Back Top Print

Christian Faith and Demonology*



The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has commissioned an expert to prepare the following study, which the Congregation strongly recommends as a sure foundation for the reaffirmation of the teaching of the Magisterium on the theme: Christian Faith and Demonology.

The many forms of superstition, obsessional preoccupation with Satan and the demons, and the different kinds of worship of them or attachment to them have always been condemned by the Church (1). It would therefore be incorrect to hold that Christianity, forgetful of the universal Lordship of Christ, had at any time made Satan the privileged subject of its preaching, transforming the Good News of the Risen Lord into a message of terror. Speaking to the Christians of Antioch, Saint John Chrysostom declared: “It certainly gives us no pleasure to speak to you of the devil, but the teaching which this subject gives me the opportunity to expound is of the greatest use to you” (2). In fact it would be an unfortunate error to act as if history had already been accomplished and the Redemption had obtained all its effects, without there being any further need to conduct the combat spoken of by the New Testament and the masters of the spiritual life.

A present-day difficulty

This scorn could well be today’s error. On many sides, in fact, people are asking whether there should not be a revision of doctrine on this point, starting with the Scriptures. Some hold that it is impossible to take any standpoint. Asserting that Scripture does not permit an affirmation to be made either for or against the existence of Satan and the demons, they imply that consideration of the question could be suspended. More often the very existence of the devil is frankly called into question. Some critics, believing that they can define Jesus’ own position, claim that none of his words guarantees demonic reality. They assert that affirmation of the existence of this reality, where it is made, rather reflects the ideas of Jewish writings, or is dependent on New Testament traditions, but not on Christ. Since it does not form part of the central Gospel message, the existence of demonic reality, they say, no longer has a call on our faith today, and we are free to reject it. Others, who are at the same time both more objective and more radical, accept the obvious sense of the statements about demons in the Scriptures, but they immediately add that in today’s world such statements would be unacceptable, even for Christians. And so they too discard them. For still others, the idea of Satan whatever its origin may have been, has lost its importance. If we were to continue to insist upon it, our teaching would lose all credibility. It would cast a shadow over our teaching about God, who alone merits our attention. For all the above, finally, the names of Satan and of the devil are only mythical or functional personifications, the significance of which is solely to underline in a dramatic fashion the hold which evil and sin have on mankind. They are only words, which it is up to our times to decipher, even at the cost of having to find another way of inculcating into Christians the duty of struggling against all the forms evil in the world.

Similar ideas, repeated with a wealth of learning and spread by journals and some theological dictionaries, cannot fail to disturb people. The faithful, accustomed to take seriously the warnings of Christ and of the apostolic writings, feel that this kind of teaching is meant to influence opinion. Those among them who are knowledgeable in the biblical and religious sciences wonder where this demythologizing process entered upon in the name of hermeneutics will lead.

* * *

In the face of such assertions and in order to reply to the position which they take up, we have first of all to consider briefly the New Testament, in order to call upon its testimony and authority.

The New Testament and its context

Before recalling the independence of spirit which always characterized Jesus with regard to the opinions of his time, it should be noted that not all of his contemporaries had that common belief in angels and devils that seems to be attributed to them today, and upon which Jesus himself is claimed to have depended. A remark in the Acts of the Apostles, clarifying a dispute which had arisen among the members of the Sanhedrin concerning a statement made by Saint Paul, shows us in fact that, in contrast to the Pharisees, the Sadducees admitted “neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit”, which, as good exegetes understand it, means that they no more believed in angels and demons than in the resurrection of the body (3). Thus, on the subject of Satan and demons, as on that of angels, contemporary opinion seems to have been clearly split into two diametrically opposed views. How then can it be claimed that Jesus, in exercising and in conferring the power to cast out demons, and after him the New Testament writers, were only adopting in this matter, without any critical evaluation, the ideas and practices of their times? There is no disputing the fact that Christ, and even more so the Apostles, belonged to their times and shared the current culture. Nevertheless, because of his divine nature and the revelation which he had come to communicate, Jesus transcended his milieu and his times: he was immune from their pressure. Moreover, a reading of the Sermon on the Mount is sufficient to convince one of Jesus’ freedom of spirit as much as of his respect for tradition (4). This is why, when he revealed the meaning of his Redemption, he obviously had to take into account the Pharisees, who, like him, believed in the world to come, the soul, spirits and the resurrection of the body; but he also had to take into account the Sadducees, who did not hold these beliefs. Thus when the Pharisees accused him of casting out devils with the help of the prince of the devils, he could have found a way out by taking the standpoint of the Sadducees. But had he done so he would have denied both his mission and his being. Therefore, without denying belief in spirits and in the resurrection of the body, which he held in common with the Pharisees, he had to disassociate himself from the latter, no less than to oppose himself to the Sadducees. So, to assert today that Jesus’ discourse on Satan was only a borrowed doctrine without importance for universal belief, seems, even at first sight, to be an ill-informed opinion on the times and on the personality of the Master. If Jesus used this way of speaking, and if above all he put it into practice by his ministry, it is because he was expressing a doctrine which was necessary, at least in part, for the notion and reality of the salvation he was bringing.

The Personal Witness of Jesus

The principal episodes of healing possessed persons were also accomplished by Christ on occasions which are presented as decisive ones in the accounts of his ministry. His exorcisms posed and oriented the problem of his mission and of his person; the reactions which they evoked sufficiently prove this (5). Without ever placing Satan at the centre of his Gospel, Jesus nevertheless only spoke of him on what were clearly crucial occasions and by means of important pronouncements. In the first place it was by submitting to being tempted by the devil in the desert that he began his public ministry: Mark’s account, by very reason of its sobriety, is as decisive as the accounts of Matthew and Luke (6). It was again against this adversary that he put his listeners on their guard in the Sermon on the Mount and in the prayer which he taught to his followers, the “Our Father”, as is admitted today by a good many commentators (7), who are supported by the agreement of several liturgies (8). In his parables, Jesus attributed to Satan the obstacles encountered by his preaching (9), as also the cockle discovered in the householder’s field (10). To Simon Peter he foretold that “the powers of death” would try to prevail against the Church (11), that Satan would sift him like wheat, and the other Apostles as well (12). As he left the Upper Room, Christ declared that the arrival of “the prince of this world” was imminent (13). In Gethsemane, when, the band of Soldiers laid hands on him to arrest him, he said that the hour of the “reign of darkness” had come (14). Nevertheless he already knew, and had stated in the Upper Room, that the prince of this world had already been condemned (15). These facts and these declarations – which are well placed, repeated, and in harmony with one another – are not the result of chance. They cannot be treated as fables to be demythologized. Otherwise one would have admit that in those critical hours the mind of Jesus, whose lucidity and self control before the judges are attested to by the Scripture accounts, was a prey to illusory fantasies, and that his word was devoid of all firmness. This would be in contradiction to the impression of the first hearers and of the present readers of the Gospels. There is a necessary conclusion. Satan, whom Jesus had confronted by his exorcisms, whom he had encountered in the desert and in his Passion, cannot be simply the product of the human faculty of inventing fables and personifying ideas, nor can he be an erroneous relic of a primitive cultural language.

It is true that when Saint Paul sums up in broad outline in the Letter to the Romans mankind’s situation before the coming of Christ, he personifies sin and death, showing their redoubtable power. But this is just an instant in his teaching, an instant which is not the effect of a literary play on words but of his acute consciousness of the importance of the Cross of Jesus, and of the necessity of the option of faith which he demands. Moreover, Paul never identifies sin with Satan. In fact he sees in sin first of all what it essentially is, a personal act of men, and also the state of guilt and blindness which Satan seeks effectively to cast them into and keep them in (16).Thus he makes a clear distinction between one and the other, between Satan and sin. The Apostle, who in face of the “law of sin” which he feels in his members confesses first of all his powerlessness without grace (17), is the same who, full of decisiveness, exhorts us to resist Satan (18), never to give him a foothold (19) and to crush him beneath our feet (20). For Satan is for him a figure of importance, the “god of this world” (21), a foe ever on the watch, as distinct from us as from the sin which he suggests. As in the Gospel, the Apostle sees him at work in the history of the world, in what he calls the “secret power of wickedness” (22), in the lack of belief which refuses to recognize the Lord Jesus (23), and also in the Aberration of idolatry (24), in the seduction which threatens the fidelity of the Church to Christ her Spouse (25), and finally in the eschatological aberration which leads to the worship of man set up in the place of God (26). Satan certainly leads on to sin, but he is distinct from the evil which he causes to be committed.

As for the Book of Revelation, it is obviously first and foremost the grandiose panorama in which the power of the Risen Christ shines forth in the witnesses of his Gospel. It proclaims the triumph of the immolated Lamb. It would however be a complete error on the nature of this victory if one did not see in it the end of a long struggle, with the intervention, through the means of human powers opposed to the Lord Jesus, of Satan and his angels, as distinct from one another as from their human agents. It is in effect the Book of Revelation which by revealing the enigma of the different names and symbols of Satan in Scripture definitively unmasks his identity (27). He is active in all the centuries of human history, under the eye of God.

It is not surprising therefore that in Saint John’s Gospel Jesus speaks of the devil and calls him “the prince of this world” (28). Of course his action on man is interior. Nevertheless, it is impossible to see in his figure only a personification of sin and temptation. Jesus can undoubtedly recognize that to sin is to be a “slave” (29); but he does not identify with Satan himself either this slavery or the sin which is shown in it. The devil exercises over sinners only a moral influence, which is moreover measured to the welcome which the individual gives to his inspiration (30). If people carry out his desires (31) and do “his work” (32), they do so freely. Only in this sense and to this extent is Satan their “father” (33). Between him and the human person’s consciousness there is always that spiritual distance which separates his “lie” from the consent which we can give or deny to it (34), just as between Christ and ourselves there always exists a gap placed by the “truth” which he reveals and proposes and which we have to accept by faith.

This is why the Fathers of the Church, convinced from Scripture that Satan and the demons are the adversaries of the Redemption, have not failed to remind the faithful of their existence and activity.

General Doctrine

As early as the 2nd century Melito of Sardes wrote a work “On the Devil” (35), and it would be difficult to cite a single Father who has kept silent on this subject. As is to be expected, the most diligent in illustrating the devil’s action were those who illustrated God’s plan in history, notably Saint Irenaeus and Tertullian, who respectively opposed Gnostic dualism and Marcion. Later came Victorinus of Pettau, and finally Saint Augustine. Saint Irenaeus taught that the devil is an “apostate angel” (36), whom Christ, recapitulating in himself the war waged on us by this enemy, had to confront from the beginning of his ministry (37). In a broader and more forceful way Saint Augustine showed him at work in the struggle of the “two cities”, which have their origin in heaven at the time when the first creatures of God, the angels, declared themselves faithful or unfaithful to their Lord (38). In the society of sinners he saw a mystical “body” of the devil (39), and this idea recurs later in Saint Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job (40).

The majority of the Fathers, abandoning with Origen the idea of a sin of the flesh on the part of the fallen angels, saw the principle of their fall in their pride – the desire to rise above their condition, to affirm their independence, to make themselves like God. But side by side with this pride, many Fathers underlined the fallen angels’ malice towards man. For Saint Irenaeus the devil’s apostasy began when he became jealous of God’s new creature and sought to make the latter in his turn rebel against his Creator (41). According to Tertullian, Satan used the pagan mysteries to plagiarize the Sacraments instituted by Christ, in order to thwart the Lord’s plan (42). Patristic teaching therefore substantially and faithfully echoed the doctrine and directives of the New Testament.

The Fourth Lateran Council (1215)

It is true that in the course of its twenty centuries the Magisterium has devoted only a small number of strictly dogmatic declarations to demonology. The reason is that the occasion arose only rarely, in fact on two occasions, the more important of which was at the beginning of the 13th century, when there was a resurgence of Manichaean and Priscillian Dualism, with the appearance of the Cathari or Albigensians. But the dogmatic pronouncement of that time, formulated in a familiar doctrinal framework, corresponds fairly closely to our present preoccupations, because it deals with the universe and its creation by God:

“We firmly believe and simply confess… one principle of the universe, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporeal, who by his omnipotence from the beginning of time created all things from nothing, both spiritual and corporeal, namely, the angels and the world, then the human creature, which belongs in a certain way to both, for it is composed of spirit and of body. For the devil and the other demons were created naturally good by God, but it is they who by their own action made themselves evil. As for man, he sinned at the instigation of the devil” (43).

There, is a sobriety about the essence of this exposition. With regard to the devil and the demons, the Council contents itself with affirming that because they are creatures of the one God they are not substantially evil, but became so of their own free will. There is no indication at this point of their number, their sin or the extent of their power. These matters, being extraneous to the dogmatic question under discussion, are left for debate in the schools. But the Conciliar affirmation, though succinct, remains of capital importance. It comes out of the greatest of the 13th-century Councils and occupies a prominent place in its Profession of Faith. This Profession, which was historically preceded a short time before by those imposed on the Cathari and the Waldensians (44), referred back to the condemnations pronounced against Priscillianism several centuries previously (45). It therefore merits careful study.

The Profession adopts the usual structure of dogmatic Creeds and fits easily into the series which they formed since Nicaea. As quoted above, the text can be summed up, from our point of view, in two connected themes, each of equal importance for the faith. The statement about the devil, to which we shall have to give special attention, in fact follows a declaration on God the Creator of all things “visible and invisible”, that is to say, corporeal and angelic beings.

This declaration about the Creator and the formula which expresses it are particularly important here. They were so old as to be rooted in the teaching of Saint Paul. Glorifying the Risen Christ, the Apostle had affirmed that Christ exercises dominion over all beings “in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld” (46), “in this age but also in the age to come” (47). Then, affirming Christ’s pre-existence, Saint Paul taught that he created “all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible” (48). This doctrine of creation quickly became important for Christian belief, because Gnosticism and Marcionism soon attempted to shake it, as did Manichaeism and Priscillianism later on. And the first Creeds consistently specified that “beings visible and invisible” were all created by God. This affirmation, made by the Council of Nicaea-Constantinople (49), then by the Council of Toledo (50), was to be found in the Professions of Faith which the great Churches used in their celebration of Baptism (51). It also found its way into the great Eucharistic Prayer of Saint James in Jerusalem (52), into those of Saint Basil in Asia Minor and in Alexandria (53) and of other Eastern Churches (54). Among the Greek Fathers it appeared from Saint Irenaeus onwards (55) and in the Expositio Fidei of Saint Athanasius (56). In the West it is met with in Gregory of Elvira (57), Saint Augustine (58), Saint Fulgentius (59), etc.

At the time when the Western Cathari, in imitation of the Bogomils of Eastern Europe, were restoring Manichaean dualism, the Profession of Faith of the Fourth Lateran Council could not have done better than to readopt this declaration and its formula, which from then onwards assumed definitive importance. In fact they were very soon to be repeated in the Professions of Faith of the Second Council of Lyons (60), the Council of Florence (61) and the Council of Trent (62), and reappeared finally in the Constitution Dei Filius of the First Vatican Council (63) in the same terms as those of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. We thus clearly have here an ancient and constant affirmation of the belief which this Council providentially emphasized in order to link with it its declaration concerning Satan and the demons. In this very way it showed that the question of the devils, already important in itself, formed part of a more general context made up of the doctrine of the creation of the universe and the doctrine of belief in angelic beings.

The Council on the Devil

1. The text

As for this; statement on the devil, it is far from being presented as something new added on for the occasion in the manner of a doctrinal consequence or theological deduction. On the contrary, it appears as a decisive point acquired a long time before. The very formulation of the text is itself an indication of this fact. In effect, once the creation of the universe has been affirmed the document in no way passes on to the devil and the demons as to a logically deduced conclusion. It does not write “Consequently, Satan and the demons were created naturally good…”, as it would have had to do if the declaration had been a new one and deduced from the one preceding. On the contrary, it presents the case of Satan as a proof of the preceding affirmation, as an argument against dualism. It writes in fact: “For Satan and the demons were created naturally good…”. In a word, the statement which concerns them is presented as an undisputed affirmation of Christian awareness. This is a key point of the document. Nor could it have been otherwise if one is to take account of history.

2. The preparation: the positive and the negative formulas (4th an 5th centuries)

As far back as the 4th century the Church had taken up a position against Manichean thesis of two co-eternal and opposed principles (64). Both in the East and in the West she taught firmly that Satan and the demons were created and made naturally good. Saint Gregory Nazianzen declared to the neophyte: “Believe that there does not exist any essence of evil, or any kingdom (of evil), which did not have a beginning, or subsists in itself, or was created by God” (65). The devil was considered as a creature of God, initially good and full of beauty, who alas did not remain in the truth in which he had been grounded (cf. Jn 8:44) but rebelled against the Lord (66). Evil therefore was not in his nature, but in a free and contingent act of his will (67). Statements of this kind – which could also be read in Saint Basil (68), Saint Gregory Nazianzen (69), Saint John Chrysostom (70) and Didymus of Alexandria (71) in the East, and in Tertullian (72), Eusebius of Vercelli (73), Saint Ambrose (74) and Saint Augustine (75) in the West – could on occasions take on a clear dogmatic form. They were also to be found sometimes in the form of doctrinal condemnations and sometimes as professions of faith.

The De Trinitate attributed to Eusebius of Vercelli expressed this belief strongly in terms of successive anathemas:

“If anyone professes that in the nature in which he was made the apostate angel is not the work of God, but that he exists of himself, going so far as to attribute to him his own beginning, let him be anathema.

“If anyone professes that the apostate angel was made by God with an evil nature, and does not say that he conceived evil of himself by his own wish, let him be anathema.

“If anyone professes that the angel of Satan made the world – such a belief be far removed from us – and has not declared that all sin is his invention, let him be anathema” (76).

Such a presentation in the form of anathemas was far from being a case unique to the time. It is found again in the Commonitorium, attributed to Saint Augustine, which had been prepared for the abjuration of the Manichees. This instruction in effect attached an anathema to “him who believes that there are two natures originating from two different principles, the one good, which is God, the other evil, not created by him” (77).

This teaching was expressed more readily however in the direct and positive form of an affirmation to be believed. Saint Augustine at the beginning of his De Genesi ad Litteram wrote thus:

“Catholic teaching commands us to believe that this Trinity is one single God, who made and created all the beings which exist, in the measure in which they exist; in such a manner that every creature both intellectual and corporeal, or to speak more briefly in accordance with the terms of the divine Scriptures, both invisible and visible, does not belong to the divine nature, but has been made out of nothing by God” (78).

In Spain the First Council of Toledo similarly professed that God is the Creator of “all (beings) visible and invisible”, and that outside of him “there exists no nature divine, angelic or spiritual, or any power whatsoever which can be held to be God” (79).

Thus, from the 4th century onwards the expression of Christian belief – taught and lived – presented two dogmatic formulations on this point, positive and negative, which will be found eight centuries later at the time of Innocent III and of the Fourth Lateran Council.

Saint Leo the Great

Meanwhile, these dogmatic expressions did not fall into disuse. In fact in the 5th century the letter of Pope Saint Leo the Great to Turibius, Bishop of Astorga – the authenticity of which can no longer be doubted – spoke in the same tone and with the same clarity. Among the errors of the Priscillians which he condemned are to be found the following:

“The sixth note (80) states that they claim that the devil was never good and that his nature is not the work of God. Rather they claim that he emanated from chaos and darkness, having in fact no author of his being but being himself the principle and the substance of all evil. The true faith on the other hand, the Catholic faith, professes that the substance of all creatures, both spiritual and corporeal, is good, and that evil is not a nature, since God, the Creator of the universe, made only what was good. This is why the devil himself would be good if he had remained in the state in which he had been created. Unfortunately, since he abused his natural excellence and did not remain in the truth (Jn 8, 44), he was not transformed (without doubt) into a contrary substance, but he separated himself from the supreme good to which he ought to have adhered…” (81).

The doctrinal statement which we have just read (from the words “the true faith… the Catholic faith, professes…” up to the end) was regarded as so important that it reappeared in the same terms among the additions made in the 6th century to the Book of Ecclesiastical Dogmas attributed to Gennadius of Marseilles (82). Finally, the same magisterial tone was to make itself heard to uphold the same teaching in the Rule of Faith to Peter, a work of Saint Fulgentius, Here is to be found stated the need to “hold above all” and to “hold very firmly” that everything that is not God is a creature of God, and that such is the case for all beings both “visible and invisible”; “that a number of the angels went astray and willingly departed from their Creator” and “that evil is not a nature” (83).

It is not surprising therefore that in a similar historical context the Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua, a canonical collection of the 5th century, included among the questions prepared for testing the Catholic belief of candidates for the episcopate the following question: “whether the devil is evil by nature or whether he became so through free will” (84). This formula will re-appear in the professions of faith imposed by Innocent III on the Waldensians (85).

The First Council of Braga (6th century)

The doctrine was therefore commonly held and well established. The numerous documents which give expression to it, the main ones of which we have mentioned, constitute the doctrinal background upon which the First Council of Braga based itself in the middle of the 6th century. Having been thus, prepared and supported, Canon 7 of this Synod does not appear as an isolated text but rather as a summing up of the teaching of the 4th and 5th centuries on this subject, and notably of the doctrine taught by Pope Saint Leo the Great.

“If anyone believes that the devil was not at first a (good) angel created by God, and that his nature was not the work of God, but (if he) claims that he emanated from chaos and darkness and had no author of his being, but that he is himself the principle and substance of evil, as stated by Manes and Priscillian, let him be anathema” (86).

3. The appearance of the cathari (12th and 13th centuries)

The devil’s condition as a creature and the free act of will by which he had become perverted had thus been for a long time a part of the explicit belief of the Church. The Fourth Lateran Council therefore did not have to give documentary proof of these beliefs but merely had to introduce them into its Creed as clearly professed beliefs. Their inclusion, which from a dogmatic point of view had long been possible, had now become necessary, for the heresy of the Cathari had adopted as its own a certain number of old Manichaean errors. At the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th a number of professions of faith had urgently to reaffirm that God is creator of beings “visible and invisible”, that he is the author of the two Testaments, and to specify that the devil is in no way evil by nature but by choice (87) The old dualistic positions enshrined in vast doctrinal and spiritual movements constituted at this time a real danger to faith, both in the South of France and Northern Italy.

In France, Ermengaud of Béziers had had to write a tract against the heretics “who say and believe that the present world and all visible beings were not created by God but by the devil”: thus there would exist two gods, one good and all-powerful, and the other evil, namely the devil (88). In Northern Italy, Bonacursus, a convert from Catharism, had also raised the alarm and described the various schools of the sect (89). Shortly after the latter’s intervention, the Summa Contra Haereticos, for a long time attributed to Prepositinus of Cremona, illustrates better for us the impact of the dualistic heresy on the teaching of the time. The work begins with the following description of the Cathari.

“The all-powerful God created only invisible and incorporeal (beings). As regards the devil, whom this heretic calls the god of darkness, it was he who created visible and corporeal (beings). Having said this, the heretic adds that there are two principles of things: the principle of good, which is Almighty God, and the principle of evil, namely the devil. He also adds that there exist two natures: one good, (that) of incorporeal (beings), created by Almighty God; the other evil, (that) of corporeal (beings), created by the devil. The heretic who so expresses himself was known in the past as a Manichaean; today as one of the Cathari” (90).

Importance of IV Lateran Council

In spite of its brevity, this summary is significant for its wealth of thought. Today we can complement it by referring to the Book of the Two Principles, written by a theologian of the Cathari shortly after the Fourth Lateran’ Council (91). This little summary used by the militant members of the sect, by going into the argumentation in detail and relying on Scripture, claimed to refute the doctrine of the one Creator and to base on biblical texts the existence of two opposing principles (92). Besides the good God, it said, “we must necessarily recognize the existence of another principle, that of evil, which acts perniciously against the true God and against his creature” (93).

At the beginning of the 13th century these declarations were far from being merely the theories of illuminati intellectuals. They corresponded to a whole body of erroneous beliefs lived and disseminated by a vast network of organized and active groups. The Church had a duty to intervene, by firmly restating the doctrinal declarations of previous centuries. This is what Pope Innocent III did when he introduced the two above-mentioned dogmatic statements into the Profession of Faith of the Fourth Lateran Ecumenical Council. This Profession of Faith was read officially before the Bishops, and received their approval. They were asked in a loud voice: “Do you believe these (truths) in every point?” and they replied with a unanimous acclamation “We believe (them)” (94). In its entirety therefore the Council document is a document of faith. And in view of its nature and form, which are those of a Creed each of its principal points has an equal dogmatic value.

It, would in fact be obviously wrong to assume that each paragraph of a Creed contains only one dogmatic affirmation. This would be to apply to its interpretation a hermeneutic which would be valid, for example, in the case of a decree of the Council of Trent, of which each chapter as a rule teaches only one dogmatic theme: the need to prepare oneself for justification (95), the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (96), etc. The first paragraph of Lateran IV, on the other hand, condenses into the same number of lines as those in the Chapter of Trent on “the gift of perseverance” (97) a whole series of affirmations of faith, for the most part already defined, on the unicity of God, the trinity and equality of the Persons, the simplicity of their nature and the processions of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The same treatment is given to creation, especially in our two passages concerning all the spiritual and corporeal beings created by God, as also to the creation of the devil and to his sin. All these points, as we have seen, formed part of the Church’s teaching from the 4th and 5th centuries. By including them in its Creed, the Council did no more than confirm the fact that they belonged to the universal rule of faith.

The existence of demonic reality and the affirmation of its power are based not only on these more specific documents, but they find further expression, in more general and less rigid terms, in Conciliar statements whenever they describe the condition of man without Christ.

The Common Teaching of the Popes and the Councils

In the middle of the 5th century, on the eve of the Council of Chalcedon, the Tomus of Pope Saint Leo the Great to Flavian made it clear that one of the great purposes of the economy of salvation is to bring about victory over death and the devil, who, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, maintains the rule of death (98). Later on, when the Council of Florence spoke of the Redemption, it presented it in Biblical terms as a liberation from the domination of the devil (99). The Council of Trent, summarizing the doctrine of Saint Paul, declares that sinful man “is under the power of the devil and of death” (100). By saving us, God 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 regain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins” (101). To commit sin after Baptism is once more “to abandon oneself to the power of the devil” (102). This is in fact the early and universal belief of the Church. From the first centuries; it is attested to in the liturgy of Christian initiation, at the moment when the catechumens, just before being baptized, renounced Satan, professed their faith in the Blessed trinity and expressed their adherence to Christ their Saviour (103).

It is for this reason that the Second Vatican Council, which concerned itself more often with the present condition of the Church than with creation, did not fail to warn against the activity of Satan and the demons. Once more, as at Florence and Trent, it recalled, with the Apostle, that Christ “takes us out of the power of darkness” (104). Summarizing Scripture in the manner of Saint Paul and the Book of Revelation, the Constitution Gaudium et Spes stated that our history, universal history, “is a hard struggle against the powers of darkness, a struggle begun with the beginning of the world and one which will continue, as the Lord says, until the last day” (105). Elsewhere, Vatican II repeated the admonitions of the Letter to the Ephesians to “put on the armour of God so as to resist the wiles of the devil” (106). For, as the same Constitution reminds the laity, “we have to fight against the rulers of this dark world, against the spirits of evil” (107). It is not surprising finally to note that the same Council, wishing to emphasize that the Church is truly the Kingdom of God already begun, appeals to the miracles of Jesus and for this purpose makes explicit reference to his exorcisms (108). It was on this occasion, in fact, that Jesus made the celebrated statement “then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (109).

The Liturgical Argument

As regards the liturgy, to which we have already referred in passing, it provides a special testimony, because it is the concrete expression of faith that is lived. We must not however look to it to satisfy our curiosity about the nature of the demons, their categories and their names. The liturgy contents itself with insisting upon their existence and the threat which they constitute for Christians. This is its task. Being founded upon the teaching of the New Testament, the Liturgy directly echoes this teaching when it declares that the life of the baptized is a combat, conducted with the grace of Christ and the power of his Spirit, against the world, the flesh and demonic beings (110).

The revised Liturgy

Today, however, this liturgical argument must be used with care. On the one hand, the Eastern rituals and sacramentaries, which in the course of the centuries have been subject more to additions than to suppressions, risk leading us astray. Their demonologies are richly developed. As for the Latin liturgical documents, which have been frequently recast in the course of history, they warrant that we be equally prudent in drawing conclusions, precisely in view of these changes. Our old ritual of public penance forcefully expressed the influence of the devil on sinners: unfortunately, these texts, which have survived till our times in the Pontificale Romanum (111), have in practice long ceased to be used. Until 1972 one could also quote the prayers for the recommendation of the soul. They evoked the horror of hell and the final attacks of the devil (112). But these significant passages have now disappeared. Above all, in our days the characteristic ministry of the exorcist, while not having been altogether abolished, is no more than a very occasional service, and can be exercised in fact only at the request of the bishop (113). Nor is any rite laid down for its conferral. Such a provision obviously does not mean to imply that the priest no longer has the power to exorcise, nor that he no longer has to exercise it. However, it does force one to conclude that the Church, by ceasing to make a specific function of this ministry, no longer attaches the same importance to exorcisms as in the early centuries. This development certainly deserves to be taken into consideration.

We should not however conclude that in the field of liturgy there has been a diminishing or revision of belief. The Roman Missal of 1970 continues to echo the Church’s conviction about the activity of the devil. Today, as in the past, the liturgy of the first Sunday of Lent reminds the faithful how the Lord Jesus overcame the tempter. The three Synoptic accounts of the temptations occur in all three cycles (A, B and C) of the Lenten readings. The Proto-evangelium foretelling the victory of the descendants of the woman over those of the serpent (Gen 3, 15) is read on the tenth Sunday of Year B and on the Saturday of the fifth week. The feast of the Assumption and the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary contain a reading from the Book of Revelation (12, 1-6), which describes the threat of the dragon against the woman giving birth. Mark 3, 20-35, which gives the discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees about Beelzebul, forms part of the readings for the tenth Sunday of Year B, already mentioned above. The parable of the cockle and the good seed (Mt 13, 36-46) is given on Tuesday of the thirteenth week. The proclamation of the defeat of the prince of this world (Jn 12, 20-33) is read on the fifth Sunday Of Lent in Year B, and Jn 14, 30 occurs during the week. From the apostolic texts, Eph 2, 1-10 is assigned to Monday of the twenty-ninth week; Eph 6, 10-20 to the Common of the Saints, and likewise to Thursday of the thirteenth week, the First Letter of Saint John 3, 7-10 is read on 4 January, and on the feast of Saint Mark we have a reading from the First Letter of Saint Peter describing the devil going about seeking whom he may devour. This list of references, which is not exhaustive, attests to the fact that the most important passages still form part of the official reading of the Church.

It is true that the ritual for the Christian initiation of adults has been modified on this point. It no longer addresses the devil with words of command. But for the same reason it addresses God in the form of prayers (114). The tone is less spectacular, but just as expressive and effective. It is therefore wrong to say that exorcisms have been abolished from the new ritual of Baptism. Indeed, the extent of the error is clear from the fact that the new ritual of the catechumenate has instituted, before the ordinary, so-called “major” exorcisms a series of “minor” exorcisms, which are spread throughout the entire duration of the catechumenate and which were previously unknown (115). Thus exorcisms still remain. Today as yesterday they seek victory over Satan, the devil, the prince of this world, the power of darkness. And the three customary “scrutinies”, in which they have the same place as before, have the same negative and positive purposes as previously, namely, “to free from sin and from the devil” just as much as “to make strong in Christ” (116). The celebration of the baptism of infants also retains, whatever may be said, an exorcism (117). This in no way means that the Church considers these infants as being possessed, but she does believe that they too need all the effects of Christ’s redemption. In fact before baptism everyone, child or adult carries the sign of sin and of the influence of Satan.

Private Penance

As for the liturgy of private penance, it speaks of the devil less today than before. The communal celebrations of penance, however, have restored an ancient prayer which recalls the influence of Satan on sinners (118). In the rite of the Anointing of the Sick, as we have already seen, the prayer recommending the soul to God no longer stresses the disturbing presence of Satan. But in the course of the rite of the anointing the celebrant prays that the sick person may “be delivered from sin and from all temptation” (119). The holy oil is regarded as a “protection” for the body, the soul and the spirit (120). The prayer “I commend you”, while not mentioning hell or the devil, nevertheless refers indirectly to their existence and to their influence when it asks Christ to save the dying person and to number him among “his” sheep and “his” elect. The intention of the wording is obviously to spare the sick person and his or her family a traumatic experience, but it does not deny belief in the mystery of evil.

Briefly then, the Church position in regard to demonology is clear and firm. It is true that in the course of the centuries the existence of Satan and of the devils has never in fact been the object of an explicit declaration of her Magisterium. The reason for this is that the question was never posed in these terms. Both heretics and the faithful, basing their respective positions on sacred Scripture, were in agreement in recognizing the existence of Satan and the devils and their main misdeeds. This is why, when the reality of the devil is called into question today, it is to the constant and universal belief of the Church and to its main source, the teaching of Christ, that one must appeal, as has been stated. It is in fact in the teaching of the Gospel and as something at the heart of the faith that the existence of the demonic world is shown to be a dogmatic datum. The present-day unease which we described at the beginning does not therefore call into question a secondary element of Christian thinking; it is a question rather of the constant belief of the Church, of her manner of conceiving redemption and, at the root source, it goes against the very consciousness of Jesus. This is why, when His Holiness Pope Paul VI spoke recently of this “terrible, mysterious and frightening reality” of Evil, he could assert with authority: “he who refuses to recognize its existence, or whoever makes of it a principle in itself which does not have, like every creature, its origin in God, or who explains it as a pseudo-reality, a conceptual and imaginary personification of the unknown causes of our ills, departs from the integrity of biblical and ecclesiastical teaching” (121). Neither exegetes nor theologians can neglect this caution.

Let us therefore repeat that by underlining today the existence of demonic reality the Church intends neither to take us back to the dualistic and Manichaean speculations of former times, nor to propose some rationally acceptable substitute for them. She wishes only to remain faithful to the Gospel and its demands. It is clear that she has never allowed man to rid himself of his responsibility by attributing his faults to the devil. The Church did not hesitate to oppose such escapism when the latter manifested itself, saying with Saint John Chrysostom: “It is not the devil but men’s own carelessness which causes all their falls and all the ills of which they complain” (122).

No concessions

For this reason, Christian teaching makes no concessions in vigorously defending the freedom and the greatness of man and in emphasizing the omnipotence and goodness of the Creator. It has condemned in the past and will always condemn the too easy use of temptation by the devil as an excuse. It has forbidden superstition just as much as magic. It refused to capitulate doctrinally in the face of fatalism or to diminish freedom in the face of pressure. What is more, when a possible demonic intervention is suggested, the Church always imposes a critical assessment of the facts, as in the case of miracles. Reserve and prudence are in fact demanded. It is easy to fall victim to imagination and to allow oneself to be led astray by inaccurate accounts distorted in their transmission and incorrectly interpreted. In these cases therefore, as elsewhere, one must exercise discernment. And one must leave room for research and its findings.

Nevertheless, in her fidelity to the example of Christ, the Church considers that the admonition of the Apostle Saint Peter to “sobriety” and vigilance is still relevant (123). It is true that in our days it is a new “drunkenness” that we must beware of. But knowledge and technical power can also inebriate. Man today is proud of his discoveries and often rightly so. But in our case, is it certain that his analyses have clarified all the phenomena which characterize and reveal the presence of the devil? Do no further problems remain on this point? Have hermeneutical analysis and the study of the Fathers resolved the difficulties of all the texts? Nothing could be less certain. It is true that in times gone by there was a certain ingenuous fear of meeting some devil at the cross-roads of our thoughts. But would it be any less naive today to assert that our methods will soon say the last word on the depths of the consciousness, the meeting-place of the mysterious relationships between body and soul, between the supernatural, the preternatural and the human, between reason and revelation? For these questions have always been considered vast and complex. As far as our modern methods are concerned, they, like those of the past, have limits beyond which they cannot go. Modesty, which is also a quality of the intellect, must preserve its rightful place here and uphold us in the truth. For this virtue – while taking account of the future – here and now enables the Christian to make room for the data of revelation, in short, for faith.

Triumph over Evil

It is to faith in fact that the Apostle Saint Peter leads us back when he exhorts us to resist the devil, “strong in faith”. Faith teaches us that the reality of evil “is a living spiritual being, perverted and corrupting” (124). Faith can also give us confidence, by assuring us that the power of Satan cannot go beyond the limits set by God. Faith likewise assures us that even though the devil is able to tempt us he cannot force our consent. Above all, faith opens the heart to prayer, in which it finds its victory and its crown. It thus enables us to triumph over evil through the power of God.

It certainly remains true that the demonic reality attested to in the concrete by what we call the mystery of Evil, remains an enigma surrounding the Christian life. We scarcely know any better than the Apostles knew why the Lord permits it, nor how he makes it serve his designs. It could be however that, in our civilization obsessed with secularism that excludes the transcendent, the unexpected outbreaks of this mystery offer a meaning less alien to our understanding. They force man to look further and higher, beyond the immediate evidence. Through their menace which stops us short they enable us to grasp that there exists a beyond which has to be deciphered, and then to turn to Christ in order to hear from him the Good News of salvation graciously offered to us.


(*) L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, July 10, 1975, pp. 6-10. This text was first published in Italian in L’Osservatore Romano, Italian Edition, June 26, 1975, pp. 6-7. The original text was published in French in L’Osservatore Romano, French Edition, July 4, 1975.

* * *


1) The Church’s firmness with regard to superstition finds an early explanation in the severity of the Mosaic Law, even though the latter was not formally motivated by the connection of superstition with demons. Thus Ex 22:18 condemned the sorceress to death without explanation. Lv 19:26 and 31 prohibited magic, astrology, necromancy and divination; Lv 20:27 added the calling up of spirits. Dt 18:10-11 summed this up by proscribing soothsayers, astrologers, magicians, sorcerers, charmers, those who summoned up ghosts or spirits and those who consulted the dead. In Europe of the early Middle Ages a large number of pagan superstitions still flourished, as is testified by the sermons of Saint Caesareus of Arles and of Saint Eligius, the De Correctione Rusticorum of Martin of Braga, the contemporary lists of superstitions (cf. PL 89, 810-818) and the penitential books. The First Council of Toledo (DS 205) and the Council of Braga both (DS 459) condemned astrology. Similarly the letter of Pope Saint Leo the Great to Turibius of Astorga (DS 283). Rule IX of the Council of Trent forbade works of chiromancy, necromancy, etc. (DS 1859). Magic and sorcery alone evoked a large number of papal Bulls (Innocent VIII, Leo X, Adrian VI, Gregory XV and Urban VIII), and many decisions of regional synods. For hypnotism and spiritualism see in particular the letter of the Holy Office of 4 August 1856 (DS 2823-2825).

2) De Diabolo Tentatore, Homil. II, 1, PG 49, 257-258.

3) Acts 23:8. In the context of Jewish beliefs about angels and evil spirits there is nothing which obliges one to restrict the sense of the word “spirit”, used without specification, to mean only the spirits of the dead. It is also applied to evil spirits, i.e. demons. This moreover, is the opinion of two Jewish authors (G.F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, vol. 1, 1927, p. 68; M. Simon, Les sectes juives au temps de Jesus, Paris 1960, p. 25) and of one Protestant author (R. Meyer, T.W.N.T. VII, p. 54).

4) In declaring “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them” (Mt 5: 17) Jesus expressed without ambiguity his respect for the past. The following verses (19-20) confirm this impression. But his condemnation of the act of divorce (Mt 5:31), of the law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt 5:38), etc. show his total independence rather than a desire to sum up the past and complement it. This is even more true of his condemnation of the Pharisees’ scrupulous attachment to the traditions of the ancients (cf. Mk 7:1-22).

5) Mt 8:28-34; 12:22-45. While fully admitting variations in the meaning which each of the Synoptics gives to the exorcisms, it must be recognized that their agreement is largely concordant.

6) Mk 1:12-13.

7) Mt 5:37; 6:13; cf. Jean Carmignac, Recherches sur le “Notre Père”, Paris 1969, pp. 305-319. This is also the general interpretation of the Greek Fathers and of several Western Fathers (Tertullian, Saint Ambrose, Cassian). But Saint Augustine and the Libera Nos of our Latin Mass leant towards an impersonal interpretation.

8) E. Renaudot, Liturgiarum orientalium collectio, 2 (ad locum Missae); H. Denzinger, Ritus Orientalium, 1961, t. II, p. 436. Such is also apparently the interpretation followed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI in his address “Deliver us from evil” given at the General Audience of 15 November 1972, because the address speaks of evil as a living and personal principle (cf. L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 23 November 1972, p. 3).

9) Mt 13:19.

10) Mt 13:39.

11) Mt 16:19, understood in this way by P. Jouon, M.J. Lagrange, A. Medebielle, D. Buzy, M. Meinertz, E. Trilling, J. Jeremias, etc. It is incomprehensible therefore that a writer today should ignore Mt 16:19 and consider only Mt 16:23.

12) Lk 22:31.

13) Jn 14:30.

14) Lk 22:53, cf. Lk 22:3, which (as is in fact recognized) suggests that the Evangelist understands this “power of darkness” in a personal way.

15) Jn 16:11.

16) Eph 2:1-2; 2 Thess 2:11; 2 Cor 4:4.

17) Gal 5:17; Rom 7:23-24.

18) Eph 6:11-16.

19) Eph 4:27; 1 Cor 7:5.

20) Rom 16:20.

21) 2 Cor 4:4.

22) 2 Thess 2:7.

23) 2 Cor 4:4, referred to by His Holiness Paul VI in the address mentioned above.

24) 1 Cor 10:19-20; Rom 1:21-22. This is in fact the interpretation followed by Lumen Gentium, 16: “At saepius homines, a Maligno decepti, evanuerunt in cogitationibus suis et commutaverunt veritatem Dei in mendacium, servientes creaturae magis quam Creatori…”.

25) 2 Cor 11:3.

26) 2 Thess 2:3-4, 9-11.

27) Rev 12:9.

28) Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.

29) Jn 8:34.

30) Jn 8:38, 44.

31) Jn 8:44.

32) Jn 8:41.

33) Ibid.

34) Jn 8:38, 44.

35) J. Quasten, Initiation aux Pères de l’Église, t. I, Paris 1955, p. 279 (= Patrology, vol 1, p. 246).

36) Adv. Haer., V, XXIV, 3, PG 7, 1188 A.

37) Ibid., XXI, 2, PL 7, 1179 C-1180 A.

38) De Civitate Dei, lib. XI, IX, PL 41, 323-325.

39) De Genesi ad Litteram, lib. XI, XXIV, 31, PL 34, 441-442.

40) PL 76, 694, 705, 722.

41) Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., VI, XL, 3, PG 7, 113 C.

42) De Praescriptionibus, cap. XL, PL 2, 54; De Ieiuniis, cap. XVI, ibid., 977.

43) “Firmiter credimus et simpliciter confitemur… unum universorum principium, creator omnium invisibilium et visibilium, spiritualium et corporalium, qui sua omnipotenti virtute simul ab initio temporis, utramque de nihilo condidit creaturam spiritualem et corporalem, angelicam videlicet et mundanam ac deinde humanam quasi communem ex spiritu et corpore constitutam. Diabolus enim et daemones alii a Deo quidem natura creati sunt boni, sed ipsi per se facti sunt mali. Homo vero diaboli suggestione, peccavit…” (C.Oe.D. = Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. I.S.R., Bologna 1973, p. 230; DS 800).

44) The first in order of time is the Profession of Faith of the Synod of Lyons (1179-1181), pronounced by P. Valdo (ed. A. Dondaine; Arch. Fr. Pr., 16, 1946, 231-235), followed by the one which Durandus of Huesca had to profess before the Bishop of Tarragona (PL 215, 1510-1513) in 1203; finally that of Bernardus Prim in 1210 (PL 216, 289-292). DS 790-797 collates these documents.

45) At the Council of Braga (560-563) in Portugal (DS 451-464).

46) Phil 2:10.

47) Eph l:21.

48) Col 1:16.

49) C.Oe.D., pp. 5 and 24; DS 125-150.

50) DS 188.

51) In Jerusalem (DS 41), in Cyprus (reported by Epiphanius of Salamis; DS 44), in Alexandria (DS 46), in Antioch (ibid., 50), in Armenia (ibid., 84), etc.

52) P.E. (= Prex Eucaristica, ed. Hänggi-Pahl, Fribourg 1968, p. 244.

53) P.E., pp. 232 and 348.

54) P.E., pp. 327, 332 and 382.

55) Adv. Haer., II, XXX, 6, PG 7, 818 B.

56) PG 25, 199-200.

57) De Fide orthodoxa Contra Arianos: in the works attributed to Saint Ambrose (PL 17, 549) and to Phebadius (PL 20, 49).

58) De Genesi ad Litteram Liber Imperfectus, I, 1-2, PL 34, 221.

59) De Fide Liber Unus, III, 25, PL 65, 683.

60) This Profession of Faith, pronounced by the Emperor Michael Palaeologus, is preserved by Hardouin and by Mansi in the Acts of this Council. It can be conveniently found in DS 851. The C.Oe.D. of Bologna omits it without giving reasons (at the First Vatican Council however the Relator of the Deputatio fidei officially referred to it, Mansi t. 52, 113 B).

61) Sess. IX. Bulla Unionis Coptorum, C.Oe.D., p. 571; DS 1333.

62) DS 1862 (the C.Oe.D. does not give it).

63) Sess. III, Constitutio “Dei Filius”, cap. 1, C.Oe.D., pp. 805-806; DS 3002.

64) Mani, the founder of the sect, lived in the 3rd century. From the following century the Fathers manifested opposition to Manichaeism. Epiphanius devoted a long expose to this heresy followed by a refutation (Haer. 66, PG 42, 29-172). Saint Athanasius speaks of it on occasion (Oratio contra Gentes, 2, PG 25, 6 C). Saint Basil composed a small treatise: Quod Deus non sit auctor malorum (PG 31, 330-354). Didymus of Alexandria is the author of a Contra Manichaeos (PG 39, 1085-1110). In the West, Saint Augustine, who accepted Manichaeism in his youth, systematically combated it after his own conversion (cf. PL 42).

65) Oratio 40, In Sanctum Baptisma, para. 45, PG 36, 424 A.

66) The Fathers interpreted in this sense Is 14:14 and Ez 28:2, in which the Prophets stigmatized the pride of the pagan kings of Babylon and Tyre.

67) “Do not tell me that evil always existed in the devil; he was free from it at the beginning, and it is only an accident of his being, an accident which came about later” (Saint John Chrysostom, De Diabolo Tentatore, Homil., II, 2, PG 49, 260).

68) Quod Deus non sit auctor malorum, 8, PG 31, 345 C-D.

69) Oratio 38, In Theophania, 10, PG 36, 320 C-321 A. Oratio 45, In Sanctum Pascha, ibid., 629 B.

70) Cf. above, 67.

71) Contra Manichaeos, 16, gives this interpretation to Jn 8:44 (in veritate non stetit), PG 39, 1105 C; cf. Enarratio in Epist. B. Iudae, in v. 9, ibid., 1814 C-1815 B.

72) Adversus Marcionem, II, X, PL 296-298.

73) Cf. in the following paragraph the first of the Canons of De Trinitate.

74) Apologia Proph. David, I, 4, PL 14, 1453 C-D; In Psalmum 118, 10, PL 15, 1363 D.

75) De Genesi ad Litteram, lib. XI, XX-XXI, 27-28, PL 34, 439-440.

76) “Si quis confitetur angelum apostaticum in natura, qua factus est, non a Deo factum fuisse, sed ab se esse, ut de se illi principium habere adsignet, analhema sit.

“Si quis confitetur angelum apostaticum in mala natura a Deo factum fuisse et non dixerit eum per voluntatem suam malum concepisse, anathema illi.

“Si quis confitetur angelum Satanae mundum fecisse, quod absit, et non indicaverit (iudicaverit) omne peccatum per ipsum adinventum fuisse” (De Trinitate, VI, 17, 1-3, ed. V. Bulhart, CC.S.L., 9, pp. 89-90; PL, 62, 280-281).

77) CSEL XXV/2, pp. 977-982; PL 42, 1153-1156.

78) De Genesi ad Litteram Liber imperfectus, 1, 1-2, PL 34, 221.

79) DS 188.

80) That is to say the sixth note of the memorandum addressed to the Pope by his correspondent, the Bishop of Astorga.

81) “Sexta annotatio indicat eos dicere quod diabolus numquam fuerit bonus, nee natura eius opificium Dei sit, sed eum ex chao et tenebris emersisse: quia scilicet nulluni sui habeat auetorem, sed omnis mali ipse sit principium atque substantia: cum fides vera, quae est catholica, omnium creaturarum sive spiritualium, sive corporalium bonam confiteatur substantiam, et mali nullani esse naturam; quia Deus, qui universitatis est conditor, nihil non bonum fecit. Unde et diabolus bonus esset, si in eo quod factus est, permaneret. Sed quia naturali excellentia male usus est, et in veritate non stetit (Joan. 8, 44), non in contrariam transiit substantiam, sed a summo bono, cui debuit adhaerere, descivit…” (Epist. 15, cap. VI, Lk 54, 683; cf. DS 286; the critical text edited by B. Vollman, O.S.B. only inserts variations of punctuation here).

82) “Cap. IX: Fides vera, quae est catholica, omnium creaturarum sive spiritualium, sive corporalium bonam confitetur substantiam, et mali nullam esse naturam; quia Deus, qui universitatis est conditor, nihil non bonum fecit. Unde et diabolus bonus esset, si in eo quod factus est permaneret. Sed quia naturali excellentia male usus est, et in veritate non stetit, non in contrariam substantiam transiit, sed a summo bono, cui debuit adhaerere, discessit” (De Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus, PL 58, 995 C-D). But the early recension of this work, published as an appendix to the Words of Saint Augustine, does not have this chapter (PL 42, 1213-1222).

83) De fide seu de regula fidei ad Petrum liber unus, PL 65, 671-706. “Principaliter tene” (III, 25, col. 683 A); “Fermissime… tene” (IV, 45, col. 694 C). “Pars itaque angelorum quae a suo creatore Deo, quo solo bono beata fuit, voluntaria prorsus aversione discessit…” (III, 31, col. 687 A); “…nullamque esse mali naturam” (XXI, 62, col. 699 D-700 A).

84) Concilia Gallica (314-506), CC.S.L., 148, ed. Ch. Munier, p. 165, 25-26; also in the appendix of the Ordo XXXIV, in: M. Andrieu, Ordines romani, t. III, Lovanii 1951, p. 616.

85) PL 215, 1512 D; A. Dondaine, Arch. Fr. Pr., 16 (1946), 232; DS 797.

86) DS 457.

87) Cf. above, 44.

88) PL 204, 1235-1272. Cf. E. Delaruelle, Dict. Hist. et Geogr. Eccl., vol. XV, col. 754-757.

89) PL 204, 775-792. The historical background of Northern Italy at this time is well described by Padre Ilarino da Milano, Le eresie medioevali (11th to 15th centuries) in Grande Antologia filosofica, vol. IV, Milan 1954, pp. 1599-1689. The work of Bonacursus was also studied by Padre Ilarino da Milano in the Manifestatio heresis Catarorum quam fecit Bonacursus according to the Codex Ottob. Lat. 136 of the Vatican Library, Aevum 12 (1938) 281-333.

90) “Sed primo de fide. Contra quam proponit sententiam falsitatis et iniquitatis, dicens Deum omnipotentem sola invisibilia et incorporalia creasse; diabolum vero, quem deum tenebrarum appellat, dicit visibilia et corporalia creasse. Quibus predictis addit hereticus duo esse principia rerum: unum boni, scilicet Deum omnipotentem: alterum mali, scilicet diabolum. Addit etiam duas esse naturas: unam bonam, incorporalium, a Deo omnipotente creatam; alteram malam, corporalium, a diabolo creatam. Hereticus autem qui hoc dicit antiquus Manicheus, nunc vero Carharus appellatur” (Summa Contra Haereticos, Cap. I, ed. Joseph N. Garvin and James A. Corbett, University of Notre Dame, 1958, p. 4).

91) This treatise, which was discovered and edited for the first time by Père Antoine Dondaine, O.P., was recently published in a second edition: Livre des deux principes. Introduction, texte critique, traduction, notes et index, by Christiane Thouzellier, S. Chr. 198, Paris 1973.

92) L.C. para. 1, pp. 160-161.

93) Ibid., para. 12, pp. 190-191.

94) “Dominus papa summo mane missa celebrata et omnibus episcopis per sedes suas dispositis, in eminentiorem locum cum suis kardinalibus et ministris ascendens, sancte Trinitatis fidem et singulos fidei articulos recitari fecit. Quibus recitatis quesitum est ab universis alta voce: ‘Creditis haec per omnia?’. Responderunt omnes: ‘Credimus’. Postmodum damnati sunt omnes heretici et retrobate quorundam sententie, Joachim videlicet et Emelrici Parisiensis. Quibus recitatis iterum quesitum est: ‘An reprobatis sententias Joachim et Emelrici?’. At illi magis invalescebant damnando: ‘Reprobamus’” (A New Eyewitness Account of the Fourth Lateran Council, published by S. Kuttner and Antonio Garcia y Garcia in: Traditio 20 (1964), 115-128, especially pp. 127-128).

95) Sess. VI: Decretum de iustificatione, cap. V, C.Oe.D., p. 672; DS 1525.

96) Sess. XIII, cap. I, C.Oe.D., p. 693; DS 1636-1637.

97) Sess. VI, cap. XIII, C.Oe.D., p. 676; DS 1541.

98) DS 291: The formula will be repeated by Session V, canon 1 of the Council of Trent (C.Oe.D., p. 666; DS 1511).

99) Sess. VI, Bulla unionis Coptorum, C.OeD., pp. 575-576; DS 1347-1349.

100) Sess. VI, cap. I, C.Oe.D., p. 671, DS 1521.

101) Col 1:13-44, quoted in the same decree, chapter III, C.Oe.D., p. 672; DS 1523.

102) Sess. XIV: De Poenitentia, cap. I, C.Oe.D., p. 703; DS 1668.

103) This rite already appears in the 3rd century in the Apostolic Tradition (ed. B. Botte, chap. 21, pp. 46-51) and in the 4th century in the liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, VII, 41 (ed. F.-X. Funk: Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, t. I, 1965, pp. 444-447).

104) Ad Gentes, 3 and 14 (note the quotation of Col 1:13 and the series of quotations given in note 19 of no. 14).

105) Gaudium et Spes, 37.

106) Eph 6:11-12, referred to in Lumen Gentium, 48.

107) Eph 6:12, also referred to in Lumen Gentium, 35.

108) Lumen Gentium, 5.

109) Cf. Lk 11:20; cf. Mt 12:28.

110) C. Vagaggini, O.S.B., Il senso teologico della liturgia. Saggio di liturgia teologica generale, Rome, 1965, 4, chap. XIII, Le due città, la liturgia e la lotta contro satana, pp. 346-427; Egon von Petersdorff, De daemonibus in liturgia memoratis, Angelicum XIX (1942), pp. 324-339; idem, Dämonologie, I, Dämonen im Weltplan; II. Dämonen am Werk, Munich, 1956-1957.

111) See the Ordo excommunicandi et absolvendi, especially the long admonition “Quia N. diabolo suadente…”, Pontificale Romanum, ed. 2a., Regensburg, 1908, pp. 392-398.

112) We may quote a few words from the prayer Commendo te: “Ignores omne, quod horret in tenebris, quod stridet in flammis, quod cruetat in tormentis. Cedat tibi teterrimus satanas cum satellitibus suis…”.

113) It is thus laid down by paragraph 4 of the Motu Proprio Ministeria Quaedam: “Ministeria in tota Ecclesia latina servanda, hodiernis necessitatibus accommodata, duo sunt, Lectoris nempe et Acolythi. Partes, quae hucusque Subdiacono commissae erant, Lectori et Acolythae concreduntur, ac proinde in Ecclesia latina ordo maior Subdiaconatus non amplius habetur. Nihil tamen obstat, quominus, ex Conferentiae iudicio, Acolythus alicubi etiam Subdiaconus vocari possit” (AAS 64, 1972, p. 523). Thus the ministry of exorcist is suppressed, and it is not visualized that the powers attached to it can be exercised by the Lector or the Acolyte. The Motu Proprio declares simply (p. 531) that the Episcopal Conference can ask to have for their region the ministries of porter, exorcist and catechist.

114) The transition to the form of prayer of petition was made only after “experimentation”, followed in its turn by reflection and discussion in the Consilium.

115) Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, ed. typ. Rome, 1972, nos. 101, 109-118, pp. 36-41.

116) Ibid., 25, p. 13; and nos. 154-157, p. 54.

117) It was so from the earliest edition: Ordo Baptismi Parvulorum, ed. typ. Rome, 1969, p. 27, no. 49; and p. 85, no. 221, The only innovation is that this exorcism takes the form of a petition, oratio exorcismi, and that it is followed immediately by the unctio praebaptismalis (ibid., no. 50). But the two rites, exorcism and anointing, each have their own conclusion.

118) In the new Ordo Paenitentiae, ed. typ. Rome, 1974, one will note in Appendix II the prayer Deus humani generis benignissime conditor (pp. 85-86): apart from some slight adjustments, it is identical with the prayer having the same opening words which appears in the Ordo Reconciliationis Poenitentium of Holy Thursday (Pontificale Romanum, Regensburg, 1908, p. 350).

119) Ordo Unctionis Infirmorum eorumque Pastoralis Curae, ed. typ. Rome, 1972, p. 33, no. 73.

120) Ibid., p. 34, no. 75.

121) “Deliver us from evil”: the address at the General Audience of 15 November 1972 L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 23 November 1972, p. 3). The Holy Father expressed similar concern in his homily of 29 June of the same year (“Be strong in the Faith”, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 13 July 1972, pp. 6-7).

122) De Diabolo Tentatore, Homil. II, PG 49, 259.

123) 1 Pet 5:8.

124) Pope Paul VI, ibid.