SCANDAL, of course, is a sin. We need to be reminded of this since nowadays it seems that scandals are so common that many people think it is just okay to cause it or to be scandalized.
When one scandalizes somebody else, he leads or tempts that other person to sin. And when one is scandalized, he actually is not only tempted but has fallen into sin, at least by having some bad thoughts.
We have to be most mindful of our words and deeds, because no matter how insignificant they may seem, we can already cause a scandal in others. And we have to strengthen our defenses against scandals, so that instead of thinking badly, for example, of someone due to what we have seen or heard, we are ready to understand and help.
And scandal need not be in the sexual department only which is already a grave sin. It can only be a matter of gossip of any kind, as long as we cause another person to sin by thinking badly of someone or by leading him to have some critical thoughts, mental reservations, rash judgments, etc.
Of course, we have to distinguish between the temptation of scandal and the sin of scandal itself. Temptation is only temptation and is not yet a sin because we have not yet consented to it, though we may already be attracted to it. The sin of scandal is when we consent to the temptation and, worse, when we enjoy it.
We have to be most careful about the danger of scandal, both in its active and passive aspects, since this danger is now rampant. In fact, we can say that the danger has become part of the world culture, promoted not only by individuals, but also by big and powerful institutions like the media, and in the fields of politics, business, entertainment, sports, etc.
It might be good to review the points of the Catechism about scandal, if only to help us develop a certain sensitivity toward its danger. They are in points 2284 to 2287 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“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.
“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.
“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. 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!’”/PN