Does the Catholic Church have anything specific to say about the Problem of Natural (or Physical) Evil. I'm not asking for a defense of Moral Evil, which I have heard answers for and accepted them as valid. However most explanations focus on Moral Evil; so does the Roman Catholic Church have anything additional to say on Physical Evil?

The writings of a revered Saint on the Subject would be sufficient in place of an official teaching from the Magisterium.

EDIT: And by Physical/Natural Evil I mean things such as disasters, disease and other things which do not have any human related causes. I know some cancers and disasters have been caused by human activity, but many seem to happen by virtual of the way the universe is.

  • Could you explain a bit more about what you mean by "Natural or Physical Evil" Sep 4 '15 at 17:43
  • Not specifically a Catholic viewpoint, so not offered as an answer, but I recommend Glenn Miller's Essay on natural evil.
    – ThaddeusB
    Sep 4 '15 at 19:18
  • Catholics adhere to the teaching that all creatures are good.
    – Geremia
    Sep 5 '15 at 5:02
  • What are you meaning to ask about it? If we are asking for the source of physical evil, Aquinas answers this problem rather briefly by thinking along the lines of why exactly these 'calamities' are harmful. Rather than being intrinsically evil, which Catholicism rejects as an attribute of any creation, 'physical evil' is evil only because our own nature is now weak and subject to fallen conditions. Aquinas would state that in our original design we were not subject to physical harm. Thus what seems naturally dangerous to us would not be in our original design; we would be as 'superheroes'.
    – Jecko
    Sep 6 '15 at 18:49

You're asking for a quick answer for a complex and hard question, as I'm sure you are well aware.

I find that natural selection can be used as an theodicy, if one if willing to reject design arguements (arguments which Thomists reject anyway).

For example, on can cite Dr. Richard Dawkins on the benefits of natural selection in order to justify animal suffering (without that suffering, the goods of natural selection wouldn't arise). And who doesnt enjoy citing Dr. Dawkins as a defence for Theism? ;-)

Overall, although suffering is in itself ontologically evil, it can be, in the context of our fallen world, justified, as in this fallen world, suffering is necessary for great good (suffering is good per accidens). For example, the good of martyrdom cannot exist without suffering, and more importantly, the massive good of God becoming Man would not have happened without the Fall. This all works under St. Augustine's argument that if suffering can point to a greater good, it can be justified. In other words, as long as we realize that perfect goodness cannot arise without suffering ("your salvation was bought with a price"), the AFE doesn't work against Christian theology, unless the proponent of the AFE finds a meaningless evil in which no good can come, which it seems only a omniscient person can ultimately know.

You may wish to meditate on these articles by a Latin Catholic philosopher:









Christi pax.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .