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.”85 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.
Scandal is something that it seems to me many do not fully understand and that it can easily be caused as well of by act as by omission. I am thinking about this especially in regards to Catholic politicians who support the murder of innocents along with other intrinsic evils. As sad as this scandal is the greater one in my opinion is the fact that little or nothing is done about this scandal by so many Bishops.
For example the recent funeral of Ted Kennedy has caused a lot of noise. On various talk shows I have heard an outcry about this from both Catholics and non-Catholics. Part of the problem is a communication problem. Cardinal O’Malley was well within his rights in Canon law to determine that an ecclesial funeral was appropriate for this well know defender of abortion. It is obvious he also tried to minimize scandal by not having the funeral in the Cathedral and there were really a very small number of clergy participating in the funeral Mass itself. The funeral itself though was quite problematic with talking points intercession and the almost total failure of asking for intercession in the repose of Senator Kennedy’s soul.
I think people can prudently criticize what happened at the funeral, but not that there was a funeral Mass in the first place. The eulogizing certainly was not appropriate and in fact not allowed by the GIRM. I think though there is a deeper problem evident. I don’t want to exclusively focus on the late Senator, but also speak generally about Catholics who are public supporters of abortion.
It says a lot that a Catholic politician can promote intrinsic evil very publicly for years and there is no apparent movement by their bishops to do anything about the situation. If a Catholic politicians supports this evil for decades there must come a point when you realize that dialog and whatever you are doing is not working, If for example Sen. Kennedy during his life had been publicly reprimanded and even excommunicated by any of the series of bishops that he lived under the negative reaction of his ecclesial funeral would have been mitigated. People understand the need for mercy and the hope that someone has repented. That we hope in the wide mercy of God for others and especially for ourselves.
You have to wonder why taking steps to bring dissident Catholic politicians back within the fold is so rare? I have written part of it is the fear of being seen as acting politically by the bishops. There is certainly a legitimate concern for bishops as a whole being seen as only a mouthpiece for some political party. But you also have to do the right thing regardless of how it is viewed. Plus the lack of action can also make you appear to be favorable to the part of the dissident Catholic that is being ignored. It also appears political if yo do nothing. The fact that the USCCB was called the Democratic Party in prayer is certainly evidence of this.
There is also a false idea of meekness now. When people such as Patrick Madrid objected to puff pieces on Sen. Kennedy by Catholics which mentioned none of the Senator’s problems there was an outcry by those who saw Mr. Madrid’s very tame comments as over the top. There were lots of cases of this. For example a blog post on the USCCB CNS blog was shut down after myself and others commented on the post praising the Kennedy ethic. The explanation for shutting comments down was really placed on the commenters and not the fact that the post was the problem in the first place. It was the typical blame the pundit when the topic is highly charged.
I am not sure how people can read the Prophets, John the Baptist, and even Jesus’ words and come to the conclusion that you can never say anything negative about a public sinner. Calling someone a white washed sepulcher isn’t exactly politically correct in the modern term. St. Thomas More’s writings were polemic in a way that would never be accepted today. Certainly prudence plays a large part in determining in the current culture how best to use rhetoric to advance the cause and not become a scandal in itself. But the idea of nice today now seems to mean ignoring the obvious and to not call a sin a sin. It is a spiritual work of mercy to rebuke the sinner in a prudent way. Repentance has to be part of our own daily lives and when the log is out of our own eyes then trying to remove the log out of other eyes is an act of mercy.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
How many examples of Matthew 18:15 do we see when it comes to pro-abortion public Catholics? Certainly there have been examples of the first step even though this should normally be a private action. I remember Fr. Bryce Sybley once telling the story of going and talking to someone I believe to be a state representative who was Catholic and able to convince him to change his mind and his vote. This first step can certainly bear fruit. When it comes to the Federal government I can’t think of any such example of a public abortion supporter to have changed their mind after such a meeting. Nancy Pelosi comes to mind in this regard that even after finally getting around to talking to her bishop on this has gone on to defend abortion in the health care plan.
As for step two of Matthew 18:15 I can’t think of any real examples of this either. State bishops conferences do come out on some bills, just not in regards to specific dissident Catholic public figures. As for step three which is really excommunication I can’t think of an example newer than August: Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter’s threatened excommunication of white parents opposed to integration in 1947. Archbishop Rummel did excommunicate three men in Mar of 1962 in regards to segregation, but thanks be to God they were later reconciled. There was Bishop Bruskewitz excommunication of several groups including members of Catholic for Free Choice in his diocese, but I believe this was a public acknowledgment of Latae Sententiae excommunication that participation in these groups lead to. Archbishop O’Connor in 1990 wrote about pro-abortion politicians that ”must be warned that they are at risk of excommunication’, but a week later also said “I have no intention of excommunicating anybody” and indeed never excommunicated any of the well know pro-abortion politicians in his diocese. But what we do indeed have is a score of dissident public Catholics who appear to have not been disciplined in any way. Gov. Sebelius was told by her bishop to not receive Communion, but she still went on to vote pro death and now as head of the Health and Human Services can do plenty of damage.
In large part nothing has been done to reduce this scandal and some have promoted the culture of death for decades directly leading to the death of others. No good is done for the person who have not yet repented. In fact harm is done by not offering a medicinal remedy to aid them towards repentance. The history of the Church is full of wonderful stories of repentance as a result of excommunication. The scandal caused is secondary to the caring of the soul of the person who promotes intrinsic evils.
Cardinal O’Malley who expressed “disappointment” with the Senator’s record on abortion, had much stronger words for critics of the funeral. Now I certainly agree largely about people making harsh judgement and the problems this causes. If only the Cardinal had managed strong words for the Senator while he was alive and not just to critics of the funeral. Besides the Cardinal fails to mention that there were a whole range of intrinsic evils other than abortion that Sen. Kennedy voted for. Or the fact that the Senator was the leader of dissident Catholics and was involved in shaping Catholic support for abortion. I wish the Cardinal would spend a little time to understand the outrage even when it is put by some in imprudent and harsh language. He could have done a lot in the way of communication before the funeral. It would have been nice if before hand he had written about the numerous evils that the Senator was involved with and then go on to talk about God’s mercy and our hope that the Senator had indeed repented of the evils he supported. This would have been quite helpful to reduce scandal and at the same time advance the teachings of the Church. No doubt some would have still objected to the funeral no matter what, but the Cardinal would also have had an opportunity to teach ahead of time instead of responding to the aftermath.
There is so much in the area of communication that needs to be improved. DIocese need to do a much better job in letting us know what the diocese is doing in this regard. Just having a pro-life office is not enough.
Plus I am not just talking about Catholic politicians. For example how could Frances Kissling the ex-President of Catholics for Free Choice who has done great damage never having to face any medicinal repercussions at all. That she could parade herself before the sympathetic media for years as a Catholic in good standing with an acceptable position? So when bishops and cardinals are surprised when we are scandalize shows a total failure to understand the issues at all. The fact to remember is that many of these are good men totally faithful to the magisterium, but for whatever reasons fail to step in and act as shepherds to protect their flock. I can’t pretend to understand all the reasons for this and will not attempt to psychoanalyze them, I just notice what seems to me to be a lack of action. Though I also can’t detect their prayers for these dissident Catholic public figures either.
It just seems to me that serious scandal has been the result. Faithful Catholics are scandalized when the actions of less-than-faithful Catholics are not addressed. Some Catholics see no reason to conform to the Church if it seems that you really don’t have to conform. Even non-Catholics are scandalize when they see that the Church holds firm when it comes to the dignity of life as far as the teaching goes, just not always the public witness in this regard.
To often when we mention we are scandalize by something, it is the person being scandalized that is addressed. When it came out that the Canadian Bishops conference was involved in sending money to dissident groups in South America and the South American bishops complained, one of the Canadian bishops complained against the people who reported and blogged about it. We must be very careful to be charitable when we write, but charity is not the same as ignoring sin or a situation that causes scandal.