In previous posts, I have discussed how the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, Moderator of the Curia - Secretary for Administration for the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire responded to a laywoman's concerns over the scandalous voting record of Catholic politician Maurice Pilotte (a State Representative from the Queen City).
In a cheap attempt to dismiss this woman's serious and legitimate concerns, Rev. Arsenault wrote that: "As for his voting record, I find it difficult to believe that anyone is scandalized by his votes. To be scandalized is to question 'whether the truth is true.' If Rep. Pilotte has voted as you have indicated, he certainly has not and does not represent the Church. The teachings of the Church regarding human life and other sensitive issues in public policy have been made quite clear by Bishop McCormack and others who represent the Church."
But is this authentic Catholic teaching on the nature of scandal? In a word, no. Bishop Raymond L. Burke, D.D., J.C.D., in an excellent address given at the Milwaukee Wanderer Forum back in December of 2002, had this to say regarding the nature of scandal:
"So serious is the moral obligation to avoid scandal that we are admonished not only not to do wrong but also not to appear to do wrong. When a person acts, he or she must always consider the appearance of the act to be done. If a reasonable person could take the act to be gravely immoral, then a person is not to commit the act, even if there is no immorality involved at all...Here there is a delicate balance, for the viewer of the act can engage in what we call pharisaical scandal.* Saint Paul teaches the Corinthians: 'Take care, however, lest in exercising your right you become an occasion to the weak.' (1 Cor 8:9). We must consider the true weight of our action before another and, if it would legitimately cause scandal, then we must forego the action, even some otherwise good action. On the other hand, we are not obliged to conform our actions to the mind of someone who looks to be scandalized and does not consider reasonably the nature of an action."
There you have it, Rev. Edward Arsenault would appear to be unable to distinguish between legitimate scandal and pharisaical scandal. As Bishop Burke says, "If a reasonable person could take the act to be gravely immoral, then a person is not to commit the act." Now, any reasonable person - any Catholic who takes his or her Catholic Faith seriously - would consider a Catholic politician voting for the "morning-after pill" and against a ban on partial-birth abortion (which constitutes infanticide) to be "gravely immoral."
* An example of Pharisaical scandal: The Pharisees chiding Jesus for performing miracles on the Sabbath. Recall Jesus' answer that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.
Paul Anthony Melanson