Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Nature of Scandal

What is a scandal? By definition, a 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 origin of the word, as I have been told, is a stumbling block that one places before a blind person. Therefore, the idea of scandal is tinged with an added degree of malice; it isn't just that you lead someone astray: you lead astray someone who could not defend themselves.

Where is the scandal in this story? Well, first, the kids at South Park deserve some attention. (And yes, even though they are probably about my age, given their puerile humor, they are kids to my mind.) But I think the real scandal is that this doesn't upset more Catholics. We simply let people bad mouth the Blessed Mother and the Church and our Lord and act as though we are being sophisticated in doing so. Sorry to break to this you, and to myself, but this isn't sophistication. It's outward cowardice in the face of an attack on the truth Christ has revealed.

Before you say, let me say it. A large segment of readers would say, "Well, if we make a stink, then more people will see it, that will boost ratings, and therefore encourage more acts like this. So all the better to just act unaffected by it." This is similar to the policy that my mother encouraged toward bullies and my brother when they would pick on me. "Just act like it doesn't bother you and they will quit." I never had much success with this. The only way stopped was when I stood up for myself. I am not saying that I started a fistfight but I certainly didn't let the attack continue. The same is true here. In essence, television executives are scared of offending anybody. Therefore, when offense is registered they are quick to either placate or eliminate the source of the offense.

So what I am suggesting? Instead of merely a boycott in which we don't watch the channel or frequent the advertisers (and I am suggesting that is a part of the overall strategy), why don't we address the error that these kids have made, namely that the miraculous can't happen in this life? I would suspect that these guys never received a good formation in any religious tradition or even the philosophical underpinnings of religious thought in general. I would suspect, again, that they might be largely materialist in their personal philosophy and therefore anything of the miraculous is at best delusional. Further, there is a poor understanding of the role of the papacy, the role of the local bishop, the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the person of Jesus Christ. On many occasions, they have also made fun of Christ Himself so this is just added insult.

Now, what I am about to say, is based solely on the article as I don't have a copy of the letter in front of me. I think the good Bishop has missed the point of the argument with Viacom's president. By focusing on the "hurt" caused by this, he has essentially given all the power to the bully. While acknowledging the injury one must follow that with why the injury exists otherwise the person who has commited the injury must conclude that you, the injured party, are being irrational. Rather, injury exists when something of value is de-valued. While I don't know if the Bishop's letter addressed this, it was a prime opportunity to evangelize the president of Viacom and the creators of South Park! A short, incisive letter addressing the reasons for Faith in Christ and Honor for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Piety of the Average Catholic would have garnered, I believe, more fruit. I don't know what the actual letter so DON'T ATTACK THE BISHOP. Your comments will be erased if you do.

The point is that instead of merely shaking our heads at further outrages, we need to take a more active approach in confronting the error, lest the purveyor of scandal is ourselves.

UPDATE: The entirety of the letter in question can be found on the USCCB website.

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