The Reality of the Devil

The new millennium marks for many teens and young adults a renewed interest in spirituality.

What type of spirituality? Christian? No. Islamic? No. How about an Eastern spirituality like Taoism? Wrong again.

Try Satanism.

That’s right. The occult movement of Satanism ranks number one among teens and young adults as their preferred spirituality.

We could dismiss the ascendancy of Satanism in the United States as a fad of the young; something they will grow out of with time. In others words, it’s nothing to worry about.

In my judgment, that’s the wrong approach to the spiritual and cultural phenomenon of Satanism. People need to understand that Satanic spirituality leaves deep spiritual and psychological scars on its victims. Christians should know how to recognize and combat satanic spirituality. Where do we begin?

Let’s begin by reaffirming a basic truth: Satan exists. His demonic minions exist. Scripture and Tradition depict Satan as the supreme evil leader of the fallen angels who seek to disrupt God’s plan of salvation for humanity.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out: “Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents 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” (No. 391).

St. Peter the Apostle warns us, “Keep sober and alert, because your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

Yet despite warnings from Scripture and Tradition about the lure of Satanism, teens and young adults see involvement in Satanic occultism as an acceptable cultural and social option. Why?

Satanic occultism wears the deceptive guise of white magic.

White magic employs the use of occult powers to do good. Black magic, on the other hand, uses occult powers to do evil. The entertainment industry cleverly hammers the notion of white magic in inattentive minds.

Take for example, CBS popular TV program, “Ghost Whisperer.” The show tells the story of an attractive young woman that chats with the dead. She uses her occult powers to help the dead finish pending matters with family and friends in this life before helping them cross over to the other side. Viewers can’t help but think this a wonderful way to help others. But is it really?

Another very popular CBS TV program called “Moonlight” throws a positive spin on the occult. In this program, a tall imposing vampire works as a private detective to make amends for past crimes he committed as a vampire. He no longer sucks blood from the necks of the innocent. He now keeps a stock of fresh blood in his fridge to quench his thirst. How consoling.

On the literary front, we find an entire plethora of books, magazines and columns that speak highly of the occult. For the last few years, the No. 1 best-selling novel in the United States and abroad narrates a story about a young boy wizard that uses white magic to duel the most powerful and evil wizard ever known.

Millions of youth, worldwide, look up to this courageous wizard as a perfect role model. Can a sorcerer or warlock be a role model?

The overall message of the white magic argument is clear: Magic is not bad in itself. It depends, like many things, on how you use it. In view of this assertion, white magic wins approval and respectability in the minds of many. Here, we need to make an important moral clarification.

The difference often made between white magic and black magic is woefully erroneous. The goodness or badness of an act of witchcraft or magic is not determined by the purpose of its use. Its moral quality comes from its origin.

The origin of all occult powers is the demonic realm. Consequently, all magic involving the use of occult powers is intrinsically evil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this point abundantly clear:

“All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others — even if this were for the sake of restoring their health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons” (No. 2116).

The best defense against the lure of Satanic influence is an intense life of grace. In the words of St. Paul, the Church invites us to “Put on the full armor of God so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics.”

This will permit us to utter effectively the powerful words of Christ in the hour of temptation, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

Legionary Father Andrew McNair is a theology professor

at Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, Rhode Island.