Roberto De Mattei is back. He’s a crackpot creationist who also happens to be the Vice President of the National Research Council (CNR). From an American perspective, he might be comparable to Francis Collins. Both are outspoken Christians, though they would probably argue over which version is the true one.
Collins may be a bit of a clown, but I’m convinced he would never resort to the kind of malicious theodicy that De Mattei has with regard to the recent disaster in Japan. Speaking – or, preaching - on Radio Maria, De Mattei has posited that the catastrophe is part of (surprise, surprise) Almighty God’s plan.
Quoting a Monsignor Mazzella he said, “Great catastrophes are a terrible but paternal sign of God’s benevolence which call attention to the ultimate scope of our lives.”
To this he added: “If the Earth offered no danger, pain or catastrophe it would fascinate us to no end, and we would too easily forget we are citizens of heaven.”
And, “…catastrophes are the just punishments of God” inasmuch as “to the guilt of the Original Sin are added our personal and collective sins, and while God awards and punishes in eternity, it is on Earth that he awards and punishes nations.” Listen to him here if you know some Italian.
Now, I’m not surprised by any of this. If you really believe there is a God who made the world, destroyed it by flood, remade it, intervened occasionally here and there with his prophets, and has an ultimate plan for all of us, then I suppose such reflections are only natural. That, we might say, is the root of the problem.
Religion warps minds. There can be little doubt about this. It has the capacity – I’m paraphrasing Steven Weinberg – to make good people do evil things. De Mattei’s speech, like so many American pastors’, fits this bill.
What happened in Japan is nearly unthinkable: an earthquake accompanied by a tsunami cut loose an atomic disaster. Many lives have been lost or ruined, and at present we have little or no idea what’s in store for the Japanese people. There’s radiation in the seawater, and there’s no reason to thing this thing will end tomorrow.
I can think of no better reason, if you believe in God, to abandon that belief this instant. Natural disasters necessarily come under God’s plan if you believe he has one. That is, if he is benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient. If he’s not, then your God is no better than a broken air-conditioner. Get rid of it.
The “reasoning” of De Mattei and anyone else who searches for God’s benevolence in the untold sufferings of humanity is hardly worth responding to. But it’s the maliciousness, the arrogance of De Mattei that irks me. He should be shunned for such assertions instead of made Vice President of the CNR.
But this is Italy – what do you expect?
* You can sign a petition calling for De Mattei’s resignation here.