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SCANDAL





ON only rare occasions do people who follow the bent of their unbridled
passions bethink themselves of the double guilt that frequently
attaches to their sins. Seemingly satisfied with the evil they have
wrought unto their own souls, they choose to ignore the wrong they may
have done unto others as a consequence of their sinful doings. They
believe in the principle that every soul is personally responsible for
its own damnation: which is true; but they forget that many elements
may enter as causes into such a calamity. We are in nowise isolated
beings in this world; our lives may, and do, affect the lives of
others, and influence them sometimes to an extraordinary extent. We
shall have, each of us, to answer one day for results of such
influence; there is no man but is, in this sense, his brother's
guardian.

There are, who deny this, like Cain. Yet we Icnow that Jesus Christ
spoke clearly His mind in regard to scandal, and the emphasis He lays
on His anathemas leaves no room to doubt of His judgment on the
subject. Scandal, in fact, is murder; not corporal murder, which is a
vengeance-crying abomination, but spiritual murder, heinous over the
other in the same measure as the soul's value transcends that of the
body. Kill the body, and the soul may live and be saved; kill the soul
and it is lost eternally.

Properly speaking, scandal is any word or deed, evil or even with an
appearance of evil, of a nature to furnish an occasion of spiritual
downfall, to lead another info sin. It does not even matter whether the
results be intended or merely suffered to occur; it does not even
matter if no results follow at all. It is sufficient that the
stumbling-block of scandal be placed in the way of another to his
spiritual peril, and designed by nature to make him fall; on him who
placed it, is the guilt of scandal.

The act of scandal consists in making sin easier to commit--as though
it were not already easy enough to sin--for another. Natural grace, of
which we are not totally bereft, raises certain barriers to protect and
defend the weak and feeble. Conspicuous among these are ignorance and
shame; evil sometimes offers difficulties, the ones physical, the
others spiritual, such as innate delicacy, sense of dignity, timidity,
instinctive repugnance for filth, human respect, dread of consequences,
etc. These stand on guard before the soul to repel the first advances
of the tempter which are the most dangerous; the Devil seldom unmasks
his heavy batteries until the advance-posts of the soul are taken. It
is the business of scandal to break down these barriers, and for
scandal this work is as easy as it is nefarious. For curiosity is a
hungering appetite, virtue is often protected with a very thin veil,
and vice can be made to lose its hideousness and assume charms, to
untried virtue, irresistible. There is nothing doing for His Satanic
Majesty while scandal is in the field; he looks on and smiles.

There may be some truth in the Darwinian theory after all, if we judge
from the imitative propensities of the species, probably an inherited
trait of our common ancestor, the monkey. At any rate, we are often
more easily led by example than by conviction; example leads us against
our convictions. Asked why we did this or that, knowing we should not
have done it, we answer with simian honesty, "because such a one did
it, or invited us to do it." We get over a good many old-fashioned
notions concerning modesty and purity, after listening to the
experiences of others; we forget to be ashamed in the presence of the
brazen, the unabashed and the impudent. We feel partially justified in
doing what we see done by One to whom we are accustomed to look up. "If
he acts thus," we say, "how can it be so very wrong in me; and if
everybody--and everybody sometimes means a very few--if everybody does
so, it cannot be so bad as I first imagined." Thus may be seen the
workings of scandal in the mind and soul of its victim. Remembering our
natural proneness to carnal indulgence, it is not surprising that the
victims of scandal are so many. But this cannot be taken as an apology
for the scandal-giver; rather the contrary, since the malice of his sin
has possibilities so unbounded.

Scandal supposes an inducement to commit sin, which is not the case
when the receiver is already all disposed to sin and is as bad as the
giver. Nor can scandal be said properly to be given when those who
receive it are in all probability immune against the evil. Some people
say they are scandalized when they are only shocked; if what shocked
them has nothing in it to induce them into sinning, then their received
scandal is only imaginative, nor has any been given. Then, the number
of persons scandalized must be considered as an aggravating
circumstance. Finally, the guilt of scandal is greater or less
according to the helplessness of the victim or intended victim, and to
the sacredness of his or her right to immunity from temptation,
children being most sacred in this respect.

Of course God is merciful and forgives us our offenses however great
'they may be. We may undo a deal of wrong committed by us in this life,
and die in the state of grace, even after the most abominable crimes.
Theologically, therefore, the idea has little to commend itself, but it
must have occurred to more than one: how does one feel in heaven,
knowing that there is in hell, at that moment, one or many through his
or her agency! How mysterious is the justice of God to suffer such a
state of affairs! And although theoretically possible, how can anyone
count on such a contingency in his or her particular case! If the
scandalous would reflect seriously on this, they would be less willing
to take the chances offered by a possibility of this nature.





Next: NOT GOOD TO BE ALONE

Previous: OCCASIONS



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