The Medieval Sin of “Scandal”

Cranach | 2/18/2019 | Staff
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As a new related scandal emerges of priests sexually abusing nuns. . . . .And as another scandal emerges of **** nuns sexually abusing girls in their care. . . .And as gay priests, exactly as I predicted, are coming forward demanding sympathy. . . .I came across a medieval historian who explains the doctrinal basis of keeping sins secret. The doctrinal teaching about “scandal” actually had the effect at first of protecting women and others who were sinned against, though it would eventually have the unintended consequence of protecting their victimizers.

The word “scandal” today means “an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.” But it comes from the Greek word translated from the New Testament as “stumbling block” (e.g., Romans 13:14). That is, an offense that might cause someone to lose his or her faith.

Sarah - McDougall - Christianity - Roman - Catholicism

According to historian Sarah McDougall, for medieval Christianity as carried on by Roman Catholicism “scandal” was the sin of allowing bad behavior to weaken people’s faith. Therefore, the general practice was to keep sins secret. Women caught in adultery, for instance, had to perform severe penance, but their transgression was generally when possible kept private, which preserved their reputations.

I’ll let Prof. McDougall explain it. From “When the Catholic Church’s Prohibition on Scandal Helped Women“:

Sin - Sin - Scandal - Information - Faith

It was a sin, the sin of scandal, to make public information that might shake the faith of others, thus leading them to sin. A judge, therefore, ran the risk of committing the sin of scandal by inflicting a punishment that publicized the offender’s sin. . . .

For example, in the interest of avoiding scandal, and also to protect human life, priests were instructed to tell an adulterous wife to keep her sin a secret, even if she had given birth to a child whom...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Cranach
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