Saturday, June 11, 2011

What is scandal?

"The nun said to me, 'That would scandalize the parish,' "

Scandal is ... "something less rightly done or said, that occasions another's spiritual downfall." --Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ (II-II, xliii, 1)

Recently, there appeared in Cleveland's lone daily a story of a victim of sexual harassment, and advances, by the founding pastor of a suburban church*. She requested the removal of a plaque, and the name designation of a campus building honouring that man and priest. The sister† quoted is the diocesan 'victims' assistance co-ordinator'. "It would be wrong to do this to his name". The diocese has its priorities.

What is evil/sinful? The bad behaviour, or the public acknowledgment of that bad behaviour? If it is the latter, then one is mandated to lie; to call the malefactor good, or the malefactor's behaviour good, and to discredit any truth teller. Logic, and the Angelic Doctor‡ would never advocate that [additional sinning].

These two people are speaking of two different concepts. Scandal, for St. Thomas, induces bad behaviour in another. Scandal corrupts. Secrecy facilitates the further occasion and operation of scandal. For the other, and for too many (especially those in, or defending, institutions and/or powerful individuals), scandal is the discredit that bad behaviour brings. Scandal becomes merely adverse publicity, that may result in loss of authority, power, credibility or honour. The malefactor is valued above the person he wrongs. Loyalty to an organisation is greater than justice, and charity to individuals. This makes being a 'whistleblower' very risky, and necessitates courage.

Scandalising, for Thomas, would be the continuation, and further manufacture of sin. For the diocese scandalising is the loss of public stature, esteem and resultant reduction in moral authority admission would ensue. But the Cleveland Diocese is not alone in this attitude, this is the standard position for institutions (government, military, business, education, labor et cetera) in general.
*Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nicholas Francis Monaghan, St. Charles Borromeo, Parma
†Sr. Laura Bouhall
‡St. Thomas Aquinas
Postscriptum 12 June: There has been a follow up story published. Perhaps, those who were denying the story being possible will be less vocal. It seems if a pervert is exposed, more people will tell of their similar encounters. One of the former schoolgirls is quoted,
"He was a cigar-smelling, horrible old man. I don't want to rustle his bones in his grave, but having a plaque and a building named after him is an affront to all the young, innocent girls he abused."
Postscriptum 13 June: Barbara Blaine, the founder of SNAP (the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests), came to East 9th Street (outside the cathedral) before noon, to-day, to speak about the molestation of children by priests. A handful of Code Purple (local parishioners asking for accountability of the local church) members were there to support her, and those touched by the lust of Fr. Monaghan. They were ignored by virtually all, but for a cameraman (most probably) working for the diocese, cathedral security (that kept an eye on them from the top of the steps, and shooed away a young man [not with the protestors] whom sat down and typed away on his phone/computer), and a Cleveland Police cruiser that accepted a sheet of paper from a protestor, and then soon left.
Postscriptum 15 Jun 2011: In a fourth article, by Michael O'Malley, it was announced the plaque will be removed, and the name taken off the parish hall.

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