His deepest desire and solitary mission is to lure souls to Hell; not just some souls, but all.
For him, the world is full of “low hanging fruit;” the easily tempted who are effortlessly plucked and then left to rot until death delivers the goods. These, as far as he’s concerned, are nothing more than trophies already earned by virtue of his seminal victory in Eden.
He targets such souls almost for sport, but it’s the others; the ones indelibly marked for Jesus Christ that he covets the most.
These are the ones that he most wants to ensnare, and they fall into roughly two groups:
First, there are those presently held fast in the Devil’s grip in spite of their Baptism; many of whom give the outward appearance of piety but are secretly dead.
So far so good, Satan figures, but he knows that he must do all in his power to keep them from responding to actual grace; returning to God before their final demise.
Then there are those whom Satan views as the greatest prizes of all – souls presently armed with sanctifying grace; safely sheltered within the Mystical Body of his Adversary.
Upon the fall of one of these, great is the rejoicing in Hell!
But how, Satan must wonder, might the former be kept from seeking shelter in the Father’s house once more? And how might the latter be enticed to relinquish the grace of justification and thus eternal life?
Satan knows it won’t be easy.
“He who hears you hears me…”
Oh, how Satan must despise these words, knowing that the voice of Christ constantly speaks to His sheep in the name of the Church while beckoning the lost!
One can almost imagine the Evil One pacing about the pit of Hell, thinking to himself:
If only there was a way to trick the entire lot of them into following a recipe for mortal sin, but to present it in such a way as make them believe that it is coming, not from me, but from the Anointed One himself…
“He who hears you hears me…” Yes, that’s it! I will turn their faith in these words against them… Now, I must enlist the Vicar of Christ to do my bidding!
Amoris Laetitia: A recipe straight from Hell’s kitchen
Let’s begin with the necessary ingredients:
– A sin whose object is grave matter
– A sin committed with full knowledge
– A sin committed with deliberate consent
Combine these three simple ingredients, and voila! Mortal sin; the wages of which is eternal death.
But what, one may ask, is grave matter?
The Council of Trent provides a partial list; among which are fornication and adultery. (cf Session V, Chapter XV)
In his 1984 Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenetentia, John Paul II, while referencing the Council of Trent, rightly described grave matter and mortal sin as follows:
“Acts which, per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object. These acts, if carried out with sufficient awareness and freedom, are always gravely sinful.” (RP 17)
For Satan’s purposes, grave matter – in particular, fornication and adultery – is the easy part. The temptation is ubiquitous and the allure is so great that it is often embraced.
Our Lady at Fatima acknowledged as much, telling Blessed Jacinta, “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
The greater challenge for Satan was creating a recipe that makes certain that the other two ingredients are truly present in the mix. To this end, Amoris Laetitia is at pains to ensure that ignorance does not spoil the final product.
As such, it encourages “reflection, accompaniment, and discernment” – not as means of reconciling the sinner with Christ, but in order that the sinner might be made fully aware of his sin; i.e., attain full knowledge and deliberate consent:
“A sincere reflection can strengthen trust in the mercy of God which is not denied anyone. What we are speaking of is a process of accompaniment and discernment which guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God.” (AL 300)
At this, things are beginning to take shape!
And yet, Satan knows that there’s a risk that once the sinner comes face-to-face with his sin before God, shame, remorse and contrition might seep in allowing actual grace to then penetrate the soul; even perhaps leading to a firm purpose of amendment.
Let’s nip that idea in the bud, he decides:
“Perhaps out of a certain scrupulosity, concealed beneath a zeal for fidelity to the truth, some priests demand of penitents a purpose of amendment so lacking in nuance that it causes mercy to be obscured by the pursuit of a supposedly pure justice.” (cf AL, footnote 364)
Not bad, Satan thinks…
And yet he knows that nothing will better serve to avert the risk of reconciliation than convincing the sinner that God Himself wills otherwise, and so his recipe also provides:
“What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.” (ibid.)
At this, the sinner, aware of his situation before God, is tempted to imagine that the consequences of his particular sin need not actually apply to himself, and thanks to his fallen nature, chances are great that he will embrace the idea with gusto.
After all, he’ll tell himself, the recipe comes from the pope! It plainly says that “the mercy of God is not denied anyone.” If only I follow along, it says that my “trust” in Him will be “strengthened.” Surely, that is what God wants!
Satan, however, is playing hardball. Willing to leave nothing to chance, his recipe adds:
“Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.” (AL 303)
Yes! the sinner exclaims. Persisting as I am, aware of my sin – this is what I honestly believe that God himself is asking. The pope himself has confirmed it!
For all intents and purposes, at this the recipe is complete – mortal sin has been well and properly made; now, all that remains is to set the timer for the arrival of physical death and the soul will belong to Satan.
Just for good measure, however, the Master Deceiver doesn’t stop here.
Always thinking ahead, his recipe also contains instructions that are designed to convince the sinner that the poison he just concocted doesn’t really exist:
“It is can no longer simply be said that all those [who knowingly persist in adultery and fornication] are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” (AL 301)
How delicious! Satan exclaims as he admires his handiwork. Surely this recipe will pay dividends for generations to come…
At least for as long as those fools imagine that it was dispensed by the Vicar of Christ.