What counts as giving scandal?

How do we judge what constitutes giving scandal? It seems like, in our society, almost anything you do could lead someone to think you’re involved in sin, or that it’s ok and normal to do something wrong.

We form our conscience according to the objective moral criteria of the Church.

See the Catechism section on the fifth commandment for more on scandal.

How so?

Here’s an example: I’m wearing a religious necklace, and I go to pick up my “birth control” prescription. Now I’m aware that almost everyone I’ve dealt with seeing me get these meds, or talking to in order to get these meds, assumes I’m using them to prevent pregnancy. Am I giving scandal by obtaining these medications while being visibly identified as Catholic? It seems that all the criterion are met.

No. Taking a medication is not a sin.

“What people think” is not scandal.

I know I’m not answering your question, but from a practical POV you can just hand the prescription silently as with some embarrassing diseases or injuries, and then you could also avoid standard phrasing like ‘birth control’ or ‘the pill’ but just say the name of the drug.

The pharmacist should know those drugs can be used for legitimate medical purposes.

Not to be picky, but I’ve had to obtain a lot of prescriptions in my life, and have had to wait lots of times at the prescription counter, and never have I encountered a situation where the patient has had to name the drug being prescribed. Most times, it’s impossible to even read that from the Rx form. There are so many privacy safeguards now that the pharmacists - at least around here - can’t even say your last name when they call out that your prescription is ready.

if that’s the case, why is cohabitation wrong then? they people might be sleeping in separate bedrooms or being chaste. what about just a male and female roommate who aren’t in a relationship? everyone might “think” they’re having sex or something but they aren’t

True, but whenever I ask a question about the meds the first answer always starts with “use another form of protection.” And it always takes forever to get medical professionals to stop talking about STD’s the minute they see the pills in my file (usually even after I say what they’re for).

Many may disagree with me–but I’d say NO you are not. (I’m assuming that you aren’t taking oral contraceptives for birth control but for another medical reason?) First of all, every pharmacy I know of, gives you your Rx in a bag–nobody should even be aware of what you’re picking up except the pharmacy staff. If they are guessing and judging----well, that is their sin–not yours! Nobody should have to strip to go pick up a Rx. You aren’t running down the street waving your pills and yelling “See, I’m Catholic and look what I’m taking!”. There is a point where your sin-liability ends and someone else’s begins–nobody has any right to second guess or question why you are taking a medication–if they do, they should be ashamed–not you!!


St Paul speaks of this in some of his letters . . . that is being careful lest we lead one of weak faith astray or cause them to lose their faith. YET - there has to be a point where that other person takes responsibility.
Your responsibility is not to do anything scandalous. It is their responsibility to not assume scandal where none exists.


Cohabitation could cause scandal. Which is why discretion is important. There is no reason to tell people outside of close friends and close family members about a living arrangement. Of course, those friends and family would also be told that the couple are not having sex and that the couple have separate bedrooms. That way the family isn’t scandalized and those outside the family are not included in a private matter.

I think this is what’s hard. I’m used to living with other students, usually 3-4 people per house in some mix of male and female. I know some people who would be horrified thinking we must be having sex, and some people who would be like it’s just roommates why assume? I also know people who think that a man giving a woman a ride home late is indicative of something going on. I know people who think a married man being out with a single woman is bad because it looks like they’re dating. It gets to the point where I feel like just having a social life within my (mostly male) field is a cause of scandal!

That’s why I brought up discretion. Your private arrangements are no one’s business so you simply don’t share those details of your life with others.

That depends on the social life in your area. The details might be hard not to share if hosting people at your apartment or carpooling are common. I’m in a group where generally everyone knows where everyone lives. Or who drove who home - these just aren’t going to be private.

The bottom line is that if you are not sinning but simply living your life correctly and not going out of your way to cause a scandal and someone finds out that you live in a house with 2 men and 2 women, or that a guy gives you a ride home late at night, or whatever–it’s their problem if they are scandalized–not yours --unless you choose to allow it to be. Why even give it a 2nd thought? There will always be some old harpie out there standing on her toilet and looking out her bathroom window to see if you have someone in your bedroom alone. Is this your problem? It wouldn’t be mine–unless I caught said old harpie in the act–in which case, I’d turn her into the cops for stalking me! LOL!:thumbsup:

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.)

You should dress modestly, act modestly and speak modestly–and I don’t mean you have to dress or act like a nun–but we all know the difference in modest and immodest, just as plainly as we know the difference between Miley Cyrus and Mother Theresa. If you carry yourself with modesty and someone finds a way to be scandalized by you, it’s their sin not yours. Each of is responsible for ourselves. You can go to a club and dance–but you know what immodest dance is in your heart. You can go have a drink with friends–but you know what a drunk woman OR man looks like–and it’s seldom modest. You can dress in stylish clothes or wear a 2 piece bathing suit–but would you consider 2 pasties and a thong modest? If you carry yourself with modesty and dignity–that’s all God asks. Above that–it’s a man’s problem–or whomever is being scandalized and they must take responsibility for their own reaction and response. When the entire weight of controlling scandal in others is placed on women or any one group or person, you end up with societies where things like burkhas are required, where women aren’t allowed to drive and where crazy theocracies take over government.:thumbsup:

Unfortunately the “knowing in your heart” isn’t always that easy. Especially if, like me, you were taught otherwise. When you grow up being told that alcohol is bad and that you should not be seen even buying it for cooking, lest someone see you and be led into drunkenness, it is very hard to know what inappropriate use of alcohol looks like. Or when you are used to being told that a swimsuit must cover the legs, it is hard to judge properly what is and is not modest.

The difficulty I’m having is, with what I grew up in, very many things were forbidden for the sake of “testimony.” Someone might see and think you were sinning and be led into sin themselves - or worse yet they might see and think badly of the name of Christ for seeing a Christian do what they think is a sin. When you’ve known primarily a world where everything is forbidden lest it be a cause of scandal, you lose the ability to judge easily what actually does cause it.

I didn’t realize what your “growing up years” were like and I apologize. I guess that every person has to decide a little on what modesty means to them. I suspect you need to relax at least a little. Were you raised in a fundamentalist home–girls in long skirts, long hair, etc?

There are many Catholics who don’t drink alcohol at all–for whatever reason. Conversely, I once heard a priest say that “one reason Catholic parties are often such happy events is that there is usually a good bottle of wine involved!” As long as you realize that it is no sin or scandal to choose to drink OR to buy a bottle of alcohol–vodka, whiskey, wine, cooking alcohol or whatever–then the choice to drink or not is simply that—your choice! To drink until you are impaired–or to drink and drive (always a sin of course) is another thing entirely—and can result in a sin being committed or your acting in a way that would scandalize someone–as usually you lower your reservations after drinking a certain amount of alcohol–and how much varies from person to person! The same is true with how you dress. There is no reason in the world why a young woman can’t wear a skirt above her knees, a pair of shorts or a sleeveless blouse. A two piece bathing suit is also not immodest–and many young Catholic women wear them because they are young, they’re in style and young folks look nice in them–and that’s fine I think skirts that end much above mid-thigh are usually immodest–if only because a woman can’t get out of a car in one without showing all points north. But, I’d look at the skirt and decide individually if I had a question. With my own 2 girls, I considered immodest to usually mean “too skimpy” or “too tight”. However, one of my girls is big busted–and often it seemed like even a long sleeved white blouse such as she had to wear at a restaurant job she once had fell into the “too tight” rule, as did most everything–and I just had to get a bit of a life! LOL! Another words, her intent was not immodesty–she was just big busted and that’s how God made her. Conversely, if a woman has on a skin tight pair of “Daisy Duke” cut-offs that show her butt cheeks–to me, anyway— that’s immodest! Shorts that go even above your thigh a little are not usually immodest–unless there’s something particular about them that makes them so. Same with shirts–short sleeves, spagettie straps and even halter tops aren’t immodest–but to wear even a tee shirt with no bra so that when you bend over everyone can see all the way from your throat to your belly button is immodest --again, to me. Even if it’s a full size t-shirt with sleeves–if I can see “everything you’ve got in it”, to me it’s immodest. Two piece bathing suits are fine.— even bikinis are fine. Thongs or ultra skimpy bikinis that some women wear where they are hanging out all around everything are immodest. My oldest girl–now in her early 40’s with a teen daughter of her own to worry about, was a great beauty all her life and very popular. We’re from Houston,Texas and she was always elected to everything and for everything, modeled professionally, was a cheerleader in a big 5-A school and all through college to boot and, of course, always had a string of boys chasing her from about age 13 on. I’ll tell you what I once told her about swim suits and shorts: “If I look at it and it occurs to me that you’d have to wax every hair off your body and get a full Brazilian to walk out of the house in it and feel presentable–you are NOT walking out of the house in it!” LOL! ( And yes, I’ve made her go change–what parent hasn’t!)

Give yourself a little time to lighten up a little and see what the other young people around you wear and what kinds of remarks they elicit. If you don’t think you’d want someone to say whatever was said about someone else about you–then don’t drink, dress, act, talk, dance, whatever-- in the way they did–or someone will say the same about you!! Common sense! And let yourself develop your own sense of style and comfort–what works for you. Worry just a little less about causing some unknown person out there scandal and a little more about learning what feels right in your life!:thumbsup:

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