The devil is in the details…
Damage Control: Jesuit Spokesman says Superior’s Denial of Satan was Taken out of Context
In a defense that was as predictable as it is unoriginal, a spokesman for the Superior General of the Jesuits, “Fr.” Arturo Sosa, has claimed that the chief Jesuit’s recent comments denying the existence of Satan as a real fallen angel have been — just guess! — taken out of context.
The Novus Ordo paper Catholic Herald has the story:
A spokesman for the Jesuit superior general has said his comments on the Devil must be read in context.
The superior general, Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal, told El Mundo last week: “We have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil.”
A spokesman for Fr Sosa told the Catholic Herald that the phrase “We have formed” should not be taken out of context. “I think it is not right to isolate particular phrases from the totality of the response on the question of evil.”
The spokesman said: “Father Sosa was asked to comment on the question of evil. In his response, he pointed out that evil is part of the mystery of freedom. He noted that if the human being is free, it means he can do good or evil; otherwise, he would not be free.
“Human language uses symbols and imagery. God is love. To say God symbolizes love is not to deny the existence of God. The devil is evil. Similarly, to say the devil symbolizes evil is not to deny the existence of the devil.”
The spokesman went on: “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.”
(“Spokesman for Jesuit chief: Devil remarks must be read in context”, Catholic Herald, June 8, 2017)
Ah yes, if only we had considered the context of Sosa’s denial of the existence of Satan!
Oh, wait a minute — that’s exactly what we did in our original post! Let’s look at it again. Here is the context, that “totality” of the response:
[Interviewer:] In closing, I wanted to ask you if you believe evil is a process of human psychology or comes from a higher being.
[“Fr.” Sosa:] From my point of view, evil is part of the mystery of freedom. If the human being is free, he can choose between good and evil. We Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore God is free, but God always chooses to do good because He is all goodness. We have created symbolic figures, such as the devil, in order to express [the reality of] evil. Social conditioning also represents that figure, inasmuch as there are people who act this way [i.e. in an evil way] because they are in an environment where it is very difficult to act otherwise.
(Jorge Benítez, “El Único ‘Jefe’ del Papa”, El Mundo, May 31, 2017; underlining added. Translation by Novus Ordo Watch.)
Sorry, but the “out of context” excuse isn’t going to work here. Sosa explicitly said, “We have created symbolic figures, such as the devil, in order to express evil”. Did everybody get that? Sosa says that the devil is a symbolic figure that was created by man. There isn’t a lot of room for interpretation here.
To get his boss cleared, Sosa’s spokesman applies some clever spin, arguing that, by analogy, to say that God symbolizes love is not to deny that God exists. This is true, but it’s irrelevant because the Jesuit Superior did not simply say that the devil symbolizes evil but that he is a symbol created by man to express the reality of evil. If Sosa were to say that God is a symbol created by man to express the reality of love, would we be asked to believe that this, too, would not amount to a denial of the existence of God?
Thus it is evident that Sosa’s statement was indeed a denial of the existence of the devil. Any other conclusion would be manifestly unreasonable.
To play it safe, however, the Jesuit spokesman tries another trick: “Like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches”, he reassures the public. But, precisely what is this claim supposed to prove? Anyone can say anything, after all — just look at “Pope” Francis, for example. He denies dogma left and right, blasphemes God, and scandalizes people, and when things get tough, he says: “I am a [loyal] son of the Church” (source) and cynically remarks that “if necessary, I’ll recite the creed” (source) — as though simply protesting that you are not a heretic and reciting the Creed were sufficient to remove doubts about orthodoxy.
It was in considering “their tenets, their manner of speech, and their action” that Pope St. Pius X identified and exposed the Modernists in the Church in the early 20th century (see Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, n. 3). These were all people who recited the Creed every Sunday, but had long attached different meanings to the words they were uttering. For good reason did the First Vatican Council insist that “that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding” (Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Ch. 4; Denz. 1800).
Sosa’s disingenuous “clarification”, then, is nothing but a sorry attempt at damage control.
Denial of the existence of Satan as a supernatural being is not Sosa’s first heresy, by the way. Earlier this year, he made waves by claiming that since there were no tape recorders to record Jesus’ actual words when He spoke them, we basically do not know what Christ really said to His disciples. Naturally, the specific words of our Lord that Sosa was commenting on were not those of the Beatitudes or the prohibition of rash judgment, but those pesky words about the indissolubility of marriage (see Mt 19:3-12).
Using means infinitely superior to a man-made tape recorder, our Blessed Lord instituted His own way of ensuring that His truth would not be corrupted but be handed on faithfully: “But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you” (Jn 14:26; cf. Jn 16:13).
But then again, Sosa might claim that we don’t know if Christ “really” said that.
We have bad news for Mr. Sosa: We do know what Christ really said, and we also know what Sosa really said — lame excuses about “context” notwithstanding.