The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
- Book 2: God the Creator
- Section 2: The Divine Work of Creation
- Chapter 3: Revelation Concerning the Angels or Christian Angelology
- Existence, Origin and Number of the Angels
- Existence and Origin of the Angels
- In the beginning of time God created spiritual essences (angels) out of
nothing. (De fide.)
- Holy Writ, even in its oldest books, affirms the existence of the angels who
glorify God, and as His messengers and servants, transmit His commands to mankind.
- “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea,
and all things that are in them" Ex. 20:11:
"For in Him (= Christ) were all things created in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations or principalities, or powers.”
- Tradition affirming the existence of the angels is unanimous from the very
beginning. The early Christian apologists, in refuting the reproach of atheism, also mention
the existence of the angels.
- Natural reason cannot prove the existence of the angels, since their
creation is a free deed of God. From the known sequence of stages of the perfections of
the creatures, however, the existence of purely spiritual created essences can, with a
high degree of probability, be inferred.
- Number of the angels
- The number of the angels is, according to Holy Writ, very great. The Scriptures
speak of myriads of thousands and thousands, and of legions of angels.
- The various biblical names indicate a gradation and order among the angels.
Since the time of Pseudo-Dionysius, nine Choirs or Orders of angels are named of which each
three form a hierarchy. In accordance with Holy Scripture these are called: Seraphim, Cherubim,
Thrones, Principalities, Powers, Strengths, Highnesses, Archangels, Angels.
- The division of the angel-world into nine Orders and the illumination of the
lower Orders through the Higher Orders—a teaching which stems from neo-Platonism—is not a truth
of Faith, but a free theological opinion.
- The Nature of the Angels
- Immateriality of the angel nature
- The nature of the angels is spiritual. (De fide.)
- As distinct from human nature, which is composed of spirit and body, the nature
of the angels is purely spiritual, that is, free of all materiality.
- Natural immortality of the angels
- The angels are by nature immortal. (Sent. communis.)
- The natural immortality of the angels flows from the pure spirituality of their
- “Neither can they (the resurrected) die any more for they are equal to the
angels.” Luke 20:36:
- The blessedness of the good angels, and the rejection of the bad angels is,
according to the testimony of the Revelation, of eternal duration.
- “I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father,
who is in heaven.” Mt. 18:10:
- “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for
the devil and his angels.”
- Understanding, will and power of the angels
- As spiritual essences, the angels possess understanding and free will. The
intellect and will of the angels is, on account of the pure spirituality of their nature, more
perfect than those of men, but on account of the finiteness of their nature, infinitely more
imperfect than the Knowledge and Will of God.
- The angels do not know the secrets of God (1 Cor. 2:11), do not possess a
knowledge of the heart (3 Kings 8:39) and have no certain foreknowledge of the free actions
of the future.
- As the angels in their nature are superior to all other creatures, they also
possess a higher perfection of power than other creatures. According to 2 Peter 2:11, the
angels are superior in strength and power to men. However, the angels do not possess the
power of creation and the power of working miracles in the strict sense. These powers belong
to God alone.
- The Supernatural Exaltation and Probation of the Angels
- Elevation to the state of grace.
- God set a supernatural final end for the angels, the immediate vision of
God, and endowed them with sanctifying grace in order that they might achieve this end.
- Pope Pius V. rejected the teaching of Baius that not grace but eternal bliss is
the reward to the good angels for their naturally good works. Jesus in the warning against
scandal assures: “Their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father, who is in
heaven” (Mt. 18:10). Cf. Tob. 12:19. However, the indispensable precondition for the achievement
of the immediate vision of God is the possession of sanctifying grace.
- The Fathers attest the elevation of the angels to the state of grace.
St. Augustine teaches that all angels without exception were endowed with habitual grace, in
order to be good, and were constantly supported by co-operating grace in order to be able to
- “All the angels were created by the Logos and perfected by the Holy Ghost
through sanctification; corresponding to their dignity and to their order of rank they became
participators in the illumination and the grace” (De fide orth. II 3).