Is keeping your maiden name a sin?

OK, so let me preface this by saying that I think people make way too big of a deal of “scandal” and apply it in a lot of far-reaching ways to try to tell people they can’t do things that there otherwise isn’t any rule against.

That being said, an interesting thought popped into my head today: People on CAF say all the time that co-habitation isn’t allowed because it causes scandal. By that same logic, is keeping your maiden name also a scandal-related sin? To wit … someone looking at my mailbox or my checks, both of which have two last names on them, have no way of knowing if we’re married or not, and might assume we’re cohabitating.

Just curious what the scandal crowd thinks of that situation …

No, keeping your maiden name is not a sin. Many people do this for personal or professional reasons. Also, in some countries, it isn’t even a custom to change one’s name when you marry.

Scandal has nothing to do with strangers making assumptions about your activities. It has to do with acting in such a way as to lead others, especially those for whom you have influence, into a false sense of right and wrong.

hardly. in many countries, that’s not even a custom. western Europe, north America, that’s about it. the rest keep their names, or do a sort of hyphenated hybridazation process

cohabitation is living together as if you’re married, when you’re not and making it seem like it’s ok.

I’ve been told by numerous people on here that cohabitation is wrong even if you are not having sex. The reason, they say? Because it causes scandal because people ASSUME that you’re having sex and therefore get the wrong idea.

So as I see it, either that logic is wrong (which I think it is), or it’s right, in which case what’s to stop people from ASSUMING you’re cohabitating if your names don’t match (assuming you’re in a country where that’s standard)?

Maybe a wedding ring…or the fact that the couple in question refers to their significant other as “my wife” or “my husband”…that sort of thing. The only people I can see assuming anything would be complete strangers and on that angle, why would a complete stranger know the couple didn’t share the same last name? :confused:

But almost anything you do could lead someone to have a false sense of right and wrong, ESPECIALLY when they make assumptions about what’s actually going on.

That’s sort of my point. The wide openness of scandal – defined very broadly by the Vatican as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” – basically makes you responsible for any weird outcome at any point down the road. Which seems ridiculous.

Like, if you drive by a panhandler at an intersection and don’t give him money, and then later that day he robs someone so he can buy food, you could theoretically be on the hook for scandal because your behavior (not giving money) led another to do evil (robbery).

Or in this case, not changing your name could lead someone to assume the mailbox belongs to cohabitators and could say “hmm…maybe my boyfriend and I should move in together too” … and then you’re stuck again.

OR, you’re right – in which case there shouldn’t be any problem cohabitating as long as you aren’t having sex, because the only “scandal” there would come from people’s assumptions as well.

You are grasping at some straws here. I can’t imagine anyone deciding it’s okay to shack up because they were reading the names on the mailbox in an apartment complex that they obviously didn’t live in and came to the conclusion that since the two last names on the box didn’t match, the dwellers were indeed of the opposite sex and were obviously living together so it’s a great idea and you and your partner will do the same :rolleyes: Even if someone was so stupid as to make their decision based on this absurdity, that’s their decision to commit a sin. You can’t go around thinking like this. It will drive you crazy. As far as the panhandler…again…absurdity!! It’s the panhandlers decision to rob a store and your denial of giving him money had nothing to do with it. It was his choice to commit a crime instead of heading to the homeless shelter.

By any chance, do you suffer from scrupulosity? You appear to be trying to find sin when there is none.

Why is that absurd? The catechism doesn’t put any limits in its definition. It doesn’t say it has to be a sinful behavior that leads someone else to do evil. Or that your behavior needs to immediately lead someone else to do evil. Without some kind of qualifier, it basically says any action or behavior that leads someone else in any way to commit evil at any time in the future.

In fact, the Catechism even specifically mentions that people are responsible for the resulting evil whether its “directly or indirectly encouraged,” and gives the example that voting for a law that is then passed which creates a social program or condition that eventually makes it “difficult” to follow Christian values and therefore leads some people to sin counts. I don’t see why the panhandler thing is any more of a stretch in terms of an order of events.

(I guess my point here is I think that’s absurd, too – but what are we to make of the fact that it appears to be the official Vatican opinion on what constitutes this sin?)

Okay, I get what you are saying.

If someone really can’t discern between what really is scandal and what isn’t and where their culpability lies with the previously mentioned scenarios based on common sense, they need to speak with their priest or pastor.

You are not understanding the sin of giving scandal. First of all, the behavior has to be something that is generally considered to be wrong. Living together before marriage is wrong. It’s not just the sex, it’s an immodest way for an unmarried person to live. Now, there might be some extenuating circumstances that make a couple less culpable. It is only if the couple finds themselves in that extenuating circumstance that they have to worry about the sin of giving scandal. You can’t give scandal to someone whose behavior you don’t influence. So, in this example, if you had a younger sibling who might be influenced by your behavior, even those extenuating circumstances might not be enough to lessen your culpability.

Your panhandler example doesn’t make sense in terms of scandal. Now, if your failure to ever give money to the poor made your children believe that charity was unnecessary, that would be giving scandal. But you aren’t responsible for the unanticipated behavior of the panhandler.

As for the name on your mailbox, anyone whose behavior you are responsible for would already know you were married, right? A random stranger seeing your name on the mailbox isn’t going to know enough about you to reach any such conclusion. It could be a mother and son or siblings sharing an apartment. To give scandal, the person has to have some more information 1) that you are a couple and 2) that you are a practicing Catholic and 3) that your behavior is something to emulate. (ie you are a role-model to that person) . Are there really people in your life that know that much about you and don’t know you are married? Not likely.

I think you’re missing the point of this thread. I’m not having trouble discerning anything. I’m trying to engage in a theological debate about the limits of “scandal” (which as I mentioned in my very first post gets thrown around as sort of a catch-all reason for why people can’t do things) and where the boundaries are (if they exist at all) since the church hasn’t defined any.

To go back to your rape hypothetical – I agree, that’s ridiculous.

But now apply that same logic to cohabitation. You decide to share an apartment with your boyfriend to save money on rent while still living chastely in separate bedrooms. A few years later, your younger cousin shacks up with her boyfriend in a non-chaste way, knowing full well it’s wrong but tells her mom “well…my cousin did it, so why can’t I?” Why would you be responsible for the cousin’s sin, but not for the rapists sin?

What is that defining line? And how do you identify that line since the church hasn’t done it for us?

I edited my post once I had realized what you were getting at, but I think you were responding as I was editing.

On the above scenario- the couple is living together before marriage and to those who are acquainted with them well enough to know their last name is different, they would also know that they are not married. Even if they are chaste and only living in same place to save money, given that they are boyfriend and girlfriend, it does give the appearance as being scandalous. But, to get back to the original question on maiden names, have we laid to rest? Because it wouldn’t be giving the appearance of scandal since anyone who would be acquainted with the “wife kept her maiden name” couple well enough to know their last names, would then also know they are married. As far as names not matching on the mailbox…I’ve fixed that hypothetical problem- for security reasons, people should keep their names off of their mailbox. If the number matches, a replacement mail carrier will put it in the right place.

With all due respect, I feel like you’re the one who doesn’t understand scandal – or else perhaps you have some other official source other than the Catechism that breaks it down better? Because here’s what I see when I look at your statements and then at the Catechism:

  1. “First of all the behavior has to be something that is generally considered to be wrong.” – The Catechism doesn’t say this. It says “an attitude or behavior.” Period.

  2. “You can’t give scandal to someone whose behavior you don’t influence” – Well, yes. But we all influence each other all the time. I just read a study the other day about how you’re more likely to buy snacks on a plane if the stranger next to you buys them first.

  3. “You aren’t responsible for the unanticipated behavior” – the Catechism says “leads another to do evil” not “foreseeable evil.” It also says “responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged.”

I can´t see why it’d be sinful.

I thought the point of the thread was "is it a sin to keep keep your maiden name? "
It’s not.

Here’s another example for you. You said it has to be something considered wrong, but in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul says:

“Wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother.”

Clearly eating meat is not something generally considered to be wrong.

The problem with your reasoning is that it would mean that we are all guilty of scandal all of the time. Even the saints in Heaven would continually be guilty of scandal due to their actions on Earth. Taken to the extreme, it would mean that baptism is worthless, due to a person’s actions before baptism causing “scandal” to people after the person’s baptism. Your understandings seem to be a misunderstanding of the passages quoted.

Scandal is best represented in Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians when dealing with eating food that has been offered to idols. If a person was knowingly eating meat that had been offered to idols, and another person knew that the meat had been offered to idols, the second person might think that it was okay to worship the idol. Even if the first person wasn’t worshipping the idol - just seeing the meat as food (thus not committing the sin of idolatry), the second person could be led into idolatry, especially if he/she was a recent convert and had been used to idolatry in the past. This is what is meant by “indirect encouragement”. Another form of “indirect encouragement” is when lawmakers/judges make an objectively evil act (such as abortion or same-sex “marriage”) legal. Even if a lawmaker claims to be “personally pro-life”, he/she is indirectly encouraging a behavior he/she personally considers abhorrent. The reason? Many people think legal = okay. This is why many bishops encourage that such lawmakers be refused Holy Communion.

The point of changing the woman’s name from her father’s last name to her husband’s last name, to my understanding today, was about ‘remaining submitted’ to the higher spiritual state of man, as supported in the Bible.

I didn’t get married until I was 36 - and had no intention of changing my last name as I’d become rather attached to it for my identity, and it was a symbol of my independence. However, there was a 5 y.o. child involved and it was her comment while waiting in line at the bank one day that melted my resolved.

She said, “If you don’t want to change your name to X, maybe Daddy and I can change our names to yours so we’ll be a family.” “Out of the mouth of babes.” It didn’t matter to her what last name we used - so long as we were ‘one’. The effect was immediate; I could suddenly see beyond myself, my own wants and needs. It wasn’t a sacrifice to change my name then, but a joy in the name of some other kind of ‘unity’.

So, I don’t think of it as ‘sin’ for a female not to change her last name when marrying, but more like one of the many decisions we make that are not based on spiritual understanding/principles.

Best to All,


Don’t know what this website is exactly, but they have the best thought out explanation of scandal I’ve found so far …

Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary:

SCANDAL. Any action or its omission, not necessarily sinful in itself, that is likely to induce another to do something morally wrong. Direct scandal, also called diabolical, has the deliberate intention to induce another to sin. In indirect scandal a person does something that he or she foresees will at least likely lead another to commit sin, but this is rather tolerated than positively desired. (Etym. Latin scandalum, stumbling block.)

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