Earthquake, Tsunami Raise the Question of Suffering, Says Jesuit

Jesuit Father Jim MartinShare

Like many, Jesuit Father James Martin watched the tsunami after the Mar. 11 earthquake in Japan unfold on T.V.

For years now, Americans have been used to television that shows “reality that is unreal,” said Fr. Martin, who is the culture editor of America magazine.

“A lot of these reality shows are based on watching people suffer — watching them suffer physically, watching them suffer financially,” he said. “It’s important to recognize that we don’t have to create suffering in this world. There is suffering in this world.”

Martin said that nonbelievers may well have an easier time digesting the images from Japan than believers, because “the nonbeliever does not have to grapple with: How does a good God let this happen?

“Most people can make sense of what theologians call ‘moral evil’ — evil that comes from human decisions,” he said. “But natural disasters and catastrophic illnesses really test the believers’ faith. There is no satisfactory answer for why there is such suffering in the world on a natural level.”

Martin said that no explanation can fully satisfy that question of why we suffer, and “anyone who says they have the answer is either a fool or a liar.”

For more thoughts from Martin on the question of suffering, visit the L.A. Times and America magazine.

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