Sunday, May 06, 2007

Evil by name

George Weigel has an interesting look at the response to the Va. Tech shootings.

Tragedy? Or Wickedness?
At Mass on the morning of April 17, hours after a shooting spree at Virginia Tech had left dozens dead (including the shooter), the homilist spoke of the "tragedy" that had unfolded in Blacksburg the day before. I had no sooner gotten home from church and checked the e-mail than I found a communication from the Parent and Family Affairs Office at the University of Maryland (where my son is a student) deploring the "tragic incident that transpired at Virginia Tech" and listing "resources available to the UM community during this time of immense tragedy." But what, I wondered, was the "tragedy" here?

Terminal cancer in a five-year-old is "tragic." Macbeth is a "tragedy," in that the subject's flaws are ultimately the cause of the unraveling of his life. What happened at Virginia Tech, however, was not a "tragedy." It was a manifestation of what theologians once called the mysterium iniquitatis, the "mystery of evil." The murders in Blacksburg were acts of wickedness, not the "tragic" unfolding of an unavoidable fate.
I guess I would have to admit guilt in the use of the word "tragedy" to describe this act. I was thinking along the lines that the victims suffered a tragedy. But he is right in the supposition that it is an act of wickedness rather than an tragic act without a perpetrator. And knowing the difference between good and evil will help us understand why these deaths occurred. It isn't just a random tragedy that a loving God overlooked, but evidence that the Evil One still prowls about seeking the ruin of souls.
Unless we recover the vocabulary of good and evil, however, we will really not come to grips with what possesses a Hitler, a Stalin, a Pol Pot, a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - or a spree-killer on a Virginia campus.

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