Pope Paul’s words, which are the title of my book, were a warning to all who, taken with the “spirit of Vatican II” rather than the Council’s actual teachings had fallen under the sway of the demonic. But Catholic neomodernist dissidents scoffed at being informed they might be assisting the devil. They retaliated with sarcasm, ridicule and contempt. For them Paul VI was definitely not a modern man. (Yet his biographer names him the first modern pope).
Neither is Pope Francis if by “modern” we intend a neglect of the supernatural, and a flight from Christianity’s hardest sayings. Like Paul, Francis has made it a point to draw the world’s attention to the snares of the devil:
Here Cardinal Bergoglio spoke of the devil in the starkest terms: “He is the tempter, the one that looks to destroy the work of God, he that brings us to self-sufficiency, to pride. Jesus defines him as the father of lies.”
The Catechism highlights the Devil’s presence , and Pope Benedict was castigating Satan long before he became pope, notably in the Ratzinger Report . But Francis has taken the subject to a new level in three teachings:
The first—no one should ever use the devil to excuse scandal, immorality, and criminal behavior “as has sometimes happened in the Church . The faithful Christian always accepts personal responsibility, and understands that the devil can never force us to do anything against our will.
The second is never to allow our fight against Satan to end dialogue with our opponents. Back in May, Francis proclaimed , “You cannot dialogue with the prince of the world,” and his statement immediately provoked questions: What he meant by warning us never to dialogue with the devil is never to sacrifice ultimate truth when meeting with our opponents, not that we shouldn’t try to win hearts for Christ.
The third principle is to be on constant guard against the devil, never assume we cannot sin like those we are trying to correct, and ask ourselves some pointed questions :
Do I guard myself, my heart, my feelings, my thoughts? Do I guard the treasure of grace? Do I guard the presence of the Holy Spirit in me? Or do I let go, feeling secure, believing that all is going well? But if you do not guard yourself, he who is stronger than you will come.
On all these points, says Francis, “there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation.”
Those who support Francis’ exhortations should follow his lead, knowing they will meet resistance. Sin, evil, temptation, the devil, eternal judgment”these are not topics the modern world wants to discuss, or even that many Christians do. When Archbishop Chaput addressed the reality of Satana few years ago, he called out the “many religious leaders” who were “embarrassed to talk about the devil” and spiritual warfare. Doing so invites charges of harboring irrational, superstitious, even dangerous beliefs. But the real peril is the denial of evil that began with Satan, and is still being fomented by his legions. “I believe that the devil exists,” Francis told Rabbi Skorka. “Maybe his greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe that he does not exist.”
We need to keep driving that message home. For as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, until the Lord returns in his full triumph and glory, the smoke of Satan is here to stay.