Interesting Question, But Is It the Right One?
That evil occurs is a fact. It comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes, often when least expected, and nobody is immune from it. The rich can't prevent it; the poor can't hide from it. It does not discriminate between the young and the old. The evil that visits you is not unique in the world, though its occurrence might be unique in your life. You are not the first to have ever experienced the particular brand of evil that has come your way, but your response is uniquely yours. You have choices to make when evil comes calling at your door.
This is actually an essay about injustice, at least in man's eyes, and more particularly about the injustice visited on Father Gordon MacRae. Father Gordon was convicted and is imprisoned in New Hampshire State Prison For Men for offences that did not occur, except in the mind of the accuser (and then only as a means to a financial windfall), and because of an over zealous detective, an equally over zealous prosecutor, a judge determined to prove that justice is blind, and worst of all a bishop and his staff who turned a blind eye to the false railroading of one of their own.
There was a lot of blindness present in what transpired to put a faithful Catholic priest in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. And blindness is in lock step with injustice. Without blindness, injustice would be toothless.
How then does a loving God let things like this happen in our world, such clear injustice? And in this case, it lingers, and lingers and lingers.
In 1981, conservative Rabbi Harold Kushner released a well received book entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", in response to the death of his 14 year old son from a genetic disease. Rabbi Kushner did not call his book "Why", but "When" bad things happen. Kushner watched his son die of progeria, a premature aging disease, so his son died at 14 of old age. He explored what it all meant as part of his grieving process, and subsequently discovered that it all made him a better rabbi, husband, father, and person, all of which we would have bypassed if only he could have kept his son alive. He learned what we, his Christian brothers and sisters have scripture to remind us of that "all things turn to good for those who trust in the Lord."
Back to Father MacRae. There is little doubt in my mind that Father Gordon MacRae is a holy priest. Yet, he has spent 18 years imprisoned wrongfully for sexual abuse of a minor. You would think that this kind of adversity would breed anger, hatred, self pity, and a whole lot of not good things, particularly if the person was incarcerated with murderers and rapists and other miscreants, there not being a lot of confirmed saints in prisons these days. If, of course, at some time, Father MacRae did not feel those things, he would not be very human, for in their proper place they are all the feelings of a grieving process, and when one's life is taken from them unjustly, or even justly, there is a great loss that needs to be dealt with.
The things that led up to his imprisonment, the perfect storm of real sexual abuse by Catholic Clergy, a detective who knew the answer without having to ask the questions, or verify the information he received, a judge who had blinders on, and believed that a lack of credible evidence was still grounds for a guilty verdict came together marvelously.
Saint Theresa of Avila once opined in conversation with her Lord and Savior that "If this is the way you treat your friends Lord, it's no wonder you don't have more of them."
Father MacRae might be able to echo that sentiment.
But, the reality is that if Our Dear Lord was not spared the ultimate suffering of a heinous death on a cross, should we be spared sufferings concomitant with His love for us, if those sufferings would. Make us more like Him, and better witnesses of His Abundant Love for us?
Father MacRae is very human. I have no doubt that he engaged in some anger, some self pity, and other emotions that humans feel when their world is turned upside down. But, I also have no doubt that he ultimately offered them up to the Lord to be used for His Glory, as He (God) saw fit, not as Father MacRae would have deemed.
If Father MacRae had not been wrongfully imprisoned, his witness to the inmates in the New Hampshire Prison for Men would never have happened, and some men who are on a path of working out their salvation in wonder and awe might not have had the opportunity to witness the love of Christ working in one of their own.
And how many of us who have been regular visitors to These Stone Walls, where Father MacRae writes of his life of faith would have had the opportunity to witness in the person of an alter christus suffering like the Apostle Paul who too was imprisoned wrongfully, and more so the sufferings of Jesus himself, as manifest in Father Gordon.
We are blessed to be witnesses, even if vicariously, to the life of Father MacRae, and to be inspired to take up our own crosses daily as he takes up his. We look forward to Father MacRae's resurrection hopefully on this earth, but surely in heaven. When Father passes from this life, he will be met face to face by the Jesus that he has re-presented for us here on earth, who will say to him, "Well done good and faithful servant."
So, the question I think is not really How does a Loving God let evil happen, but how could a God who professes abundant love for all of His Creation not let these things happen?