“Ask a Priest: Should a parish bulletin carry video store ads?”

Q: I read your excellent answer on viewing R-rated movies. My question deals with providing those movies as an occasion of sin. A Catholic parishioner independently owns a movie- and game-rental business with no restrictions (R to G are available). This business is promoted in the church bulletin and other community publications with full knowledge of the parish pastor. This parishioner also serves as a Eucharistic minister. Is this not a scandal? -M.D.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I can appreciate your concerns about the ads and the role of the store owner as a Eucharistic minister. It’s not an uncommon fact of life that many of the faithful are involved with things that are not 100 percent Christian.

In an ideal world, yes, no one should be cooperating in the selling (and renting, of course) of objectionable movies. (Here, I’m assuming that we are not talking about R-rated movies such as The Passion of the Christ but rather the low-brow variety.)

Rather than attempt a simple answer (which might not exist), I could offer a few suggestions and observations.

First, you might consider approaching the owner of the shop and encourage him to think about an all-family-fare strategy in his business. It would help if you could build a friendship with him first. It might help too if you get one or two other men in the parish to join you.

You would want to pray a lot before doing all this. You might try to understand something of the video business too, so as to suggest alternatives that could appeal to him. (You might actually help him to rethink his strategy, since the video-rental business is generally in decline anyway.)

If he seems open to change, you might not need to address the issue of the ads, since something deeper will be under way.

If the shop owner rejects the advice, then you could approach the pastor, possibly with one or two parishioners. You could explain your concerns respectfully. If finances are a problem for the parish, you might consider alternative ways to raise money for parish projects. The lost revenue from a few ads might not impact the parish much, but in any case your offer to look into alternative funding would signal your good will.

Your pastor might or might not agree to pull the ads. He might have legitimate reasons for keeping them. It is a debatable point, since it involves remote material cooperation in evil. In the real world each of us somehow cooperates in evil. We might buy headache pills at a pharmacy that also sells contraceptives. We might buy a smart phone from a company that donates to Planned Parenthood. We might pay taxes on items in a state that uses money to help pay for abortion. Possibly, too, there are ads in the parish bulletin from other stores that sell objectionable things. You get the idea.

Above all, see this as a teaching moment. It might be an opportunity to raise awareness with a fellow parishioner and the pastor. Things might not change quickly, but any efforts you make could nudge things in the right direction. And that’s a start. Building the Church often involves doing little things that promote the living of the Gospel. I pray that you have success. God bless.

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