As the nation mourns the loss of life in the Newtown, Conn. shooting, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver is saying that goodness and respect for human dignity are the best responses to evil.
“We're most often the victims of evil when we become objects — used for someone's else's purposes — instead of treated with the inherent dignity that comes just from being a person,” the archbishop wrote in a Dec. 18 opinion column for the Denver Post.
“Evil is not defeated by policy. Protracted policy discussions on gun control and school safety are necessary and will be forthcoming, but they will not solve the problem,” he said.
“Goodness — sheer and unabashed goodness — protects and promotes human dignity. Evil is defeated by love and love alone,” he insisted.
Archbishop Aquila’s penned his column in response to the evil experienced last week when a gunman killed 20 children, six adults and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The experience, the archbishop said, reminds us that “evil is real,” and that there are moral absolutes.
“In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary murders, all of us can look with certitude and declare that evil exists.”
He also pointed out that evil is a perennial problem in the human condition, noting that Homer's works of nearly 3,000 years ago also grapple with the problem.
Archbishop Aquila reminded his readers that beside the shocking acts of objectification of people such as Sandy Hook, there are also daily instances of injustice and objectification that have deep effects on society.
He mentioned undocumented immigrants who are made objects of xenophobia, poor people who suffer from the greed of others, and children who are made objects of “convenience, or neglect, or rage.”
“And,” he warned, “we can easily get in the habit of using people, rather than treating them with the inherent dignity God bestows on every human being.”
The archbishop upheld the Jewish concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl as someone who discovered that love is the answer to the problem of evil.
In keeping with the responding to evil with love, Archbishop Aquila encouraged the celebration of Christmas, because love is “encapsulated” in Christmas' “message and truth.”
“Many will not be in the mood for Christmas this year, but there has never been a time when we need that message more.”