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“Ask a Priest: Do We Have to Boycott Firms That Support Bad Causes?”
Q: Do we have a moral obligation to boycott companies that pay abortion costs to employees or support homosexual marriages etc.? I’ve heard some arguments like material cooperation is all around us, we don’t really do any significant damage to the companies, and just morally we don’t have an obligation. What do you think? – Ivan
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: There isn’t an outright obligation to boycott these companies. The word boycott doesn’t appear in the Catechism or in the Code of Canon Law, as far as I can tell.
Still, as Catholics we have a general obligation to evangelize and do what we can to promote justice and decency in the world.
While it’s true that we can’t totally avoid some kind of material cooperation in evil — even the devices and software you and I are using to communicate contain elements made by firms that promote some kind of bad causes — we should look for ways to push back somehow.
This could involve looking for alternative products if possible. It could involve writing to companies to encourage them to desist from supporting bad stuff. It could involve trying to raise awareness among fellow Catholics and other citizens.
A key notion here is that we have to be careful not to go along with the world too readily.
We as individuals might not change things overnight. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything. If we wash our hands and say, “I can’t do anything,” then things won’t likely change for the better.
Sure, if you decide not to buy coffee at a certain shop anymore, for instance, the impact is tiny. But if every pro-lifer were to stop buying coffee from the same company, that could have a big impact.
Moreover, by consciously avoiding certain companies or looking for alternatives, it helps keep us aware of the mission we need to embrace as Christians.
For related reading on this topic, see The Pillar interview with a bishop.
It might be good to take some of this to prayer and see where the Holy Spirit might be guiding you.
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