Cardinal Dolan, We Beg You, Please Avoid the Appearance of Scandal!

August 24, 2012 09:00 AM

Scandal, according to Moral Theology by John A. McHugh, OP, and Charles J. Callan, is 

derived from a Greek word signifying a snare or trap prepared for an enemy, or a stone or block laid in the road that he may stumble or trip over it. In use, it is applied in a wide or general sense, and in a strict or special sense. (a) In its wide sense, it refers to any kind of harm, especially of a spiritual or moral nature, that one brings on others. (b) In its strict sense, it refers to a fall into sin which one occasions for others by misconduct. 

Definition of Scandal – In the strict sense, scandal is defined as “any conduct that has at least the appearance of evil and that offers to a neighbor an occasion of spiritual ruin.”

In an August 20 press release entitled “Inviting Scandal to Dinner,” American Life League pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as “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.”

Thus, in the context of the upcoming Al Smith Dinner to which President Barack Obama has been invited by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, we make it clear that the invitation is not itself an act of scandal. But, rather, it appears that scandal is being invited to dinner because, as the Catechism makes clear, “they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to ‘social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.’” 

Could a more precise definition be given to Obamacare and the resulting Obama/Sebelius contraceptive mandate?

As if this wasn’t serious enough, we must realize that harm of a spiritual nature can be brought to bear on others who, while perhaps innocent of the wrong-headedness of Obama’s policies, will surmise as a result of the Al Smith Dinner photo-ops and news stories that the Church enjoys a healthy relationship with President Obama. From this, they may feel that a vote for the man cannot be an act of sin. 

While quite the contrary is true, the “image” of approval will be present in the media for all to see. Only a dullard would overlook the political nuance that will be touted by the Obama campaign in ways that are not difficult to discern.

We find another example regarding the discussion of scandal in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Thomas refers to this admonition by St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:22: “From all appearance of evil restrain yourself.” He concludes his teaching by saying: “Scandal is therefore fittingly described as something done ‘less rightly,’ so as to comprise both whatever is sinful in itself, and all that has an appearance of evil.”

In the case of the upcoming Al Smith Dinner and the presence of a man who has willingly and enthusiastically presided over millions of deaths by surgical, chemical, and medical abortion, one might suggest, as I do, that the impression being left in the aftermath of the jovial get-together will be that public displays of friendship and good humor with someone steeped in the advocacy of evil somehow ameliorates the end result.

Some of my allies have suggested to me that we are wrong to even suggest this possibility because Cardinal Dolan may have a profound effect on President Obama. They suggest the president might fall to his knees, seek forgiveness from Christ, and immediately undo all the evil he has done over the past three and a half years. That would indeed be a miracle, but what if that is not the result?

Let’s not forget that Christ never sought public support or accolades for his many miraculous works. In fact, he admonished (Mark 5:43) his friends not to discuss what had occurred publicly. 

It is out of a sincere concern, then, for the spiritual well-being of our fellow Catholics and all Americans that we respectfully encourage Cardinal Timothy Dolan, for the reasons stated above, to cancel the invitation to President Obama. We further encourage our fellow Americans to join our NO DINNER FOR OBAMA campaign today. Together we can make our voices heard.

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