A 1997 survey of beliefs about Satan revealed that 69 percent of Catholics believe that “Satan is only a symbol of evil;” only 26% believing that “Satan is a living being.” Paul VI instructs us that the former position is “a departure from the picture provided by biblical Church teaching.…” This appears as one little “crack in the wall” through which the smoke could enter: belief in the Devil makes for bad cosmology! Priests, catechists and religious who take the Devil lightly are indeed the easiest target for what St. Paul termed “the mystery of iniquity.” What the Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur taught me regarding the reality of the Devil prior to Vatican II proved no different from what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us today:
The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free[emphasis added]. Original sin entails 'captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil. Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.