The Companion Series – Entry Seven

by | Jan 26, 2024 | The Companion Series

Avoiding bad conversation and scandal. 

In the Companion, Don Bosco refers to “bad conversation” and “scandal” almost interchangeably: when he warns against bad conversations, he does so because they are scandalous, and when he warns against scandal, the example he offers is “bad conversations.” He insists, referring to Lk 17:1-2, that causing scandal is the reason that countless souls spend eternity in hell, and lead others to hell with them; he urges the young to save others from scandal by their own good example, insisting that “anyone who saves a soul can basically save his own.” 


The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that “scandal is a grave offence if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offence,” that is, a soul could spend eternity in hell if it deliberately leads another to commit mortal sin. It also teaches that “scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized,” and that “anyone who uses the power at [their] disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that [they have] directly or indirectly encouraged,” be it through the establishment of demoralising laws, public opinion, fashion, etc. 


Clearly, in order to avoid an infinite series of cause and effect where everyone ultimately becomes responsible for another’s grave offence somewhere along the line, the key word here is “deliberately;” thus, the question of how much one can be responsible for the actions of another is ultimately the question of how much one can be responsible for their own actions, which recalls the theological principle of examining one’s conscience. The Catechism explains that, for various reasons, including the bad example given by others, individuals may often make “errors of judgment in moral conduct,” leading them to commit acts which are objectively evil. If “the moral subject is not responsible for [their] erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to [them].” As the Council explains, a person is responsible for their erroneous judgement to the extent that they have neglected the pursuit of truth and goodness, or allowed their conscience to become incapacitated on account of habitually sinful behaviour. 


Today, it is popular opinion that people can subscribe to any understanding of truth and goodness, or engage in any behaviour they please, so long as it conforms to the arbitrary standard of “not harming anyone else.” As our reflection has revealed, it is practically impossible to prove that one’s beliefs or actions will never end up harming anyone else eventually, and in fact, the only question a person can hope to answer is whether their beliefs or actions are ultimately harming themselves. In other words, if anyone hopes to escape eternal condemnation, they must look honestly to their own conscience and see whether it is free of all self-condemnation; each person must honestly consider whether they have done everything within their capacity to pursue objective truth and goodness, and to keep their conscience subject to this pursuit (as opposed to becoming self-referential).

If a person is in a position of authority or influence, they must likewise consider whether their beliefs and actions harm their position within their authorising institution, according to the objective standards which the institution has established and the values it represents. For Catholics, they must consider whether their beliefs and actions threaten to deprive them of their exalted status as members the Church, in whom alone they have been guaranteed salvation, according to the objective standards established by its Magisterium. Having done this, one must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience, be that about acts to be performed or already committed.

Other Blogs

The Companion Series – Entry Nine

Don Bosco urges youth to frequent the sacraments and trust their spiritual directors, emphasising respect for priests. The 1983 Code of Canon Law reinforces Catholics’ duty to support their parish community and obey sacred pastors. Faith is communal, requiring mutual respect and active participation in church life.

The Companion Series – Entry Eight

Don Bosco advises youth to avoid sin-triggering situations, suggesting prayer and invoking St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s aid. He counters Satan’s lure of fleeting pleasures with the promise of eternal bliss, encouraging reliance on God’s grace. The Catechism underscores the value of temptation in revealing and overcoming sinful inclinations, stressing discernment through prayer as essential for spiritual growth.

The Companion Series – Entry Six

Don Bosco encourages young people to find purpose in work and leisure, stressing the importance of virtuous companions. The Second Vatican Council echoes this by highlighting work as a duty and right, promoting rest and personal development. Both emphasize the union of work and charity, suggesting that dedicating oneself to one’s labor and companions can lead to a more fulfilling life. In a modern context, where many view study and work as necessary means to their desired life, it’s important for young individuals to recognise the value in their labor and appreciate the impact it has on themselves and their relationship with others.

The Companion Series – Entry Five

Don Bosco compares the Word of God to food for the soul, emphasising its importance in the lives of Christians. Vatican II echoes this view, emphasising the role of Sacred Scripture, Church teachings, and informed clergy in nourishing the spirit. Accessible explanations of Scripture are crucial, with parish priests and the Internet playing vital roles in this endeavour. Collaboration among priests and church authorities is essential in reaching a geographically diverse and technologically advancing world.

The Companion Series – Entry Four

Don Bosco emphasizes obedience to parents and lawful authorities as the path to virtue, linking it to respect for the Church and its ministers. The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the duty to obey parents while also prioritizing following conscience and God’s call. The analogy between familial and Church respect is underscored, reminding that conscience is personal and primary in decision-making.

The Companion Series – Entry Three

God’s special love for the young is emphasised by Don Bosco, based on their innocence and vulnerability. The response to God’s love should motivate them to please Him and avoid offence. The Church, after Vatican II, acknowledges the importance of early catechesis and initiation into the faith. Love for God should primarily be a response to His grace and knowledge of His love for us. Youth’s innocence allows them to be profoundly loved by God.

The Companion Series – Entry Two

Don Bosco argues that evidence of God’s existence is present in nature, leading to the purposeful creation of humans with reason and conscience. The Second Vatican Council explains societal obstacles to accepting God, encouraging introspection for proof of His existence. Both perspectives assert that genuine seekers will find God, and atheism may result from a wilful refusal to believe.

The Companion Series – Entry One

Don Bosco’s “Companion of Youth” addresses young people, cautioning against the devil’s snares: a joyless life and relying on old age for conversion. He teaches a happy Christian life, emphasising virtue in youth for a blessed eternity. Don Bosco expresses love for the young, aiming to guide them towards true happiness and salvation in Jesus Christ.

The Companion Series – An Introduction

Pope Benedict XVI recognized St. John Bosco as a model of social charity in his encyclical. Bosco’s book, “The Companion of Youth,” is a timeless masterpiece with practical reflections on faith. Though written for a different time, it remains a valuable spiritual inheritance and source of insight for young and old Catholics.