Bishop David O’Connell, vicar for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot and killed in cold blood on February 18, 2023. By whom and for what reason, is under investigation. Bishop Dave was considered one of the “good guys” in the Church; a servant who, had he stayed in his native Ireland, would likely still be alive. Violence, especially homicide, is a too familiar aspect of life in America. That there is outright hostility toward the Catholic Church, indeed Christianity, is well known, but when a person takes out their anger to the point of killing – what can we say? How do we as Catholics respond? In addition to the “who and why” surrounding the murder, many will want to know how God could allow this to happen. Regarding this, Archbishop Fulton Sheen has something to say.
In the Archbishop’s book “Go to Heaven” he states that God is not the source of evil, for God is good, but that he permits evil. Why? In part, because humans have a free will – to obey or disobey – including to give life or take it unjustly away. The person or persons who killed Bishop Dave had a choice. In addition, Archbishop Sheen points out that God allows bad things to happen because God sees the big picture we do not immediately see. He states, “The evil which God permits must not be judged by its immediate effects, but rather by its ultimate effects.” In the Bible we are told that Joseph was sold into slavery by the evil intention of this brothers, but God used their evil for good. And Jesus could have kept his friend Lazarus from death, but permitted him to die (causing much grief to his family) before he raised him from the dead to glorify God.
The key to understanding the unthinkable is to see that God has given humanity a choice, but that he also may intervene to “make good” on our evil by turning it around for his glory. So will God turn Bishop Dave’s murder into something good? We cannot say at this point in time. What is important for us to understand is that God’s permissive will is never tainted by malice or evil intent; but always toward what is good. Though he foreknew, as God knows all, God did not will the murder of Bishop Dave; a human voluntarily committed that heinous act and justice will be served. Either in this life, or the next, or both.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap.
Prayers for Bishop O’Connell, his family, and the people he served.
 Fulton J. Sheen, Go to Heaven. (New York: Dell Publishing, 1949). 192.