The sin of scandal is not discussed often enough. Today, let us examine the meaning of scandalous behavior in greater detail. We will use the example of support for abortion to illustrate our points.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SCANDALOUS BEHAVIOR, AND WHY IS IT SUCH A BIG DEAL?
“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2284).
The Catechism explains that the person giving scandal “becomes his neighbor’s tempter.”
It says the party guilty of causing scandal also injures virtue and integrity.
In fact, the sin of scandal can be a grave sin, the Catechism reminds everyone. If the offender, by deed or even by omission of deed, leads another into a grave offense, then the offender is guilty of grave sin.
Thus, the Catechism says the person committing scandal “may even draw his neighbor into spiritual death.”
For this reason, our Lord, Jesus Christ made this bold pronouncement:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
WHO IS ESPECIALLY CULPABLE OF THE SIN OF SCANDAL?
Christ directed his hard-hitting words toward the scribes and Pharisees. The Catechism points out that Christ compared them to wolves in sheep clothing (2285, cf. Matthew 7:15).
The scribes and Pharisees having studied the Law, knew the Law better than anyone. They were the moral authorities in the Jewish culture. A parallel can be drawn to our modern Church.
“Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature of office are obliged to teach and educate others,” expounds the Catechism.
One can’t help but think of the wayward clergy and religious who cause the sin of scandal. By virtue of their vocation, they are to serve as teachers of the faith. Yet, they confuse the faithful by supporting abortion, homosexual so-called “marriage,” contraception use, or other grave sins.
I realize the following video is a few years old, but it will give an example of the seriousness of the sin of scandal. I am not naïve enough to think no other Catholic clergy or religious support abortion these days. I doubt you are that naïve either.
As well, I want it to be known that I will not be complicit in their sin of scandal by remaining silent. Lest I too be guilty of the sin of scandal (CCC 2284).
THE LAW AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS CAN BE GUILTY OF SCANDAL TOO
The section of the Catechism speaking about the sin of scandal can be found in the portion on the Fifth Commandment, “Thou Shall Not Kill.” This makes sense. For, although scandal dosn’t result in the physical death of someone, it can lead to their spiritual ruin.
Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, Catechism 2286 points out. It then goes on to quote Pope Pius XII:
“Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to ‘social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible: (Discourse, June 1, 1941).
Take ten seconds to ask yourself this: is our culture conducive to allowing Christians to practice their religion and to obey the Commandments?
That was a rhetorical question.
Prayer and any mention of God have been disallowed from schools. The First Commandment is not permitted in secular arenas such as these.
Given the smut on television, magazine covers, the internet, and billboards, following the 6th and 9th Commandments remains a tall task.
Not only does our government condone murder of the unborn, it subsidizes it with your tax dollars. This is a clear violation of the Fifth Commandment, “Thou Shall Not Kill.”
The examples could go on and on.
Those who passed these laws and those that uphold these laws have some serious soul searching needing to take place.
Those officials who have power at their disposal can be guilty of the sin of scandal, the Catechism points out (2287). They may be wielding a big political stick, but they will answer for encouraging others to sin—and sin grievously, as in the case of abortion.
It is easy to cast stones at errant clergy and religious. It is far more difficult to do some self-examination.
Have I been guilty of the sin of scandal? Maybe I haven’t encouraged someone to procure an abortion. Or, I may be guilty of the sin of omission by not attempting to dissuade someone from getting one.
Let me help you examine yourself in areas you may not have thought to before. I recommend you read my prior post about the six sins against the Holy Spirit as you conduct your examination of conscience.
To conclude, I will quote our Lord, as the Catechism does to end its portion on the sin of scandal:
“Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” (Luke 17:1).
Have you given much thought to the meaning of scandalous behavior?
Please share your thoughts on this below.