“Begone, symbolic construct!” – UPDATE

Arturo-Sosa-AbascalUPDATE 8 June: BELOW

Originally Published on: Jun 2, 2017 ___

A while back, the head of the Jesuits, their Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa Ascobal, opined that we don’t know what the Lord taught because no one had a tape recorder. HERE That wayward notion effectively empties Christianity of its content. He tried, unconvincingly in my opinion, to walk the statement back even while defending it.

In an interview with El Mundo via InfoCatólica Sosa now offers other gems for our consideration. When asked about the ordination women, he replies that the Church needs a “different hierarchy with different ministries”. He also said, “The Pope has already opened the door of the diaconate by creating a commission. Then more doors could open.” Of course the Pope did nothing of the kind in establishing that deaconette commission, and he has slammed the door pretty hard on the ordination of women, as had all Popes before him. Asked about same-sex marriage, Sosa burbles for a bit, with a snap of his fingers he says, “Sacraments aren’t born like *this*.”

About the existence of the Devil, Sosa said:

Desde mi punto de vista, el mal forma parte del misterio de la libertad. Si el ser humano es libre, puede elegir entre el bien y el mal. Los cristianos creemos que estamos hechos a imagen y semejanza de Dios, por lo tanto Dios es libre, pero Dios siempre elige hacer el bien porque es todo bondad. Hemos hecho figuras simbólicas, como el diablo, para expresar el mal. Los condicionamientos sociales también representan esa figura, ya que hay gente que actúa así porque está en un entorno donde es muy difícil hacer lo contrario.

From my point of view, evil forms part of the mystery of freedom. If the human being is free, he can choose between good and evil. Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore God is free, but God always chooses to do good because he is all goodness. We have made symbolic figures, like the devil, to express evil. Social conditionings also represents that figure, since there are people who act this way because it is in an environment where it is very difficult to do the opposite.

So, the Superior General of the Jesuits does not believe that the Devil exists as a real, person being. The Devil, according to this Jesuit, is a symbolic construction of ‘evil”.

CCC 391 says:

Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.  Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.  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 IV said that the Devil is an angel and affirms that angels are personal beings.

According to Sosa, however, I guess the Lord was not tempted by Satan and in Matthew 4 Jesus said: “Begone symbolic construct!”

The Lord apparently didn’t mean what He said about the Prince of this World.

What’s next?

Maybe the Lord Himself is also a “symbolic construct”!

I can see it now.  The Jesuits will have to change all their stationary: The Society of Symbolic Construct.

No more SJ.  Instead… SS?   The Symbolists? The Constructors?


How about this…. The Jesuits themselves are really just a symbolic construct.  They were, after all repressed once.  A good days work by Pope Clement XIV, Papa Ganganelli.

Today, I make available also

Clement_XVI_Mug_01 Clement_XVI_Mug_02

For all the selections click


And, in your new Clement XVI mug enjoy some


When you are irked and frustrated with attacks on clarity and fidelity to Catholic doctrine, why not make yourself an invigorating Z-mug filled with freshly brewed coffee from the wonderful Carmelites in Wyoming?   Look at it as a kind of aroma therapy, without all the effeminate new-age garbage.

Don’t suppress your urge for that great mug of Mystic Monk Coffee!

UPDATE 8 June:

Check out the piece at the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald.   Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was puzzled by the Superior of the Jesuits reducing the Devil to a mere “symbolic construct”.   That’s, after all, what he did.

The SPOKESMAN of the Superior told the Catholic Herald that the Superior:

“Father Sosa was asked to comment on the question of evil. In his response, he pointed out that evil is part of the mystery of freedom. He noted that if the human being is free, it means he can do good or evil; otherwise, he would not be free.

“Human language uses symbols and imagery. God is love. To say God symbolizes love is not to deny the existence of God. The devil is evil. Similarly, to say the devil symbolizes evil is not to deny the existence of the devil.” [What an answer.  How about: YES, he believes in the Devil.  Or: NO, he doesn’t believe in the Devil.  What is this?]

The spokesman went on: “Like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches. He does not hold a set of beliefs separate from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”  [How about: YES, he believes in the Devil.  Or: NO, he doesn’t believe in the Devil.]

The spokesman was then asked whether Fr Sosa believes that the Devil is an individual with a soul, intellect and free will. He replied: “As I said in my response yesterday, Father General Arturo Sosa believes and teaches what the Church believes and teaches. He does not hold another set of beliefs apart from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”

So, the Superior of the Jesuits hasn’t answered the questions.  Instead his spokesman made a couple of statements about believing what the Church believes.

How hard is it, if you believe what the Church believes, to stand up in public and say clearly what the Church believes?

The whom Christ calls “the Devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)… is an angelic being.  Angels are persons.  The Devil is a personal being.  Is this hard?

No, wait.  This same Superior General of the Jesuits also called into question what we can believe that Christ said, since, as he put it, they didn’t have tape recorders back then.

Be sure to read what Archbp. Chaput wrote recently.  HERE  Including:

Medieval theologians understood this quite well. They had an expression in Latin: Nullus diabolus, nullus redemptor. No devil, no Redeemer. Without the devil, it’s very hard to explain why Jesus needed to come into the world to suffer and die for us. What exactly did he redeem us from?

The devil, more than anyone, appreciates this irony, i.e., that we can’t fully understand the mission of Jesus without him. And he exploits this to his full advantage. He knows that consigning him to myth inevitably sets in motion our same treatment of God.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Mike says:

    It is long past time to acknowledge that the Society of Jesus is any longer Catholic. That ship sailed with Teilhard at the helm.

  2. Mike says:

    * ‘no’ longer. Yes, I’m agitated. Mea culpa.

  3. CradleRevert says:

    *sigh* The Jesuits are badly in need of a good old-fashioned suppression.

  4. Dafyd says:

    Know your Transformers, Fr. Z!

    They’re Constructicons. They’re part of the Decepticons, and they merge to form a mindless, destructive gestalt named Devastator.

    [Wow. I never knew how complicated this could be.]

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    Almost two decades ago I went to a Jesuit University. A chunk of the Intro to Theology course, taught by an ancient emeritus Jesuit, was devoted to how the Ascension of Jesus was a symbolic construct and not a historical event.

    While there are good Jesuits, the idea that various tenants and historical events of Christianity are only constructs runs very deep with in the Society of Jesus. The Superior General is far from atypical in his thought.

  6. S.Armaticus says:

    I am beginning to understand that it is the Jesuits that are the “social construct”.

  7. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “Maybe the Lord Himself is also a “symbolic construct”!”

    No-no-no, Fr. Z. It was His “resurrection” that was a “symbolic construct.” (at least in the minds of the Christian communities after the Apostles)


    Just getting in touch with my inner John Shelby Spong, you know.


  8. Joseph-Mary says:

    Wow, a picture of the man in clerics!

  9. JabbaPapa says:

    In other times, Fr Arturo might have been formally forbidden from teaching theology …

  10. Clinton R. says:

    If the devil does not exist, then for what reason did Our Lord
    come down from Heaven? Then again, there is good reason
    to doubt Fr. Sosa’s belief in Christ. After all, there was no tape
    recorders in those days. The suppression of the Jesuits sounds
    like a better idea with every passing day.

  11. RobS says:

    “… with a snap of his fingers he says, ‘Sacraments aren’t born like *this*.'”

    Sure they are. All seven were.

    Baptism: elevated to a sacrament due to Our Lord’s participation in it. A sudden moment.

    Eucharist: created a sacrament by Our Lord’s Last Supper. One instant, the bread and wine are just that; the next, they are something much more!

    Confirmation: the Holy Spirit didn’t float down like a leaf! He came as fire! (Or “she” if you’re Fr. James Martin, SJ)

    Confession: in an instant, the Lord gave His priests the ability to wipe away sin through Him. It’s like twenty words total in John’s Gospel.

    Matrimony: probably the longest one, but Matthew’s Gospel illustrates Jesus elevating this natural phenomenon to a sacrament over the course of about half a dozen verses.

    Holy Orders: Laying on hands didn’t take too long for the Twelve and it doesn’t for us either.

    Anointing: the Book of James knocks this one out in about two verses. Not the eternity that Fr. “Just Call Me Art” might envisage.

  12. Unwilling says:

    Lucerna pedibus meis verbum tuum, et lumen semitis meis.

    When you stand on a precipice the dark void below can be dizzying. You want to reach for something near at hand to steady yourself. Deconstructive Entmythologisierung has offered a shaky handrail for a century or so. Of course, the only real support is Faith: Deus in adiutorium meum intende; Domine ad adiuvandum me festina.

  13. Aquinas Gal says:

    “Yes, Wormwood, we are making great progress! Now even the Jesuit Superior General is telling people what we always want them to think: that we don’t exist. If they don’t believe in us they are so blind to our deceptions!”

  14. donato2 says:

    Why do men who think and believe as this man does become or remain Catholic priests?

  15. bibi1003 says:

    He needs to be present at an intense exorcism where he will see and hear things that can’t be dismissed as the result of a symbolic construct. Bet Father Amorth is rolling over in his grave.

  16. When I am at the judgement seat I have my own sins to be accountable for and have to take whatever punishment is due, but I hope I am not standing behind this man in the line. Yikes!

  17. DetJohn says:

    Someone in the Vatican needs to have a serious talk with, Fr. Sosa.
    I wonder, does the Pope know about Fr. Sosa’s nonsense?

  18. Amerikaner says:

    Hmmmm… I suppose St. Padre Pio and many other saints were beaten by symbolic constructs…

    Sorry Jesuit Inferior General, I will stick with the perennial teaching of the Church and the testimony of the saints.

  19. LarryW2LJ says:

    I wish Fr. Amorth were still alive. He could take Fr. Sosa along on an assignment for a little “on-the job” training.

  20. acardnal says:

    I’d suggest Fr Arturo discuss the existence of the devil with his Jesuit confrere, Pope Francis, who spoke about satan quite often during his first year as the Pope!

  21. Eugene says:

    Father I am waiting for the public correction from Rome about this heresy, just like the correction they issued to his previous non sensical statement about not really knowing what Jesus taught…oh wait there wasn’t one was there.
    Disgusting demoralizing depressing I am so done with this group of traitors to the faith and I belong to a Jesuit run parish…God how long?

  22. frjim4321 says:

    Just sayin’ if the door was closed so decisively on the ordination of women a more compelling argument would have been presented. [Wrong. It’s done. It’s settled. It has been explained more than once.]

  23. lmgilbert says:

    What gets to me is . . .not only is Fr. Sosa’s statement heretical, it is naive, incredibly naive for a priest- as if a physician did not believe in germs.

    You have to wonder, too, if he is not unintentionally paying himself a kind of left-handed compliment, for a man so innocent of this basic knowledge would almost have to have come to this great age as if straight from the baptismal fount, not only innocent of theology, but of life. You have to wonder. Is he also largely innocent of pastoral experience, a pastor recently descended from the ivory tower, an academic thrust into a position for which he is woefully unqualified in terms of fundamental spiritual street smarts?

    Street people, on the other hand, who are usually anything but innocent typically believe in the reality of the devil. Ironic, no? That would mean that a street person recently converted from a bad life to life in Jesus Christ at a storefront church on skid row, may very well have more, far more, on the ball theologically than the head of the Jesuits! In all honestly, I would expect more theological and spiritual acumen and helpful advice from a pentecostal grandmother deep in the inner city than from the black pope of our day. Ironic beyond belief, and probably the very sort of thing that fully explains the sweep of evangelicals and pentecostals through Latin America. Could it actually be that such “uneducated” people have a far more vivid belief in and experience of the essential beliefs of the Catholic faith than do some of our own priests, that our priests are too often being mal-educated and in effect being systematically led out of the Catholic faith? My understanding is that the situation is improving, but meanwhile too many men are being promoted beyond their competence.

    Not to worry! The pope’s own vivid belief in the reality of the devil raises the possibility that Fr. Sosa may be summarily removed, a development devoutly to be wished. That is just the sort of “shot across the bow” that may wake the Jesuits up and precipitate self-reform, which is far, far preferable to suppression.

  24. hilltop says:

    How’s about the other gem nestled in the sentence previous to the “Satan-is-a-construct”nonsense? To wit:
    “Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore God is free.”
    Stew on that “therefore” and consider that this amounts to “I believe, therefore God exists.”
    So, God is a construct too?

  25. MKR says:

    I know a number of fairly young (30-something) Jesuits, all of whom are very orthodox. And their higher-ups say stuff like this. It’s a weird situation.

  26. OldLady says:

    Souls being deceived. The heart of Jesus must break at this betrayal. Another reason to celebrate and support priests who are loyal to the teachings of Christ and the traditions of the Church. Thank you for your sacrifices that often go unacknowledged on earth.

  27. elwinransom says:

    Maybe when Pope Francis was speaking about Satan, what he had in mind was a construct. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. [I would be. I think he does believe that the Devil is a personal being.]

  28. caro says:

    I have lately noticed that whenever I am gobsmacked by theological error emanating from a priest, (mercifully rare occasions), he is a Jesuit. On the other hand, Father Mitch Pacwa is a Jesuit…so there’s that!
    Last month I attended a funeral rite with a Jesuit presider. He practically canonized the deceased, whom he had never met. He invited all to approach for communion, and as we did so, to give particular thought to our dearly departed Fred, whose presence we encounter in the Eucharist.
    My extended lapsed family found it a lovely celebration.

  29. JabbaPapa says:

    hilltop :

    “Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore God is free.”
    Stew on that “therefore” and consider that this amounts to “I believe, therefore God exists.”
    So, God is a construct too?

    It’s exactly backwards — God has Free Will and we are made in His image, which is how and why we have Free Will too.

    This notion that the Christian Religion is essentially a mental and/or social/psychological construct really ought to be explicitly and formally condemned as a heresy, given the shocking number of modern priests and laity who are confused in their thinking about the proper relationships between God, the Revelation, (genuine) Christian Spirituality, and human thought.

  30. Ocampa says:

    “That wayward notion effectively empties Christianity of its content”

    It effectively empties most of human history of its content.

  31. WYMiriam says:

    Fr. Jim: I’m just askin’ . . . can you share with us at least one example of a “more compelling argument” (other than, say, “it is not recorded that Jesus specifically said, “Women are now and forever banned from being priests in the Catholic Church””) that you would accept as compelling enough to have dissenters submit to the Church’s teaching that women cannot be priests? (Like I said, I’m just askin’…)

  32. buckeye pastor says:

    Father Z, I am as appalled by Fr. Sosa’s doctrinal comments as you are, and I hope that the CDF will bring him up short soon. But I don’t think we should take Pope Clement XIV as our hero. He is certainly one of our less distinguished Popes, a compromise figure like many of the 18th-century Popes who were elected because they were plain vanilla, not especially competent, and unlikely to offend the Majesties of Spain, Portugal, France, the Holy (?) Roman (?) Empire (?) or any other Catholic monarch, all of whom were stirring the pot at the Conclave of 1769. His suppression of the Jesuits was nothing but appeasement to the Catholic monarchs, especially Louis XV. His successor, Pius VI, was a very worldly man but at least died a martyr after his kidnap by forces of the French Revolution. His successor, Pius VII, suffered greatly under Napoleon, helped put the pieces of Europe back together after Napoleon, and restored Papal authority at the Congress of Vienna. I want a coffee mug with his picture on it.

    [Ridiculous. Papa Ganganelli was a fine Pope. And we don’t care whom the Great Suppression appeased: it was a good day’s work. Moreover, a great saint seemed to have thought well of Clement XIV. HERE]

  33. Benedict Joseph says:

    Sosa is drowning in double speak. He adheres to post-Christian Allegorical Catholicism. They can say whatever they want, have it mean whatever they want, and change it at any given moment. Tickles the ears of its adherents. Comforts the disoriented. Provides credence in academic and ecumenical circles.
    What more could you ask for in life but to have your fraudulence supported by the dime of the Church. And he has that, for sure.

  34. JonathanTX says:

    “Nullus diabolus, nullus redemptor”


    You can’t appreciate the Good News unless you know the Bad News. Which is why frequently hearing about the Four Last Things in homilies is so important. You can’t have Easter without the Cross.

  35. FrAnt says:

    So then, is the Holy Spirit a “social construct?” Are the Protestants be right about the Eucharist? If the Church is a social construct, then women priests.

  36. Charles E Flynn says:

    The compelling argument against the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood is that a Catholic priest is a living icon of Jesus Christ, and that a woman cannot be a living icon of a man, any more than a man can give birth to a new person made in the image and likeness of God.

    Here is a good introduction to the entire concept of Satan, with a helpful etymology of the term in the comment by “Chris in Maryland”:

    Satan: Past, Present, and Future, by Carl E. Olson, for The Catholic World Report

  37. Kerry says:

    And there was war in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought against the Symbolic construct, and the Symbolic construct and his construct-itos fought…

  38. Charivari Rob says:

    I had first seen this story elsewhere, and had been waiting for the Father Z treatment. I realize now I missed Father Z’s first pass – I was working an extra shift that day.

    Anyway… When I first read this I was amazed at the point of view and how the Superior could speak it. Then I walked out to my car and a certain Gershwin track came on the satellite Broadway channel which was a brilliant and ironic companion to the news.

    I don’t know which exact production they used, so I decided to go back to Robeson:

  39. Ages says:

    Another reason against the ordination of women is that it has never been done before, and thus cannot ever be done. Orthodoxy is that which was believed everywhere, always, by all.

    Break communion with the Church Triumphant at the peril of your soul.

  40. Filipino Catholic says:

    Recently my grandmother’s house was exorcised for certain reasons I will not speak of, and what happened a few hours afterwards was not the work of a disgruntled symbolic construct by any stretch of the imagination. Curtains falling down and doors slamming without any wind? A perfectly functioning light refusing to switch on? “Symbolic construct” my podex.

  41. Tim says:

    I second buckeye pastor’s comments above. Regardless of what one thinks about the Jesuits today, their suppression in the eighteenth century was a catastrophe for the Church. How to distribute responsibility for the bull of suppression – was it a freely made decision by a pope who miscalculated the situation and its effects, or a decision mainly forced on the Church by the craven absolutist monarchs of Europe – is something to be argued about. But the victors in 1773 were forces of secularization that rolled on in their brutal persecution of the Church and could count the French Revolution and Napoleonic tyrannies as further successes.

    [The only problem with the Suppression is that it didn’t work.]

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