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.”
The spokesman was then asked whether Fr Sosa believes that the Devil is an individual with a soul, intellect and free will. He replied: “As I said in my response yesterday, Father General Arturo Sosa believes and teaches what the Church believes and teaches. He does not hold another set of beliefs apart from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia wrote earlier this week that the Devil was more than “a symbol of the darkness in our own hearts”, and that this was forgotten by “some of our own Catholic leaders who should know better”.