As Catholics, we believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. And we believe that because He is all-good, he protects and guides us throughout life as we navigate obstacles and temptation. But why does He allow Satan and sin to roam the earth in the first place? Why didn’t He, as an all-powerful God, send Satan straight to Hell and prohibit him from tempting us to sin?
Listener Laura wrote in to The Cale Clarke Show to ask, “Why was Lucifer thrust down to earth and not into the caves of hell?” In other words, why leave the door open for Satan to “prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls,” as the prayer to St. Michael says?
Cale turned to Scripture, first referencing three passages that document the casting of demons and devils into hell. But then he turned to a passage that he believed probably raised Laura’s question about Satan’s presence here. “But the dragon was not strong enough and no longer was any place found in Heaven for him and his angels. And the great dragon was hurled down. The ancient serpent called the ‘devil’ and ‘Satan’, the deceiver of the whole world, he was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelations 12:8-9). It explicitly says in Revelations that upon trying to attack Mary, the Christ Child and her “other children” (the members of the Church), that he was cast down to earth.
In a passage in Job, it says that the devil came back from roaming back and forth on the earth. These excerpts seem to suggest that while the evil angels were banished from heaven and forced into hell, they are still capable of presenting themselves on earth. Looking at these respective passages, Monsignor Charles Pope, who wrote an article addressing this very question, came to that conclusion. He said that while they are destined to be locked into hell for eternity, they can still make appearances on earth and influence things here. Of course, they don’t have bodies so “roaming” and “influencing” the world mean different things for spirits than they do for human beings.
Now that it has been established that demons do, in fact, wander the earth, why would God allow it? Monsignor Pope reminds us that God, in His infinite goodness, granted freedom to all beings of creation, angels included, and that is essentially the root of evil: abuse of freedom. So if God granted us true and real freedom, that also implies the allowance for the existence of disobedience and the misuse of that freedom, even though it is contrary to God’s will. He allows the temptation of sin because He granted both the angels and us genuine freedom. We can use that freedom to follow Him or to follow the temptations of earth.
If we intend to use our freedom to follow God, it is in our best interest to protect ourselves using the tools that He granted to us: the Sacraments, the Holy Rosary, our Guardian Angels, and common sense in avoiding occasions of sin. Monsignor Pope emphasized that the devil is very similar to a chained-up dog. He can bark very loudly, snarl, and froth at the mouth, but he cannot hurt you unless you get too close.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Listen to the full talk below:
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