On Scandal

Christ the Good Shepherd - by MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban - from Museo del Prado, Madrid


The Wolf Catcheth and Scattereth the Sheep - John 10:12


(LL: scandalum, Stumbling Block)

Any Word or Action which has at least the Appearance of Evil, and which is the Occasion of Sin, to Another. It is a Grave Sin in Grave Matter because it is Opposed-to the Law of Charity. Christ speaks of Scandal: "Woe to the World because of Scandals. For it must needs be that Scandals come: but nevertheless Woe to that Man by whom the Scandal, cometh." (Matthew 18)

New Catholic Dictionary


On Scandal

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

angelbar.gif (3645 bytes)

The Wolves that Catch and Scatter the Sheep of Jesus Christ, are the Authors-of Scandal, who, not Content-with their own Destruction, Labor-to Destroy others. But the Lord says: "Woe to that Man by whom the Scandal cometh" - Matthew 18:7. Woe to him who gives Scandal, and causes others to Lose the Grace of God. Origen says, that "a Person who Impels another to Sin, Sins more Grievously than the other". If, Brethren, there be any among you who has given Scandal, I will Endeavor this Day to Convince him of the Evil he has done, that he may Bewail it, and Guard against it for the Future. I will show, in the First (1st) Point, the Great Displeasure which the Sin of Scandal gives-to God; and, in the Second (2nd), the Great Punishment which God Threatens to Inflict on the Authors-of Scandal.


First Point
On the Great Displeasure which the
Sin of Scandal gives to God.

It is, in the First (1st) Place, Necessary to Explain what is Meant-by Scandal. Behold how Saint Thomas defines it: "Scandal is a Word or Act which gives Occasion to the Spiritual Ruin of one's Neighbor". Scandal, then, is a Word or Act, by which you are to your Neighbor, the Cause or Occasion-of Losing his Soul. It may be Direct or Indirect. It is Direct, when you Directly Tempt and Induce another, to Commit Sin. It is Indirect, when, although you Foresee that Sinful Words or Actions will be the Cause-of Sin to another, you do not Abstain-from them. But, Scandal, whether it be Direct or Indirect, if it be in a Matter-of Great Moment, is always a Mortal Sin.

Let us now see the Great Displeasure which the Destruction of a Neighbor's Soul gives to God. To understand it, we must consider how Dear, every Soul is to God. He has Created the Souls of all Men to His Own Image. “Let us make Man to our Image and Likeness" - Genesis 1:26. Other Creatures, God has made by a Fiat - by an Act-of His Will; but the Soul of Man, He has Created-by His Own Breath. "And the Lord Breathed into his face the Breath of Life" - Genesis 2:7. The Soul of your Neighbor, God has Loved for Eternity (∞). "I have Loved thee with an Everlasting Love" - Jeremiah 31:3. He has, moreover, Created every Soul to be a Queen in Paradise, and to be a Partner-in His Glory. "That by these you may be made Partakers of the Divine Nature" - 2Peter 1:4. In Heaven, He will make the Souls of the Saints Partakers-of His Own Joy. "Enter thou into the Joy of thy Lord" - Matthew 25:21. To them, He shall give Himself as their Reward. "I am thy Reward, exceeding Great" - Genesis 15:1.

Ecce Homo

But Nothing can show the Value which God sets-on the Souls of Men, more-Clearly than what the Incarnate Word has done for their Redemption from Sin and Hell. "When", says Saint Eucharius, "you do not Believe your Creator, ask your Redeemer how Precious you are". Speaking-of the Care which we ought to have of our Brethren, Saint Ambrose says: "The Great Value of the Salvation of a Brother, is known from the Death of Christ". We Judge-of the Value-of everything by the Price Paid-for it, by an Intelligent Purchaser. Now, Jesus Christ has, according to the Apostle, Purchased the Souls of Men with His Own Blood. "You are Bought with a Great Price" - 1Corinthians 6:20. We can, then, say, that the Soul is of as much Value-as the Blood of a God. Such, indeed, is the Language of Saint Hilary. "Tam copioso munere redemptio agitur, ut homo Deum valere videatur". Hence, the Savior tells us, that whatsoever Good or Evil we do to the Least-of His Brethren, we do to Himself. "So long as you did it to One of these, My least Brethren, you did it to Me" - Matthew 25:40.

From all this we may Infer, how Great is the Displeasure given-to God by Scandalizing a Brother, and Destroying his Soul. It is enough to say, that they who give Scandal, Rob God of a Child, and Murder a Soul, for whose Salvation, He has spent His Blood and His Life. Hence, Saint Leo calls the Authors of Scandal, Murderers. "Quisquis scandalizat, mortem infert animw proximi". They are the Most Impious of Murderers; because they Kill not the Body, but the Soul of a Brother, and Rob Jesus Christ of all His Tears, of His Sorrows, and of all that He has Done and Suffered, to Gain that Soul. Hence the Apostle says: "Now, when you Sin thus against the Brethren, and Wound their Weak Conscience, you Sin against Christ" - 1Corinthians 8:12. They who Scandalize a Brother, Sin against Christ; because, as Saint Ambrose says, they Deprive Him of a Soul, for which He has Spent so Many Years, and Submitted-to so-Many Toils and Labors. It is related, that B. Albertus Magnus spent Thirty (30) Years in Making a Head, which resembled the Human Head, and 'Uttered' Words; and that Saint Thomas, Fearing that it was done by the Agency-of the Devil, took the Head and Broke it. B. Albertus Complained of the Act-of Saint Thomas, saying: "You have Broken on me, the Work of Thirty Years". I do not Assert that this is True; but it is certain that, when Jesus Christ sees a Soul Destroyed by Scandal, He can Reprove the Author of it, and say to him: Wicked Wretch, what have you done? You have Deprived Me of this Soul, for which I have Labored Thirty-Three (33) Years.

Joseph's Bloody Coat Brought to Jacob -
by VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y -
from Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial
(Click to Enlarge)

We read in the Scriptures, that the Sons of Jacob, after having Sold their Brother Joseph to certain Merchants, told his Father that Wild Beasts had Devoured him. “Fera pessima devoravit eum” - Genesis 37:20. To Convince their Father of the Truth of what they said, they Dipped the Coat-of Joseph in the Blood-of a Goat, and presented it to him, saying: "See whether this be thy Son's Coat or not" - Genesis 37:32. In reply, the Afflicted Father said with Tears: "It is my Son's Coat: an Evil Wild Beast hath Eaten him" - Genesis 37:33. Thus, we may imagine that, when a Soul is Brought-into Sin by Scandal, the Devils present-to God, the Garment-of that Soul, dipped-in the Blood of the Immaculate Lamb, Jesus Christ - that is, the Grace Lost by that Scandalized Soul, which Jesus Christ had Purchased-with His Blood - and that they say to the Lord: "See whether this be thy Son's Coat or not". If God were capable-of Shedding Tears, He would Weep more Bitterly than Jacob did, at the Sight-of that Lost Soul - His Murdered Child - and would say: "It is My Son's Coat. An Evil Wild Beast hath Eaten him". The Lord will go in Search-of this Wild Beast, saying: Where is the Beast? where is the Beast that has Devoured My Child? When He finds the Wild Beast, what shall He do with him?

"I will", says the Lord by His Prophet Hosea, "meet them as a Bear, that is Robbed of her Whelps"! - Hosea 13:8. When the Bear comes-to her Den, and finds not her Whelps, she goes about the Wood in Search-of the Person that took them away. When she Discovers the Person, oh! with what Fury does she Rush-upon him. It is thus, the Lord shall Rush-upon the Authors of Scandal, who have Robbed Him of His Children. Those who have given Scandal, will say: My Neighbor is already Damned; how can I Repair the Evil that has been done? The Lord shall Answer: Since you have been the Cause-of his Perdition, you must Pay Me for the Loss of his Soul. "I will Require his Blood, at thy hands" -Ezekiel 3:20. It is written in Deuteronomy, "Thou shalt not Pity him, but shall require Life for Life" - 19:21. You have Destroyed a Soul; you must Suffer the Loss of your Own. Let us Pass-to the Second (2nd) Point.


Second Point
The Great Punishment which God Threatens
to Inflict on those who give Scandal.

"Woe to that Man by whom the Scandal Cometh" - Matthew 18:7. If the Displeasure, Given-to God by Scandal be Great, the Chastisement which awaits the Authors of it, must be Frightful. Behold, how Jesus Christ Speaks-of this Chastisement: "But he that shall Scandalize one of these Little Ones that Believe in Me, it were Better for him that a Millstone should be Hanged about his Neck, and that he should be Drowned in the Depth of the Sea"! - Matthew 18:6. If a Malefactor Dies on the Scaffold, he Excites the Compassion of the Spectators, who, at least, Pray for him, if they cannot Deliver him from Death. But, were he Cast-into the Depths-of the Sea, there should be no one Present, to Pity his Fate. A certain Author says, that Jesus Christ Threatens the Person who Scandalizes a Brother with this Sort-of Punishment, to Signify that he is so Hateful to the Angels and Saints, that they do not Wish-to Recommend to God the Man who has Brought a Soul to Perdition. "He is declared Unworthy not only to be Assisted, but even to be Seen".

Saint John Chrysostom says, that Scandal is so Abominable in the Eyes of God, that though He Overlooks very Grievous Sins, He cannot Allow the Sin of Scandal to Pass, without Condign Punishment. "Tam Deo horribile est scandalum, ut peccata graviora dissimulet non autem. peccata ubi frater scandalizatur". God Himself says the Same, by the Prophet Ezekiel: "Every Man of the House of Israel, if he ... set up the Stumbling-Block of his Iniquity ... I will make him an Example and a Proverb, and will Cut him off, from the Midst of my People" - Ezekiel 14:7, 8.

Remains of Jezebel -
by Gustave Dore
-Click to Enlarge-

And, in Reality, Scandal is One-of the Sins which we Find-in the Sacred Scriptures, Punished by God with the Greatest Rigor. Of Heli, because he did not Correct his Sons, who gave Scandal by Stealing the Flesh offered-in Sacrifice (for Parents give Scandal, not only by Giving Bad Example, but also by not Correcting their Children as they ought), the Lord said: "Behold I do a thing in Israel: and whosoever shall hear it, both his ears shall tingle" - 1Kings. And Speaking-of the Scandal given-by the Sons of Heli, the Inspired Writer says: "Wherefore, the Sin of the Young Men was Exceeding Great before the Lord" - ibid. Why was this Sin, exceeding Great? It was, says Saint Gregory, in explaining this Passage, Drawing others to Sin. "Quia ad peccandum. alios pertrahebant". Why was Jeroboam Chastised? Because he Scandalized the People: he "hath Sinned, and made Israel Sin" - 1Kings 14:16. In the Family of Ahab, all the Members of which were the Enemies of God, Jezebel was the most Severely Chastised. She was Thrown-down from a Window, and Devoured by Dogs, so that Nothing remained but her "Skull, and the Feet, and the Extremities of her Hands". And why was she so Severely Punished? Because she 'Set' Ahab, on to every Evil.

For the Sin of Scandal, Hell was Created. "In the Beginning, God Created Heaven and Earth" - Genesis 1:1. But, when did He Create Hell? It was when Lucifer began to Seduce the Angels into Rebellion against God. Lest he should Continue-to Pervert those who Remained Faithful to God, he was Banished from Heaven, immediately-after his Sin. Hence, Jesus Christ said to the Pharisees, who, by their Bad Example, Scandalized the People, that they were Children of the Devil, who was, from the Beginning, a Murderer of Souls. "You are of your Father, the Devil: he was a Murderer from the Beginning" - John 8:44. And when Saint Peter gave Scandal to Jesus Christ, by suggesting to Him not to Allow His Life to be Taken Away by the Jews, and thus Endeavoring-to prevent the Accomplishment-of Redemption, the Redeemer called him a Devil. "Go behind Me, Satan; thou art a Scandal to Me" - Matthew 16:23. And, in Reality, what other 'Office' do the Authors of Scandal perform, than that of a Minister of the Devil? If he were not Assisted-by such Impious Ministers, he certainly would not Succeed-in gaining so many Souls. A Scandalous Companion does more Injury than a Hundred (100) Devils.

On the Words of Hezekiah, "Behold, in Peace is my Bitterness most Bitter" - Isaiah 38:17, Saint Bernard, in the Name of the Church, says: "Peace from Pagans, Peace from Heretics, but no Peace from Children". At present, the Church is not Persecuted by Idolaters, or by Heretics, but She is Persecuted by Scandalous Christians, who are Her own Children. In Catbirds, we employ Decoys, that is, certain Birds that are Blinded, and tied in such a manner, that they cannot Fly-away. It is thus the Devil Acts. "When", says Saint Ephrem, "a Soul has been Taken, she becomes a Snare to Deceive others". After having made a Young Man, Fall into Sin, the Enemy First (1st) Blinds him, and Binds him as his own Slave, and then makes him his Decoy, to Deceive others, and to Draw them into the Net of Sin; he not only Impels, but even Forces him to Deceive others. "The Enemy" says Saint Leo, "has many whom he Compels to Deceive others". Miserable Wretches, the Authors of Scandal must Suffer in Hell the Punishment of all the Sins they have made others Commit. Cesarius relates that, after the Death of a certain Person, who had given Scandal, a Holy Man Witnessed his Judgment and Condemnation, and saw, that, at his Arrival-at the Gates of Hell, all the Souls whom he had Scandalized, came to meet him, and said to him: Come, Accursed Wretch, and Atone for all the Sins which you have made us Commit. They then Rushed-in upon him, and like so many Wild Beasts, began-to Tear him in Pieces. Saint Bernard says, that, in Speaking-of other Sinners, the Scriptures hold-out Hopes of Amendment and Pardon; but they Speak-of those who Give Scandal, as Persons Separated-from God, of whose Salvation there is very Little Hope. "Loquitur tanquam a Deo separati, unde hisce nulla spes vitw esse poterit".

Behold, then, the Miserable State of those who give Scandal by their Bad Example, who utter Immodest Words before their Companions, in the Presence-of Young Females, and even of Innocent Children, who, in Consequence-of Hearing these Words, commit a Thousand (1000) Sins. Consider how the Angel-Guardians of these Little Ones, Weep at Seeing them in the State of Sin, and how they Call-for Vengeance from God against the Sacrilegious Tongues that have Scandalized them. A Great Chastisement awaits all who Ridicule those who Practice Virtue. For, many, through Fear of the Contempt and Ridicule of others, Abandon Virtue, and give themselves up to a Wicked Life. What shall be the Punishment of those who bring Messages, to Induce others to Sin? or of those who Boast-of their own Wicked Actions? O God, Instead-of Weeping and Repenting for having Offended the Lord, they Rejoice and Glory-in their Iniquities. Some Advise others to commit Sin; others Induce them to it; and some, Worse than the Devils, Teach others how to Sin. What shall we say of Fathers and Mothers, who, though it is in their Power to Prevent the Sins of their Children, Allow them to Associate-with Bad Companions, or to Frequent certain Dangerous Houses, and Permit their Daughters to hold Conversations-with Young men? Oh! with what Scourges shall we see such Persons Chastised on the Day-of Judgment!

Perhaps some Father of a Family among you will say: Then, am I Lost because I have given Scandal? Is there no Hope of Salvation for me? No; I will not Say that you have not Hope; the Mercy of God is, Great. He has Promised Pardon to all who Repent. But, if you Wish-to Save your Soul, you must Repair the Scandal you have given. "Let him", says Eusebius Emissenus, "who has Destroyed himself by the Destruction of Many, Redeem himself by the Edification of Many ". You have Lost your Soul, and have Destroyed the Souls of Many, by your Scandals. You are now Bound-to Repair the Evil. As you have hitherto Drawn others to Sin, so you are Bound-to Draw them to Virtue:

by Words-of Edification,

by Good Example,

by Avoiding Sinful Occasions,

by Frequenting the Sacraments,

by Going-often to the Church to Pray, and

by Attending Sermons.

And, from this Day forward, Avoid-as you would Death, every Act and Word which could Scandalize others. "Let their own Ruin", says Saint Cyprian, "Suffice for those who have Fallen". And Saint Thomas of Villanova says: "Let your own Sins be Sufficient for you". What Evil has Jesus Christ done to you, that it is not enough for you to have Offended Him yourselves, but you Wish-to make others Offend Him? This is an Excess-of Cruelty.

Be Careful, then, never again to give the Smallest Scandal. And if you Wish to Save your Soul, avoid as-much-as possible, those who give Scandal. These Incarnate Devils shall be Damned; but, if you do not Avoid them, you will bring yourself to Perdition. "Woe to the World because of Scandals, says the Lord" - Matthew 18:7. That is, many are Lost because they do not Fly-from Occasions of Scandal. But you may say: Such a Person is my Friend; I am under Obligations to him; I expect many Favors from him. But Jesus Christ says: "If thy Right Eye Scandalize thee, Pluck it out and Cast it from thee. It is better for thee, having One Eye, to enter into Life, than, having Two Eyes, to be Cast into Hell Fire" - Matthew 18:9. Although a Certain Person was your Right Eye, you must Withdraw Forever (∞) from her; it is better for you to Lose an Eye and Save your Soul, than to Preserve it, and be Cast-into Hell.


- End of Liguori Sermon -


Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation

Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches. Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.

Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may Love none other, but You.

I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that belongs to me, as You Please.

I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.

I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to those who have done Evil to me.

Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.

Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary. Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.



Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph
Patron of Departing Souls

This Prayer was found in the Fiftieth Year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles, when he was going into Battle. Whoever shall Read this Prayer, or Hear it, or Keep it about themselves, shall never Die a Sudden Death, or be Drowned, nor shall Poison take-effect on them; neither shall they Fall into the Hands of the Enemy, nor shall they be Burned in any Fire, nor shall they be Overpowered in Battle.

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O Saint Joseph, whose Protection is so Great, so Strong, so Prompt before the Throne of God, I Place in you, all my Interests and Desires.

O Saint Joseph, do Assist me by your Powerful Intercession, and Obtain for me from your Divine Son, all Spiritual Blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having Engaged here below your Heavenly Power, I may Offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never Weary Contemplating you and Jesus Asleep in your Arms; I dare not approach while He Reposes near your Heart. Press Him in my name and Kiss His Fine Head for me, and ask Him to Return the Kiss when I Draw my Dying Breath, Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing Souls, Pray for us.


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Many Miracles have been attributed to this Daily Prayer.
Make this Prayer known everywhere . . .