Friday, July 01, 2005

What constitutes scandal?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2284, teaches us that: "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."

And No. 2285 of the Catechism tells 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.' 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."

Number 2286 explains that: "Scandals 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."

Lastly, number 2287 teaches that: "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.'"

Dr. Germain Grisez, one of the finest moral theologians around, teaches that one can give scandal in many different ways. He says that, "Another's sin can be occasioned by bad example, by advice and encouragement, by emotionally motivating the sin, by removing some impediment, by providing an opportunity, by supplying material or resources, and so on."

What then of the politician who claims to be Catholic but who promotes the culture of death by voting for abortifacient drugs and voting against pro-life measures such as a ban on partial-birth abortion - a "procedure" which amounts to infanticide? Is such a person causing scandal? The answer, for the faithful Catholic, would appear rather obvious. However, a priest of the Diocese of Manchester would seem to disagree.

When a laywoman wrote him with concerns regarding the voting record of State Representative Maurice Pilotte of Manchester, New Hampshire and detailing how he has voted on two occasions for SB30 (the NH Bill which allows for abortifacient drugs to be administered over the counter and even to minors without parental notification) and how he has even voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion (the killing of the unborn as they are being delivered), he responded by writing:

"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." (E-mail of June 27, 2005).

The main thrust of Rev. Arsenault's argument would appear to be that since State Representative Maurice Pilotte does not, (and never has) officially represented the Church,
there can be no scandal based upon his voting record. It would appear then that Rev. Arsenault is suggesting that the Catechism is wrong. For once again, it states clearly that: "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.."

How much more scandalous when the scandal comes from a politician who claims to be Catholic and receives Holy Eucharist while advancing the culture of death.

Rev Arsenault, shame on you.

Paul Anthony Melanson

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