“Ask a Priest: Should I Stay in a Dicey Advertising Class?”

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Q: I am a university student and have a professor who is very liberal and pushes some very immoral points of view (it’s an advertising class). I know that getting into the field of advertising in itself is not necessarily wrong, so long as proper motives are upheld. But is taking a class with a professor like this and answering morally incorrect test questions scandalous and cooperative in his sin? And if so, what should I do? I normally just refuse to answer any morally compromising questions. But I didn’t know if I should just drop the class altogether because of this and some other problems where he shows sexually suggestive ads in which I often have to look away or walk out of the room. – J.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If your conscience is warning you about things in this class, it would be good to pay attention to those promptings.

If you can find alternative professors and classes, then by all means consider them. But it doesn’t seem that by doing well in this particular class you are strictly cooperating with evil in a sinful manner.

Beyond that, you might want to step back and ask whether, all things considered, you would be comfortable in the field of advertising.

Advertising has its good points (see the Holy See’s “Ethics in Advertising“), but you have to be careful about how this plays out in practice.

You might want to ask yourself a few questions.

Are there job prospects in advertising that you see as ethical? Would you be able to recuse yourself from getting involved with objectionable ad campaigns?

Ideally, the laity are called to imbue Christian values in the institutions of the world. Here, you would need to gauge how realistic that could be in a given advertising firm.

Perhaps you might want to speak to Catholics who work in the media and who are involved with advertising. For instance, you might think about contacting staffers at the National Catholic Register or your diocesan paper or ETWN or Catholic Answers. Perhaps there are folks who could guide you with practical advice.

It might be good to find a regular confessor or some kind of spiritual director to guide you. You don’t want to make missteps this early in life as regards your profession.

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