Writing in Nichomachean Ethics in about 340 B.C. the philosopher Aristotle outlined his moral theory which was that evil is always a corruption of the good. He gave us the powerful aphorism, "The corruption of the best is the worst." This theory of good and evil was later to be taken up by Thomas Aquinas, who believed that evil was always a good that was used in a disordered way, perverted from its true purpose. The implications for religion are serious and profound. Just as religion is capable of great good, it can also be responsible for great evil. Moreover, just as religious ministers are persons who must work for the highest good, the perversion of their ministry serves the cause of evil. I strongly believe that this principle should be applied to an analysis of the problems facing Catholicism at the present time.
The three great values are the True, the Good and the Beautiful, and Catholicism seeks them in God. You can sense something of the spirit of a religion from its art and music. Catholicism has produced the exquisite heavenly music of Gregorian plain chant, and the art that has flowed from the Catholic faith's inspiration is glorious. There are also great works of charity performed by the church. In many parts of the world the church is the prime provider of health care and education, and anti-slavery work is ongoing. Furthermore, the Catholic Church is counter-cultural. If it thinks that the spirit or ideas of the times are wrong, it will oppose them, no matter what the pressure is. For the church truth matters. There are many Catholics living lives of personal holiness, and conducting their personal relationships according to high and demanding moral standards. The Catholic Church has always produced great saints. Moreover, it has produced people of great scholarship, not only in religious thought, but in all other disciplines, including science, philosophy and history.
But as we know only too well, lurking within the institution and community there have been individuals, some of them in office, at times high ranking, who have seriously misused power and done grave harm to others and the Church, causing scandal and damaging the church's mission to do good in the world. The only possible word to describe those who sully the church's mission is to say that they do evil. Secular thinkers eschew the word evil as non-scientific, but when humans confront some levels and forms of moral wrongdoing, the enormity of what has been done demands that a special term be used, and that in agreed parlance is evil.
Christians disagree among themselves about the existence of power of evil operating in the world against God, but such a being would be working against the church, instigating persecution from the outside and corruption as an attack from the inside. This is what seems to be happening in the world today: Christians suffer attacks for their faith, such as the recent bombings in Sri Lanka, but individuals within the church are sometimes corrupt and misuse their office to the detriment of all.