Friday, February 21, 2014

Spirit and Life: Product Boycotts and Avoiding Scandal

Personal sacrifice is a very real and necessary part of our mission to end abortion and protect the sanctity of all human life. In the United States, an immeasurable amount of time and treasure has been spent by pro-life volunteers, organizations and benefactors to defend life. Sometimes our dedication to life requires us to sacrifice everyday conveniences, preferred products and even business relationships.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond highlighted the necessity of such sacrifice in a recent statement saying his archdiocese will strive not to knowingly enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in the construction of a massive new Planned Parenthood facility in the city. Archbishop Aymond said, "We cannot be silent in view of the grave injustice presented by the abortions that will be performed at the proposed Planned Parenthood facility. The archdiocese is obliged to remind every person and organization involved in the acquisition, preparation and construction of this or any abortion facility that they are cooperating with the evil that will take place there."

Unfortunately there are many popular product brands and businesses that give money to Planned Parenthood, thus supporting the deadly practices they profit from. Of course, this is on top of the taxpayer dollars our government gives to Planned Parenthood each year. In Planned Parenthood's latest Annual Report, we see that $540.6 million of its revenue was provided by the American taxpayer, and that they performed 327,166 abortions during that year. We need to do all that we can to prevent our money from being used by Planned Parenthood, or any other abortion provider.

HLI Fellow Dr. Denise Hunnell reminds us of the need to sacrifice, and avoid scandal, when engaging in commerce on the Truth and Charity Forum this week. Please share this article with your friends and family via email, Facebook and Twitter. And please pray for Archbishop Aymond and the people of New Orleans. God bless you.

Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr Boquet Sig-transparent
Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International

Product Boycotts and Avoiding Scandal
by Denise Hunnell, M.D. 

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in America, performing over 330,000 abortions every year. This represents 1/3 of all the abortions in the United States. Until now, Planned Parenthood had no abortion centers in Louisiana, but that will soon change. New Orleans has approved a construction permit for Planned Parenthood to build a 7,000 square foot abortion facility in the heart of the city. It is scheduled to open in 2014 and will have the capacity to perform at least 30 abortions every day.

The Most Reverend Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, has responded by reminding Catholics that anyone who cooperates and enables the construction of this facility is directly cooperating with a grave evil.  He goes on to say, "For this reason, the archdiocese, including its churches, schools, apartments for the elderly and nursing homes, will strive in its privately funded work not to enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in actions that are essential to making this abortion facility a reality."

The businesses that support the construction of this Planned Parenthood facility have tainted themselves with the evil that will occur there. Therefore, Archbishop Aymond is making sure that the Archdiocese of New Orleans does not do anything that could be construed as supporting those who enable such grave sins. His actions send a clear message to those involved with building the Planned Parenthood facility that they are complicit with the abortions that will occur there and risk their spiritual well-being with their involvement.

What Archbishop Aymond does not do is to require that all individual Catholics avoid doing business with the construction firms involved in building the Planned Parenthood facility. The Archdiocese of New Orleans has a very public Catholic identity in every business transaction. To do business with a company that directly enables the sin of abortion would be a matter of great scandal since it would give the bishop's stamp of approval to a business. This could be interpreted as minimizing the seriousness of a company's involvement with Planned Parenthood. For individual Catholics, the danger of scandal is much less since they conduct their business without their Catholic identity front and center. There is little risk that their choice of a construction company will lead others to sin so there is not a strict moral obligation to boycott companies involved in the Planned Parenthood construction.

That does not mean that Catholics should not consider the moral implications and potential harms of doing business with these companies. In a highly Catholic area like New Orleans, companies might very well reconsider cooperating with the construction of an abortion facility if it meant they would be less competitive for future projects. The threat of a boycott of Girl Scout cookies has sent the Girl Scouts of America scrambling to disavow any connection to Planned Parenthood or to pro-abortion political candidates. A coordinated effort to publicly call out the construction companies involved in the Planned Parenthood project could have similar results.

One should also not underestimate the catechetical potential of product or company boycotts. Many years ago General Mills was a supporter of Planned Parenthood. Our local diocese publicized this and halted all participation in the General Mills Boxtops for Education fundraisers by Catholic schools. With four children at home and a pantry regularly stocked with Cheerios, I had to weigh my options. I explained to my children that General Mills was providing support to Planned Parenthood, a major provider of abortions and therefore we should stop buying their cereals. You have to understand that my children loved their Cheerios. Yet when weighed against the evil of abortion, they agreed it was a necessary sacrifice. My youngest was actually quite dramatic about it. As we would walk down the cereal aisle at the grocery store he would pause and look at the Cheerios, then defiantly walk away. I doubt that our boycott of General Mills' products made much of an impact on their bottom line, but it did have a powerful impact on my children. This exercise taught them that our pro-life principles are non-negotiable and living those principles often requires sacrifice.

Archbishop Aymond is acting as a good shepherd and guiding his flock just as good parents guide their children. He is shielding his flock from the danger of scandal by refusing to ally the diocese with those who enable grave evil. He acknowledges this will create hardships, but instructs his diocese as to why the sanctity of human life demands such sacrifice. His very public repudiation of Planned Parenthood and all those who are cooperating with the construction of this new abortion facility offers an unambiguous presentation of Church teaching. Let us pray for all our bishops and priests that they have the wisdom and moral courage to faithfully teach their diocese and parishes what it means to be pro-life both personally and professionally. And may parents take these lessons to heart so that they successfully raise the next generation of pro-life Catholics.