The Boston Bombing – Understanding Evil

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Boston Marathon ExplosionsI was horrified when I learned of the bombings tonight.  I am still horrified, more so now that I have spent the last two hours watching footage, interviews, and I saw some horrific photographs of people suffering from terrible injuries.  It made me sick to see such suffering from innocent souls.  I heard the story from one emergency responder who said when he arrived on the scene just seconds after the first bomb went off he saw the Mother of the 8 yr old who had died and she was sitting on the ground with her child laid in her arms.  I imagined her sorrow and an image of Our Blessed Mother popped into my head, of Our Lady cradling Jesus in her arms after he had died.  My heart breaks for that Mother at the marathon and for all those other people who died and were injured.

A subitanea et improvisa morte… From a sudden and unprovided death, spare us O Lord.” – Fr. Z

What is Evil & Why does it exist?

I know many people will be contemplating this tonight on why evil exists and how God could allow such senseless evil to occur.  I’ll do my best to try to answer this question and perhaps by the end of this blog we can try to make sense of what happened and how we can each do our part to help all those afflicted by this particular evil.

More people have abandoned their faith because of the problem of evil than for any other reason. It is certainly the greatest test of faith, the greatest temptation to unbelief. And it’s not just an intellectual objection. We feel it. We live it. That’s why the Book of Job is so arresting.  The problem can be stated very simply: If God is so good, why Is his world so bad? If an all-good, all-wise, all-loving, all-just, and all-powerful God is running the show, why does he seem to be doing such a miserable job of it? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Evil is not a thing, not something, but a lack or deprivation of something. Evil is to being, what darkness is to light.  Why is this an important point? Because it shows that God did not create evil. Everything that the all-good, all-powerful God created is good. A good God could not create evil. Therefore, the syllogism would go like this: All being is good, evil is a lack or diminishment of being, therefore evil is a lack of good. There are two kinds of evil to consider — physical evil and moral evil.

Physical evil is like blindness to the eye, cancer, or any other physiological defect of our nature. It is a privation of what is meant to be and/or how something is meant to operate.

Moral evil is accomplished only by free-willed creatures, which means humans or angels.  Their choice to do wrong is moral evil; there is guilt and sin involved in moral evil.

The person or persons that placed the bombs in Boston today committed an act of moral evil.  They knew that what they were doing was wrong, they freely chose to cause irreparable harm and injury to innocent by-standards.  I think it is safe to say that the people who planned and executed this attack were evil and allowed themselves to commit such an evil act due to their own involvement in sin and blindness of heart and soul.

St. Thomas, at the very beginning of the Summa Theologiae, a book itself designed for beginners, intimates that evil is one of the major reasons given for belief justifying the non-existence of God. Notice that with this consideration, Aquinas denies neither God, things, nor the problem. The implication is that if we do not understand evil properly, we will never understand God properly. Evil, at first sight, then, by being a reality so obvious that no one would ever bother to deny it, seems to imply that God, as all good, cannot exist if evil exists. No real God, no good God, it is urged, would allow a world in which evil exists. “Is this position true?” we ask ourselves.

What St. Thomas affirms, however, is that what God has in mind may be so great that it involves “allowing” the possibility of evil. To “allow” is not the same as to “cause.” The fact of evil, in other words, may indicate, not the inability of God to prevent it, but His ability to overcome it in His own way in order that something greater might come to be pass. In this sense, thinking about evil is also an aspect of thinking of God. God Himself, it is implied, is bound by a certain order or logic in His own being. Evil, in this context, causes us to wonder what this “greater” good that “allows” evil might possibly be.

A Greater Good

It is hard to think about this right now, but out of every evil that occurs something good in and of itself can and will be found from that evil action.  Free will was used by the bomber(s) to create havoc, fear, and pain.  God and good on the other hand will use this tragedy to reach out to those in the world who may be more apt to opening their hearts to God during this tragic time and something wonderful may happen in their lives.  Last week a friend called and told me that his father who has been really sick was in the hospital.  I asked if he was going to call a Priest and he wasn’t too sure, because his father wasn’t really open to seeing a Priest.  After hanging up the phone, I called a Priest and had him go by the hospital, my friend called me an hour later and told me that a ‘guardian angel’ had sent a Priest to his father and his Dad had cried after receiving the last rights.  Tonight I heard from this friend who told me that his Father passed away peacefully this afternoon at 4:30pm.  His dad was suffering from cancer and heart problems, it was physical evil that had taken hold of this mans body and had brought him slowly closer and closer to death.  But being able to slowly approach death had also allowed him the time to make his peace with God.  The physical evil that happened to this man was also a blessing because it allowed him to get the last rites a week before his departure from this earth.  I think the same can be said of what happened in Boston, while it was Moral Evil that allowed the bombings to take place, we will never know all the good things that will come because of this tragic evil that took place.  Only time will tell.  Does that make evil good?  Absolutely NOT! But what I am saying is that good things can come out of an evil act.  Just as Christ our Lord was killed (Moral Evil) the great good was our salvation and the defeat of death.  The devil never would have thought that his incessant pushing for the death of Jesus would have brought on his ultimate doom.  So we too must offer this suffering to Christ and pray that great good will come of it.


We need to bind our prayers together for the families of those killed and injured and more importantly, we should also pray for the soul(s) of those who perpetuated this terrible crime!  Let us not forget that those who planned and acted out the bombing are also in need of being prayed for and saved.

“When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.” Blessed John Paul II

“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.” Blessed John Paul II

“To humanity, which sometimes seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the risen Lord gives the gift of His love which forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope.” Blessed John Paul II

“You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud.”  St. Vincent de Paul

“Human progress planned as alternatives (to God’s plan) introduce in justice, evil and violence rising against the divine plan of justice and salvation. And despite transitory and apparent successes, they are reduced to simple machinations destined to dissolution and failure.” Blessed Pope John Paul II

Michael Bowes discerned a vocation with a religious community for 1.5 yrs before discerning that he was not called to that particular order. After leaving the Monastic life, Michael returned to Northern Virginia where he attends St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Warrenton, Va. Michael is an aspiring writer and volunteers at his local hospital as a Chaplain.

2 thoughts on “The Boston Bombing – Understanding Evil

    1. Michael Post author

      Amen to that Joe! I think we forget in our suffering and sorrow for those injured that the person or persons who committed the heinous acts are also suffering, perhaps more-so than those they harmed due to the weight of the sin they committed.


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