Yep, regarding scandal again:

Hi guys;

Apologies this is like my 10000th post regarding this issue, and I’m starting to understand it much better (thanks for all the replies; really helped) but one that is still puzzling me is that: if someone, who we do not know at all, is scandalized by our behaviour, is it a sin on our part?

Example: Joe, a devout Catholic, goes to the bar with his friends every Friday evening to get one drink. Some of his coworkers, who know he is Catholic, sees this and thinks that Joe is committing a sin - going to a Bar - which causes them to think that doing such is OK despite what their conscience is telling them.

If we are actually responsible for people we don’t know either (provided that our actions aren’t evil or immoral in nature), doesn’t this mean that we should avoid going to the beach because some people will assume that because Joe is going to the beach, he is intending on lusting on the women there even though that isn’t his intention at all. Essentially speaking: anything can be considered scandal(?)


The ‘’weaker Christians’’ in this refers to new Christians in the Faith who I do not know personally. I know that we have an obligation to refrain from our activities when in the presence of weaker Christians, or at least explain to them why we act in such a manner, but this seems impossible when these weaker Christians never speak to us.

Basically, it seems like anything can become scandal:
If I play a shooting game, weaker Christians may be scandalized and state that Christians shouldn’t be playing such games.
If I watch an action movie, weaker Christians may be scandalized and state that watching action is sinful.
If I buy a coffee from Starbucks, weaker Christians may be scandalized and state that Starbucks funds abortion, and that I shouldn’t buy from them.
If I use Google, weaker Christians may state that Google also funds abortion so I shouldn’t be using them.
If I read a fantasy novel, weaker Christians may state that it is wrong to read novels with magic in it (no matter how miniscule the theme of magic is in the novel).
If I gamble very occasionally, weaker Christians, once they see me in the act of gambling, will state that Christians shouldn’t gamble because it is wrong.
If I take a glass of alcohol, weaker Christians, upon seeing me with the glass, will state that drinking alcohol is wrong (assuming that they think it is wrong).

It doesn’t matter whether these actions are sinful in nature or not, what seems to matter is that these weaker Christians regard them as sinful. Won’t this be scandal? They may see that we don’t regard it as sinful, so it must be okay. This might lead them to defile their conscience by acting in such a way

Joe should find better informed friends.


1st Corinthians 8 : 13 -
It’s up to, from there on out.


Not if our behavior is not itself a sin.

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On the contrary, if Joe’s friends see him legally consume one drink, not to a point of hilarity, and then continue to spread genuine cheer and God’s love to those around him, I would think that would move them to think “wow Joe has something that I want. He is happy even without drunkenness.” -which could lead to evangelization

Summary from Catholic Encyclopedia

  • The act must be of a nature to induce sin in another; consequently it is not necessary that the neighbor should actually fall into sin.
  • Every sin of scandal is contrary to charity.
  • Direct scandal is obviously contrary to the virtue against which another is induced to sin; in fact every virtue forbids not only its violation by ourselves but also that we should desire its violation by another.

Scandal exists when an act:

  1. directly induces another to do a thing which he cannot do without sin, either formal or material. It is not allowed to profit by the ignorance of another to induce him to commit what is forbidden.
  2. is evil in itself which will be an occasion of sin to another.
  3. is evil only in appearance, which will be an occasion of sin to another, unless there be sufficient reason to act and to permit the fault of another.
  4. is sinful neither in itself nor in appearance, but which is nevertheless the occasion of sin to another, unless there be sufficient reason to act otherwise. We must avoid scandalizing the weak if we can do so easily.

See: Vander Heeren, A. (1912). Scandal. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

A summary from St. Thomas Aquinas:

Accidental active scandal:

  • Accidental active scandal is venial when a venial sin or only appearance of evil scandalizes.
  • Accidental active scandal is mortal if mortal sin scandalizes another to mortal sin, or if one will not forgo for the sake of the scandalized. (Example: drinking around one known to have a drinking problem.)

Direct active scandal:

  • Intention of a venial sin leading another into venial sin is then a venial sin.
  • Intention of a mortal sin leading another into mortal or venial sin is then a mortal sin.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote on this in: Summa Theologiae > Second Part of the Second Part > Question 43 Scandal

Catechism gives a nice, clear definition:

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.

As you can see, scandal is not “doing something that other people think is sinful”.

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