There's a common question that tends to obstruct people's belief in Catholicism or even religion in general, and that is the problem of evil. How can one believe that God is all good, all merciful and all loving when there is so much evil, corruption, and pain in the world? Well, that is a difficult question to answer, considering the problem of evil is primarily an emotional barrier, rather than a logical inquiry. The Catholic answer to this emotional inquiry is the existence of free will. Just as we are free to determine the course of our own lives, choosing to follow God and the path of goodness, we are also free to deny him and act on our own desires and impulses.
As mentioned in a previous article, the reason why we are allowed free will is because God loves us, and desires our love of our own will. In other words, God doesn't make the world the way it is, humanity does. The reason why evil exists is because people are also free to do nothing in the face of it. Catholics are taught through scripture, the necessity of doing the right thing in the face of evil:
"Therefore, whoever knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin" (James 4:17)
All things God has made are good, If there is evil, it is because it is the will of one person to do harm to another, condone that act, or to do nothing to stop it. Such acts are committed in light of their denial of God, and in his absence the evil grows like Vietnamese bamboo. Or a fungus.
"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)
"For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good?" (Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Chapter 11)
Such was the case with the head of the Secret Police in the former Soviet Union, Lavrentiy Beria (pictured above with Stalin's daughter Svetlana). The amount of evil committed by this individual, mammoths that of Hitler's regime. A Communistic Anti-theist, Beria was responsible for the mass genocide of several Polish intellectuals, and military officers, as well as captured prisoners and religious Polish Catholics and Jews. The body count is considered to be approximately 22,000 Polish nationals and it became known as the "Katyn Massacre". In addition to this horrendous abuse of power, Beria further pushed his authority to indulge in his favorite past time: rape. He would often have his secret police kidnap various women, bring them to his house for a dinner, he would propose a toast to Stalin and have them drink drugged wine and well...you know. He was also never without a mistress and was always unfaithful to his wife. Some of his mistresses were as young as 14. The fact that he was highly intelligent, makes one more fully realize that his actions were done with the full knowledge that what he was doing was inherently evil. And in his mind, or his heart, God was nowhere to be found. Yet this is one of the few tmes we should thank God for Stalin's paranoia. Given the amount of authority Beria possessed, he was considered, in his last days, by Stalin to be a threat to his rule and Beria, like his predecessor Nikolai Yezhov was taken into a basement and executed by firing squad.
Now I pose this question: do the gravely evil actions of Lavrentiy Beria make you consider a disbelief in God? If no, you fully understand the gift of free will. If yes, then you forgot a very important fact: that God himself had sent his only son Jesus Christ who, of his own free will came down from Heaven to be cursed, condemned, spat upon, abused, tortured, and painfully executed, so we may be given the chance to receive salvation. Those that followed him were back then, and remain to be persecuted in his name, many of which stand up against their persecutors, like many of us did to those that bullied us. It usually winds up in their deaths, yet it is their will to love God more than themselves, to where they are willing to die for him, that overshadows the evil that presents itself to them.
To believe in free will is to further appreciate the charitable actions of others, to defy those that possess a heavily weak will leading them to act on selfish desires, and to better understand the undying, unconditional love and mercy of God.