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48. The Distinction of Good and Evil

1. One opposite is known through the other, as, for instance, darkness is known through light. Evil is known through goodness, for evil is the privation of good. Evil is not a thing,an essence, a nature in itself; it exists by way of defect or failure in natures. Being as such is good; it is where being breaks off, or fails to be, that evil appears.

2. Evil is found in things in the world, just as inequality is found there. Inequality means that more perfect things should not lose their existence and less perfect things should lose their existence, and loss of existence is an evil. In a world in which there are things that can be broken up and changed and things that can die, it is manifest that there is evil.

3. The subject of evil is the thing in which evil exists. Now, evil is found in things, and things as such are good.Hence, the subject of evil is good. Not every absence of good is an evil, but only the absence of that good which the perfection of a thing demands. Thus the absence of life is not an evil in a stone,for the nature of a stone does not require life; absence of life is an evil for plant, animal, or man. Thus also blindness, or absence of the power to see, is an evil for a man,but not for a plant. In a word, evil is an absence which deprives the thing in which it exists (its subject) of a perfection that oughtto be there; evil is a privation of good. And its subject is good.

4. Evil which is failure, defect, or absence in the structure or processes of a thing, is called physical evil. Hunger, death, blindness, are examples of physical evil, as are lameness, deformity, injured members. Evil which is defect and failure of a free will to measure up to the standard of what its conduct should be, is moral evil; moral evil is sin and such imperfection as approximates to sin. Evil destroys good in the precise point in which it negates good, or deprives the subject of good, but otherwise it does not destroy good. The evil of sickness destroys health, but not the possibility of recovery by medical cure or by miracle. Mortal sin destroys the spiritual good of the soul, but does not destroy the aptitude of the soul for regaining grace.

5. In human experience evil takes the form of pain or fault. Evil is something that hampers and hurts, or it is a defection of the will by sin.

6. Man's greatest natural good is found in the properuse of his free will. Failure here is fault. Fault is failure inthe greatest good; therefore, fault has more of the nature of evilthan has pain or penalty.

"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."
Blessed Henry Suso

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"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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