18 January, 2010

The devil is real... and he is us.

The Haitian earthquake has brought to the floor a discussion about the role of evil in the world. The musings of Pat Robertson claiming that the death and destruction of that impoverished nation come from a "pact with the devil" should and has been opposed. (Click here to read Rex Murphy's contribution or click here to read what is most likely the best response to date)

There is however one small grain of truth in his malicious claim: evil (sin) is indeed responsible for death and destruction, but this evil was wrought by human hands.

Consider if you will this column from David Brooks (NY Times) in which he points out that when an earthquake of the same magnitude struck San Francisco (1989) it resulted in the death of just over 60 people. Yet the same strength event resulted in over 50,000 deaths in Haiti. What was the cause of this horrific difference? Poverty, unenforced building codes, and lack of civil services. Each of these causes can clearly be laid upon human shoulders.

To find the real root of this tragedy, one needs to look for the "devil in the details". It is from the sinful roots of the human heart that kept Haiti in such extreme poverty, both within the Haitian people and from the lack of justice that this nation experienced at the hands of richer nations. Greed, prejudice and the lust for power were the determinative factors in the thousands of deaths in the most recent earthquake.

The true question for us to explore when we plumb the depths of darkness in the human heart is how these evil impulses are spawned. This is where we will find the fingerprints of the devil.

Sin exists in this world only because we permit it to. Christ has been victorious in his battle with evil; we need only accept his teachings to share in his victory. The devil has reign in this world only to the degree that we cooperate with his seductive initiatives. His ability to manipulate the human heart and mind must be countered with actions of faith, love and charity if we truly want to bring about a better world for all.

It was the shifting of tectonic plates that caused the earthquake. It was from our cooperation with evil that makes us the agents of death and despair as has been made manifest in Haiti. Our generosity in responding to this tragedy is only the first step in dealing with the devil's handiwork. Choosing to follow the path offered to us by a loving God and forgoing our selfish participation with the devil is the only way that we can authentically deal with the existence of evil in the world.

12 comments:

  1. Tim,

    Are you saying that the individual sins of humans cumulatively create an entity called satan?

    OR

    Are you saying that satan is simply a metaphor that represents all that is sinful in our human natures?

    Your post is unclear to me.

    Cheers...Martin

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  2. I am saying that Satan is as real a person as are any spiritual beings. If I posit that a such a being as God exists to which I attribute existence for myself, is it such a stretch to believe as well that a spiritual being that opposes life and God can be just as real.

    Just as the Kingdom of God is more fully realized in its proto-form on earth by our cooperation with grace, so too can we deform its existence by sin a.k.a., cooperation with the forces of evil.

    Seems simple to me as a theist, Christian and Catholic.

    Tim

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  3. Of course overpopulation has nothing to do with the poverty, ignorance, corruption and culture of violence that make this disaster so horrific in Haiti because as we all know, there is no such thing as overpopulation.

    There is a lot of stuff that doesn't exist, according to the Church. That's why most people have moved on, to a World where it those things do exist and maybe we can do something about them other than wring our hands, pray and deny we're part of the problem.

    The Catholic Church is not part of any problems anywhere. Benedict, along with his faithful brothers Burke and Law in Rome, are a benevolent force for good in the World. The living descendants of Peter himself. Of Jesus and the glory of God. Unless you get too close and smell the corruption of the flesh and the sulfuric fumes of Hellfire.

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  4. Reddog: I think that you would be taken more seriously if you refrained from the anti-catholic bigotry. It has been the consistent teaching of the Catholic church that the church is a manifestation of earthly mission of Christ, made so by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and grounded in the truth of Christ's promise in scripture to be with the church until the end of time.

    The "staff" of the church is far less perfect, pure or wise; at best, a soiled and flawed image of the Good Shepherd.

    Thus my friend, your insulting my belief in the promise of Christ that we could not so perfectly screw-up as to thwart His plan. His fidelity to the promise of Peter, (and the successors of the Petrine Office) is far greater than our ability to extinguish His covenant. Martin Luther himself preached that where sin abides, grace abides the stronger. Why are Catholic some how excluded from His promise? Can any other humanly staffed organization of any place or time claim to have done better in their Christian witness? I believe, not.

    We Catholic clergy of every rank acknowledge our unworthiness as witnesses to the mission of Jesus Christ, but his grace can work even through 'flawed pottery' like us.

    Thus my friend, what you are insulting is my very belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, the truthfulness of scripture and my belief in the Great Commission to bring the Good News to the world. Grant us that we may not always do this perfectly or perhaps even properly; but that we do it faithfully. It is not appreciated on this blog to cast such malice.

    You make an excellent argument when you stick to the issues. The question of the relationship between overpopulation and poverty must be explored, debated and hopefully clarified (if not always ending in agreement.

    To put it as it was taught to me by mother, and by my Church: "it's fine to disagree; it is never right to be disagreeable". I've recently come to appreciate that this is not always easy to maintain, but I hold myself to the same standard, even when I fail.

    You're welcome here, and your contributions to the discussions is appreciated. I simply ask you be polite.

    Fr. Tim

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  5. The Devil Sues Pat Robertson for Breach of Contract

    http://wp.me/pIP1s-2v

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  6. You don't have an email link, so I'll address you here. You've set up moderation, so after you read this, just toss it out. If you insist on posting it, it's up to you, I don't care.

    When I was in the seventh grade my best friend's mother died. She had always taken him to the Unitarian Church with her. His father was a Catholic and decided after her death that the boy should be sent to the Catholics. He loathed going there. He cried and begged and eventually came to blows with his father over the Church. The visible evidence of the beatings he took proved to me how strongly his resistance to being Catholicized was.

    I remember one time, a doughfaced Paddy priest, obviously half drunk, red faced, with the viens on his nose throbbing obscenely, came and roughly drug him kicking and screaming piteously off the ball field after school, tossed him in the back of his car and took him off to the Church for catechism. The Church designated "good" Catholic families that he had to spend time with, often overnight. I don't know what was done to him. I don't need to know. I never asked. If he had wanted to tell me, he would have. He was never the same after that. He's damaged to this day. In his mind, in his emotions and in his sexuality. Maybe he wasn't the stoutest little boy in the World. I don't think that's the point.

    He wrote long letters to his maternal grandmother, culminating in several long phone calls, while his father was away at work. Within months after his mother's death, the grandmother and her husband pulled up stakes on the East Coast and moved into our neighborhood. My friend never had to go into a Catholic Church again and never has. The grandmother was a wonderful woman, gentle and kind but fierce as a lion when confronting my friend's father and the priests but her intervention came too late to help him. The damage was done.

    I was a dweeb in high school and never dated or even talked much to girls. When I went away to college, I considered it a new start and worked at being more social. I became active in the dormitory students association and attended social events. I tried to get to know as many people as possible, especially girls. I didn't really have a girlfriend my freshman year but there were several girls I went places and did things with. I learned the social graces. I learned to neck. It was pretty innocent when you consider it was a big state school in SoCal in the late Sixties.

    One of the girls I knew well was a very sweet, shy Catholic girl. She always made it clear that no relationship with her would ever lead to sex. That was OK with me. To tell you the truth, I was in no way ready for that myself. It took a lot of pressure off the situation. It made me like her all the more. Somehow, toward the end of the first semester, she got involved in a sexual relationship with a priest at the Newman Center. Handsome devil, thin, aquiline features, expensively tailored clothes. I had no idea at the time. One of her friends told me later. She never finished out the year. She was gone from school and I never saw or heard from or of her again.

    I've got more stories. I've got a million of them. I've rarely run into a Catholic priest that wasn't an evil, brutal, nefarious prick. Theyre all liars. Most are substance abusers. The very best are usually no more than stupidly self centered, vainglorious and ignorant of everything going on around them that doesn't provide personal validation.

    I know a lot of Catholics. They're like anyone else. Some are exceptional and some not so much. They come in all colors, disposition and political leanings. They are worthy friends, good neighbors, spirited competitors, trusted shipmates and a fine addition to this melting pot America. I have no problems with any particulars of their deeply personal faith.

    I want to make it clear to you that I harbor no bigotry towards Catholics. I hate priests. I did not inherit my hatred or learn it from others.

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  7. reddog: If ever you want to carry on this conversation privately, I would point out that my email address is included in the "About Fr.Tim" box on the top left of the blog.

    Fr. Tim

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  8. reddog: I will not screen out messages that speak the truth. I have enacted comment moderation only to keep out mindless ant-catholic bigotry. The Church (and its individual members as well) should never be afraid to face the facts of its sinfulness such as you so graciously shared. Again, I thank you for the kindness of sharing your experiences. I only wish that you had not had to witness such horrors rather than the blessings and graces of the faithful witness of priests. You (and your friends) have much more been sinned against than any sin that might flow from your anger and your participation is valued and respected in this forum.

    Fr. Tim

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  9. Aside from ol' Reddog and his horrific experiences, Father, you posted an exceptional article. The more fundamentalist among us will always believe we can be pushed to act against our own will, thus absolving ourselves from our own guilt.

    Peace

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  10. I look at a pact with the Devil and a quake as two seperate things. The victims of the quake need help. They need immediate help with food, medicine, clothing, and shelter. Long term, though, they need and we need a stronger relationship with each other that allows us to share our knowledge and building expertise.

    And what of a pact with the Devil? It would be nothing to scoff at and undoubtedly evils would arise from it. If one was made, it needs to be handled in the appropriate way by the Catholic Church. In the days of the early explorers, when they stepped foot on shore of a new country, a priest would bless the newly discovered land.

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  11. Brian: True, we can easily make a pact with the devil by the choices we make in our life, choices that effect others in terrible ways. However, do you think that even if a previous leader of Haiti entered into such a pact, that the entire population of the country would be bound by his stupid decision? I personally think that this is neither logical, just or true.

    Fr. Tim

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