Fr Sosa, the Devil, and the strange new orthodoxy in Rome


Catholic Herald, 29 August 2019

The superior general of the Jesuits, Fr Arturo Sosa, holds positions that appear incompatible with the Catholic faith. He has denied the historicity of the Gospels – that they faithfully reflect what Jesus actually said – saying that “no one had a tape recorder to record his words”. He has also questioned the personal existence of the Devil, suggesting: “We have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil.”

The latter, which he repeated earlier this month, caused something of a stir. That the head of the Jesuits does not hold completely what the Church teaches is distressing, but no longer surprising.

What is more interesting is that the general response to Fr Sosa’s remarks – great equanimity in Rome and no correction from his fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis – illustrates that a strange orthodoxy now prevails. Items of the gravest importance can be questioned; items of less importance are held dogmatically.

Consider a hypothetical. On Sunday, Pope Francis confessed that “we are all worried” about the Amazon forest fires, stating that “this forest lung is vital for our planet”.

Imagine if Fr Sosa said that the Amazon is “not vital” for our planet. What would have been the reaction in Rome – on a matter of science not faith, policy not dogma?

It is hard to imagine, because the likelihood of Fr Sosa dissenting on environmental policy is less than zero. If he had, he would probably have been corrected, at least informally, by some Vatican figure.

That’s the importance of Fr Sosa’s denial of the personal existence of the Devil. Senior figures in Rome don’t think it very important that the superior general of the Jesuits dissents from the faith, and on a matter which Pope Francis has spoken clearly.

“He is evil, he’s not like mist,” said Pope Francis about the Devil, about whom he speaks frequently. “He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person. I’m convinced that one must never converse with Satan – if you do that, you’ll be lost. He’s more intelligent than us, and he’ll turn you upside down. He’ll make your head spin.”

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