Do demons actually exist?

I would like an objective opinion (or total Catholic bias) to help me with this concern I have. I have noticed that there is a certain desensitization to the existence of demonic or evil spirits within the regular folk that attend the Catholic church, and even to the point where they do not believe they are an active agent of evil trying to corrupt the soul through influence or other. This really bothers me, as a person that has been under demonic oppression, and has experienced first hand the lengths they go to, to disturb a soul, it worries me that people don’t realize the doors they are opening, although some are sincerely ignorant, others simply disregard it as a non-reality.

As a recent example, a Catholic friend of mine wanted to go see that movie “the conjuring” …I said no i’d rather not, because chances are what I would see therein would be similar to the things I deal with, but she persisted and pleaded, and was totally titillated by the idea of this movie and those like it. I understand the potential good of showing a movie based upon true stories etc. and revealing the realities that are there in our world, what bothered me more is she said “it’s just a movie, no big deal, it’s not real”. But it is very real to me and some many more souls out there, besides it even said “based on a true story” …and she still wasn’t convinced.

After talking with various priests myself I found some that were very much in agreement of the existence of evil, and the demons out there trying to corrupt souls or worse yet, make them tepid! …and then I found a few, one in particular that didn’t believe evil existed… I think perhaps that his impression was that Gods grace is so immense that no darkness could dwell there. I can see where he thinks that, but I thought it was kind of ignorant, and if you don’t know who your enemy is how can you fight him?

I don’t know, perhaps i’m mistaken, but to me Jesus has carried me through these crosses in the form of demons and it’s nothing to be taken lightly, but with faith and fortitude, prayer and hope… but when I hear people of the faith dismiss and deny their existence, it worries me how much influence they may end up welcoming into their lives with out knowing. Such as movies we watch, music we listen to, books we read, the food we consume. I try to explain to people we are what we eat, so we need to be careful what we consume, and let influence us. And I am a firm believer that good and bad can be promoted through these sources, so we ought to consume what is good and put a buffer or restriction on the bad. To where I say guard your heart and gird your loins!:knight2:

Am I wrong?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

391: Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy (Cf. Gen 3:1-5; Wis 2:24). Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil” (Cf. Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9). 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” (Lateran Council IV [1215]: DS 800).

Hence, the existence of fallen angels (whom we refer to as the devil and demons) is both officially and clearly taught by the Catholic Church. Moreover, when elaborating on the line from the Our Father in which we pray, “But deliver us from evil”, the Catechism states:

2851: In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who “throws himself across” God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.

In light of all this, demonic spirits do, indeed, exist as persons. The Bible and the Church’s use of the terms “devil” and “demon” is not simply symbolic language representing an impersonal, abstract force of evil in the world.

These fallen angels are able to mess with us in a variety of ways. In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Book 2, Sec 2, Ch 3, #31:1), Lugwig Ott states that the devil has a certain dominion over us due to Adam’s sin. Ott summarizes what the Council of Trent taught in this matter, and points out that it is a de fide teaching of the Catholic Church (i.e., it is a teaching “of the faith” meaning that Catholics are obligated to believe in it regardless of personal opinions). An online pdf version of Ott’s book can be accessed with this link.

Ott also points out that demonic activity can harm us morally by tempting us to sin and can also cause physical harm, including possession (see Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Book 2, Sec 2, Ch 3, #31:2a,b,c). With this in mind, consider the following statements from Ott’s personal commentaries on the subject (which are not doctrinal but nevertheless well-grounded in Church teaching):

The rationalistic viewpoint that the possessed mentioned in Holy Writ were merely ill in mind and body, and that Jesus accommodated Himself to the Jewish belief in demons, is incompatible with the dignity of the Divine Word and with the veracity and sanctity of the Son of God.

In the determination of demonic influences credulity must be avoided as much as rationalistic unbelief. Since the causing of physical evils is an extraordinary form of diabolic intervention it must be first ascertained whether these ills can be explained by natural reasons.

(Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Book 2, Sec 2, Ch 3, #31:2c)

Simply put, Ott cautions us against both ignoring the force of demonic spirits in the world as well as taking this belief too far.

I recommend practices of spiritual warfare on a regular basis. We do this in a variety of ways such as prayer, participating in the Mass as well as the entire sacramental life of the Church (which includes regular Confession), studying the Bible and the Catechism, Eucharistic Adoration, works of charity, exercising virtue in the face of temptation, devotional practices such as the rosary, etc. Spiritual warfare also involves making prudent decisions as to what we watch on TV and in movie theaters, what websites we visit, what books & magazines we read, etc. We should also stay away from occult practices such as tarot card readings, ouija boards, etc. (even if they are offered “just for fun”; the devil is very broad in how he interprets an invitation to him). Along these lines, the Catechism expressly states that occultism is a sin against the First Commandment (see #2115 – 2117 in this link).

But I also recommend that people be careful that they do not try to see the devil “underneath every rock.” Demonic spirits are a force of evil, but so are certain humans as well as certain aspects of this world of ours. Through our fallen human nature and the abuse of our freewill, we are quite capable of being our own worst enemies without the devil’s help. Moreover, when something bad happens, it could be that demonic spirits had a hand in it, but it could also simply be a case of bad luck.

For a detailed elaboration on the Church’s teachings concerning the existence of demonic spirits (in response to criticisms that such they are outdated or superstitious), I refer you to Christian Faith and Demonology. As you can see from its introduction, this report resulted from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith commissioning an expert to reaffirm the teachings of the Magisterium on this subject.

I also recommend Dr. Peter Kreeft’s Angels and Demons: What Do We Really Know About Them?.

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