Causing Scandal

Modern psychological research has demonstrated that each of us were created with an inner need or appetite to seek out ‘emotional support’ and ‘effective dependency’ on others. This inner need is affected either by a sense of acceptance or rejection by others.

Sometimes in a negative sense we bolster our feelings of security by deciding who is in and who is out. Religious communities are often affected by this. Sometimes you have to be in a certain group to be accepted, or you have to have to do things a certain way to receive approval.

In our reading from Numbers, Eldad and Medad appear to have overslept their meeting and were not in the correct place when the Holy Spirit descended on the seventy elders. They still received the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy but not in the expected place. Joshua wanted to prevent them, but Moses replied “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the people of the Lord were prophets! If only the Lord would bestow his spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29). Many people have seen this as a foreshadowing of Pentecost in Acts 2.

This passage appears to be echoed in today’s Gospel. The Apostles see a man driving out demons in Jesus name. John tells Jesus “we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” (Mark 9:39).

Like prophesying in the time of Moses, performing “a deed of power, or a miracle” implies the presence of the Holy Spirit. While being an intimate ‘follower’ of Jesus is clearly the best way to be a disciple, the presence of the Spirit indicates that God’s circle of acceptance is sometimes wider than our narrow ideas of community.

In the next section Jesus talks about four ways that God’s community is negatively affected by bad behavior. Four times Jesus uses the verb (skandaliz) “causing scandal” or “cause to sin.” Scandal has clearly been a news item in the past few weeks.

In popular culture scandal is thought of as any conduct that causes embarrassment. This is not the traditional Catholic understanding.

The Catechism notes, “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.” (CCC 2284).

The important factor here is that the offence “provides an occasion of sin to another,” or “leads another to do evil.” It is not merely something which is embarrassing.

Jesus uses hyperbole to highlight the seriousness of a grave offense involving this type of sin. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). If by word or deed we become an occasion of sin to another and lead one of the little ones away from belief it is a very serious matter.

Obviously, there are many ways we can lead others into sin or even to lead them to completely abandon their belief. The effect of sin itself and how it is rectified is one level of scandal, but quite often it is the popular discussion of others sins which is most damaging to people’s faith. The Catechism highlights several ways in which those who discuss other’s sins can fall into serious sin themselves and create or worsen scandal.

It is possible to bring about scandal which harms people’s faith by engaging rash judgment in which one “assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor” (CCC 2477). A second sin would be that of detraction when someone, “without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them” (CCC 2477).

Fear of detraction is not a justification for a code of silence in the face of abuse. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to disclose another’s faults and failings to legitimate authorities to bring about justice. Yet a moral duty to report an injustice to legitimate authorities may not be the same as the moral right to freely blog about it.

In less common circumstances, public disclosure is a seemingly justified type of activism to combat corrupt authority. Our culture’s level of trust in authority has reached such a low, however, that for many people this type of activism has become the norm. In fact, on many popular religious blogs, rash judgment and detraction have unfortunately become the norm.

Finally, the Catechism warns about the sin of calumny when by remarks contrary to the truth, one “harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them” (CCC 2477). Very often the negative things said about others are exaggerated and distorted, especially if we have no first-hand knowledge of the situation. Clearly this easily leads to further scandal.

Jesus also reminds us that we can harm the body of Christ through our own personal sins. Using strong hyperbole, Jesus says if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Clearly the Jewish faith prohibited self-mutilation, so Jesus is not being literal (Deut. 14:1; 1 Kings 18:28; Zech. 13:6). Instead, Jesus is reminding his disciples of his radical call to holiness of life. Our own sins can harm the body of Christ both interiorly and by scandal though our bad example to others.

Clearly there is a time to speak up, yet there may also be a time to be silent and to pray. As the Apostle James warns us, the tongue can be a fire, and a restless evil, with it we can bless or we can curse (James 3:5-10). Jesus reminds us that his calling involves a radical new life of holiness that effects every member of our being.

Deacon Scott McKellar is pastoral associate at St. Therese Parish, North.

Daily Scripture Readings

For complete daily Scripture texts, click here:

Monday, October 1
Job 1:6-22
Psalms 17:1bcd, 2-3, 6-7
Luke 9:46-50

Tuesday, October 2
Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
Psalms 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Wednesday, October 3
Job 9:1-12, 14-16
Psalms 88:10bc-11, 12-13, 14-15
Luke 9:57-62

Thursday, October 4
Job 19:21-27
Psalms 27:7-8a, 8b-9abc, 13-14
Luke 10:1-12

Friday, October 5
Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5
Psalms 139:1-3, 7-8, 9-10, 13-14ab
Luke 10:13-16

Saturday, October 6
Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17
Psalms 119:66, 71, 75, 91, 125, 130
Luke 10:17-24

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 7
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Hebrews 2:9-11
Mark 10:2-16

Monday, October 8
Galatians 1:6-12
Psalms 111:1b-2, 7-8, 9 & 10c
Luke 10:25-37

Tuesday, October 9
Galatians 1:13-24
Psalms 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15
Luke 10:38-42

Wednesday, October 10
Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14
Psalms 117:1bc, 2
Luke 11:1-4

Thursday, October 11
Galatians 3:1-5
Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
Luke 11:5-13

Friday, October 12
Galatians 3:7-14
Psalms 111:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6
Luke 11:15-26

Saturday, October 13
Galatians 3:22-29
Psalms 105:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Luke 11:27-28

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 14
Wisdom 7:7-11
Psalms 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
Hebrews 4:12-13
Mark 10:17-30


  1. September 28, 2018 at 3:36 pm #

    This is how the ministerial priesthood covers-up the known truth. We are called to speak the truth always by the Holy Spirit. But if you call the ministerial priesthood on their lies they will accuse you of scandal, and threaten to destroy you by any means necessary. I know. They will do anything to cover for each other, while they will invent any lie and go to any length to silence a person who will not keep their secrets. I’ve been threatened by both Bishops and Priests with loss of vocation, physical violence, and financial loss for speaking up about active alcoholics, drunk drivers, racists, pedophiles, homosexuals, and sexual predators in the seminary, in religious orders and in the diocese. I am sick to death after decades of seeing the ministerial priesthood lie to all of us. When are any of you going to start being true men of God and stop lying? STOP LECTURING US AND START LIVING THE LIVES YOU TOOK OATHS TO LIVE.

  2. September 29, 2018 at 10:22 pm #

    SALAZAR CASE –A Must Read

    Fr Salazar was rejected by his superiors in Guatemala after years in a minor seminary and told to spend a year in prayer and discernment. What did they know that convinced them that he wasn’t fit for ordination?
    According to a glowing article in The Key celebrating Salazar’s struggles culminating in ordination and deployment in the Kansas City diocese, he met a priest in his country, whose name he couldn’t recall, Salazar states: “I do not remember his name, but right away, he put me in contact with Father Richard Rocha (diocesan vocations director) and Gustavo Valdez (now diocesan director of Hispanic Ministry) who helped me get through the process,” “He was the angel and the sign I asked God for in those days of despair,” he said. “We were eating breakfast and suddenly we started talking about the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the need for Spanish-speaking seminarians.
    “He looked at me and without knowing who I was, said, ‘Do you want to come?’”
    “My answer was, ‘I could not survive in your country. I do not speak the language,’” Father Salazar said.
    “He said, ‘Come on. Don’t you trust in God?’”
    1. FR Salazar couldn’t get ordained in his country
    2. He just happens to meet someone in his home country that changes the course of his life whose name he doesn’t remember.
    3. He can’t speak a word of English.
    4. Referring to his good fortune at the hands of his Kansas City clerical handlers for giving him the express, no-questions-asked approval and full acceptance, he says: while having breakfast “he looked at me NOT KNOWING WHO I WAS”.
    5. Salazar even questioned his own ability to “Survive” in this country during the breakfast encounter, yet he was pushed. I’d say emotionally manipulated when admonished “come on, Don’t you trust in God”.
    5.Then, apparently according to what now is being revealed as the Gay lobby’s formula, he’s shipped off to the notorious Connecticut Seminary which made headlines just this week.
    NEWS FLASH!! {In an official statement released Tuesday, Holy Apostles president and rector Fr. Douglas Mosey, C.S.B. braced supporters for potential fallout from the apostolate’s Aug. 21 exposé showing that for years, former Hartford Abp. Henry Mansell and other U.S. prelates secretly imported gay seminarians from Latin America into the United States}.

    The Bishop needs to provide full disclosure and an explanation as to why he sanctioned Salazar in the first place, let alone receiving Salazar’s “First Blessing”, as shown in the Key article. The faithful should demand answers on what connection has existed between the K C diocese and Latin America in importing homosexual seminarians. Based on the Key article and Salazar’s own statements, it appears more like a case of human trafficking! He was pushed into the priesthood and he may well be as much a victim as his those accusing him.

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July 16, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph