March 18, 2011

Catechism Corner

What the Catechism teaches about the devil and exorcism

Teachings regarding the devil are found in various sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But they are primarily found in the section on the creed about the creation of the world, and the fall of Adam and Eve.

Its teaching on exorcism is found in the section on the sacraments about sacramental and other liturgical celebrations of the Church.

#391—“Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents [Adam and Eve] lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the ‘devil.’ 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).”

#392—“Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This ‘fall’ consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: ‘You will be like God’ (Gn 3:5). The devil ‘has sinned from the beginning’; he is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (1 Jn 3:8; Jn 8:44).”

#393—“It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. ‘There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death’ (St. John Damascene, De Fide Orthodoxa, 2, 4).”

#394— “Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls ‘a murderer from the beginning’ (Jn 8:44), who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil’ (1 Jn 3:8). In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.”

#395— “The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign.

“Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine Providence which, with strength and gentleness, guides human and cosmic history.

“It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him’ (Rom 8:28).”

#1673—“When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism.

“Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called ‘a major exorcism,’ can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop.

“The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church.

“Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.” †

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