MARY, THE SAINTS, THE ANGELS, THE DEMONS
Do demons exist?
If God has created all things and all that He has created is good, could He have created the devil?
The existence of the devil is recognized even outside the Catholic Church. There are references in all the major religions.
Exorcisms, though infrequent, are proof that we believe in his existence. At times, we create too much space for him in our thoughts! Or, on the other hand, we forget his presence.
God did not create the demon as a demon. We rather believe that the demons are fallen angels, spirits who revolted against God. These proud spirits made a choice, the choice of challenging God. Since they are pure spirits, the grave sin they have committed was a sin of pride and disobedience (2 P 2: 4).
John Paul II declared: "The Church, according to the 4th Council of Lateran (1215), teaches that the devil (or Satan) and the other demons 'have been created good by God, but became bad by their own will". This what we read in Saint Jude, 6, and in Saint Peter (2 P 2: 4).
The existence of demons has always been recognized by the Church, even though, today, many people are inclined to believe that they are only symbols of evil, representations of the evil now prevailing everywhere in the world.
On August 13, 1986, the Pope felt it was necessary to talk of bad angels because, he said, "this will clarify what is the true faith of the Church and answer those who falsify it by exaggerating the importance of the devil, or else by denying or minimizing his wicked power".
Satan is "a fallen angel, the spirit of evil, we also call the devil or demon". Satan is the "father of lies" (Jn 8: 44). He tries to make us similar to him, to create in us rebellion against God. He invites us to act "like gods" (Gn 3: 5).
Through original sin he exerts certain domination over us, a domination which we renounce when we are baptized.
He is the "prince of this world" (Jn 12: 31, etc.), the "tempter", the "antichrist" (1 Jn 4: 3), the "dragon" as we read in the Apocalypse (Rv 12: 3. 7ss). He is not alone; he has angels with him (Mt 25: 41).
Satan tries to make us sin. Let us be vigilant (1 P 5: 8) and pray to resist him (Mk 9: 29).
We must not, however, fall into dualism, as if there were two gods, the good God and the bad god. The demon is only a fallen creature and his power is limited.
Diabolic possession, the demon's influence on the human body can exist, but it is not easily discerned.
"Before acknowledging a case of possession, it is essential to check in full all the possibilities of medicine and psychiatry"(Cardinal Hoeffner).
According to the Pope, "The Church does not attribute easily numerous facts to the direct intervention of the demon; she does not favor it" (August 13, 1986).
Satan exists; the world is easily perverted; there are evil tendencies in us all. We must separate these three realities.
If nowadays rationalists try to deny the existence of the devil who does his best to move unnoticed, we, who believe in the presence of the devil, should not forget, on the other hand, the liberty and responsibility of every human being.
Most of all, we should remember the loving action of Christ Jesus: "It was to undo all that the devil had done that the Son of God appeared" (1 Jn 3: 8).
"The Church", says the Pope, "shares Christ's victory over the devil" (August 20, 1986). She does it by prayer, rarely by exorcism, which a bishop can commission, but only to prudent priests worthy of trust.
Here is the formal teaching of the Church found in the Code of Canon Law: "No one may lawfully exorcise the possessed without the special and express permission of the local Ordinary. This permission is to be granted by the local Ordinary only to a priest who is endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life" (Canon 1172).
An exorcism is a sacramental to be used with great care and caution. The permission of the local Ordinary can never be presumed. No other Ordinary can grant permission, such as that of a religious institute or of a society of apostolic life (The Canon Law, Letter and Spirit, 2365).
"We must ask God to 'deliver us from all sin', according to the Our Father", declared Cardinal Joseph Suenens; "also we must try not to exorcise bad spirits, except in extreme cases and with the approval of the bishop's wise decision or of the one he has duly commissioned".
We share in Christ's victory: "He has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that He loves, and in Him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins" (Co 1: 13-14).
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