Help me understand the sin of scandal

On another thread, it appeared that several people that commented supported someone in their efforts to help cover up something that would be considered scandalous (mortal sin) by encouraging and/or participating in a lesser venial sin (lie).

As a Protestant planning on coming to the Catholic Church, this seems rather unbelievable that someone would participate/encourage/advise someone else to commit a lesser sin to cover up a bigger sin, and yet, they themselves don’t feel that they have done any wrongdoing because they aren’t the ones actually committing the sins :shrug:

I feel like something has gotten misconstrued here and I’m looking for clarification. Otherwise, the crime of complicity or conspiring to commit murder or aiding and abetting a crime seems a little absurd :eek:

That is absolutely not Church teaching. Church teaching is that one may never do evil, even in an attempt to bring about a good. So, no, one may not “cover up” a sin with another sin. That just makes more sin.

Scandal is an action or omission on your part that tempts, encourages, or otherwise induces another person to sin. It is particularly grave when a person in authority commits such an action or omission as those who look up to them or their office can be scandalized.

Scandal is a sin against the fifth commandment as it harms a person’s dignity. From the Catechism:

II. Respect for the Dignity of Persons

Respect for the souls of others: scandal

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “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 round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

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.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!”

Thank you! Yes, I read the above and was floored at how some were so easily rationalizing away the depth of it all.

I can see that maybe a white lie might be necessary to conceal something scandalous that had already taken place that you had no control over (i.e., you’d likely NOT tell your minor children about Daddy’s adultery, etc.).

Did you bring up your concerns on the other thread? Just wondering what the context of the sin or scandal was?

Yes, I did. It was a no-win situation. I don’t want to bring any more attention to it than already has but the thread can be found here:

Post#128 was the one that started the wheels turning in my mind.

I think that the sin of giving scandal is more prevalent than we may think. Too often we think of scandal as simply engaging in shocking conduct. But that is not it at all. Thinking back on my own life, I know that there were times when my own actions probably gave my younger brothers and sisters the idea that something must be okay, because after all, big brother did it; he even convinced mom that it was no big deal. That just makes it easier for them to fall into sin. We have become such a non-judgmental society that it is easier than ever to be complicit in helping another to sin, without even thinking about it.

Okay now I have a clearer picture of your concern. Unfortunately, once our kids become adults we have to hope we raised them the best we could and they will use good judgment. It is hard to let go and release our kids out into the bad old world. This daughter has held a job and finished college and now she and her boyfiend want to treat themselves to a trip to Europe. This trip might be good for them to see how they rely on one another with no one else around. I don’t think it is right to lie to the younger siblings. Every family has scandal somewhere in their closet. It is hard being a parent to adult children.

No I get it. I really do.

I dread and pray about the day I may have to encounter something similar. It wasn’t even necessarily the particulars of that situation that bother me so much, it was the underlying mentality that it was okay to cover up sin with sin with sin with sin…

It almost felt like someone was advocating trying to find a “loophole”. That may work with taxes but most certainly not with God. :wink:

THIS! Yes, this is exactly why it irks me so much. Nobody wants to rock the boat. Everything has become relative.

I have to admit that while I supported the mothers final stance regarding the daughter living at home… I didn’t agree that the children should be directly lied to. As a mother your job is to teach each child age related things regarding the sexual life, but also gently hand your authority over them back to God as they mature. That is, they have to know that they have free will and will ultimately be answerable to God… not Mum.

Just as an added FYI, scandal is one of those concepts that Catholics can get fanatical over and Fr Hardon describes the phenomenon of Pharisaical scandal as this…

“Being disedified by the innocent actions of others. People are said to be pharisaically scandalized if they maliciously misinterpret the good or indifferent actions of a person. they are scandalized because their own extraordinary moral weakness or ignorance finds occasion to evil in what they hear or see someone doing.”

Since I posted post 128, let me clarify my comments. I was not saying that recommend lying or think it’s a good idea. However, I do believe that it COULD be the lesser of two evils depending on family dynamic, etc.

Saying she is “going with friends” vs. “going with boyfriend” to the younger kids is tiny stretch of the truth and IF it protects the younger siblings (at least for a few years), then it MIGHT reduce the scandal. If it reduces scandal and does less “damage” vs. telling the truth, then it’s the lesser of two evils.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good situation. In this situation, I was saying it is choosing between two evils. In situations like these, we don’t always know which is the best choice. All we can do it to attempt to mediate the evil by attempting to choose the lesser of two evils based on what we know at the time regarding the situation.

It’s similar to the situation of voting between two pro choice candidates, but one is willing to have some abortion limits while the other wants no limits. You could choose the one who is willing to limit is some because one is the lesser of two evils.

So in the situation I was discussing, I felt that the venial lie of changing the number of people accompanying the daughter to Europe was better than the mortal sin of scandal. But lies do have a way of catching up with people, so it’s a risk. All those factors need to be considered when selecting the lesser of two evils.

I hope this clarifies my post 128 from the previous thread.

While I don’t have any facts to back this up, I unfortunately I don’t think enough Christians (let alone Catholics) today even know what scandal is, so doubt this phenomenon is widespread. I personally think when many feel “scandalized” it’s more about judgment vs. truly worrying about scandal. :frowning:

Like one lie leads to a bigger lie that leads to a bigger lie and on and on . . .

Yes, thank you, it does to some degree.

But, telling a white lie AFTER the scandal has occurred seems a little more palatable than knowing full well in advance of the scandalous activity that:

a) It’s 99.9% going to occur;
b) I know (and am condoning) that a venial sin is going to be committed beforehand to try to cover up the almost inevitable mortal sin that is going to occur; and
c) Most likely another venial sin will be occurred at some later date to cover up the fact that I was knowledgeable of the venial sin and the mortal sin that already occurred.

What a complicated web we weave :rolleyes:

And maybe my problem with understanding it all is that I think the scandal and grave sin are one and the same thing, not two separate mortal sins. I acknowledge, however, that my Protestant past may play a part in my being unable to separate the two.

My mind still wants to wrap the entire situation into ONE grave sin that the mother should be no participant of (either actively or passively), not two grave ones and two venial ones :shrug:

I’m not saying this is her problem, it’s my problem in understanding, I suppose, not just this situation that was presented on that thread, but anytime something of this magnitude occurs. It’s the premeditation, I guess you could say, that bothers me so.

Sidenote: I find it hilariously funny and ironic that on this week’s Downton Abbey, if anyone is a fan, Mary is sneaking a two week getaway with her beau because the “scandal” would never be tolerated in her family (and she’s an adult widow) :tsktsk: I’m sure this is exactly what would have happened in the 1920’s…children, even adult children, would take great pains to keep any potential scandalous activity to themselves as to not implicate anyone else in their family.

Sounds like they are accessories in another’s sin. We become an accessory: 1)by counsel 2) by command 3) by consent 4) by provocation 5) by praise or flattery 6) by concealment 7) by partaking 8) by silence 9) by defense of the ill done. God bless you.

Not addressing the particular situation that you mentioned, but it seems to me that in general, a great deal of problems are caused in the current culture because we are far too non-judgmental!

For example, we have gone from out out of wedlock birth rate of 5% in 1960 to 44% today, and over 70% in some communities. Now such a high rate of out of wedlock births leads inevitably to increased poverty, more crime, less family involvement with children, more educational problems, more social problems, more government spending as government assumes the place of absent parents. It’s just bad for society overall.

Why did the rate jump so high? For one thing, in the past, it was stigmatized. Now it is not. Not being stigmatized is nice for the individuals involved, but it is bad for the overall society as bad behavior skyrockets. Non-judgmentalism leads to very bad social consequences.


God Bless

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