November 23, 2015

An Exorcist Tells His Story: Fr. Gabriele Amorth on the Power of Satan

Satan
As we prepare to celebrate the liturgical season of Advent, it is appropriate that we consider the threefold reason for Christ’s Incarnation: 1.) to destroy the works of the devil, 2.) to free man from Satan's slavery and 3.) to establish the kingdom of God.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth was the Vatican's Chief Exorcist. In that capacity he performed thousands of exorcisms through which he has garnered innumerable insights into the works and slavery of the devil. I recently read Fr. Amorth's An Exorcist Tells His Story. To highlight his wisdom, I have reframed excerpts from, "The Power of Satan,"(pages 25-36) in An Exorcist Tells His Story into a Q & A or "interview" format:

Some priests rarely mention Hell and the power of Satan, preferring instead to focus on the love and forgiveness of Christ. Why is that bad?

Christ is the center of the universe. Everything was created for him and in view of his Coming, in the heavens (angels) and on earth (the tangible world, man first of all). It would be wonderful to speak only of Christ, but it would not be according to his every teaching and action, and we would never be able to understand him. Scripture talks to us about the kingdom of God but also of the kingdom of Satan. It tells us about the power of God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, but also of the power of darkness. It speaks of the sons of God and of the sons of Satan. It is impossible to understand the salvific action of Christ if we ignore the destructive action of Satan.

Why doesn't God just crush Satan right now?

God never rejects his creatures. Therefore, even though they broke with God, Satan and his angels maintain their power and rank (thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, and so on) even if they use them for evil purposes. Saint Augustine does not exaggerate when he claims that, if God gave Satan a free hand, "no man would be left alive." Since Satan cannot kill us, he tries to "make us into his followers in opposition to God, just as he is in opposition to God".

Many modern theologians identify Satan with the abstract idea of evil. They deny the existence of Satan as an actual being. What about this?

Scripture tells us that angels and demons (I want particularly to mention Satan) are spiritual creatures but also that they are individuals gifted with intelligence, will, freedom, and initiative. Those modern theologians who identify Satan with the abstract idea of evil are completely mistaken. Theirs is true heresy; that is, it is openly in contrast with the Bible, the Fathers, and the Magisterium of the Church. The truth about Satan was never doubted in the past; therefore, there are no dogmatic definitions in this respect with the exception of the following statement of the Fourth Lateran Council: "The devil [that is, Satan] and the other demons were created good by God; but they became evil through their own fault." Whoever denies Satan also denies sin and no longer understands the actions of Christ.

There are those who say [i.e. The Jesus Seminar] that Christ's exorcisms are fanciful embellishments that didn't happen. They argue demonic possessions are nothing more than psychological disturbances and as such, exorcisms are play acting hocus pocus.

Let us be clear about this: Jesus defeated Satan through his sacrifice. However, Jesus also defeated Satan before his death, through his teachings: "If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Lk 11:20). Jesus is the strongest one, who tied up Satan (Mk 3:27), despoiled him, and pillaged his kingdom, which is at an end (Mk 3:26). Jesus first gave the power to cast out demons to his apostles; then he extended the power to the seventy-two disciples, and in the end he granted it to all those who would believe in him.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us that after the descent of the Holy Spirit the apostles continued to expel demons, and all Christians have done so after them. Already, the earliest Fathers of the Church, such as Justin and Irenaeus, clearly express Christian thought about the devil and about the power to cast him out. Other Fathers, in particular Tertullian and Origen, concur. These four authors alone can refute many modern theologians, who, for all purposes, either do not believe in the devil or completely ignore him.

Is Satan ascendant in our time? Has he grown more powerful of late?

Even if this battle against Satan concerns all men and all times, there is no doubt that Satan's power is felt more keenly in periods of history when the sinfulness of the community is more evident. For example, when I view the decadence of the Roman Empire, I can see the moral disintegration of that period in history. Now we are at the same level of decadence, partly as a result of the misuse of the mass media (which are not evil in themselves) and partly because of Western consumerism and materialism, which have poisoned our society.

Is there any truth to the notion of "wandering souls" or the idea that some souls who have died are condemned to walk the earth and are afraid, or not allowed, to "crossover" into eternity?

Just as it would be wrong to deny the existence of Satan, it is also wrong to accept the prevalent opinion that there are spiritual beings that are not mentioned in the Bible. These are the invention of spiritists, of followers of the occult, of those who espouse reincarnation, or of those who believe in "wandering souls". There are no good spirits other than angels; there are no evil spirits other than demons. Two Councils of the Church (Lyons and Florence) tell us that the souls of those who die go immediately to heaven or to hell or to purgatory. The souls of the dead who are present during seances or the souls of the dead who are present in living bodies to torture them are none other than demons. God allows a soul to return to earth only in very rare, exceptional cases, but we recognize that this subject is still full of unknowns.

What harm can the devil cause to the living? 

Ordinary activity. This is "temptation", which is the most common activity of the demons, and it is directed against all men. When Jesus allowed Satan to tempt him, he accepted our human condition. I will not talk about this common diabolical endeavor, because the purpose of this book is to highlight Satan's "extraordinary activity", which can take place only if God so allows.

This second category can take six different forms:

[We will consider all six in part 2.]

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