Category Archives: Theodicy

Invitations to demonic possession

“”Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.” -1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.” -St Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.” -Pope Francis, Halloween 2014

How Do People Become Possessed by Demons?

Exorcists are in general agreement as to how a person becomes possessed by demons. As one exorcist says, “The darkness is there, waiting to receive an invitation.

Exorcists identify three categories of activities and experiences that open a person to demonic possession. We can think of these categories as doors for demonic attacks: they invite demons in, but they do not always result in possession. In fact, as we shall see, full-fledged demonic possession may be extremely rare—depending upon whose opinion we accept.

The first category is referred to as patterns of sin. This does not mean simply being a sinner, since all of us are sinners. Rather, this refers to people who have a habit of serious sin that they like, are attached to, and have no desire or intention of stopping. There is a conscious decision to give one’s self over to the sin. Demons can see this as an invitation to their activity.

The second category of influences that invite demons into one’s life is the occult. Occult practices include Satanism, the use of tarot cards and the Ouija board, and consulting psychics and mediums. This also includes necromancy, the attempt to consult with spirits of the dead for the sake of learning hidden knowledge or future events.

Being a victim of trauma or abuse is a third category of experience that can open the door to demonic possession. The trauma may be witnessing a murder, suicide, or horrific accident; the abuse may be sexual, physical, or psychological.

One exorcist explains that those who go through these experiences can end up living in the dark emotions of anger, rage, resentment, and revenge. He stressed the importance of such victims getting the psychological and spiritual help that they need, in order to have some degree of healing. If they do not, those emotions can weaken their relationship with God, and simultaneously be an opening to a relationship with evil spirits.”

-from the rite of excorcism

Psalm 53

God, by Your name save me,
and by Your might defend my cause.
God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.

For haughty men have risen up against me,
and fierce men seek my life;
they set not God before their eyes.
See, God is my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.

Turn back the evil upon my foes;
in your faithfulness destroy them.
Freely will I offer You sacrifice;
I will praise Your name, Lord, for its goodness,

Because from all distress you have rescued me,
and my eyes look down upon my enemies.

======

Save your servant.
Who trusts in you, my God.

Let him/her find in You, Lord, a fortified tower.
In the face of the enemy.

Let the enemy have no power over him/her.
And the son of iniquity be powerless to harm him/her.

Lord, send him/her aid from your holy place.
And watch over him/her from Sion.

Lord, heed my prayer.
And let my cry be heard by You…

…I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by the coming of our Lord for judgment, that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure. I command you, moreover, to obey me to the letter, I who am a minister of God despite my unworthiness; nor shall you be emboldened to harm in any way this creature of God, or the bystanders, or any of their possessions…

…I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every Satanic power of the enemy, every spectre from hell, and all your fell companions; in the name of our Lord Jesus +Christ. Begone and stay far from this creature of God.+ For it is He Who commands you, He Who flung you headlong from the heights of heaven into the depths of hell. It is He Who commands you, He Who once stilled the sea and the wind and the storm. Hearken, therefore, and tremble in fear, Satan, you enemy of the faith, you foe of the human race, you begetter of death, you robber of life, you corrupter of justice, you root of all evil and vice; seducer of men, betrayer of the nations, instigator of envy, font of avarice, fomentor of discord, author of pain and sorrow. Why, then, do you stand and resist, knowing as you must that Christ the Lord brings your plans to nothing? Fear Him, who in Isaac was offered in sacrifice, in Joseph sold into bondage, slain as the paschal lamb, crucified as man, yet triumphed over the powers of hell. (The three signs of the cross which follow are traced on the brow of the possessed person). Begone, then, in the name of the Father, + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit. Give place to the Holy Spirit by this sign of the holy + cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever…

…I adjure you, ancient serpent, by the judge of the living and the dead, by your Creator, by the Creator of the whole universe, by Him Who has the power to consign you to hell, to depart forthwith in fear, along with your savage minions, from this servant of God, N., who seeks refuge in the fold of the Church. I adjure you again, + (on the brow) not by my weakness but by the might of the Holy Spirit, to depart from this servant of God, N. , whom almighty God has made in His image. Yield, therefore, yield not to my own person but to the minister of Christ. For it is the power of Christ that compels you, Who brought you low by His cross. Tremble before that mighty arm that broke asunder the dark prison walls and led souls forth to light. May the trembling that afflicts this human frame, + (on the breast) the fear that afflicts this image + (on the brow) of God, descend on you. Make no resistance nor delay in departing from this man, for it has pleased Christ to dwell in man. Do not think of despising my command because you know me to be a great sinner. It is God + Himself who commands you; the majestic Christ + Who commands you. God the Father + commands you; God the Son + commands you; God the Holy + Spirit commands you. The mystery of the cross commands +you. The faith of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of all the saints commands + you. The blood of the martyrs commands + you. The continence of the confessors commands + you. The devout prayers of all holy men and women command + you. The saving mysteries of our Christian faith command + you.

Depart, then, transgressor. Depart, seducer, full of lies and cunning, foe of virtue, persecutor of the innocent. Give place, abominable creature, give way, you monster, give way to Christ, in Whom you found none of your works. For He has already stripped you of your powers and laid waste your kingdom, bound you prisoner and plundered your weapons. He has cast you forth into the outer darkness, where everlasting ruin awaits you and your abettors. To what purpose do you insolently resist? To what purpose do you brazenly refuse? For you are guilty before almighty God, whose laws you have transgressed. You are guilty before His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom you presumed to tempt, Whom you dared to nail to the cross. You are guilty before the whole human race, to whom you proferred by your enticements the poisoned cup of death.

Therefore, I adjure you, profligate dragon, in the name of the spotless + Lamb, who has trodden down the asp and the basilisk, and overcome the lion and the dragon, to depart from this man (woman) + (on the brow), to depart from the Church of God + (signing the bystanders). Tremble and flee, as we call on the name of the Lord, before whom the denizens of hell cower, to Whom the heavenly Virtues and Powers and Dominations are subject, Whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unending cries as they sing: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. The Word made flesh + commands you; the Virgin’s Son + commands you; Jesus + of Nazareth commands you, Who once, when you despised His disciples, forced you to flee in shameful defeat from a man; and when He had cast you out you did not even dare, except by His leave, to enter into a herd of swine. And now as I adjure you in His + name, begone from this man (woman) who is His creature. It is futile to resist His + will. It is hard for you to kick against the + goad. The longer you delay, the heavier your punishment shall be; for it is not men you are condemning, but rather Him Who rules the living and the dead, Who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire…

…Therefore, I adjure you every unclean spirit, every spectre from hell, every satanic power, in the name of Jesus + Christ of Nazareth, Who was led into the desert after His baptism by John to vanquish you in your citadel, to cease your assaults against the creature whom He has formed from the slime of the earth for His own honor and glory; to quail before wretched man, seeing in him the image of almighty God, rather than his state of human frailty. Yield then to God, + Who by His servant, Moses, cast you and your malice, in the person of Pharaoh and his army, into the depths of the sea. Yield to God, + Who, by the singing of holy canticles on the part of David, His faithful servant, banished you from the heart of King Saul. Yield to God, + Who condemned you in the person of Judas Iscariot, the traitor. For He now flails you with His divine scourges, + He in whose sight you and your legions once cried out: “What have we to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come to torture us before the time?” Now He is driving you back into the everlasting fire, He who at the end of time will say to the wicked: “Depart from me, you accursed, into the everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” For you, 0 evil one, and for your followers there will be worms that never die. An unquenchable fire stands ready for you and for your minions, you prince of accursed murderers, father of lechery, instigator of sacrileges, model of vileness, promoter of heresies, inventor of every obscenity.

Depart, then, + impious one, depart, + accursed one, depart with all your deceits, for God has willed that man should be His temple. Why do you still linger here? Give honor to God the Father + almighty, before Whom every knee must bow. Give place to the Lord Jesus + Christ, Who shed His most precious blood for man. Give place to the Holy + Spirit, Who by His blessed apostle Peter openly struck you down in the person of Simon Magus; Who cursed your lies in Annas and Saphira; Who smote you in King Herod because he had not given honor to God; Who by His apostle Paul afflicted you with the night of blindness in the magician Elyma, and by the mouth of the same apostle bade you to go out of Pythonissa, the soothsayer. Begone, + now! Begone, + seducer! Your place is in solitude; your abode is in the nest of serpents; get down and crawl with them. This matter brooks no delay; for see, the Lord, the ruler comes quickly, kindling fire before Him, and it will run on ahead of Him and encompass His enemies in flames. You might delude man, but God you cannot mock. It is He Who casts you out, from Whose sight nothing is hidden. It is He Who repels you, to Whose might all things are subject. It is He Who expels you, He Who has prepared everlasting hellfire for you and your angels, from Whose mouth shall come a sharp sword, Who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire…

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Love, and Divine protection,
Matthew

Bad spiritual habits

Ideas have consequences. They do. They are NOT harmless. Ask the victims of the Nazis or the Communists. Be careful what you wish for? Be careful what you think! Bad thinking leads directly to bad habits which lead to bad outcomes.

“Habits—repeated practices—that make us focus on ourselves rather than God, or stoke undue curiosity about the occult, leave us more susceptible to temptation and other demonic attacks.

Emotionalism

Angels and human beings have immortal souls. Two faculties or powers of the immortal soul are reason and free will. Using our reason, we can think about things such as the morality of a proposed action. Using our free will, we can choose whether to do it. Faculties that we share with animals are senses and emotions. Our emotions are more varied and complex than those of animals, though there is no denying that a dog can be happy, sad, or angry.

We can call reason and free will higher faculties; emotions and senses lower faculties. It is a serious mistake, though one that is common in our culture, to allow the lower faculties to govern our actions. This leads us to believe that a proposed action must be good if it is pleasurable to our senses or if it makes us feel happy. I have heard individuals justify immoral acts by saying, “God wants me to be happy.” This is true, but there are acts that will give us momentary pleasure but not long-term happiness. God wants us to live in eternal happiness, and to use reason rather than emotion and sensual pleasure to guide us there.

The same is true of spirituality. It is a serious mistake to think that emotions provoked during a spiritual experience indicate its depth and value. That is why, as we have seen, the Church instructs us that healing services must avoid hysteria, theatricality, and sensationalism. I have been present at such services where, despite this directive, people are encouraged to cry, make incoherent sounds, and even fall to the ground. A better spiritual experience is one that brings a sense of peace and calm, both during and afterward.

Spiritual Pride

The demons were good when God created them, but they fell from grace because of the sin of pride: “You said in your heart . . . ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:13–14). This illustrates the importance of being spiritually humble; we resist demons by avoiding the very vice that brought them down.

Spiritual Sloth

Sloth can refer to laziness in work and other daily obli- gations; spiritual sloth specifically refers to neglect of our obligations to God. Jesus warned us of the dangers of delaying repentance and neglecting to break our patterns of sin (Matt. 5:23–26; Luke 12:42–48). The Bible often refers to this as having a hardened heart (Eph. 4:18). Another way of saying this is: do not wait until tomorrow to make the good moral choices you can make today. Exorcists say that hardening of the heart, or wallowing in habits of sin, can open us to demonic attacks.

In addition to the usual spiritual means of avoiding spiritual sloth, there is a counseling technique that can be helpful in times of temptation. Before committing the sin, we can mentally put ourselves in the future and think about how we will feel about this moment. Will I be glad I acted this way, or will I regret it? What will the consequences be for others? What will the consequences be for me next week, next month, or next year? And what will the effect be on my immortal soul?

For example, if a man who struggles with drunkenness is considering having a drink, he should not dwell on the plea- sure of the drink. Rather, he should mentally put himself in the future and look at what is likely to happen as a result of this one drink. If he can delay the decision to drink—if he can think about the likelihood of getting drunk, the effects on his family and other relationships/obligations, and the damage to his soul—he may be able to excite his emotions in such a way that the drink is not so desirable. These emotions counteract the pleasurable emotions that demons try to provoke in connection with our particular weaknesses. Furthermore, by developing this thought process into a habit, by God’s grace we can break habits of sin that can be a door to demonic influence.

Casual Occult Practices

In artwork, the devil is often portrayed as a red creature with hooves, a pointed tail, bat wings, and a cruel smirk on his face. It would be beneficial if he actually appeared that way; it would be much easier to identify him and resist his temptations! Unfortunately, his operations are more insidious. This is also true of the occult practices that have become common in our culture. There are Catholics who would never consciously set out to worship false gods, but are lured by seemingly harmless spiritual gurus and practices that contradict the Faith. These are subtle means by which the demons try to gain a foothold and lead people away from God.

Playing with a Ouija board violates the first commandment, since it is an attempt to communicate with spirits in a way that excludes God. We can talk to angels, saints, and the souls in purgatory through their union with God, not through a board game. The only spirits that might respond to a Ouija board are demons and (possibly) human souls in hell, with neither of whom we should communicate.

Having said that, certainly many people have played with a Ouija board as children (I confess I am one of them). Many people my age have told me they did the same, and all have said they are not aware of any spiritual problems as a result. Does this mean that no harm comes from playing with a Ouija board? Definitely not, for two reasons. First, more than half of those in my generation who grew up Catholic are no longer practicing the faith. I am not blaming the Ouija board for that, but neither can we rule out the possibility that it had a negative spiritual influence on some people. Second is a comparison: when I was growing up most people were not wearing seat belts, and I didn’t personally know anyone who was seriously injured or killed as a result of this neglect. Nevertheless, that does not mean it was a good idea or a safe practice.

As with the Ouija board, people who have consulted palm readers, psychics, tarot cards, and horoscopes tell me it was just for fun, and deny suffering ill effects. Certainly they did not become possessed by the devil. But these activities, too, violate the first commandment, and they have the potential of opening doors to the demonic.

As we have seen, although psychics and palm readers have no inherent ability to see the future or other hidden events, demons may use these individuals and fool their customers. Demons can put ideas in their heads, such as information about peoples’ personal lives. When they report this informa- tion, they and their customers wrongly believe the knowledge came from psychic ability, palm reading or other activity. The devil would often prefer to hide his presence, and let us sin through pride (claiming extraordinary powers) and invoking false gods (such as tarot cards or the stars and planets).

Demons can also use people’s grief over dead loved ones to influence them, falsely leading them to believe—through objects being moved, or lights turning off and on—that a medium has made them present in the room. But souls do not return from the dead to leave such vague and mundane signs. And demons can use such false episodes to shake people’s faith in God’s saving power.”

Praying for safety & protection of all,
Matthew

Theodicy: the problem of evil

theodicy_celtic

BrAmbroseArralde-160x160
-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

“How could a good God permit evil?” This question has plagued the faithful and armed the faithless for as long as there have been sufferings to endure. The topic is vast, but for the purpose of this post, the following from St. Augustine will suffice: “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil” (Enchiridion 9). As Christians, we suffer in the sure hope that “in everything God works for good with those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). We can look to the example of faithful Job, who, after losing everything and enduring great sufferings, received from the Lord twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10). But not all sufferings are the same, and some are more easily borne than others.

The idea of benefiting from the endurance of evils is not, however, unique to Judaism and Christianity. Odysseus, the quintessential suffering hero of Greek mythology, after twenty years of longing for his native land, returned at last with “stores of bronze and gold and woven clothing, more than Odysseus would ever have won for himself from Troy, if he had returned unscathed with his due share of the spoil” (The Odyssey 5.38-40). Still, there is something very different about Job and Odysseus. While Job suffered because he was righteous, in order that his righteousness might be tested and proved true, Odysseus, on the other hand, suffered because he was proud. Flushed with success after his triumph over the cyclops, Odysseus taunted the cyclops as well and made his identity known, despite the insistent pleas of his comrades to hold his tongue. This moment of indiscretion earned for Odysseus the hatred of Poseidon, who ensured that Odysseus would “come home late, a broken man, all shipmates lost, alone in a stranger’s ship,” only to find “a world of pain at home” (The Odyssey 9.532-35).

It is often easier for us to accept sufferings like those of Job, since it is beyond our power to prevent them. This recognition in turn makes it easier for us to offer them up to God. But more often than not, the struggles in our lives are more like those of Odysseus, the result of our own mistakes, in spite of or even as a result of the blessings we otherwise enjoy. It was in times of peace that Israel turned to idols, and their idolatry led in turn to their chastisement. Even when we abound in good works, we are in danger of falling through pride, as St. Augustine says: “every other kind of sin has to do with the commission of evil deeds, whereas pride lurks even in good works in order to destroy them” (Rule of St. Augustine 1.7). Because we have no one to blame but ourselves for these sufferings, we all too often brood and beat ourselves up over them instead of accepting them: “How can I offer God my sufferings when I caused them by actions that offend him? How could any good come out of what I have done contrary to my own good?”

Despite the immediate differences we perceive between hardships for which we are responsible and those that are unavoidable, they are not altogether dissimilar. Even though we are responsible for the mistakes we make, it is not within our power to be perfect, as much as we would like to think otherwise. We cannot overcome our weakness and finitude by our own efforts, and so it is only right for us to accept these too and offer them to God. In fact, this is a far greater form of abandonment to Divine providence, in that it encapsulates our whole life and not just the circumstances that surround it. Our faults and failures, when looked at in this light, become opportunities to humble ourselves before the Almighty and to ask for his mercy and assistance. Even when we act contrary to our own good, these acts can be to our advantage, as long as they cause us to trust more in God and rely less on ourselves. As we learn from the Easter Exultet, we can even call the sin of Adam and Eve “a happy fault,” since it “earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” Whatever our tragic flaw may be, however great the downfall to which it leads, God’s omnipotence and goodness are such that he can bring good even out of these evils.”

Love, trusting ALWAYS, and ALL WAYS, in His Most Merciful Divine Providence. Lord, increase my faith!!! He HAS been so good to me!!! Praise Him, Church. Praise Him!!
Matthew

Theodicy – The Problem of Evil

theodicy
-by Scipione Tadolini, “St Michael the Archangel”, 1865, Marble sculpture, Rotunda, Gasson Hall, Boston College.

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.  To Him be dominion forever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:8-11

The last thing the Enemy wishes is our despair.

Satan’s Tools

There is a story about Satan selling some of his tools at a garage sale he was giving. There on tables grouped by importance were his bright, shiny but deadly trinkets.

One could find tools that made it easy to tear others down.  And for those who had big egos, there were lenses for magnifying one’s own importance, but if you looked through them the other way, you could also use the lens to belittle others.

An unusual assortment of gardening implements stood together with a guarantee to help your pride grow by leaps and bounds.  Also in prominence was the rake of scorn, the shovel of jealousy for digging a pit for your neighbor, tools of gossip and backbiting, of selfishness and apathy.

All of these were pleasing to the eye and came complete with great promises and guarantees of prosperity.  The prices, of course, were steep but a sign declared “Free Credit Extended” to all.  “Take at least one home, use it.  You don’t have to pay until later!” old Satan cried rubbing his hands in glee.

One prospective buyer was looking at all the things offered when he noticed two well-worn, non-descript tools standing in one corner.    Not being nearly as tempting as the other items, he found it curious that these two tools had price tags higher than any other.

When he asked why, Satan just laughed and said, “Well, that’s because these two are more useful to me than the others.  I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with these when I cannot get near them with my other tools. Once I get inside, I can make people do what I choose. They are badly worn because I use them on almost everyone, since very few people know that they belong to me.”

Satan pointed to the two tools, saying, “You see, I call that one Doubt and the other Discouragement. Those will work when nothing else will.”

Resist him, solid in your faith.  We used to call this Spiritual Warfare.  The Lord’s love is infinitely stronger than any evil.  He is God.  He cannot be defeated.  The Prince of Lies wishes us to believe he can defeat Him.  It is a lie.  Do not listen to him.  With the power of prayer and trust in the Lord, banish the Liar to the void of suffering from whence he came for his rebellion against God, to which he wishes to drag us all.  Resist him, solid in your faith.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim, may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim, may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones, may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominions, may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers, may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues, may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities, may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels, may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels, may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven. Amen.

O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, thou who dost shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to thee with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of Thy Church, make us worthy, we beseech Thee, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into the August Presence of Thy Divine Majesty. This we beg through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy

hofer
-by Rev. Andrew Hofer, OP, teaches at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. This article comes from the September 2011 issue of The Irish Rover, a newspaper produced by students at the University of Notre Dame.

“How do we reconcile God’s omnipresence with the existence and agency of the Devil and with the presence of sin and evil in general?”

A perennial problem in human thinking is the question of good and evil. How can we reconcile the presence of God and the presence of evil forces that we experience in the world? In Christianity, Gottfried Leibniz (d. 1716) was especially famous for framing the question of theodicy, that is, how to justify God when we face the problem of evil.

If God is infinitely good, all-powerful, omnipresent, and all-loving, how could there be evil forces at work in creation? Various approaches are taken to answer this today. One approach is to be silent in the face of the mystery of suffering.

For some of those who articulate an answer, it seems that God has too exalted a job description! They want to lessen God’s descriptions. God isn’t REALLY almighty, they say. He’s working out His salvation, and ours, in a complex cosmos.

An even more serious objection arising from the question of evil is that God simply doesn’t exist. This modern-sounding objection is, in fact, one that St. Thomas Aquinas considers when asking “Does God exist?” in SUMMA THEOLOGIAE Ia, q. 2, a. 3. The objection runs like this. It seems that God does not exist. If one of two contraries is infinite, the other would be totally destroyed. But this word “God” is understood to mean infinite goodness. If therefore God exists, evil couldn’t be found. But evil is found in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

Few people may go through this reasoning in a logical syllogism, but many people wonder along those lines when bad things happen. How could God let my friend suffer and die? Where was God in the September 11 attacks against America ten years ago? Individual painful experiences such as these can drive people to agnosticism or atheism.

For his part, St. Thomas answers the objection from evil concerning God’s existence with a quotation from St. Augustine: “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” St. Thomas continues to say that this is actually a part of God’s infinite goodness: He allows evil—and out of that evil produces good. In other words, God does not directly will evil, and when He declines to prevent it (see Job), He who made creation from nothing has a plan to make something very good out of the disorder of evil.

In responding to the question of evil, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “No quick answer will suffice…. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE ASPECT OF THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE THAT IS NOT IN PART AN ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF EVIL” (309). In the world that we have, with its freedom and the misuse of freedom in sin, there are devils and sinners. God doesn’t obliterate devils after their fall, which was their irrevocable everlasting choice against God’s goodness. God created devils originally as good angels, and their own choice to turn away from Him does not cause God to destroy them. He also doesn’t obliterate us human sinners. Even when God’s own Son became man and was crucified by evil forces, by our sins, God did not obliterate His creation. He showed that the horror imposed upon Jesus could be used for our salvation. In fact, it is by “his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5). When we experience evil personally, when we suffer, it is an invitation to be united with Jesus, “to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col 1:24).

For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have proclaimed to the world that “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” His Resurrection beckons us to live by the Holy Spirit and see how no evil, however horrible it is, can be a match for God’s almighty goodness. It doesn’t make everything easy in this world. But our faith in the Resurrection, where God triumphs over ALL evil forces, sustains us. The mystery of God’s triumph calls us both to silent prayer at the foot of the Cross, and to joyful preaching of the Good News.”

Love,
Matthew