We are having unprecedented hurricanes and earthquakes plus many deaths from the “destructive forces of nature.” (CCC 309) The big questions in the back of everyone’s mind is are we at the point in the bible where it says,
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” (Lk. 21:25)
Is God punishing us for our sins? Is God directly causing those deaths by sending natural disasters? Let us unfold what we do know concerning this topic via the church’s official teachings. First, the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of two types of evil: “moral evil” (311) and “physical evil.” (310) For moral evil it specifically says,
“God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it.” (311)
The catechism does not provide examples since it is not specifically written for the lay people but more the clergy and theologians; however, the YouCat explains more in detail about the two types of evil. Before, we dive into the YouCat, Pope Benedict XVI writes a forward explaining the YouCat’s importance for truly understanding our faith and being able to explain it,
“You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination.”
The YouCat first explains that evil is a mystery, and therefore evil is not completely understood or fathomable, but it reassures us that God is all good and can never be the source of evil.
QUESTION 51. “If God is all-knowing and all powerful, why does he not prevent evil? ANSWER: “God allows evil only so as to make something better result from it.” (CCC 309-314, 324) Evil in the world is an obscure and painful mystery. Even the Crucified asked his Father, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt.27:46). Much about it is incomprehensible. One thing, though, we know for sure: God is 100 percent good. He can never be the originator of something evil.”
The YouCat then proceeds to gives actual examples of the two types of evil.
QUESTION 51. ANSWER continued: “Physical evil, for example, a birth defect, or a natural catastrophe. Moral evils, in contrast, come about through the misuse of freedom in the world. “Hell on earth”—child soldiers, suicide bombings, concentration camps—is usually man-made.”
So what causes these “natural catastrophes”? At the beginning when God created man and the universe everything was in perfect order, tranquility, and synchronization. Man was perfect and so was creation because sin had not entered the world. Adam and Eve were supposed to live forever plus they were in total harmony with nature and their surroundings, but when they sinned, everything changed including them and the environment,
“The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay“. (CCC 400)
Returning back to the questions of who is responsible for the “physical evil” of these hurricanes and earthquakes taking so many lives, one solution is that it could be part of the natural cycle of the consequences of original sin due to the loss of harmony as St. Paul explains occur until He returns and brings everything into perfection and harmony.
“For creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:21-23
Another answer to the question of the cause to the “physical evil” leading to so many deaths in disasters is man, himself, since we know that the recent nuclear test in North Korea caused a 6.3 earthquake plus we know that in America in certain places oil fracking has caused numerous and continues earthquakes. Also to note is the seeding of clouds, air pollution, fracking and nuclear tests in the oceans plus the massive destruction of the atmosphere leading to changing weather conditions. Some weather experts say these 3 hurricanes and 2 earthquakes is the new normal because of what we have done to the earth. Pope Francis, also, warns us in the encyclical LAUDATO SI,
2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.
23. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events…
161. Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain…The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.
204. So our concern cannot be limited merely to the threat of extreme weather events, but must also extend to the catastrophic consequences…
The third possible solution to the cause of the “physical evil” and so many deaths is the devil himself as he came to, “steal, kill, and destroy,” (Jn. 10:10) because he is “the prince of this world,” (Jn.12:31) “the ruler of the kingdom of the air,” (Eph. 2:2) and “the whole world is in the power of the evil one.” (CCC 409) Certain countries have already been exorcised because of the flocking of evil spirits plus we, also, know that at the end of the world there will be a,
“final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.” (CCC 677)
A fourth possible answer is a chastisement of the world by God himself to bring about a world conversion as mentioned in various approved private revelations and as happened in the Old Testament, but I think we should first consider the previous solutions before we so easily place blame on God who is all love, compassion, and mercy. Always keeping in mind that God, “desires all men to be saved,” (1 Timothy 2:4) He “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” (Ez. 33:11) and “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” (Lk. 15:7) Therefore, we should not be quick to give this answer unless we have proof or as the catechism explains,
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. (309)
We have to trust that God is the author of history and that He will have the final word and answer to all moral and physical evils we are facing. Section 312 of the catechism explains that the worst evil to ever occur is the death of His only begotten Son and even that He found a way to use it to redeem all of humanity.
Finally, we too have to trust that He will bring good from these physical evils. Jesus taught St. Faustina the Divine Mercy Chaplet as way to stop extreme storms , droughts , and evils [1541, 1565, & 474-475]. Hence, in these difficult hurricanes and earthquakes let us implore and trust in His mercy, “Before I come as the Just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy.”