. Therefore the fact that we reason with the brain means that we collaborate with the brain because we get images and sensations from it. 

However, we reason with the mind in itself, which is a spiritual faculty of the soul and is not identifiable with the brain.

3. The devil is able to perceive what happens within the senses, so I’m not surprised by what Father Amorth has said. 

However, this does not mean that the devil reads the mind.

In the case reported by Father Amorth, the devil may have perceived the presence of a reality belonging to the supernatural order which had its reverberation in the inner senses (the brain). 

Probably the explanation to your question may be concluded like this.

4. However, in this case I want to move on and take under consideration another possibility, that is, according to God’s will, the Angels are allowed to reveal many things which are within the mind of men to the devils.

Saint Thomas himself affirms this, as we’ll see.

5. In this purpose I report what A. Meynard affirms in his “Little summa of ascetic and mystical theology” (two volumes).                                                                                          A. Meynard asks himself: “can the devils know the depths of the heart and the secrets of the future?”.
Here the answer: “Only God penetrates the depths of the hearts and scans the secrets of the future. Is it true that the devils lost many natural gifts which they had received from God before their fall and it is for this reason that Saint Thomas says that “their natural knowledge was not diminished” (Somma teologica, I, 64,1).
However, they achieve the knowledge of the truth only in three ways:                                  1° for they clear-sightedness of their intelligence;
2° by the revelation of the Holy Angels;
3° finally for the great experience they have of things (cf. Summa theologiae, Ib., ad 1).
Therefore the devils can make conjectures about our inner thoughts and about the future and adventitious events; but they cannot know anything with certainty even if thanks to a special revelation of God who usually uses the ministry of the Angels for this.                             In fact, Saint Thomas says that “many things concerning Divine mysteries are made known by the holy angels to the bad angels, whenever the Divine justice requires the demons to do anything for the punishment of the evil; or for the trial of the good” (Summa theologiae, I, 109, 4, ad 1).
This is the explanation of many events in which the devil apparently knows the secret thoughts of men, as sometimes happens during exorcisms” (Little summa of ascetic and mystical theology, vol. II, n. 102).

6. This explains some demoniac furies in some saints’ life, as happened for Father Pio and the holy Curé d’Ars, and also against some religious institutions at their beginning, as it happened for the Dominican Order.
However, what remains true is that the devils cannot directly know men’s thoughts and the secrets of the future.
If they have some knowledge, they have it not directly but thanks to the revelation of the Holy Angels according to a divine dispensation. 

Thank you for the opportunity you gave me to clarify further some devil’s interventions.       Good continuation of the new year.
I remember you to the Lord and I bless you.
Father Angelo