Where do we draw the line with scandal?


when is something actually scandal and when is it just people being ridiculous?

for example, the argument with cohabitation is that even if you’re not sleeping together, it may be seen as ok and people think you are

but in this day in age, if you have a boyfriend at all, people will assume you’re sleeping together after a month. or even if you just have a few male friend, people assume you’re dating which technically can cause scandal

are there any more examples of actual scandal vs people just being nosy?


scandal is a sin against the 5th commandment:

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."85 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.86

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."87 This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,88 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!"89


see catechism citation posted above

it is not OK for an unmarried couple to live together. this situation publicly presents the couple as a household, without benefit of marrige. minimally it puts the couple in a near occasion of sin. and yes, it can give scandal, for example to a younger sibling who might imitate their older sibling.

No that cannot “technically cause scandal”.


I read on another Catholic website that sometimes two people can live together without sex and still receive. The case had to do with an irregular marriage which was being fixed. The priest suggested they go to another church where they are not known to receive to avoid scandal. Of course their luck would be that someone who knows them is there to see it.


I agree with you, OP, that it gets ridiculous sometimes.

May I throw out another example for discussion?

I was married to my husband when we conceived our son. However, me knowing that I was married didn’t change the fact that to strangers, I still looked like a pregnant 14 year old. Is it scandal that I got pregnant before my face caught up to my age? After all, I was giving the impression to others that I had sex before I was married. Nevermind the reality of my situation, many people made nasty comments without bothering to inquire as to the truth (not like it was anyone’s business to anyways).


Your example is not scandal.


Having a boyfriend/girlfriend, even if nothing more than a platonic relationship is not a source of scandal. What others assume is their problem, and that assumption can become scandalous if they are spreading rumors out of that assumption.

Actually living with a person of the opposite sex, say for the reasons of affording rent, more accurately approaches scandal because right or wrong people can view this as a sign of ongoing sexual relationships. It is unwise to do because it can be a source of scandal to others. I had a friend who simply could not get it in his head as to why I would not agree to share an apartment.

He felt that as long as we knew the truth it would be fine. But I explained that it was important what other people thought; that it could damage our reputations regardless of our innocence; and that it opened the door to temptation. It is never a smart thing to do. Consequently we never lived together, and eventually our friendship ended.

Scandal can be created out of many situations, and I think usually arises out of gossip and people making wrong judgements about others. In college I was trusted in having access to all the Arts and Humanities tests of my University, with the exception of classes I was taking. I had more than one person attempt to have me get them copies of those test, which I never did. If I had, I would have created a source of scandal.

Those entrusted with a company’s monies could be stealing and cause scandal by their actions or even by making it appear that others where guilty who were in fact innocent.

So I think each act of scandal needs to be assessed on its own, and really we don’t every draw a line as mentioned here. We just have to be astute enough to know the difference.


The scandal argument seems vastly overwrought on this forum. I am an unmarried woman and I live with my unmarried male friend. We simply couldn’t afford out current apartment if we were not roommates. Now, we have never slept together and will never sleep together by nature of us both being gay (before you all start in on me, I am celibate). We’re both open about our sexualities to anyone who bothers to get to know up.

However, if someone saw a man and woman, neither wearing wedding rings, carry, say, groceries up to their shared apartment and then managed to conclude that they were living in sin and then took that as explicit confirmation that it when then okay for them to become sexually involved with their loved one… That seems a stretch. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be my fault. I have never said “go have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance.” If someone drew incorrect assumptions about my lifestyle and then decided, because of this, to live a sinful existence… Then that is their own fault. They have made the choice. I am just going about my life the best I can. Any values or morals read into that life are not necessarily mine.



Your post immediately made me think of a blog post by Melinda Selmys, a chaste lesbian who doesn’t quite understand Catholic worries about scandal, either. Here’s the link:


This is a case where I think Catholicism is a “big tent”, and that the concerns of people on one side of the tent often have little to do with the concerns on the other side. Oh, well.

In the big picture, the importance of bringing gay people into the Church is so very important that it makes concerns about scandal look very small indeed. Slight caveat: the danger of scandal becomes significant when the person involved is highly powerful or highly respected.


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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