What to do with scandal?
Scandal is no stranger to the Catholic Church. Throughout history, there have been men and women who have either knowingly or unknowingly caused scandal. The modern world, which in large part is aided by mass media, is fully aware of the sexual abuse scandal within the lives of some members of the clergy (Kyrie Eleison). With the recent news of the scandal within the Vatican, due to the accusation brought against the Pope’s butler in regarded to leaked Vatican documents exposing corruption of some of the financial affairs within the Vatican (a great Q&A on the topic can be found here), I felt it apt to write about scandal and how the Church feels and deals.
The Church defines scandal as:
“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”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2284)
Scandal can come in many varying forms. It can come about through great failures like the sexual abuse done by priests, but it can also be by giving a bad example of the Christian life.
You never know who is watching.
The Catechism goes on to tell us that:
“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.”86 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.87 “ (CCC 2285).
Scandal can easily come about through a smile, a laugh, or by simply saying nothing, when something of a scandalous nature arises. It can be as easy as making dirty jokes, making light of sin, putting someone down or taking pleasure in another’s misfortune. Scandal can also be caused in the way we dress and handle our relationships. There are so many ways in which we as Catholics can distort the Gospel and people’s understanding of the Christian life. This is something that we need to be keenly aware of.
I recently watched a movie called “To Save a Life”, which exemplifies this point quite well. In it, a pastor’s son who you would think would be the exemplar of Christian charity does the very opposite and turns to laugh at the people who do live the Christian life. How often do we find ourselves to be the hypocrites? How do we deal with being scandalized?
A few points on how to deal with being scandalized by Christians.
1. Do not put your trust in people. People will always fall, every single one. Look to the three persons of the Trinity and the Blessed Mother. These four will never fail. Look to them as the models of perfection. Even the holiest of men and women can fall. Trust in God alone.
2. Do not compare yourself. It can become easy to say, “I’m so glad I’m not like that person” or “act like that one”. This is not to say turn a blind eye to the fault, by do not use another’s failing to boost yourself up. This is pride. Simply recognize the action as wrong and move on.
3. If you are in a trustworthy relationship with the person who caused scandal, privately call them on it. It is your duty as a part of the Body of Christ to ensure that others are not scandalized. Do this in full humility and with utmost respect. Pray before, during, and after.
4. Pray for them and for those affected by the act.
What if you are the one who may have caused scandal? How do you deal with it?
1. Examine your conscience. Analyze the ways in which you feel and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the ways in which you gave a poor example.
2. Take ownership of your faults and admit when you were wrong. Seek out the people that saw or heard what you did and apologize to them.
3. Take note of patterns and situations which may cause you to sin and avoid these near occasions of sin and commit to never sin again.
4. Get yourself to the Confessional. Now that you’ve recognized and apologized for the scandalous act, go to the Sacrament of Confession and be made clean by the Blood of the Lamb. Receive God’s healing mercy and grace to never sin again.
5. Pray, make sacrifices, and continually examine your conscience. Remain aware of your sins and make an act of contrition every time you make a mistake.
We are bound to make mistakes along this journey of faith. However, we must as Christians, be willing to admit when we are wrong and make reparation for the offences we have caused. We are in desperate need of the Saviour! Nothing will ever change this. But let us not become presumptuous of His Divine Mercy, for once we misuse the Mercy of God, the Justice of God is what we will receive instead.
Let’s step it up and seek to live holy lives and “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity: (1 Tim. 4:12)
In the Immaculata,
Posted on May 29, 2012, in Catholic, chastity, Church Corruption and Renewal, Evangelization, faith, Holy Spirit, Love, lust, modesty, prayer, pro-life, Saints, scandal, sex, Virtue and tagged Catechism of the Catholic Church, Scandal, The Pope's Butler Did it. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.