Scandal Begets a Society That Devalues Human Beings

Merriam-Webster defines scandal as “malicious or defamatory gossip,” a “disgrace,” or “a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions.” Those are probably the definitions most people are familiar with. But they barely touch upon the true meaning of scandal and the consequences of it.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “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.”

In other words, our actions have serious consequences for us and for others. This definition helps us see our responsibility to become moral leaders and to live the truths of our faith.

Yet this is not how the majority of the world thinks about their actions. We live in a “you do you” world where fewer and fewer people have the courage to stand up for anything they believe. And society has us thinking that this selfish mentality is a good thing.

Scandal can and does damage our souls and lead to spiritual death. And we can find instances of scandal nearly everywhere in today’s society. Because many don’t take this sin seriously, it leads not only to the devaluing of human life but to a culture of death in general.

Our faith must be the most important thing in our lives. That means that, when others look at our actions, they should see us as Catholics behaving as Catholics and following the tenets of the faith. Christ taught us, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

If our actions don’t glorify God, who do they glorify? Ourselves? The devil?

When we partake in actions that cause others to believe erroneous teaching about the Catholic faith, we are committing the sin of scandal and possibly drawing people away from the faith by sowing the seeds of confusion or planting doubt.

We see instances of this in all walks of life.

The most obvious comes from our president, who claims to be Catholic but who chooses to live as if Catholicism is a buffet where he can pick and choose what he wants. Biden falsely calls abortion “reproductive freedom,” he advocates for the “right” of people to change their sex at will, and then he proceeds to receive the body of Christ. This scandalous behavior sends a message to the world that it’s okay to call yourself Catholic but to not actually follow the tenets of the faith.

We see this with some Catholic clergy who lack the moral courage to stand up for our faith. And we see this in the pulpits, where many priests preach only of kindness and goodness but never speak about how to truly live as faithful Catholics.

This lack of spiritual guidance leads people astray, and it leads them to think that some people—the preborn, the elderly, the sick—are expendable.

Yet it is not only those in public positions who create scandal. The average Catholic does this as well, and they may not even realize it.

The Catholic businessman who cheats his clients teaches that it’s okay to use and hurt people.

A Catholic teacher living with her boyfriend sends the message to her students (and others) that living in sin is acceptable to the Catholic Church.

The Catholic woman on birth control tells her friends that it’s okay to close herself off from God’s will when it comes to children.

The Catholic parent who fails to prioritize Mass teaches his family that God can be discarded when He’s not convenient.

A Catholic who votes for pro-abortion politicians sends the message that preborn lives don’t have value.

The list goes on and on.

All of these sins damage the virtue and integrity of those around us because we are failing to stand up for the truth.

We have a responsibility to not only ourselves and our families but to society in general to live our faith proudly and to follow Church teaching. We do this for the salvation of our own souls but also for the salvation of others’. Remember that Christ exhorted, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

We do the exact opposite of this when we pick and choose which tenets of the faith we want to adhere to. And when we fail to follow Christ’s teachings and lead others astray, we commit the sin of scandal.

And so let us ask ourselves, How can I live today so that I can be with God for eternity?

This article first appeared in the Catholic World Report at catholicworldreport.com/2024/04/26/scandal-begets-a-society-that-devalues-human-beings.

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About the author

Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine and executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program.