12/03/2008, 00.00
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Evil is a “foul river” flowing through the world but goodness is stronger, says Pope

Evil, which is at root of original sin, “comes from created freedom that is abused.” The contradiction between good and evil is man’s experience. But “evil is a subordinated source.” At a time of crisis banks should show solidarity “towards the weakest groups [of society] and support economic activities.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Man can “feel what is good but cannot realise it.” This “inner contradiction of our being is not a theory,” but something that all of us experience and “see around us, every day. Look at violence, injustice, dissipation.” It is the “empirical” consequence of original sin that brought evil to man and is “a foul river.” However, God is “stronger.” Saint Paul addressed the matter as did Benedict XVI who in today’s general audience discussed what the Apostle to the Nations had to say about it.

The Pope, who again set out to explain the thoughts of Saint Paul to an audience of about 7,000 people, talked about the relationship between Adam and Christ as it is presented in the Letter to the Romans and the first Letter to the Corinthians “which lay out the basic outlines of the doctrine of original sin.”

“The centre of the scene is not taken up so much by Adam than by Jesus Christ and grace which, through Him, was abundantly poured upon humanity.”

“For Paul, this meant that we should never consider Adam’s and humanity’s sin separately, without understanding them within the horizon of justification in Christ,” said the Pope.

What is original sin? asked Benedict XVI. Does it exist or not? There is, he said, “an empirical, tangible aspect to it, and a mysteric one” with “an ontological foundation.”

“In effect, there is a contradiction in our being. We all know that we must do what is good and in our inner selves we want to do it. But also in our inners selves we feel another impulse, which is to follow of the path of selfishness and violence despite the knowledge that we are going against God and our fellow man.” Indeed man “has the capacity to feel what is good but not the capacity to realise it.”

“The inner contradiction of our being is not a theory. We all feel and see it around us, every day. Look at violence, injustice, dissipation.” Man bears a contradiction and “from this power of evil over our souls flows the foul river of evil which poisons human history.”

“In our day such a contradiction in our history gives rise to a desire for redemption in order that the world may be changed into one of justice, peace and goodness.” Even in “politics everyone talks about changing the world, creating a just world. This indicates a desire for redemption.”

“The power of evil in the heart and history of humankind is undeniable”, but how can it be explained. If we put Christian faith aside, an explanation exists in the history of ideas. Human beings are inherently contradictory and carry good and evil in themselves.

“In Ancient times” the doctrine of “dualism held that both principles [of good and evil] were on the same level and that man’s contradiction reflected that,” marked by an opposition of divinities so to speak.

But “the evolutionist and atheistic view of the world” offer the same vision. “It is held that human beings as such have, from the beginning, carried evil and good in them. Evil is equally original.”

However, “this is ultimately a vision of despair” whereby “evil cannot be defeated and any form of progress is necessarily paid with a river of evil. [. . .] Anyone who wants progress has to pay this price. Such premises underpin politics.” Yet, such an “idea, in the end, can create only sadness and cynicism.

Unlike the desolation of dualism and monism Saint Paul explained the contradiction between the two by saying that “faith has two mysteries, light and darkness, with the mystery of darkness enveloped by light.”

“The first mystery, that of light, tells us that there is only one, not two principles, that of God the Creator, who is good without a shade of evil. [. . .] Human beings as such are also good. [. . .] Then darkness fell but evil did not come from the source. It is not equally original, but comes from created freedom that has been abused.”

“How did it happen? That remains unclear” because “what is illogical cannot be explained.” “Then a mystery of light appears; evil flows from a subordinate source. God is stronger; evil can be overcome; man can be cured. [. . .] God brought the cure; he personally entered history, opposed pure goodness to evil: Christ crucified and risen; the new Adam who opposed a river of light to the foul river of evil. [. . .] The great saints as well as the simple saints, the faithful,” are part of that river of light.

Advent which is now upon us “means two things in the language of the Church. It means presence and waiting; the presence of light wherein Jesus is our new Adam, who is with us, among us” so that “we must open our heart to see the light.”

But Advent also refers to “waiting. The dark night of evil is so strong that we must pray with insistence. Come, Oh Jesus! Strengthen the light and what is good; come where lies, violence, ignorance of God, injustice rule; help us bear your light, work for peace, bear witness to the truth.”

In his greetings in Italian the Pope turned to a group of bank representatives and told them that their presence provided him with an opportunity to “stress, especially at this time when many families face a lot of difficulties, that one of the main goals of financial and credit institutions is to show solidarity towards the weakest groups [of society] and support economic activities.”

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