The Greek word for scandal (skandalisen) means to cause to stumble. In the original Greek text, Jesus uses skandalisen when he says, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin [skandalisen], it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." 
 
Scandal breaks trust; doubt further distorts every relationship that depended on that trust. The abuse crisis inside and outside of the church has caused great scandal. The devastation abuse has done to victims is horrendous — it is a lifelong suffering that deserves our utmost care, attention and vigilance; we owe it to victims to work for healing and to prevent future abuse. This scandal also has caused victims and many others to doubt their faith.
 
There is no quick solution in the face of scandal and doubt, but mercy must be at the center. Where sin and Satan stir up doubt, Christ calls his disciples to works of mercy. Perhaps a healing salve for our times is the spiritual work of mercy “counsel the doubtful.” 
 
Pope Francis calls mercy the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. It’s the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. It’s the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
 
Imagine how beautiful the world would be if, burning in every soul was a desire to be merciful like the Father. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; the gospel of life demands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. 
 
Scandal is unequivocally evil, but it should not lead to abandoning one’s faith. Yet, that is precisely how Satan uses scandal. He tricks us to doubt, to accuse, and eventually to abandon God. In our times of doubt, would that God would inspire and raise up men and women to speak words of mercy and to be witnesses of mercy by their actions. Imagine how beautiful the world would be if Catholics had the courage to accompany those in doubt and encourage them to see the truth of God’s mercy!
 
Moms and dads enter their child’s room as he or she lies crying on a bed with thoughts of worthlessness because other kids made fun of them or they aren’t as gifted in sports or math as others are. Parents don't tell the child not to feel sad or hurt; rather, moved with mercy, parents enable the child to see the truth of who they are, how sometimes other people can be small hearted, and how God loves them. 
 
Think of our “spiritual doctors” who refuse to condone evil and refuse to allow us to believe a lie about God. They remain with us and help us heal. They become credible witnesses, bridges that connect God with his beloved child who is suffering. Rather than let us leave because of scandal and doubt, they mercifully lead us to the loving embrace of God. Like our moms and dad, they counsel the doubtful.
Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Fr. Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.