Catholic Dogma says "God is absolute benignity"
Does that mean he's inactive - like the Watchmaker?

I got an interesting question from a young Evangelical about Catholic Dogma. He asked:

Catholic Dogma says "God is absolute benignity." That worries me. Does it mean the Catholic Church is saying God is not active in the Creation of the universe or in or personal lives?

When we in modern society hear the word benign we think inactivity, of a tumor that does nothing. It is not harmful but neither is it helpful. They usually have to remove it with surgery, so it's still pretty bad, even though it's not malignant. So we could see why someone reading Catholic Dogma, would think the Catholic Church was teaching the "Watchmaker" theory of creation, which says God winded up the universe like a clock, and then walked away and let it develop and exist on its own. Actually, it would be a heresy to teach the Watchmaker theory in the Catholic Church.

Before going into the history of the word benignity, it would be useful to look at the other dogmas regarding the character of God. We can learn what benignity is not simply by looking at what God is, as listed elsewhere.

Catholic Dogma is completely contrary to the "Watchmaker" theory. Here’s what Dogma says about “God the Creator”:

God keeps all created things in existence.

The words “God keeps” is a present tense verb which shows that he is active in creation, he didn’t walk away. There are hundreds of other clear statements by the Church that demonstrate we do not teach anything like the "Watchmaker" theory. Simply reading about Jesus’ active salvation of man in Dogma demonstrates that God loves his people and is active in their lives, and is active in the world. So benignity is referring to something else.

Princeton University dictionary shows us that our concept of a benign tumor is false. Benignity is the "quality or condition of being kind and gentle", or it is "a kindly or gracious act"1. It is the opposite of malignity, not the neutral of it. Malignity means “disposed to evil, or intense ill will.”  The opposite of that is “disposed to good, intense good will.” Benignity comes from the Bible.

BENIGNITY- One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, identified by St. Paul. It corresponds to kindness. (Etym. Latin bene, well + gigni, to be born: benignitas, kindness.) Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life.

Here is Galatians 5:22 in the Latin Vulgate:

fructus autem Spiritus est caritas gaudium pax longanimitas bonitas benignitas (benignity).

Strong’s reference (a non-Catholic source) also translates the Greek word χρηστότης (chrēstotēs) in Galatians 5:22 to "benignity" or "kindness." That's the source of the Catholic Dogma of "God is absolute benignity" -- the Bible.


be·nig·ni·ty  (b-ngn-t)
n. pl. be·nig·ni·ties
1. The quality or condition of being kind and gentle.
2. A kindly or gracious act. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

benignity [bin-nig-nit-tee]
pl -ties kindliness
Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006
ThesaurusLegend:  Synonyms Related Words Antonyms



benignity - the quality of being kind and gentle
benignancy, graciousness
good, goodness - moral excellence or admirableness; "there is much good to be found in people"
malignance, malignancy, malignity - quality of being disposed to evil; intense ill will


benignity - a kind act
action - something done (usually as opposed to something said); "there were stories of murders and other unnatural actions"
benefaction, benevolence - an act intending or showing kindness and good will
cupboard love - a show of affection motivated by selfishness
favor, favour - an act of gracious kindness
pardon, forgiveness - the act of excusing a mistake or offense
endearment - the act of showing affection
thoughtfulness, consideration - a considerate and thoughtful act

Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

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