This is a poor explanation for your questions but here goes:
The problem of evil is, the problem of Zero. Zero is a negative value. It is nothing. You can only give someone a theoretical 'nothing'. What you are actually doing is withholding a positive thing. That is why God did not 'create' evil. The point of explaining this is to show that evil is not just that it is a thing God wants (he did not create it), but that is indeed not in the nature of God to want it because he IS (the affirmation of being). So lets use a different term for evil -- evil is the absence of good. (Now, Catholicism makes very few assertions, but THE Catholic theologian per excellence, Aquinas drew a distinction between the physical absence of good and the spiritual absence of it.)
I see the Catholic explanation of evil as a privation of good. But I don't buy it, and let me explain why. I think both 'evil' and 'good' are words, words used to express concepts. The words refer to observations, but they don't denote anything *real* in the world. We see some acts, associate them with a concept, and label that 'evil' or 'good'. That is, I see no evidence that 'good' itself exists. Could we not just as easily say that only evil exists, and good is the absence of evil? In my view, neither exist, so both are fine terms. I can say something is good, evil, ambivalent, neutral and so on, and the terms are equally successful in description.
So it's not a question of your god creating evil. It's a question of your god allowing the set of things (e.g. unnecessary suffering, tornadoes, diseases) to be among the things that exist. This allowing the things that we call evil.
Does God allow us to choose the absence of Good? Does he allow us to rape and kill? Does he allow us to reap the consequences of that in the physical world?
Yes, God allows us to make free choices because he is being loving to our human essence, our spirit and free will.
You did not explain why this makes god loving. Allowing people to rape and be raped is loving? How so? If you think freedom is some ultimate good, you must explain why it is, in the context of allowable rape.
For a thought experiment, imagine you have 10 children. Now you leave them alone in the room to play. When they start fighting with each other, beating each other, raping each other and killing each other, you step in. If not, you are hauled to jail - the worst parent possible. But again your god doesn't step in. That seems to be a much lower moral standard and not a legitimate strategy of parenting.
What does this freedom give us?
1) The freedom to find god and jesus if we happen to be born in the right culture at the right time, otherwise unfairly lacking the boons of religion and afterlife (incredibly unjust)
2) The freedom to die as an infant or toddler without ever having moral understanding.
3) The freedom to kill and rape.
Does the inclusion of 1 explain the inclusion of 2 and 3? I do not think so.
Does that make God evil? No.
He no more wishes us evil than I wish evil to my son when he disobeys me and gets hurt. I could sit there and Guard him 24-7 never let him feel conflict, but this would not allow him to develop a conscience. Ten years from now, he would be the same conscienceless 5-year old, except with a driver's permit.
I see your assertion that god doesn't wish evil. But if I let my daughter get raped or killed, I am allowing that evil. I didn't wish it to happen; I just sat by and let it happen. Sitting by when a crime occurs is considered as bad as committing the crime in Judaism, while not punishable by our legal system currently...
Now, you object to the idea of God letting us suffer things like the Holocaust. However God has let us reap good also out of all that suffering. As negative as the holocaust was, we today have for a time a renewed commitment to stop religious persecution, so temporal good has come. But also the spiritual Good of people having put out the anti-semitism in their own hearts around the world. God has used that for our conversion. He has softened our hearts to learn how the absence of love for our Jewish bretheren bore poisoned fruit. Physical good came from hearts being moved to correct the absence of Good. Also spiritual Good. Yes, people died, many of them made spiritually better by their suffering and many were made better by helping Jews flee or dying in martyrdom with them like my favorite Saint Edith Stein. I'm sure many cursed God and refused to submit to his will too. But they were given a choice. Unlike other religions Christianity ACCEPTS suffering. We don't go looking for trouble but we are not looking to escape it when it is necessary for the love of God, but to develop an inner disposition, a spiritual freedom.
I cannot accept your attempt to reconcile the allowance of the Holocaust. Moral lessons for the rest of us? Such a being that would kill millions to spread a lesson is cruel and unjust on an unimaginable scale. The universe cannot work like that, where babies are gassed to death to convey some future lesson that could be conveyed in another way. You are submitting that your god allowed centuries of Catholic anti-semitic teaching and urging, and then rather than change that to change attitudes, actually allowed people to go through with their anti-semitic extinction to change our attitudes in an indirect way. Another note: anti-semitism has not been put out, and is even growing in many parts of the world. There are hundreds of millions, if not billions, who are anti-semitic.
I don't understand your acceptance of suffering. Suffering is bad. Allowing suffering is bad. And of course, I cannot concede that suffering allows spiritual growth. When you are shot in a firing line or gassed to death after nearly starving and watching your family die, where is the spiritual growth there?
If this subordination of the physical world to the spiritual good seems cruel, it is not because you are overstimating how much it hurts to be raped, to suffer a broken arm, to die. But because you are underestimating the importance of the Spirit. That Christians believe in life after death makes this faith possible.... All that being said we do not and cannot earn our salvation, we have nothing that God has not made. Everything we can offer him, is already his. So anything we do is merely a gesture, even dying for him. Its like my daughter offering me an orange. I bought the orange and I thought her to share, so even the work and the words are mine. So she is giving me back to myself. So it is with God.
The 'earning salvation' procedure is flawed and biased. It does not respect humans equally, but relies on luck and accident (circumstances of birth). That is not how perfect beings devise meaningful tests. If you are right that the supernatural realms justify the natural suffering, you must understand that you are putting a heavy burden of doubt on me. To accept something that explicitly contradicts what I see, I must accept the truth of something that no one can see or I submit, has ever seen.
Now the things that happen in the world are not baggage, any more than soldier's killed in the war are unimportant. Because the parts of the created world that he made and loved are being destroyed. Yes, the world's cause and effect must be upheld for the good of our conscience.
Now, I have explained this in Lay Person terms, other folks can probably fill in the more technical terms, but that's about the size of it.
The ability to accept suffering is the crux of Christianity. See the cross. That is not an intellectual task.Its a task of the will and spirit. So consider it for some time before you make up your mind. It is NOT an easy thing even for those of us who understand it intellectually, it may even be harder actually. Some questions need long incubation periods....
I don't see the relevance of the cross or understand your last point. I see a task of will as coping with suffering. But justifying it as okay by appeal to invisible, inconceivable post-life justifications seems an impossible stretch to me.