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Patronizing Companies that Support Abortion or Child Labor

Question:

Is it wrong to buy from companies that support child labour or abortion?

Answer:

It’s certainly laudable, if possible, to avoid patronizing businesses that contribute to Planned Parenthood (PP), support same-sex “marriage” and promote other intrinsic moral evils. But typically it’s not morally obligatory.

In the case of a company that donated to PP, you’d be materially supporting PP in a remote way, but not formally cooperating with them as you would if you personally made a direct contribution to PP. Formal cooperation with morally evil endeavors is never morally justified. In addition, given the misguided legal redefinition that allows for same-sex “marriages” in the United States, you will likely find boycotting businesses with any supportive connection to these “marriages” rather difficult, because many secular businesses accommodate such relationships in their benefit plans.

Typically, material cooperation isn’t prohibited because of the remote nature of it. And it’s often very hard to avoid, e.g., paying taxes and not being able to control how your tax monies are used by the government. e.g., for “family planning” that includes contraceptives and abortions, including for Third-World countries. Also, you may end up “majoring in the minors” by becoming preoccupied with self-imposed boycotts that typically aren’t morally necessary.

Material cooperation would also apply to patronizing companies whose suppliers employ child laborers, which is more likely to take place in Third-World countries. The most fruitful thing to effect change would be to exhort companies—including by possibly boycotting to get their attention—to work with their Third-World commercial partners to improve their labor practices. However, patronizing such a company would still be remote cooperation.

Further, it’s often hard to avoid some businesses with problematic philanthropy. For example, it’s hard these days to find a grocery store that doesn’t sell condoms and possibly abortifacient contraceptives (if they have a pharmacy), whereas it’s typically easier to avoid a particular coffee shop. And again, if you do choose to boycott, charitably let the business owners know why you’re doing so and that you’d loved to patronize them anew.

For more information on the Church’s perspective on formal and material cooperation, see these two articles by Catholic Answers Senior Apologist Jimmy Akin, as well as a related question I answered regarding the boycotting of Google.

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