Throughout his life, Fulton Sheen was renowned as a theologian and philosopher, but was most iconic for being a rarity in the realm of Catholic preaching. As a host on nighttime radio and television programs, “the golden-voiced Fulton J. Sheen, U.S. Catholicism’s famed proselytizer,” had weekly audiences of up to 30 million.
One of his most celebrated sermons, The Devil, comes from his only family retreat ever recorded on video. Given in the mid1970s, he speaks to a live audience of all ages and analyzes the devil, the diabolic, and anything satanic from multiple perspectives.
Using the story of the Exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac in the Synoptic Gospels along with advice from Dr. Rollo May, a psychologist of his time, Sheen identifies three characteristics of the diabolic: nudity, violence, and division.
“The essence of the satanic or the diabolic is the hatred of the Cross of Christ. What is the satanic from the Biblical point of view? It is the contempt of the Cross of Christ. It is anti-Cross. The demonic very simply is the anti-Cross. The anti-disciplined life. The anti-Christ. That’s the satanic.”
Sheen uses the example from Matthew 16, where Christ calls Peter Satan when He predicts His Passion.
“Why did Our Lord call him Satan? Why was Peter satanic? The satanic is the contempt of the Cross, mortification and self-denial and therefore of Christ Himself. Notice how much we’ve given up — mortification, self-denial, discipline in schools. The decline of the spirit of discipline is a hatred of the Cross.”
Watch Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s full sermon on The Devil and the Diabolical below: