A rational creature (that is, a creature with intellect and will) can sin. If it be unable to sin, this is a gift of grace, not a condition of nature. While angels were yet unbeatified they could sin. And some of them did sin.
The sinning angels (or demons) are guilty of all sins in so far as they lead man to commit every kind of sin. But in the bad angels themselves there could be no tendency to fleshly sins, but only to such sins as can be committed by a purely spiritual being, and these sins are two only: pride and envy.
Lucifer who latter was confused with his follower Satan, leader of the fallen angels, wished to be as God. This prideful desire was not a wish to be equal to God, for Satan knew by his natural knowledge that equality of creature with creator is utterly impossible. Besides, no creature actually desires to destroy itself, even to become something greater.
On this point man sometimes deceives himself by a trick of imagination; he imagines himself to be another and greater being, and yet it is himself that is somehow this other being. But an angel has no sense-faculty of imagination to abuse in this fashion.
The angelic intellect, with its clear knowledge, makes such self-deception impossible. Lucifer knew that to be equal with God, he would have to be God, and he knew perfectly that this could not be. What he wanted was to be as God; he wished to be like God in a way not suited to his nature, such as to create things by his own power, or to achieve final beatitude without God’s help, or to have command over others in a way proper to God alone.
Every nature, that is every essence as operating, tends to some good. An intellectual nature tends to good in general, good under its common aspects, good as such. The fallen angels therefore are not naturally evil.
The devil did not sin in the very instant of his creation. When a perfect cause makes a nature, the first operation of that nature must be in line with the perfection of its cause. Hence the devil was not created in wickedness. He, like all the angels, was created in the state of sanctifying grace.
But the devil, with his companions, sinned immediately after creation. He rejected the grace in which he was created, and which he was meant to use, as the good angels used it, to merit beatitude. If, however, the angels were not created in grace (as some hold) but had grace available as soon as they were created, then it may be that some interval occurred between the creation and the sin of Lucifer and his companions.
Lucifer, chief of the sinning angels, was probably the highest of all the angels. But there are some who think that Lucifer was highest only among the rebel angels.
The sin of the highest angel was a bad example which attracted the other rebel angels, and, to this extent, was the cause of their sin.
The faithful angels are a greater multitude than the fallen angels. For sin is contrary to the natural order. Now, what is opposed to the natural order occurs less frequently, or in fewer instances, than what accords with the natural order.
State of the Fallen Angels
The fallen angels did not lose their natural knowledge by their sin; nor did they lose their angelic intellect.
The fallen angels are obstinate in evil, unrepentant, inflexibly determined in their sin. This follows from their nature as pure spirits, for the choice of a pure spirit is necessarily final and unchanging.
Yet we must say that there is sorrow in the fallen angels, though not the sorrow of repentance. They have sorrow in the affliction of knowing that they cannot attain beatitude; that there are curbs upon their wicked will; that men, despite their efforts, may get to heaven.
The fallen angels are engaged in battling against man’s salvation and in torturing lost souls in hell. The fallen angels that beset man on earth, carry with them their own dark and punishing atmosphere, and wherever they are they endure the pains of hell.
Orders Among the Fallen Angels
The angels that rebelled and became demons did not lose their nature or their connatural gifts. They cast away, by their sin, the grace in which they were created. They did not cast away the beatific vision, for they never had it.
Now, if we think of angelic orders as orders of angels in glory, then, of course, there are no orders of bad angels. But if we consider angelic orders as order of angelic nature simply, there are orders among the demons.
Certainly, there is a precedence among bad angels; there is a subjection of some to others. Demons of superior nature do not enlighten inferior demons; enlightenment here could only mean the manifestation of truth with reference to God, and the fallen angels have perversely and permanently turned away from God.
But demons can speak to one another, that is, they can make known their thoughts to one another, for this ability belongs to the angelic nature which the demons retain.
The nearer creatures are to God the greater is their rule over other creatures. Therefore, the good angels rule and control the demons.
Assaults of Bad Angels on Man
To tempt means one of two things:
(a) to make a test or trial; thus “God tempted Abraham” (Gen. 22:1);
(b) to invite, incite, or allure someone to sin. It is in the second sense of the word that the fallen angels tempt human beings.
God permits this assault of the demons upon men, and turns it into a human opportunity and benefit; God gives to men all requisite aid to repulse the assaults of demons, and to advance in grace and merit by resisting temptation.
To the devil (who is the fallen Lucifer, now Satan) belong exclusively the plan and campaign of the demons’ assaults upon mankind.
In one way the devil is the cause of every human sin; he tempted Adam and thus contributed to the fall which renders men prone to sin. But, in a strict sense, diabolical influence does not enter into every sin of man. Some sins come of the weakness of human nature and from inordinateness of appetites which the sinner freely allows to prevail.
Angels cannot perform miracles; therefore demons cannot. But demons can do astonishing things, and can occasion real havoc.
When the assault of demons is repulsed, the devil is not rendered incapable of further attack. But it seems that he cannot return immediately to the assault, but only after the lapse of a definite time. God’s mercy as well as the shrewdness of the tempter, seems to promise so much.