Why? The Haitian Earthquake Disaster

Even the most ardent Christian may stop to ask “why?” when faced with suffering beyond imagining.  Even Jesus asked that the cup be taken from him in his moment of despair in the garden.

One of the reasons many people scoff at religion is because they believe that God causes suffering. That is far too much a topic to take on today and I am reminded that for those who need an explanation, none is generally acceptable and for others, no explanation is necessary.

Certainly Haiti has already faced monstrous despair beyond what most of us can imagine. Maybe you read my post about our visit from the Food for the Poor priest, Father Bob. It is gut wrenching to consider the plight of Haiti on the best of  days.

Now it is beyond the beyond.

There is a spectrum of human response. I do not mean to knock anyone, but when someone who has the audience that Pat Robertson has, it seems unconscionable to suggest that this has to do with a pact with the devil. Frankly, as Catholics, that is pretty theologically far from what we believe. In any event, if people are suffering, even if we are helping them, does it do any good to have this kind of discussion? I do not believe that it does.

The other end of the spectrum has people saying that there is no God, or that if God exists, He is cruel. And there are those who would say that saying that we are holding the Haitians in our prayers is a waste of time and not helpful to the Haitians. To each their own, but I am not really sure what the point of that kind of talk is.

In the heart of the disaster you don’t stop to talk about this kind of stuff – you get out there and do what you can. At least that is what an appropriate Christian response should be. If you are not sure, please consider referencing the parables of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan, just for starters.

Catholic Relief Services is on the ground in Haiti… And they have been for a very long time. Another Catholic charity is Hands Together. They are based in Western Massachusetts and they came to speak at our parish in July 2008. They could use your help if you want to donate to them instead of, or along with a donation to CRS. There are many ways to donate.

Our Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, is asking for help from the Catholics of Albany.  If you are in this diocese, please expect a second collection request at mass this weekend. Many of us are challenged at this point, but give what you can, if you can! No amount is too small.

My friend Paul Snatchko wrote a really good piece today, addressing the “why?”

Considering the tragedy that has taken place in Haiti, the final verse of the Psalm at Mass today stings:

“Why do you hide your face,
forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust,
our bodies are pressed to the earth.”


It’s the question of the day.

Why does God permit the earth to rumble beneath us?

Why did God permit the earth to move under Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas?

Go read the whole thing – you won’t be disappointed.

And pray, and give and share links and do what you can.

And be thankful today. Even if things are rough, you probably had food today, a roof over your head and a pillow to lay your head on.

We all remember someone very important to us, who did not always have the basics either, yet we trust Him for everything and just celebrated that potentially roofless, pillowless place, not so long ago.


6 thoughts on “Why? The Haitian Earthquake Disaster

  1. Earthquakes don't kill people. People kill people. As Paul and Suzy said earthquakes are inevitable. The Haitians should live in structures built with that in mind. The failure here isn't God's. It's us.My question is what does it say about humanity that we have economic and political conditions that force people to build buildings and live in conditions that are not suited for earthquakes in a known earthquake zone? What does it say about our humanity that there are economic and political systems that force people to deforest their surroundings which leads to the death of thousands by landslides when the inevitable tropical storm shows up and makes them poorer and more desperate in the long run? Why can't humanity provide these poor and vulnerable people with the resources that gives them what we all deserve: basic safety?This isn't God's wrath or will. But God never stopped us from harming ourselves and each other. God didn't even stop His own Son from being crucified by other people. The onus is on us to stop killing ourselves out of greed greed, hate and ignorance. God's heart breaks when our own actions lead to our own tragedy.Yes, we should act compassionately towards the injured, but I think we need to address the inhumanity of our economic and political structures and systems. In North America, we throw obscene amounts of money away without thinking about it while people in Haiti are forced to live like this, squeaking out an existence on less than a dollar a day in substandard living conditions vulnerable to the natural conditions of the world. The finger doesn't point at God. It points at us.


  2. My spiritual advisor, whenever I ask, "Why …" says, "Would it make any difference if you knew?" Usually the answer is, no.Dan's right — it's the nature of the creation to shift. Everything God makes changes and moves and grows all the time. The things that are static are the things WE make — economic, political and social structures that condemn some to poverty, illness, ill-treatment and torture and death. That's a Why question that should make a difference if we knew — but so often, we do know and we can't seem to make any difference.


  3. I posted this on Facebook but will here. If you live in the U.S. please write your Congressperson asking them to sponsor the Jubilee Act. This act cancels the debt owed by 65 of the world's poorest countries provided they meet financial accountability and human rights standards. Haiti is one of the qualifying countries. A Jubilee is a Biblical concept rooted in the Jewish value of charity and mercy.(Canada already cancelled Haiti's debt last summer: Canada Cancels All Debt Owed by Haiti)


  4. I cry for Haiti.Humanity won't change until we stop worshiping money and material wealth. It's the craven love of power and wealth the keeps people oppressed and in poverty. It's the fear of sharing that keep our fellow humans living in inadequate housing, and malnourished. It's stinking rich men like Pat Robertson that swim in a tainted pool and spew their hatred that keep the human race from reaching global love.


  5. i can almost here pat robertson laughing at thiswhy does it even take a tragedy like this to consider helping – and why is there even a debate about it?just like health care in many ways – it means sacrifice, something many many americans DO NOT know how to do


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