The Boulder Shooting Shows That ‘Evil Always Has a Name and a Face’ — but Never a Final Victory

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21)

A police officer salutes as a procession carrying the body of Officer Eric Talley, a Catholic father of seven, leaves the King Soopers grocery store where a gunman opened fire Tuesday in Boulder, Colorado. Ten people, including Officer Talley, were killed in the attack.
A police officer salutes as a procession carrying the body of Officer Eric Talley, a Catholic father of seven, leaves the King Soopers grocery store where a gunman opened fire Tuesday in Boulder, Colorado. Ten people, including Officer Talley, were killed in the attack. (photo: Chet Strange / Getty Images)

There is always a limit imposed upon evil. Good constrains evil, the Divine Good and the human good. Good has a foundation in God alone. Only God is Good. 

As understood by St. Thomas Aquinas, following in the tradition of St. Augustine, and restated by John Paul II:

“Evil is always the absence of some good which ought to be present in given being; it is a privation. It is a never total absence of good. The way in which evil grows from the pure soil of good is a mystery. Another mystery is the element of good which is never destroyed by evil and which keeps on growing despite it, sometimes even from the same soil.”

Evil systematically contradicts the message of Christ and his Cross as the source of spiritual self-defense, as victory. 

According to John Paul II’s message for the celebration of the World of Peace on Jan. 5, 2005:

“Evil is not some impersonal, deterministic force at work in the world. It is the result of human freedom. Freedom, which distinguishes human beings from every other creature on earth, is ever present at the heart of drama of evil. Evil always has a name and a face: the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it.”

It is God who can place a limit upon evil. God, as the essence of justice, rewards good and punishes evil. This also concerns sin. This is the evil of which the Book of Genesis speaks. In the Garden of Eden, man experiences God who judges and punishes. Genesis describes the penalty imposed on Adam and Eve after their sin of revolution (Genesis 3:14-19). “Their choice has an intrinsic moral dimension, involving individual responsibilities and the fundamental relationship of each person with God, with others and with all of creation.”

It is impossible to speak of the limitation imposed upon evil without Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern world resulting from the Second Vatican Council in 1964. In Gaudium et Spes, in the part concerning man’s place in the modern world, we read:

“When man looks into his own heart, he finds that he is drawn toward what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good Creator … Man is divided himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness. Man finds that he is unable of himself to overcome the assault of evil successfully, so that everyone feels as though bound by chains. But the Lord himself came to free and strengthen man, renewing him inwardly and casting out the ‘prince of this world’ (John 12:31), who held him in the bondage of sin.”

The Pastoral Constitution, as quoted above, confirms that God himself descended from Heavens to save us, and deliver us from evil. Thus, the Advent following the Nativity of the Lord is redemptive. “If Redemption marks the divine limit placed upon evil, it is for this reason only: because thereby evil is radically overcome by good, hate by love, death by resurrection.”

Finally, when I speak of a historical limit imposed upon evil, I also think about Marxism: both socialism and communism. Evidently, the existence of divine limitation upon the totalitarian regimes proves that the power of good ultimately prevails. But again, as John Paul II explained:

“There was a sense that this evil [Marxism] was in some way necessary for the world and for mankind. It can happen, in fact, that in certain concrete situations, evil is revealed as somehow useful, inasmuch as it creates opportunities for good … if I have wanted to underline the limit imposed upon evil in European history, I must conclude that the limit is constituted by good — the divine good and the human good that have been revealed in that history, over the course of that last century and of entire millennia.”

If we look to the present state of the world, despite indisputable successes of a man in many fields of life, there are various social and political manifestations of evil such as: threats to human rights; social disorders; anarchy; war; attacks on the traditional model of family; assault on religious freedom; indoctrination of children at schools; diminished role of the woman as a mother and wife; violation of the right to life, and others. They all arrive from a common source, probably more subtle and hidden now than before, the ideology of evil.

How to overcome evil who seems to exercise absolute dominion over the world? Does there exist a threshold that evil is unable to cross today? The answer is rather easy. 

With God’s help and support, we can truly defeat evil by good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love. “When good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails.” 

In our battle against evil, despite our differences of language, nationality, and culture, we all should act together. As children of one God, and siblings who belong to the same “God’s family,” we can make our own contribution to building a better world based on values of truth, justice, love, freedom, and peace. 

Remembering that the limit imposed upon evil by the Divine Good entered this world a long time ago through the work of Christ, it is impossible to separate Christ from our human history. It is impossible to separate Christ from any country’s history, including the history of the United States of America. As John Paul II said: “Only in him, in fact, can all nations and all humanity “cross the threshold of hope!”

I say again, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco celebrates the ‘Mass of the Americas’ using the extraordinary form of the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, 2019.

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Photo portrait of American poet and Catholic convert Wallace Stevens (1879–1955).

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