November 7, 2011 - Monday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

What is a scandal? Jesus tells us that “it is impossible that scandals should not come”, but what does he mean? A scandal, in the original usage, is a trap, or more specifically, the trigger of the trap. So with a mousetrap, you have the base and the catch and the bar and then you have the scandal. You put the cheese or peanut butter on the scandal and then the mouse comes to eat it and triggers the trap. Jesus is saying that it is impossible that there would not be scandals in the world. This world is full of scandals. If you touch them, the trap will get you.

When it was revealed that many children had been abused by Catholic priests, it was called “the child sex abuse scandal”, but the scandal was not the news reports nor the fact that there were news reports. The scandal was always there, hidden from view. The journalists were merely drawing attention to the scandal that already existed. If they seem to point out this scandal excessively, even more than other child sex abuse scandals, because they hate the Church, or if they are always trying to falsely implicate Pope Benedict in the scandal because that would sell more papers, the fact of the scandal remains.

Imagine all the people who have been hurt by these scandals! Imagine how many people stopped going to Mass because of a scandal and how many people would have joined the Church but for a scandal and how many children were forever alienated from the Church and how many children grew up to be sexual abusers themselves, for it is often the case that sexual abusers were themselves sexually abused. Imagine how much sin there is in this world because of each priest who decided to be ruled by selfish perversions. And hiding the scandal, which was done by other priests and bishops, is itself another scandal.

Jesus gives us the secret to dealing with scandal: condemn and forgive. “If your brother or sister sins against you, reprove them: and if they repent, forgive them.” He does not tell us to pretend as if there were no scandal. He tells us to condemn and forgive. And if we come upon a scandal, we are in no danger if we condemn it fearlessly and forgive readily, but do not think that “forgive” means withholding punishment. After all, Jesus said about those who cause scandals: being thrown into the ocean with a stone tied around their neck is too good for them. To forgive means that we are choosing to not be caught by the scandal, to not let the scandal stand between us and God.