Q: Can the Soul of a Parent in Hell Influence His Living Child Toward Evil?

A reader of my book, Slaying Dragons: What Exorcists See & What We Should Know, asked me a fascinating question about the souls of the damned.  Questions like these often nag at people and the resolution can remove what can often be a burden on the mind and thus on the spiritual life and our confidence in God.

The reader's question was:
"Is it possible that people who are not in heaven and not in purgatory, so people who are so to speak in eternal darkness, influence their children to do bad and wrong behavior, when those children themselves have no faith?" 
The answer to the question is somewhat addressed in the article on the Souls of the Damned which I published back in June:

<<Can Damned Souls Possess People? - More to Consider>>
St. Thomas addresses the issue in the Supplement to the Summa, Question 70, article 3, in his answer to the 8th objection to the Question.  You can read it here [link].   He also addresses this in the preceding question, Question 69, article 3.  You can read that here [link].
St. Thomas says that the souls of the damned are never allowed to leave Hell unless God grants a special permission to do so.  If God does do so, those souls are only permitted to visit the living in order to provide some sort of instruction to us or to test us in some manner. 
So, it would seem that God does not permit the souls of the damned to visit their children in order to influence them away from the Faith. If God did permit them to visit, it would be for a brief and infrequent time and only to instruct (by demonstrating Hell is real) or to test them (some sort of intimidation that would then hopefully drive them back toward God). 
If it seemed that the damned were visiting for any extended or recurrent amount of times, that would likely indicate that it is actually a demon who is pretending to be the parents of the child. Either way, if there were ever suspicion that such visitations were happening, it would be advisable to get a trained priest involved, in order to evaluate and help in any way. 

In Q70, St. Thomas adds that, when they are permitted to leave Hell, they "always see the fire thereof as prepared for their punishment."  As a result, "wherever they are, they suffer from hell-fire."  In Q69, St. Thomas says, "There is, however, this difference between the saints and the damned, that the saints can appear when they will to the living, but not the damned."  Further, he adds that the souls of the damned are not always present where they seem to appear, and their apparition could be a deception of the wicked angels.


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