Threadname: The Sin of Scandal

From: Phil At:

The CCC: Questionable Help

The new Catechism of the Catholic Church has not helped me or my family on particulars where help was expected. I would like to describe the details to see if you or your readers agree. Publication of them will at least reduce expectations and disappointments on these points with readers having similar family problems of Faith. Product of my further research here may serve as replacement.

Let me describe the family and problems first. I am 73 with a 12 year Catholic education in a day when educators were entirely reputable, i.e. late 40s. We had 9 children, 4 of which had the same education mostly in the 80s. Of the remainder 4 had some Catholic elementary school. All 9 had Saturday CCD in a more reputable parish program. Six are now married, 1 mixed and 2 without benefit of Catholic clergy. 10 of our 13 grandchildren are baptized, one in a non-Catholic church.

Three have left Catholic practice and I have written to two; one son concerning eternal effects of his departure only twice in 13 years. My last and recent was asking baptism for his 1 year old. His reply was promising and tearfully endearing for its additional sentiments on Father’s Day.

I never wrote to my non practicing daughter but recently added a note to a Mass card I sent favoring her late son, who died in a ski accident. The circumstances are unusual: 13 years ago she gave this boy up for an open records adoption through a secular agency promising placement in a Catholic home. His obituary revealed he was Protestant Evangelical. In my note to my daughter I expressed regret and shock at seeing this, “Apparently some secular agencies consider one ‘Christian’ religion as good as another...”, then added some hope she valued the Mass card as we did years ago when I treasured our shared belief in the mercy of Purgatory.

Enter now one 38 year old daughter-in-law by my first son; she is a fully practicing Catholic, 4 children, home schooling them plus CCD. Let’s call her Sue, because she is now “suiting” me out of court for contributing to the “delinquency” of either of the above to whom I have written. Sue claims my religious criticisms to them have “pushed them farther out of the Church.” She doesn’t say which because she has some stated and privileged confidentiality with one or both (i.e. like doctor-patient or lawyer-client). She also adds in their defense that it was their choice (where have we heard that one before?) in their decision, as though untouchable.

Rather than get into who-said-what I questioned more her sense of sin in matching mine of these family events and others. I listed 6 very serious ones and asked if she thought any scandalous. In reply she turned to the CCC for its definition, extracted a faulty interpretation and used it against me. The CCC in #2284 says scandal “leads another to evil”. Sue implicitly insisted that it MUST culminate in sin, and an identical sin. Since she did not commit the same sin due to these events she could not admit to these as scandal, trashed my whole list. Then Sue suggested that I might have committed them and that’s why I thought they were scandalous. Remarkable!

But who would blame her? I can’t. It seems so plain by the text. The only reason I know better is that I have 35 year head start on learning the facts of Faith and know enough to be critical of the CCC. I know more about what it should mean and where it missed its mark. If only it had said, “Scandal MAY lead others to sin”, it would have been an improvement but still flawed by the possibility that the responding sin in others must be discovered to constitute scandal.

Where is the truth?! I went looking. Of popular catechisms over an inch thick within reach, I found nothing indexed on scandal by John Hardon, or Wuerl & Lawler. Of encyclopedias at our library: The 2003 Catholic one gives lots but no particular help. Neither does Stravinskas in his. Broderick’s (1975) comes close by addressing “scandal taken” but not “given”. I wouldn’t dare turn to McBrien’s for anything except as kindling fuel.

Ultimately I found everything I needed to defend the truth, the Church and myself in books 55 years old or more which I will here cite and abstract, especially for your readers, as I did for Sue. For her I went three pages and that was only Part I. I intend to teach her a lesson or two.

The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1914, on the Web: “For scandal to exist it is... essential and sufficient, with regard to the nature of the act and the circumstances under which it takes place, that it be of a nature to induce sin in another; consequently it is NOT necessary that the neighbour should actually fall into sin...”[emphasis added]

O’Connell, Rev. John., Ed.; The Holy Bible, Holy Trinity Edition, The Catholic Press, Inc., 1951; A Catholic Dictionary appendix, p.211; my late mother’s bible: “SCANDAL - Harmful effects that a word or action MAY have on others in tempting or inciting them to sin. Even though the other does not actually sin, the offender is held accountable for the scandal given...” [emphasis added] Note: more below on “scandal given”.

Donovan, Rev. C.F.; Our Faith and the Facts; Chicago, 1927, p.680; this better defines the gravity of scandal: “SCANDAL - To lead another to commit sin; a sin against the fifth commandment, being equivalent to spiritual murder.”

Elwell, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Clarence, et al.; Toward The Eternal Commencement, a text book series of 4 volumes, 2nd edition, 1957, (available in reprint). - The first edition of 1946 was my early and best instruction before reading any of the above. Vol. 3, p.547: “To give scandal means to do something that will TEND to lead others to sin. This may be done by commission or omission... It is not necessary that others be led into sin but only that they MAY be influenced toward sin by our actions.”[emphasis added] - This does not say that they MUST be influenced.

The Scriptural foundation for scandal “given” and “taken” is from Christ’s paying of a tax. Though He had perfect exemption, He paid it only to avoid giving scandal. (Matt.17 :24-27)

I’ll hazard a wild guess as to how the writers of the CCC could do this: It trusted some prior knowledge of scandal. It was written by a scholar for scholars on the committee seeking favor for final insertion of an article. As a reference for scholars, that’s fine. For the ordinary uninformed Catholic seeking to learn, it isn’t. Too much has been left to prior scholarship of the reader, failing that, imagination of which some ,bent on their own agenda, have plenty (to wit: Sue).

Recent opinion has it that the private sense of sin is lost; I would venture the corporate one worse. I’ll agree with Cole Porter on this one: “In olden days a glimpse of stocking, was looked on as something shocking; now Heaven knows, anything goes.” And that was only 1934. Heaven knows it’s worse, much worse; cataclysmically, diabolically worse.


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From: Vic


I came to the same conclusion, although you did a whole lot more research than I did.

As I understand it, and have always understood it, scandal is any external action or verbalization that is, in and of itself, evil. It must be external, because it must have some effect on someone else. It may either induce someone else to sin, or provide the occasion for someone else to sin, or present a positive example of the sin to someone else. The more public the scandalous action or verbalization, the more scandalous it is, as the number of people exposed to it increases.

Here is how I used it in the ethos page:

"We have before us the disgraceful situations in which Catholic priests and bishops participate in and help someone to not only commit open sacrilege, but to do it in a publicly scandalous way. Such as giving Holy Communion to the world's most recognized public champions and political sponsors of abortion, and to open, professed, public sodomites, and to non-Catholics like the Clintons, who don't even believe in the Catholic Eucharist, or anything else the Church teaches, and so forth. Kerry and Kennedy and the Clintons of the world are so publicly at odds with Catholic Church teaching that they may quite accurately be called anti-Catholics, and yet they brazenly come forward for Catholic Communion, and are helped to commit open, scandalous sacrilege by Catholic clerics. What kind of a supposedly Catholic religious ethos do these priests and bishops thereby project to the larger world, and encourage their lay followers to adopt for themselves?"

Witnesses to this sort of sin are said to be scandalized, even though they may not be moved to sin themselves. They are presented with open sin in a manner in which the sin is public, and seen to be acceptable by some present, most especially, the actual public sinner(s).

This presents the one scandalized with a dilemma: faith calls him to immediately renounce the sin as sin, yet, the public venue calls him to hold his tongue. By holding his tongue, he participates in the public sin. He is said to be scandalized. This is a terrible position to put someone in, particularly in a venue in which the sin is not recognized as sin, or, the sin has majority favor. But truth is not determined by any particular popularity poll.

What comes most immediately to mind is Matt 18:7 -

Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!

Does this help?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Converted Page to SBI! Release 3.0 BB 2.0. 

Date:  Sat Dec 13 2014
From:  Vic Biorseth

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