Sculpture of the devil

What the devil did the head of the Jesuits just say about Satan?

“The devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality”, the Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa has claimed.

Driving the news

Sosa gave his opinion on the devil and evil to the Italian magazine Tempi, on the margins of the Rimini Friendship Meeting organised by the Church Communion and Liberation movement.

As CNA reports, Sosa explained that the devil “exists as the personification of evil in different structures, but not in persons, because it is not a person, it is a way of acting evil”.

“He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life”, the Jesuit insisted.

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The intrigue

The Catholic Catechism teaches that the devil is “a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God”.

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“The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ”, the Church teaching document says.

But Sosa was careful to point out that we need to understand certain “cultural elements” to speak about Satan.

The devil “was at first a good angel, made by God”, the Catechism also says: and angels, unlike humans, are “spiritual, non-corporeal beings”.

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Why it matters

This difference between the personhood of humans and angels, or demons, seems to have been the point Sosa was trying to make.

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“Good and evil are in a permanent war in the human conscience and we have ways to point them out. We recognize God as good, fully good. Symbols are part of reality, and the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality”, the Jesuit further explained.

But this is not the first time Sosa has advanced such a carefully-nuanced opinion on the devil.

In 2017, he acknowledged that “we have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil”.

A spokesman for the Jesuits subsequently denied that Sosa had contradicted Church doctrine.

“Like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches. He does not hold a set of beliefs separate from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church”, the Jesuit representative explained.

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