Thursday, January 14, 2010

One Catholic's Response to Pat Robertson

If you haven't heard about it yet, televangelist Pat Robertson had the audacity to state that the reason for the earthquake in Haiti was because the people of Haiti had struck a deal with the devil (video at the end of this post).  I quote:
they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you will get us free from the French." True story. And so, the devil said, "OK, it's a deal."

And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I'm optimistic something good may come. But right now, we're helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.
This is not only bad theology, but it is irresponsible.  I know that there are many good people who watch Pat Robertson and follow his teachings, but I would like to respond from an orthodox Christian - and Catholic - perspective on the situation, not only because falsehoods should be corrected, but because there are many people who are enraged by his comments, both Christian and non-Christian.

1 - The devil is very real, but he does not have unlimited power over the world.
The Catechism says:
''The power of Satan is, nonetheless, only finite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign" (CCC, 395).
The devil is a fallen angel and a powerful spiritual being.  His hatred of God and good things is what drives him to seek out the fall of humans and their eternal suffering in hell.  His power is demonstrated in the Sacred Scriptures when we see demonic possession of humans (e.g. Mk 1:21-28; Lk 4:31-37; Mt 8: 32-33; etc.), the tempting of Christ (Matt 4) as well as many other references of demonic activity.  The primary way he manifests his power is through temptation of humans to sin.  We have all experienced temptations and the struggle that goes along with it, though not all are from demons - some are from our own fallen nature and passions.  To deny that the devil has power is to allow him a victory over us. Charles Baudelaire once said that the devil's greatest trick was to convince us that he does not exist. Yet, his power is not unlimited and he cannot force us to hell, we have to choose it.

One of several extraordinary way the devil works is through what is sometimes called "local infestation" (others are through possession and personal infestation). This is when the devil has direct contact with non-human parts of the created world such as plants, animals, or inanimate objects. This can lead to physical harm, but it is not the cause of natural disasters, but local (think relatively small) areas or objects. When the final tribulation of the earth comes, the devil will be released to have a much broader ability to work in the created world (Rev 20).

2 - Natural Disasters are a Result of Original Sin and a Fallen World
We live in a world that is fallen.  This means that the original plan of unity and peace has been broken.  All of creation is crying out for redemption (Rom 8:19-22) and awaits the coming of Christ to end all suffering, sin, brokenness, death, and disunity.  All of the world suffers because of the fall and thus we have inexplainable tragedies that happen, like this earthquake.

Problems arise when we try to assign an actor behind the tragedy as the cause to the tragedy.  Some say God uses natural disasters to chastise his people and bring them to repentance.  While there is biblical precedence to such an act, we cannot know for certain God has actively willed anything, unless He directly tells us so.  Some others say the devil caused a natural disaster as punishment for their selling out to him, as is the case with Robertson here.  The problem is that we do not know, in this life, the meaning behind many of the things that happen in our world.  God allows them all, and for good reason, but may not reveal these reasons to us.  What we can do is rest our hopes on God's almighty providence - He knows what is best for us.
From the Catechism:
"The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases."162 And so it is with Christ, "who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens".163 As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established." (CCC 303).
To try and find meaning to such disasters is to try and explain the mind of God.

3 - Pat Robertson Needs a History Lesson.
He made several errors.  Napoleon III had nothing to do with the formation of Haiti. The Haitians revolted the same time the French did, during Napoleon I's reign. Also, there are many other details that he gets wrong and then he cites a legend, with no basis in real history, as the cause.  Read here for more on how he messed up.

Pat Robertson has bad theology, little common sense, and is making a presumption that he knows the mind of God, all based on bad history, legend and innuendo.

Don't listen to him.  Listen to the one who was guaranteed not to lead us into error - Holy Mother Church guided by the Holy Spirit.

Pray for Haiti.
Pray for Pat Robertson.
Send money or assist in other ways if you can.

UPDATE: CBN has issued a statement defending Robertson.


The Ironic Catholic said...

good response, Marcel.

Mark P. Shea said...

What a maroon!

Thomas More said...

Great comment. Maybe our sin in America is to blame for the disaster in Haiti?

In the Gospel Jesus reminds his disciples that the people killed in the tower accident didn't die because they had more sin than they but as a warning.

Our Lord was horrifically killed on the cross, should we his servants be expected to be treated better than their Master.

Maybe this is a moment of grace for all of us, the people of Haiti and us to come together in true Christian solidarity. Maybe it is to help people in this country to recognize true poverty and to no longer use our "tough economic times" as justification to compromise with candidates who want to kill little babies with abortion.

Pat Robertson endorsed Guiliani for president (pro-abortion catholic), yet he dares to accuse the good people of Haiti for making a pact with the devil.

May God have mercy on all of us, and may Robertson be converted and come to the one true faith before his death.

Sharon said...

Pat might be wrong about the mind of God in this case and he might be wrong about some of his history. But if He is even possibly right, wouldn't it be more loving to say they might need to repent than to say nothing to point them toward salvation and eternal life? And he is sending and rallying help for them,too.

Marcel said...

Sharon - Let us assume, for argument's sake, that Robertson is dead on. Would enraging people really lead them to repent?

Of course they need to repent, so do we.

hal said...

He is probably correct, but the pact was made by the great grandfathers of these people - you think God is punishing them for the sins of their ancestors? What none sense! He is just like the Muslims who believe that the Jews are mostly bad because of ancestral sins. We Catholics are told not to be so negative towards Protestants because, after all, the mistakes that set them against the truth of Church, happened a long long time ago and many fathers have unwittingly passed on this misinformation to their offspring. I'm afraid the Pat has embraced the protestant error of believing in Blind Faith without Reason. Truth is, "Faith without Reason" is a good working definition of insanity. Pray for the poor Protester!

John O'Leary said...


Good response To Robertson's cruel and thoughtless comments about Haiti. I hope you are sending this message to him directly. There is an error, though, when you write that the Haitians revolted at the same time as the French, under Napoleon 1st. The 1789 French Revolution was against the king, Louis XV1

hal said...

I hate to say it but Pat, like all mainstream protestants, believes without question in Faith without Reason - believes without question in the voices he hears in his head - and such thinking is dangerous and will lead to destruction. Faith is not Faith when reason is removed from it. Martin Luther was dead wrong!

Marcel said...

John - true. I kinda mixed up a few facts. The Haitian slave revolt was in 1791 (Louis XVI's time) and then Haiti won independence in 1804 (Napoleon I reigned).

Richard Aleman said...

Dominican Republic is prosperous? Possibly for the few, but certainly not for the many as exemplified by the scores of children at the airport looking to grab your luggage in exchange for a few pesos.

Robertson is just another one of those Protestants making the case for the "Prosperity Gospel". Poor = God's punishment. Rich = God's benevolence.

Jean-Therese Delacroix said...

Wow ... and that's why I never listen to Pat Robertson when he makes these kinds of comments. And seriously, why does he have to blame every sort of major disaster towards pacts with the Devil?

Indeed, he did it with Katrina, and now this with Haiti? Surely, I agree with you guys that this is an irresponsible act that is now hurting the people of Haiti. And as they are now suffering, the people there don't deserve this.

Phil Onochie said...

Marcel, by that logic, you are saying that because denying politicians Holy Communion will send them into rage, then, it shouldn't be done.

It is charity my friend, to instruct the ignorant. I am not saying God is punishing Haiti for the sins, but remember that God does punish by earthquake and war. And, when he does so, the innocent and the guilty alike perish. A classic example, 'Tower of Babel'.

Disasters are not just meant for us to cry over the loss of loved ones, but a call for us to cleanse ourselves yet again and renew our hearts.


cindy said...

Wikipedia says the Haitians began their revolution in 1791 with a Voodoo(Vodou)ceremony. Perhaps that's what he's talking about. I know...don't trust Wiki...but I like it.

Frank said...

"A disciple asked St. Macarius, 'Is it possible for a man who has a gift of grace to fall?' The saint answered,"If he gets careless, he falls. The adversaries never are idle or shirk battle. How much more,then, ought you to never cease from the quest of God? For great is your loss if you are careless, although you may think yourself to be exercised in the very mystery of Grace.'"

LissaKay said...

Read this post AND the comments, especially the two signed "Really?" ...

Ken&Betty said...

As a Catholic, I believe you missed the point.

Jim Blazsik said...

I do roll my eyes at certain comments made by Mr. Robertson, but please remember that Operation Blessing (a ministry of Robertson) has a presence in Haiti and are helping in this trajedy even as we speak.