Evil

No man is evil

There is a strong tendency these days in popular culture, especially American culture, to call people evil – evil this, evil that – and this is occurring even within Church circles (a related phenomenon is the ‘demonization of the other’). Such parlance, however, is not only harmful and linguistically wrong. It is ontologically incorrect. In other words a lie.

No human person can be validly called evil as no one is evil. There is no such thing as an “evil human being” or an “evil person,” despite the ever-increasing proliferation of this kind of language, at times unwittingly by those who should know better, but deliberately and malevolently by pharasaical demagogues within the Church itself. No one is evil. Not even those, in many people’s minds, who might be considered the worst persons ever to walk this earth are evil (e.g., serial murderers, pedophiles, and so on). This because the image of the Triune God resides untarnished in every single human person.

It is the likeness that gets fractured by human actions and sin, not the image. Never, the image. Thus, to call a person or a group of people “evil” is to manifest wild ignorance about both the ontological reality of humankind (and one’s own ontology) and to extend that very definition to God Himself.

Can a person become evil? Correcting the inadequate catechesis of some Christians in the United States

Michael (3)A tendency has arisen and seems to be increasing these days among some Christians, Catholics included, in the United States to regard human persons and their personalities as evil in themselves. Discourses and language such as, for instance, a “distorted and evil soul” or “becoming evil” is being used more and more often to describe “evil people,” or “evil personalities,” who are regarded as “lost souls.” Apart from the fact – obvious even to children – that no Christian, no Catholic, should ever use such language these days in relation to other persons, to consider an individual or a group of individuals as evil per se does not reflect the teachings of the Church.

To give a succint example that is easily understood by the many, not even in the case of a person who is perfectly possessed by evil spirits does the Church consider that individual 100% “evil,” despite the actions he or she may have carried out while under the influence of personified evil. Let alone in the case of people who are not possessed in such a manner, or even harassed by evil or obsessed.

Hence for some Christians and Catholics to consider and describe their fellow human persons in terms of the language referenced above is to manifest inadequate catechesis in the teachings of the universal Church, including Patristics, at best. And to manifest unexpunged self-righteousness – spiritual pride – at worst. The use of such language, therefore, in relation to fellow man does not bring people closer to God. It just calls down His judgment upon oneself, since the judgment of human persons is arrogated to God alone.