2002-02-10 Why do bad things happen to good people?
February 10, 2002
The question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" was chosen to become the title of best-selling a book. It has occupied more substantial writers through the ages. Theologians speak of "theodicy", which is the task of explaining the existence of evil in a world made by a good God. People who do not believe in a good God should logically have no problem with the existence of evil, but most of them do because 1) they are not logical and 2) they are living off a remnant assumption of the rights of goodness over evil.
Christ says that no one is good save his Father in Heaven. All goodness comes from His merciful love. That is why we are truly human to the degree that we give thanks, and the heart of existence is in the perfect thanksgiving of the Eucharist. This is lost on armchair philosophers who pout when they cannot measure the calculus of innocence and guilt. That great figure Job had three sympathizers who only made his pain worse by their superficiality. Evil is a mystery, but it is just a senseless puzzle for the spiritually adolescent.
Bad things often happen because they are allowed, and even made, to happen. The evil of September 11 was the direct work of bad people. Perhaps it could have been prevented if in past years the world had taken the terrorists more seriously. Each day in the United States, the number of babies killed before birth is larger than the number of people who suffered and died on September 11. It is made to happen by "material agents" of evil who commit the act directly. It is allowed to happen by "formal agents" who pass evil laws, defend the evil as though it were good, and suppress the truth. On January 22, over 100,000 pro-lifers marched in Washington, and were ignored by the major media. Bad things happen to good people when goodness is suppressed. This past week, millions of tax dollars that could have been spent on the poor and on rebuilding our city's economy, had to be spent instead on security because would-be rioters were menacing the World Economic Forum. The waste was the direct result of deluded people misusing the free will God gave them.
Lent begins with Jesus meeting Satan in order to protect us from ourselves. Mature minds should ask only one question, and only Christ Crucified has the answer: "Why do bad things happen to the one good Man?"
Fr. George W. Rutler