Deliver us from evil
Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Archbishop Angelo Amato, SDB, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
WLODZIMIERZ REDZIOCH: - What is the definition of evil?
Archbishop ANGELO AMATO, SDB: - We know what evil is as we know what good is. From the phenomenological point of view evil means natural catastrophes (earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tsunami, flood), pathologies of human beings (diseases, disabilities, accidents, death), moral weaknesses (sin, vices, temptations), social disorder (injustice, violence, oppression, wars), damages and mental deviations (ignorance, mistakes).
- Throughout centuries people only knew the evil that surrounded them, the evil they experienced themselves. Today, in the epoch of all present media, we experience the evil of the whole world...
- Today, reading newspapers, listening to the radio, using television or the Internet we participate and watch the perverse 'film' about evil, 'shot' in all ends of the world, having new and new cruel scenarios. The examples are the numerous provocations of the international terrorism.
- That's right. Blind terror sown by kamikaze has become in a way a symbol of evil in our times, but in his book 'Le terrorisme a visage humain' (Terrorism with Human Face) Rev. Prof. Michael Schooyans shows that there is another terrorism in the contemporary world, which is seen as having human face, and therefore, different. What is this all about?
- Apart from the revolting terrorism of kamikaze, which dominates in our daily media reality, there is the so-called terrorism with a human face. It is so common and revolting like the other one, but the media promote it, deceitfully manipulating the traditional vocabulary to hide the tragic reality of facts. For example, abortion is called 'voluntary termination of pregnancy' and not killing innocent human beings; abortion clinic is defined by a positive expression 'centre for reproductive health'; euthanasia is called mildly 'a worthy death'. This is evil that remains almost invisible since it is spread in special places and it presented as progress of mankind. Take for instance abortion clinics, true slaughterhouses of human beings in 'embryonic form'; laboratories that produce Ru 486 pills or contraceptives 'morning after pill', where people manipulate human embryos, as if they were biological materials. And what about the parliaments of the countries, regarded as civilised, that pass bills contrary to human nature, e.g. the same sex relationships as marriage or depenalisation of euthanasia.
- You mentioned modern forms of evil but one can have the impression that today we often hear about the traditional form of evil - the cult of Satan...
- That's right. Satanic sects, characterised by 'sacrilegious' cult of evil, have spread recently. By 'Satanic' we mean soothing that is connected with the cult of Satan, which is seen as independent evil deity or enemy of Christian God. A Satanist is a person who worships devil - the Prince of Darkness and tempter inclining to evil. Satanists want things that good God cannot hear. Their attitude is contrary to Christian principles and commandments. In order to insult Christ Satanist commit sins, which Christ condemned in a special way: desecrating worship and sensual orgy. Satanists call evil what Christians call good and this complete change of perspectives is revealed in taking pleasure in sacrilegious and criminal deeds (Satanists resort to ritual murders of innocent people).
- What are the challenges of evil that surrounds us?
- Evil poses three kinds of challenges. First of all, it is the existential-practical challenge since evil forces us to assume a concrete attitude. This can be passive submissiveness and fatalism, revolt, stoic disregard or trustful resistance aiming at conquering evil or softening its consequences. The second challenge is the theoretical one since evil inclines the mind to reflect its causes. For example, theology tries to understand the fact of the existence of evil with reference to the truth about the existence of Almighty and infinitely good God. Finally, mysterium iniquitatis (mystery of evil) poses the problem of ultimate salvation of man. Religions, especially Christianity, ascribed a special role to it.
- For thousands of years religions have tried to answer the question about the existence of evil. Could you briefly explain how great religions treat this issue, which bothers humanity?
- According to Hinduism evil that we experience - illness, poverty, disaster - is to be the punishment for the evil, which man did in the past (payment for deeds - karman). Leading a virtuous life in accordance with the moral order (dharma) can break the chain of reincarnation (sansara) and lead to liberation - unity with brahman (cosmic self).
Buddhism assumes that human existence is characterised by suffering: birth, illness, old age and death. The reasons for these suffering are human desires. Therefore, Buddhism proposes stopping all desires - sources of suffering - by taking the attitude of indifference. This attitude and complicated ascetic practises make you reach nirvana (state of inexpressible bliss). Islam identifies evil with disobedience of God's will and his law. Muslims must avoid forbidden deeds and obey rules, which God orders or only recommends through the Koran (these are norms concerning the way of eating, hygiene, rituals and strictly 'moral' rules). Judaism regards evil as sin, unfaithfulness to the covenant with God, through deeds and moral or ritual negligence, which are contrary to God's law. For example the Psalms praise harmony between righteous ritual and man's welfare.
- But we have righteous Job who suffers...
- In this case the answer is not some new theory of just satisfaction but confirmation of your trust in God, and finally counting on his will.
- How should we see evil from the Christian perspective?
- From the perspective of Christians who also believed in God's revelation in the Old Testament, evil creates a problem: how to reconcile its existence with the reality of God's goodness and omnipotence. In any case evil depends on man's freedom, on his responsibility and his conscious breaking of God's law. So the first cause of evil is sin. In the first ages of Christianity the Church rejected Manichean doctrine, which claimed that there was an evil deity equal to good God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a synthesis of the Christian concept of evil in three points. First of all it states that God created good and ordered world (cf. Catechism, 229). The Catechism confirms human beings' responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it (307). Finally the Catechism poses fundamental questions concerning the scandal of evil, which contradicts the goodness and omnipotence of God, 'If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil' (309).
- Jesus calls us to pray, 'Deliver us from evil...
- Daily prayer of Christians is a call to merciful God to deliver us from evil and Satan's designs. Like Jesus every Christian is subject to temptation as well as daily attacks and systematic persecutions of the Dragon from the Apocalypse, the beast that came out of the sea, from dark abyss of evil, and has absolute political authority. Christians must pray with all their strength, 'Lord, deliver us from evil!' in order not to be devoured by this greedy and evil moloch.