Today’s Theological Term in the News: Scandal

Today's Fresh Outrage: a 17-year-old special needs student, Jesse Snodgrass, was entrapped and eventually arrested by an undercover police officer posing as a student in his school. Undercover drug stings occur frequently across the country, but they do not make our schools safer. Cops should not be tricking students into selling them marijuana!

Respect for the souls of others: scandal

2284Scandal 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.”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.

2286Scandal 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.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,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!”

For more information, see my piece “On Giving Scandal“.  This is the bit of Catholic moral teaching always overlooked by those who think that undercover police work is the all-absolving reason to go around tempting people to evil in order to nail them when they give into our temptations.  Thing is: we assume responsibility before God as their tempter.  And if the temptation is to grave sin, we become guilty of grave sin.  One of the reason “Let us do evil that good may come of it” is ill-advised.