I think that your black and white characterization of the “Latin vs Eastern” view on divine punishment is very unfair. Can you find me even one example of a RECENT pope declaring natural disasters to be the wrath of God? I very much doubt it. I have heard countless Latin priests and theologians, from various eras, describing pain, suffering, and disasters along the lines of what you claim to be the “Eastern” approach…I am also sure that one could find examples of Eastern authorities, down through the centuries, who have described this or that disaster closer to what you see as the “Latin” approach. In the end a lot of it (though not all) comes down to semantics. Does God truly wish to hurt us? Of course not…EVERY Latin and Eastern priest worth his salt would heartily agree with this. But, that being said, nothing can exist nor happen without God allowing it to be so, and what God allows, even if contrary to his perfect will, some would say God ‘does’, in the sense that he ultimately put everything into place (including the gift of freewill which so often leads to his creatures acting contrary to His will). Scripture is clear that God does discipline us, but his discipline is firmly rooted in love and intended to bring us closer to the image of His Son.
“……To interpret sacred scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and what God wanted to reveal to us by their words. In order to discover the sacred author’s intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current……”
Catechism of the Catholic Church #109, 110
I think this is key in properly understanding the passages describing a ‘wrathful’ or ‘angry’ God.
Pope John Paul spoke at great length on the mystery of suffering (including disasters) and always emphasized its REDEMPTIVE nature, rather than the element of punishment. The element of punishment exists, but it is secondary. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church (Col 1:24 NAB). This is key to the mystery of suffering…ultimately God wills that we embrace our suffering (whether personal or the result of a natural disaster or otherwise), uniting ourselves to the cross and participating in the great work of redemption. The deifiication of man is impossible without a share in the sufferings of the Savior.
But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, "Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away."307 And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’”
Catechism of the Catholic Church #412