Jesus Himself talks of Satan as a fallen angel, rather than as a literary construct

Perhaps because the Pope is Jesuit, the recently elected superior of the Jesuits, Fr Arturo Marcelino Sosa Abascal, is getting rather more attention than many of his predecessors ever did. This is something of a mixed blessing for the Church.

In his latest interview, Fr Sosa claims that “We have formed symbolic figures such as the devil to express evil.” It is hard to interpret his words in an orthodox manner: on the face of it, they seem to contradict the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the Holy Scriptures where Jesus Himself talks of Satan as a fallen angel, rather than as a literary construct.

There are, for instance several references to Satan in St Luke’s Gospel at 10:18, 11:18, 13:16, 22:3 and 31, which make it very clear that the Lord Jesus sees Satan as an active and cunning adversary, one who tries to undermine the salvation of humanity at every turn.

When I was about six years old I was told by my teacher that those who think Satan does not exist make his task much easier. How right she was!

Fr Sosa, sadly, has form with casting doubt on the credibility of Scripture. While it is undeniable that Satan is part of the world picture of the Saviour of Mankind, Fr Sosa has claimed that the Gospels may not record Jesus’ words: “There would have to be a lot of reflection on what Jesus really said. At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words.” No, they didn’t, but that does not mean that the Scriptures are not an authentic source of the teaching of Christ.

As often happens when a person comes to prominence in later life, various embarrassments from the past are raked up. Fr Sosa is no exception to this, and we have all heard how back in 1989 Fr Sosa signed a “manifesto” warmly praising Fidel Castro and welcoming him to Venezuela.

Well, we have all done embarrassing things when we were younger, and we have all done stupid things too. Nevertheless, this manifesto must rank high in the annals of human embarrassment. He didn’t have to sign it. Moreover, praise of Castro – a dictator, a persecutor of the Church and an enthusiastic administrator of the death penalty – sits ill with Catholic social teaching, though it might tick all the right boxes for those who thought themselves “progressive” back in 1989. One might have expected some word of retraction from Fr Sosa, but none has been forthcoming.

Perhaps Jesuit superiors don’t do retractions. But perhaps his minders might steer him away from microphones in future?