“Father, is scandal a sin?” Philip, a third-grade student, asked.
“Why do you ask?” I inquired further to know how to properly respond to his unexpected question.
“Oh, just wonderin’ ‘coz mum said I shouldn’t ask her scandalous questions,” he shrugged his shoulders.
“Questions? Like what, Philip?”
“Like, I asked what ‘virgin’ means ‘coz my other classmates mentioned it,” he looked at me confidently hoping I could give him some answers.
“Really? What did mum say?”
“She said sumthin’ ‘bout the Virgin Mary and...,”
“But what do you and your friends understand by virgin, Philip?” I interrupted him.
“Father,” he gave me a wide cute smile that revealed his two missing front teeth, “does it mean never been kissed before?”
Philip is amusingly just beginning to acquaint himself with some of life’s moral realities. It is, however, so timely to once again remind ourselves about the important moral principles regarding scandal. This is especially true in our days when the illness of moral relativism leads many to disregard the causes and grave consequences of a scandal. Moreover, this subjective outlook is making something distastefully sinful into something disgustingly fashionable.
The Greeks called skandalon an object (e.g. a rock or log) intentionally placed in someone else’s path in order to trip him or block his way. Latin takes from the Greek and defines scandalum in the moral sense of a “trap” or “temptation” laid for someone. Present times have somewhat watered down these ideas by focusing more on the public outrage or disapproval towards a misconduct of person.
God created man in His image and likeness. This is the source of every person’s dignity. This is why Jesus strongly denounced scandal as a grave sin. In Mathew’s Gospel, He taught that whoever causes a scandal –especially when it corrupts the young and innocent– should have “a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes scandal under the offenses against the Fifth Commandment. It is “an attitude or behaviour which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbour’s tempter... Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.” (Catechism no. 2264)
The malice of a scandal isn’t something confined only to the moment of damaging a person’s spiritual integrity. By committing a scandal, one can “kill or harm” his neighbour’s soul by leading him to either die or be wounded by sin. It also can deform the person’s conscience and weaken his capacity to reject future temptations.
These principles uphold the right every person has to treasure his or her personal integrity and dignity. This also includes people who may be responsible for or involved in the scandal itself when their humiliating acts are unjustly and viciously revealed or published without their prior consent.
Today, however, the confusion brought about by moral relativism has made such lamentable events rather trendy: this could be called iScandals. This are personalized and intentionally marketed scandals for the public to rabidly consume. Hosts of iScandals “earn”, so to speak, their daily bread through their sensual movie scenes, coloured green talk shows, and vulgar radio interviews and gossips.
I personally find the outrage of those involved in iScandals bizarre –at least only at the beginning– because I wonder what difference there is between what they scandalously project in their public performances (i.e. their immodest films, indecent dances, poor songs and green jokes) and their hidden scandalous acts. Obviously, it would be that they too have a right to be respected in their privacy and intimacy.
Later on, as though nothing ever happened, they continue to scandalize the public. Their prior sentiments of anger and shame –definitely genuine feelings for being unjustly betrayed and used– fade and are converted into tolerance. Anyway, it seems their past exposé has helped them to gain more media mileage.
The reaction of public authorities was likewise inconsistent. They had to wait for something big before they “seriously” try to implement –at least on paper– laws and regulations penalizing the reproduction and sale of such “sex scandals”. But they seem to continue to overlook the constant flow scandals in the form of adult films shown in many family centers, the indecent billboards that litter our streets and buildings, the many T.V. and radio ads. These are totally demeaning of family and social values.
We, as citizens are also partly indifferent, because our sympathy for the “victims” only reaches the level of the sentiments. We are never too determined to make our respective communities more decent and modest society. This occurs when we continue to support, tolerate and not complain against the vicious intrusions of promoters of “daily” iScandals who abuse the intimacy of our family and social circles by portraying a bastardized image of human love, the marriage and friendships in their movies, advertisements, radio shows and interviews.
Let us bring these present “scandalous” events to prayer and personal examination. The smallest resolutions can already bring about the biggest conversions in our families and society. For example, our resolve not to watch certain noontime programs and shows. This also means not supporting the advertisers and sponsors of such shows. We can also complain in a short letter to editors and publishers about the inconvenient things they publish. We can refrain from buying the products and merchandise of fashion lines and beverages who have no other “method” than to sell their products at the expense of personal decency and integrity.
Through these and many similar examples we become, iPerson or one who upholds and lives according to the dignity of being children of God.