Fr. Gabriele Amorth is the Chief Exorcist of
Rome. He has performed hundreds of exorcisms over many years. He is the
author of the best-selling book, An
Exorcist Tells His Story. He is also the author of An
Exorcist: More Stories. This excerpt,
"The Power of Satan," is taken from An
Exorcist Tells His Story (pages 25-36).
Because of the subject that I have decided to address in this book, I cannot
pursue other very interesting theological questions. I will merely touch
upon certain points that come up as a result of exorcisms. An exorcist with
a solid theological and scriptural background, such as Father Candido, who
spoke with demons for thirty-six years, is well qualified to make some assumptions
on subjects such as the sin of the rebellious angels-that theologians have
dismissed in the past with a "we do not know". Everything that God created
follows a harmonious design; therefore, the smallest atom influences everything,
and every shadow casts some darkness on everything. Theology will be unfinished
and incomprehensible until it focuses on the world of the angels. A Christology
that ignores Satan is crippled and will never understand the magnitude of
We will now continue with Christ, the center of the universe. Everything
was created for him and in view of his Coming, in the heavens (angels) and
on earth (the tangible world, man first of all). It would be wonderful to
speak only of Christ, but it would not be according to his every teaching
and action, and we would never be able to understand him. Scripture talks
to us about the kingdom of God but also of the kingdom of Satan. It tells
us about the power of God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, but also
of the power of darkness. It speaks of the sons of God and of the sons of
Satan. It is impossible to understand the salvific action of Christ if we
ignore the destructive action of Satan.
Satan was the most perfect being created by the hands of God. His God-given
authority and superiority over the other angels are recognized by all, so
he thought that he had the same authority over everything that God was creating.
Satan tried to understand all of creation but could not, because all the
plan of creation was oriented toward Christ. Until Christ came into the
world, God's plan could not be revealed in its entirety. Hence Satan's rebellion.
He wanted to continue to be the absolute first, the center of creation,
even if it meant opposing God's design. This is why Satan continually tries
to dominate the world ("the whole world is in the power of the evil one",
I Jn 5: 19). Beginning with our forefathers, he seeks to enslave men by
making them obey himself and disobey God. He was successful with our forefathers,
Adam and Eve, and he hoped to continue with all men with the help of "a
third of the angels", who, according to the book of Revelation, followed
him in rebellion against God.
God never rejects his creatures. Therefore, even though they broke with
God, Satan and his angels maintain their power and rank (thrones, dominions,
principalities, powers, and so on) even if they use them for evil purposes.
Saint Augustine does not exaggerate when he claims that, if God gave Satan
a free hand, "no man would be left alive." Since Satan cannot kill us, he
tries to "make us into his followers in opposition to God, just as he is
in opposition to God".
The truth of salvation is this: Jesus came "to destroy the works of the
devil" (I Jn 3:8), to free man from Satan's slavery, and to establish the
kingdom of God after destroying the reign of Satan. However, between the
first coming of Christ and the Parousia (the second, triumphal coming of
Christ as judge), the devil tries to entice as many people as possible to
his side. It is a battle he wages with the desperation of one who knows
he is already defeated, knowing "that his time is short" (Rev 12:12). Therefore,
Paul tells us in all honesty that "we are not contending against flesh and
blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world
rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness
in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12).
Scripture tells us that angels and demons (I want particularly to mention
Satan) are spiritual creatures but also that they are individuals gifted
with intelligence, will, freedom, and initiative. Those modern theologians
who identify Satan with the abstract idea of evil are completely mistaken.
Theirs is true heresy; that is, it is openly in contrast with the Bible,
the Fathers, and the Magisterium of the Church. The truth about Satan was
never doubted in the past; therefore, there are no dogmatic definitions
in this respect with the exception of the following statement of the Fourth
Lateran Council: "The devil [that is, Satan] and the other demons were created
good by God; but they became evil through their own fault." Whoever denies
Satan also denies sin and no longer understands the actions of Christ.
Let us be clear about this: Jesus defeated Satan through his sacrifice.
However, Jesus also defeated Satan before his death, through his teachings:
"If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom
of God has come upon you" (Lk 11:20). Jesus is the strongest one, who tied
up Satan (Mk 3:27), despoiled him, and pillaged his kingdom, which is at
an end (Mk 3:26). Jesus first gave the power to cast out demons to his apostles;
then he extended the power to the seventy-two disciples, and in the end
he granted it to all those who would believe in him.
The Acts of the Apostles tell us that after the descent of the Holy Spirit
the apostles continued to expel demons, and all Christians have done so
after them. Already, the earliest Fathers of the Church, such as Justin
and Irenaeus, clearly express Christian thought about the devil and about
the power to cast him out. Other Fathers, in particular Tertullian and Origen,
concur. These four authors alone can refute many modern theologians, who,
for all purposes, either do not believe in the devil or completely ignore
The Second Vatican Council powerfully reminded us of this abiding teaching
of the Church: "For a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness
pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins
of the world" (Gaudium et Spes, no. 37). "Although he was made by
God in a state of holiness, from the very dawn of history man abused his
liberty, at the urging of personified Evil. Man set himself against God
and sought to find fulfillment apart from God. Although he knew God, he
did not glorify Him as God, but his senseless mind was darkened and he served
the creature rather than the Creator" (no. 13). "For He sent His Son, clothed
in our flesh, in order that through this Son He might snatch men from the
power of darkness and of Satan" (Ad Gentes, no. 3). How can those
who deny the existence and the many activities of Satan understand the achievements
of Christ? How can they understand the value of the redemptive death of
Christ? On the basis of Sacred Scripture, the Second Vatican Council affirms
that "[Christ], by His death and resurrection, had freed us from the power
of Satan" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 6). And "[Christ] was crucified
and rose again to break the stranglehold of personified Evil" (Gaudium
et Spes, no. 2).
Satan, defeated by Christ, fights against his followers. The battle against
the evil spirits "was joined from the very origins of the world, and will
continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested" (no. 37). During
this time, every man is on battle alert because life on earth is a trial
of faithfulness to God. "We strive therefore to please the Lord in all things
(cf 2 Cor 5:9). We put on the armor of God that we may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil and resist on the evil day.... For before
we reign with the glorious Christ, all of us will be made manifest 'before
the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through
the body, according to his works, whether good or evil' (2 Cor 5: 10)"
(Lumen Gentium, no. 48).
Even if this battle against Satan concerns all men and all times, there
is no doubt that Satan's power is felt more keenly in periods of history
when the sinfulness of the community is more evident. For example, when
I view the decadence of the Roman Empire, I can see the moral disintegration
of that period in history. Now we are at the same level of decadence, partly
as a result of the misuse of the mass media (which are not evil in themselves)
and partly because of Western consumerism and materialism, which have poisoned
I believe that Pope Leo XIII, in a vision that will be detailed in the appendix
of this chapter [pages 37-39] received a prophetic warning concerning this
demonic attack on our times. How does the devil oppose God and our Savior?
By claiming for himself the adoration due to God and by mimicking Christian
institutions. Therefore, he is anti-Christ and anti-Church. Satan uses the
idolatry of sex, which reduces the human body to an instrument of sin, against
the Incarnation of the Word who redeemed man by becoming man. Satan uses
his churches, his cult, his devotees (often consecrated through a pact of
blood), his adorers, the followers of his promises, to mimic the worship
due to God. just as Christ gave his apostles and their followers specific
powers for the good of body and soul, so Satan gives specific powers to
his followers for the destruction of body and soul. We will examine these
specific powers in our explanation of witchcraft.
I will mention one more item on this subject. Just as it would be wrong
to deny the existence of Satan, it is also wrong to accept the prevalent
opinion that there are spiritual beings that are not mentioned in the Bible.
These are the invention of spiritists, of followers of the occult, of those
who espouse reincarnation, or of those who believe in "wandering souls".
There are no good spirits other than angels; there are no evil spirits other
than demons. Two Councils of the Church (Lyons and Florence) tell us that
the souls of those who die go immediately to heaven or to hell or to purgatory.
The souls of the dead who are present during seances or the souls of the
dead who are present in living bodies to torture them are none other than
demons. God allows a soul to return to earth only in very rare, exceptional
cases, but we recognize that this subject is still full of unknowns. Father
La Grua attempts to explain some of his own experiences with souls who are
possessed by the devil, but I must reiterate that this is a matter that
requires further research, and I will address it in a different book.
Some people marvel at the ability of demons to tempt man and even to own
the body (but they can never take the soul unless man freely gives it to
them) through possession and oppression. We should remember what is written
in Revelation (12:7, etc.): "Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels
fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they
were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And
the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the
Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole worldhe was thrown down
to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.... And when the
dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman",
who was "dressed like the sun", from whom Jesus was born (it is very clear
that we are also talking about the Most Holy Virgin Mary). When the dragon
realized that his efforts had failed, "he went off to make war on the rest
of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony
During a May 24, 1987, visit to the Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel,
John Paul II said, "The battle against the devil, which is the principal
task of Saint Michael the archangel, is still being fought today, because
the devil is still alive and active in the world. The evil that surrounds
us today, the disorders that plague our society, man's inconsistency and
brokenness, are not only the results of original sin, but also the result
of Satan's pervasive and dark action."
The last sentence is a clear reference to God's condemnation of the serpent,
in Genesis (3:15): "1 will put enmity between you and the woman, and between
your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise
his heel." Is Satan already in hell? When did the battle between angels
and devils take place? We cannot answer these questions unless we keep in
mind that hell is more a state of mind than a place. Place and time are
different concepts for spirits.
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