What Is Scandal?

The Roman Catholic Church falsely claims to be the one true church established by Christ. Based on that claim, she has cast herself in the role of, among other things, the defender of public morality. That some in the RCC take this role seriously may be seen in the evening news, which sometimes includes images of Catholic religious or laity engaged in public demonstrations protesting some act of government or proposed legislation. That the issues they raise may be valid is not a concern of this article.

What is the concern of this article is the blatant hypocrisy of the Catholic hierarchy and some laymen in the struggle for public morality. For example, the Catholic Church teaches, and I believe it true, that human life begins in the womb. Those active in the pro-life movement can point to passages in Scripture to support this view. The official Roman Catholic position concerning abortion is unequivocal:

2322. From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a 'criminal' practice. . . gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.--Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (c) 1994/1997; United States Catholic Conference, Inc

Notice, if you will, that this excerpt from the official catechism of the Roman cult declares abortion – the willful ending of the life of a preborn child – to be contrary to moral law. What is the RCC understanding of moral law? Essentially, it is one’s conscience.

1713. Man is obliged to follow the moral law, which urges him 'to do what is good and avoid what is evil' (cf. GS 16). This law makes itself heard in his conscience.

1778. Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law…--Ibid.

Okay. That works for me – a little. While certainly for the Christian, conscience may be understood as that still small voice within that guides us, for others, conscience may simply be the product of upbringing and socialization. As I know from my own life, it is possible for a Christian to ignore the prompting of his conscience. How much more so the social influence of society? Was Hitler guided by his conscience? Or Stalin? Or Innocent III? What about the pedophile priest who preys on young boys who serve at the altar?

Well, as in most everything else, the Romish cult provides an escape clause for those who violate what she calls moral law. As far as Rome is concerned, ignorance of the law IS an excuse.

1862. One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.--Ibid.

“Without complete consent”? Is that an opening for a defense such as “The devil made me do it”? Or, perhaps, “I did not wish to molest that altar boy, but something inside me compelled me to”? For the reader who may be thinking I am grasping at straws, I offer the following in evidence that such foolishness as an obsession or internal compulsion can be offered as a defense even against the gravest charges.

1860. Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.--Ibid.

This is a bit confusing. If one is unintentionally ignorant one might even escape having a grave offense imputed to him; however, no one is considered ignorant of the principles of moral law. Rather a Catch-22, it would appear. I suppose that means in application that, while one may know it is wrong to sexually abuse children, he might legitimately claim that he did not know specifically that his particular victim was not to be abused sexually. I reckon that is something for canon lawyers to strive over. In any case, the pedophile priest apparently could successfully argue that his passion or desire to have sex with his victim mitigated the gravity of his offense. Sigh!

From information readily available to the public, it would seem that these, or similar, defenses work. Historically, little has been done, at least until recently, to protect parishioners from sexually predatory priests other than move them to some other parish, where they might prey on a new flock. It appears that it is only when the goings-on of such priests are made public and create a scandal that significant action is taken. And this seems to conform to the Catholic Code of Canon Law. Serious action is only to be taken when inappropriate priestly activities cause a stench in the nostrils of John Q. Public--when they create scandal.

And here is where things get interesting, for Rome seems to have discovered ways to lay some of the blame for wrongdoing on the shoulders of others.

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.'[Pius XII, Discourse, June 1, 1941.] This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,[Cf. Eph 6:4 ; Col. 3:21.] or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.--Ibid.

Looking at this paragraph in light of contemporary events, it would seem that many legislators and jurists at state and federal level are guilty of scandal as a consequence of their efforts to legitimize social abominations. Certainly, recent legislation legitimizing homosexual “marriages” would appear to be leading to the decline of morals. Certainly the White House commitment to extend federal protection to homosexuals would appear to be leading to the decline of morals, yet in a recent presidential election just about everywhere the very liberal candidate Bob Dole spoke, one could see Catholic priests and nuns standing with him. Is this hypocrisy? Maybe I don’t understand precisely what scandal is, at least in the eyes of the Roman Church, and why it is considered so serious.

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.--Ibid.

There is no need to speculate on the seriousness of sexual abuse of children. Clearly, those who commit such heinous crimes must be guilty of sin. However, the abused child who grows up filled with hatred or to live a life of sexual depravity or abuse has been led to do evil.

For those in authority, it is a simple matter to influence those in subordinate positions. Government recognizes this and has established laws to protect underlings from the wrongdoing of their superiors. Apparently the Roman Catholic Church recognizes this also, for she addresses misuse of authority in her official catechism.

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… 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.[Cf. Mt 7:15 .]--Ibid.

I disagree with Rome’s definition of scandal, or at least its application. I believe a real scandal is the failure of the Catholic Church to remove from access to potential targets those priests, nuns and other religious who are known to be sexual offenders. I believe a real scandal is the apathy of the Catholic laity that permits such monsters as pedophile and/or ephebophile priests to remain in pastoral authority over potential victims.

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.-- 2 Peter 2:1-2

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