Natural disaster: a punishment or not?

I was doing some reading and I came across a couple articles:

This one seems to say that we should not think of natural disasters as punishments on humanity…

This one does…

Who’s right?

Not Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D. who doesn’t provide citations from any official Church document, such as the Catechism, but rather uses the question to bash Vatican II (while misrepresenting Church teachings) and referring to a celebration from ancient times that is not a matter of doctrine or dogma, but merely a pious practice based on a vision.

While God certainly can prevent disasters, it’s a little hard to pray to prevent ones we do not expect, such as earthquakes and other unpredictable occurances. God doesn’t deliberately send disasters upon nations as punishment for sin without first warning them to repent, as he did with Egypt and other biblical examples. As long as we are mortal we are going to experience the ravages of nature. God may spare lives, of course, but he usually lets nature take its course, expecting us to have enough sense to prepare for the kind of natural disasters we might expect to have.


A natural disaster strikes the good and the bad alike. Why would God punish the good together with the bad?

In Genesis 18:25, Abraham said to God “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?”

No, it is not punishment. However, it is in God’s plan. The greatest good that God can will for us is our salvation. In Ezekiel 33:11, God said “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” Both good and bad may be brought closer to God by a natural disaster.

Having visited Ms. Horvat’s site a number of times, it seems clear that her view of theology, society, Church, and culture is quite displeased with pretty much everything that has transpired since the end of the 18th Century - including a view of how God works in His world.

This debate has been going on for thousands of years: why do people suffer? Is it because they sin, and God is simply serving out Justice? If so, then why do the good suffer, since Christ Himself, as well as the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Baptist, etc. never sinned in their lives, yet suffered greatly? Is it because God is evil? Is God only considered Good because he’s stronger than us? These questions are the main theme of the Book of Job (the best book of the Old Testament), and are answered by Christ.

Christi pax,



Natural disasters are chastisements from God meant to get people to turn to Him with a contrite heart. God bless you.

Any figures on how this is working?

My understanding of Christian theology is that natural disasters are not punishment, they are the consequences of original sin.

While some may not see the difference, to Christians (or at least a reasonable % of them) is real.

A punishment is a direct, intended act. A consequence is the result of forces at play.

If my kid is headed towards the road and I pull them back and slap them. I’ve punished them. If I let them run into the street and they get hit by a vehicle, that’s consequences.

The child is innocent, the driver was innocent. But the world is imperfect as the result of original sin, hence not all consequences are pleasant.

Remember 9-11? Many people got down on their knees for the first time in years and flocked to churches. But of course, men’s hearts are so full of self-love, materialism, etc. that once the terror of 9-11 wore off they returned to being lukewarm, materialistic, etc… I have no problem accepting the teaching of many Church Fathers and Saints that few souls are saved, for few souls truly renounce the world and cling to God like they are supposed to. My point is that natural disasters are sent by God for the conversion of souls: if few souls convert it is not God’s fault or because of any defect of His, but because of the fault and defect of his lukewarm and hardhearted people. God bless you.

Um, 9-1-1 was not a natural disaster. And it didn’t convert the USA into a godfearing nation. God does NOT use natural disasters to convert people to the faith, in the way you mean it. Sure, people often go to church after some kind of disaster, natural or manmade, but for most their religious feelings wear off pretty quickly. That’s not conversion–that just plain old fear, not fear of God.

God has used disasters to work his will, but he always made it perfectly clear why the punishment was sent and that he sent it. No one had to guess. And it didn’t always turn people’s hearts to God. It didn’t change Egypt. Once they got over the initial shock, they pursued the Israelites to take revenge. That was their choice, but they knew why disasters had fallen on them–they didn’t have to wonder about it because Moses had told them in God’s name.

You know, I reckon God would know how many might convert. And if you think it’s only a few, then He would know this as well.

Which means that you think He is quite prepared to throw in a natural disaster or two, kill I don’t know how many people, just to get a few to convert?

You really think that’s what happens?

Tell you what. Next time we get tsunammi or an earthquake, ask Him to freeze frame it for an hour so that everyone could escape. If He did that, how many more conversions do you think He’d get rather than allowing everyone to die?

I’m not sure He’s going about it the right way, to be honest.

I’m with Della here, wondering why you think 9/11 was a natural disaster?

Most people don’t consider anything about it to have been a natural thing. It was clearly a man created event. How’s the renouncing the world you are supposed to be spreading your faith in working out? Is it your view that hermits and the cloistered are the only ones that cling to God? I thought Catholics stopped thinking like this.

Seriously, what is children, animal, insect and plants fault?

I have read in several pious books that God sends natural disasters as chastisements to convert hearts. I am with the Saints and holy writers who wrote these books and not with any of those members on this thread who deny that God sends chastisements through natural disasters. No, 9-11 was not a NATURAL disaster–I didn’t mean to say that it was–but it was a disaster just the same, and I do not doubt one bit that the USA was being chastised by God for going against the natural law as much as she does … and I don’t doubt that the USA will be further chastised along with the rest of our godless world by our Lord, Who can only take so much of our infidelities. Mary, in her approved apparitions, has already warned us about God’s chastisements and how she will not be able to stay His hand if we do not do our part. The Church is being chastised (God sends her bad leaders as a chastisement to His unfaithful people), and the Saints say that the chastisement of the Church precedes the chastisement of the world. I am leaving this thread because I can not believe that so many post-ers have a problem accepting the truth that God sends chastisements through natural disasters for conversions, something they already should know by now from pious reading … I’m not going to lose my peace over these members who will remain obstinate and refuse to accept that natural disasters are sent by God as a chastisement to convert hearts. God bless you.

Spiritual writers and even the saints do not speak for the Church. Their writings are not considered doctrine/dogma. Their opinions/visions, etc. are strictly their own. Unless they write something that defies doctrine or dogma the Church says nothing about what they write, which is not the same thing as approbation. The Magisterium speaks for the Church on such matters, therefore it is the Magisterium we must listen to. There is no teaching in the Catechsim, that I could find, that supports your contention.

I agree with this. We can find all over in Sacred Scripture that God is at work in the forces of nature whether for good or ill. The world is God’s creation and He is the first cause of everything that happens and He watches over his creation by His providence as the CCC says:

303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. the sacred books powerfully affirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the course of events: “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” and so it is with Christ, “who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens”. As the book of Proverbs states: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established.”

304 And so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a “primitive mode of speech”, but a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world,and so of educating his people to trust in him. the prayer of the Psalms is the great school of this trust.

308 The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Natural disasters are the result of original sin and the sins of human beings since the fall of Adam and Eve. As Ready has said, I believe they are meant for us human beings to turn to God. Jesus said "Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them*—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13: 4-5).

Nothing happens in the world but what God wills to happen or wills to permit to happen (St Augustine) and we can be sure that what God wills is never without a good reason.

Natural disasters are not the principle cause of the death of human beings but sin as St Paul says “Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Natural disasters are
instruments of God. If Adam and Eve had not sinned then I believe God would have prevented natural phenomenon from harming them. Even now, if all human beings turned to God, I think God would prevent natural phenomenon from harming human beings.

No Catholic here is saying that God isn’t in control of nature. Rather, we are saying that God does not send natural disasters on a particular people/nation for their particular sins–not in the age of grace in which we live. There is a huge difference between saying original sin caused our natural order to be uncontrollable by/unfriendly to us humans and quite another to say that a particular group of people deserved God’s judgment more any anyone else. The reference you cited from Luke clearly tells us that those killed by the tallen tower didn’t deserve to die for their sins anymore than any other sinner–that’s the point we’re making. :slight_smile:

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