Good and evil question


As Catholics informed by the Faith would you agree with the following…

Individual people have the capacity to do good or evil.

When good people cooperate with evil or bring about evil that is “immoral”.

When evil people bring about good or cooperate with Good it is a “deception”.


What an interesting question but I have a problem with the premise.

First you would need to define good and evil for me to really respond. People sin does that make them evil?


Maybe all people are good? Though you may read books on the subject I believe only when evil is intended by the action is “immoral” appropriate. When people who have chosen bad/sin repeatedly do good it is an opportunity. Deception implies a bad intent.


This question is not answerable because it assumes that people are only ‘good’ or they are only ‘evil’. What is true is very close to your first statement, which I have modified to be more true 'Individual people at each moment have the capacity to do good or to do evil." We are all sinners. When we happen to be sinning, we happen to be doing evil. When we are not sinning, then we are good.

Asking to be allowed to change your questions into ones that can be answered…

When people cooperate with evil to bring about evil that is “immoral”. Yes

When people bring about good or cooperate with Good it is a “deception”. No, it is being good



My thoughts are that if a person is doing good then that good is coming from God and is not a deception. God is merely using an imperfect vesel to convey His goodness.

In Luke Chapter 18, verse 19 Jesus said “No one is good but God alone.” and so I don’t believe in good people. I believe in a good God!

People may have good intentions and people may have bad intentions but the goodness of anything comes from God.

People who are being good are good because of the grace of God working within them.

Just my :twocents:


This doesn’t cause me serious grief, but did not God say that people were good? Of course that was before the fall. Even so, were we not created good by God?



Hey guys thanks for responding so thoughtfully…

You’re right, the premise is that there are some people who are evil and some people who are good.

As Catholics we believe everyone is created good but has a tainted nature waiting to be sanctified/redeemed and saved.

We do experience a transformative sanctification in Baptism but we can lose that grace through free will(sin). We can lose the grace but never the character or mark of Baptism on our soul.

The killer at VT led me to ask the question. There is a debate whether he was evil or not. Secular minded people chalk it up to mental illness, religious people don’t rule out evil.

I believe that **he **was evil.
Not just immoral or a partner to evil(sin).

Im trying to see the complexity(gray area) of man’s capacity for good and evil without denying Absolute good and Absolute evil exists(which many moral relatavists do) But at the same time I dont want to say there are only two groups of people-those who do good and those who do evil.

We know there are good people(saints etc.)
We know there are evil people(Stalin, Hitler, Polpot etc.)

Some saints sinned but were not evil.
Some tyrants did good(example: Hitler’s wife Eva Braun actually loved him) but were not good.

So even thopugh Cho(the VT killer) was created good, he at some point rejected/sinned against the Holy Spirit(despair). He himself/his person was evil. IMO He wasn’t just a confused kid who happened to give into temptation and sin. The gross evil in the act indicates that his was an evil person.


Grace & Peace!

I think we need a better understanding of Good and Evil here in order to talk about them coherently. If we insist that Evil has a positive existence (that is, that it exists in its own right, in and of itself), then we have a dualistic Manichaean morality. That’s not what the church teaches, however.

God is Good. We know this. God is not partially Good. God is totally Good. His Goodness, His Love, His Being are all identified with each other (because God is One). Being in itself is therefore a Good.

Anything which has being, therefore, has a share in the Good. There is nothing that is that does not share, therefore, in the Good. A thing totally lacking in the Good would necessarily also be lacking in being, and would not, therefore, exist.

This reveals Evil to be an obscuration of the Good. They are not opposite impulses. They are absolutely and totally separate–they do not exist on a continuum. They are as far apart and as disconnected from each other as Being is from Non-Being, as Fullness from the Void.

I’m a big fan of Simone Weil, and some of her thoughts here are instructive:

"Good as the opposite of evil is, in a sense, equivalent to it, as is the way with all opposites.

"It is not good which evil violates, for good is inviolate: only a degraded good can be violated.
That which is the direct opposite of an evil never belongs to the order of higher good. It is often scarcely any higher than evil! Examples: theft and bourgeois respect for property, adultery and the ‘respectable woman’; the davings-bank and waste;lying and ‘sincerity’.

"Good is essentially other than evil. Evil is multifarious and fragmentary, good is one, evil is apparent, good is mysterious; evil consists in action, good in non-action, in activity which does not act, etc.–Good considered on the level of evil and measured against it as one opposite against another is good of the penal code order. … Good which is defined in the way in which one defines evil should be rejected. Evil does reject it. But the way it rejects it is evil.

“Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as necessity, or even a duty.”

If you don’t like Weil, look up Augustine or Dionysius the Areopagite.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cho was not evil. It would be much more convenient for us if he were–we would be able to locate evil in a discreet object (Mr. Cho) outside of ourselves that could bear our contempt. But the fact of the matter is that Mr. Cho succumbed to evil and chose to serve it. All of his writings and materials indicate that he was acting out of a profound sense of moral outrage and isolation which seemed to compell him to inflict this outrage and isolation on others. It is profoundly sad. He does not deserve our contempt. What he did deserves our contempt. He deserves our pity. As do his victims (dead and alive) who were forced to experience such affliction.

But this is the strange thing about evil which Weil grasped so well–if we can love God through it while hating it, it serves as a goad to compassion and is thereby transformed by grace. If we do not submit to this grace, if we do not love as we ought, our charity becomes poison. And we, too, fall prey to the evil we would avoid.

Under the Mercy,

Deo Gratias!


Peggy Noonan got it right in her latest article in the WSJ…

“The most common-sensical thing I heard said came Thursday morning, in a hospital interview with a student who’d been shot and was recovering. Garrett Evans said of the man who’d shot him, “An evil spirit was going through that boy, I could feel it.” It was one of the few things I heard the past few days that sounded completely true. Whatever else Cho was, he was also a walking infestation of evil. Too bad nobody stopped him. Too bad nobody moved.”


Evil does have a positive existance in the fallen angels…

CCC391, “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they **BECAME EVIL **by their own doing”

Also, here, we can point out that humans are not "locked"into evil since we are in time and can still repent/convert.Whereas angels make a once and for all decision for God or against God.

Dualism is that there is an equality of the force of good and evil…

So one can recognize evil as more than just the absence of good, but at the same time recognize that it is not equal to God/goodness.


I don’t know too much about “a walking infestation of evil”. (as if being possessed?) I would classify him as being disturbed mentally. I know drugs or a chemical imbalance can make you have a bent look on life.


Grace & Peace!

Evil is apparent when it is made to manifest itself through the good. Your sentence reveals this–evil exists in the fallen angels. It does not exist outside of them. It is not a force which works through them.

The use of the phrase “became evil” in the catechism is not particularly felicitous because it lends itself to misunderstanding. It is not incorrect, it’s just shorthand for a process of existential disintegration. To “become evil” is to attempt to destroy the fabric of one’s being. It is not to transform into something other than what one is–it is to deface what one is.

If the absence of the Good is the absence of:

What could evil possibly (i.e. positively) be? If it is absence, would not “more than absence” mean presence? And if evil has presence, is it not, then, something? And if it is something in counterdistinction to something else, does it not actively oppose it, as one force opposes another? And is that not a form of dualism?

When you wish to brighten a dark room, do you remove the darkness to a closet or a storage area in order to make space for the light?

No. You turn on the light.

Under the Mercy,

Deo Gratias!


Deo Volente,

Thanks for this dialogue. Im beginning to understand your point.

But if you acknowledge that ‘evil exists in the fallen angels’ …

  1. Are the fallen angels in and of themselves evil? In other words, would you attach the term evil to their personhood?

  2. If evil can ‘exist in the fallen angels’ through their free choice can’t it then exist in human beings through their free choice? If so., can we not say some people are evil?(albiet temporal)

  3. If you say evil is not a force then how is is possible that people can sense or detect evil around them etc.? Is it a demon, a force, or do you reject this claim people make?


Deo Volente please resond…

In CCC 2851, when talking about the phrase ‘deliver us from evil’ in the Our Father…

"Evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan…"
also…(not just the absence of good).

CCC 2852, “The whole world is in **the power **of the evil one”. the power of the devil is the "force"of evil that exists as a reality.

CCC 2854, "When we ask to be delivered from the evil one we pray to be freed from all evils, present, past and future, of which he is the author or instigator" = Evil exists outside of the devil.


It seems to me that if we insist on evil being a positive thing then we will fall victim to the philosophical “problem of evil.”

God (who is good) created all things that exist.

Evil exists.

Therefore God cannot be good, or God did not create everything.

Even taking into account the lines from the CCC above, we cannot admit Evil to be a positive thing, because it therefore follows that God created evil. Neither is evil an abstraction, because it requires a real person (i.e., Satan) to “exist.” It all boils down to the exercise of free will. Satan chose to do evil, therefore we call him evil - but not ontologically. He is evil qualitiatively.


Grace & Peace!

Let me qualify that: evil exists (to the extent that it can be said to exist) in the fallen angels. That is, evil is parasitic.

No–they are not in and of themselves evil. They are a corruption of their former state. That loss is the evil in them.

Insofar as it can exist, it can exist in us–but it is the loss of what we are that is the evil in us. I think it’s misleading to say that some people are evil. Some people are enslaved to evil (much like the fallen angels are enslaved to evil). But evil is loss, not presence. There cannot be a absent presence. As such, there cannot be an evil person (unless one is being merely colloquial).

Because people know the Good (if not as a whole, at least in part) and know when it has been obscured or defaced.

Under the Mercy,

Deo Gratias!


Grace & Peace!

Nazianzen above responded to this much more succintly than I could. Thank God!

I’m enjoying this conversation, too, by the way.

Under the Mercy,

Deo Gratias!


So if I understand you,

To say “evil does not exist”

is not the same as saying

“there is no such thing as evil”.

It seems we are caught in a tangled net of sematics.

So if I understand correctly,

No one, men or angels, can actually “BE” evil but they can bring about evil as an “offense or perversion of good”. i.e. Evil is just a choice to degrade what is good- personified by the Devil and demons.

Here’s another question:

We have…
Sacramentals and Sacramental Matter : physical objects that are signs of the sacred. In the case of Sacraments-efficacious signs which actually bring about grace.

According to your understanding of evil, there is no evil counterpart to these physical manifestations of grace.

For example: Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. It does not have an evil “presence” within its pages? Or let’s say ouija bords, we cannot say that these may bring evil into your home?

Also what about demonic possession: here we have a spiritual force penetrating and occupying a person. Is it the demon or is it the evil that possesses the person?


No, grace has no counterpart. There is grace, and there is no grace. I don’t know how much clearer anyone can put it than to use the metaphor of light and darkness (as someone did above). Light is a thing, and darkness is the absence of it. Therefore, darkness is no-thing.

Mein Kampf does not have an evil “presence.” It’s a book full of bad ideas. That’s all. Hitler himself was not Evil (ontologically speaking). He made an evil use of his free will.

You should try reading “The Screwtape Letters.”


I Have.

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