Scandal vs Hospitality?

I’ve often read about the concept of scandal on these forums, but it remains somewhat confusing to me and I want to explore this a bit more in certain scenarios.

I’ve heard it said that cohabitation falls under the umbrella of scandal because it can give the appearance of wrongdoing (that a couple is having relations before marriage) and give a bad example, but let’s consider another scenario.

Suppose for example my neighbor sees a woman spending the night at my house, they don’t know this person, but assume we were having relations before marriage because the woman ended up spending the night and in this day and age that is often an indication there is something sexual going on. Some would say allowing the woman to stay overnight is a sin of scandal, but is it really? This gets confusing to me because it seems people make these moral judgements of whether something is scandal based on the ill informed opinions of people who don’t know the situation.

Revisit the scenario I posed above and let’s add this crucial factor, the woman is in fact my sister who is visiting from out of town and staying with me. This clearly changes the situation does it not? In the neighbor’s mind, they might not know it’s my sister and assume the worst of the situation, but the reality is I’m just having a family member stay with me.

So when it comes to evaluating what is considered scandalous I just don’t understand where the line is for things like this.

Let’s alter that scenario a bit more, suppose it isn’t my sister visiting me, but a platonic friend of the opposite sex, would it be a scandal to allow them to stay overnight?

Let’s say it’s actually a man staying over, and a neighbor makes the assumption I’m in a gay relationship when that is not at all the case?

Or let’s say it’s two friends of the opposite sex, or one male and one female friend all staying over, how does this change the situation?

I know we’re supposed to not give a bad example. but I just don’t understand how we can be expected to live in a way that is so sanitized that no one ever even remotely thinks we’re doing anything wrong even if they have no good reason to believe that in the first place.

I don’t think the examples you give (except for cohabitation) fall under the scandal umbrella. Those examples you give would be ones of ‘rash judgement’ from an observer.

But anyway, I understand your point. Where do we draw the line? This is what spiritual directors, your conscience, guidance from the Church, and the holy Spirit are for.

What makes you think we’re expected to live in this way?

Here’s a great definition of scandal, from the great Fr. John Hardon, S.J.:

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 forsees will at least likely lead another to commit sin, but this is rather tolerated than positively desired. (Etym. Latin scandalum, stumbling block.)

Your examples are in no way conformable to the above.

It is unreasonable to think that a neighbor would go out and commit fornication or adultery if they saw a woman at your house.

But under certain circumstances, some individuals might be “inspired” to cohabitate if someone they respect and admire and love has been living with their unmarried partner for 20 years but yet refuses marriage.

I think that the moral concept of scandal does not apply so much to what your neighbors might think about an ambiguous situation. It applies more to family and friends who know whats going on. If you are in fact cohabiting with your girlfriend in lieu of marriage, they may be more inclined, to the extent that they respect you as a person, to engage in the same sin, because of your example.

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