Why is causing scandal sinful?

I do not understand the sin of scandal. If I were to live chastely with a man to whom I am not married, am I committing the sin of scandal because people might perceive us as “living in sin,” even though we are not?

It seems to me that whether I commit scandal depends on how other people perceive my actions. And I cannot control that.

[quote=Penny Plain]I do not understand the sin of scandal. If I were to live chastely with a man to whom I am not married, am I committing the sin of scandal because people might perceive us as “living in sin,” even though we are not?
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Let’s first define scandal:

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 (CCC 2284).

For more information, please see paragraphs 2285 and 2286 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Scandal, according to the Catechism, is not simply shocking people. It is a condition that leads others, either by omission or commission, into the evil that one gives the outward appearance that one is committing. Scandal is also committed if the particular evil contributes to a general decline of moral values, as cohabitation does (cf. CCC 2286).

[quote=Penny Plain]It seems to me that whether I commit scandal depends on how other people perceive my actions. And I cannot control that.
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Actually, in many cases, yes, a person can control how others perceive his or her actions. If a particular action is known to give the impression to a reasonable person that one is defying moral standards, one can refrain from committing that action.

In the case of chaste cohabitation, if there is just cause for chastely rooming with a non-relative of the opposite sex that is proportionate to the high likelihood of the scandal to be given, it is theoretically true that one could engage in chaste cohabitation. But given the range of alternate options available for most people, in most cases its necessity will be rare.

In those rare cases where chaste cohabitation is necessary, it would seem prudent to minimize scandal as much as possible within one’s social circle by explaining to those who care about the couple that it is only a roommate relationship. To those outside one’s social circle who do not otherwise know of the living arrangements, it would seem prudent to refrain from mentioning them, if possible.

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