Germs and cancer
BY THE EDITOR What is the R. Catholic view as to the origin of germs and streprococci? Is T.B. the will of God? Or does He merely permit cancer? If disease both mental and physical is not actively His Will, how do they arise in a world where all things are subject to His Government?
AS we have more than once noted,
this column, conducted by ley Catholics with no special training in theology, does not profess to give the full theological answers to deep doctrinal and philosophic questions.
Half art hour's conversation with a priest should satisfy any inquirer as to " the R. Catholic view." Here we do no more than discuss points of general Interest which seem relevant to the problem and which may usefully he taken up by readers in their own discussions and meditations. This question, clearly enough, falls within the great and always mystifying problem of evil, because whatever answer may be given to the particular difficulties, such answers will still leave the questioner wondering how it is that God can permit the physical evil of disease_ One may, rightly, point out that germs or cancerous growths are not had things in themselves. Indeed, in regard to cancer, it has often been stated that the growth in itself is, biologically, a remarkable example of development.
The trouble arises from the accident that this biological richness fatally interferes with the normal ordered biological and physiological life of the human organism. It is out of pace. In the same way, germs in themselves are part of the teeming life of the universe which ideally should balance out in such a way as to keep the human being healthy, and in fact a healthy organism resists germs which may kill others. This approach, however, does not really take us very far, because in fact men, in all ages and conditions of life, have been subject to diseases which God need not have permitted and which, in practice. could never have been wholly overcome by man, however rightly and intelligently he ordered his ways.
Thus we always come hack to the problem of evil. • Finite man, as the Infinite God in His creative love saw him and wanted him, was a creature capable of rebellion against Himself---capable of that supreme disorder at the heart of things. Even God's angels were similarly capable of such rebellion. And when the angels and man chose in fact to make that act of supreme disorder, they must have set going the whole endless process of disorder. of whose consequences we are aware as evil. It involved a deformation in creation itself.
But haw it is that God's love chose to create creatures capable of this foreseen rebellion we cannot tell. Since it is a greater liberty to be above the possibility of sinning than to be always capable of sinning, we 'cannot really say—as so often is said—that the possibility of sinning is the necessary concomitant of a free creature.
On the other hand we certainly are able to obtain certain insights into the whole difficulty which at least make it easier to bear and answer those who would jump to the conclusion that the existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of an all-good God.
Perhaps the most useful reflection is that we actually need to believe in God in order to appreciate adequately the evil of evil. Physical pains and mental distresses are doubtless always appreciated as immediate evils, but the realisation of the far deeper evil in the realm of the spirit and in morals really depends on our belief in the reality of a spiritual and moral order.
The denial of the existence of God and of an objective and real spiritual order leads logically to the denial that there is evil, say, in cruelty, whether to men or. animals, since in such a Godless universe, the only logical and tolerable end of existence would he that each of us should make the best of our earthly lives in terms of satisfying our innate appetites. The misfortunes of another or the pain suffered by an animal would have no importance, save in so far as they minister to or detract from. our material purposes.
If such a view seems repulsive, It is precisely because we do believe, actively or subconsciously, in a spiritual reality which in its turn postdates the existence of an allgood God.
Moreover, it is clear that in so far as a religious faith deepens and expresses more adequately the reality and meaning of the spiritual order, so both insight into the nature and meaning of evil and insight into the way of profiting by evil increases.
Were it not for Christianity, and in particular the teaching and traditions of the Catholic Church, the so-called problem of evil would be far more worrying.
Without solving the mystery itself (Continued In previous eolsmen)
(Continued from column g) —and can we humans expect to be able to solve all mysteries? — the Church understands evil more adequately than any other body and enables us to use evil in order to get closer to the source and meaning of all goodness, namely the all-good God,