To boycott or not boycott; that is the question! Last week, a member of my parish called anonymously and asked if I was going to speak publicly in support of the Southern Baptist Convention's proposed boycott of the Walt Disney Corporation. He wanted not only Most Holy Trinity's support of this boycott, but the support of the entire Roman Catholic Church.
Fortunately, as a lowly Catholic priest, I cannot speak for the entire Roman Catholic Church on such matters. That is up to my bishop and the other bishops of this country, not me. As of this writing, they have not done so. However, I do have my opinions on the subject, which I believe are formed by the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.
The church's hierarchy or various sub-groups in the church have advocated boycotts of corporations or organizations when the civil and moral rights of individuals or groups were violated by these institutions. Groups blatantly opposed to the church and her teachings in the areas of faith and morals are unworthy of patronage by Roman Catholics, but this is more from common sense than from some official edict.
People who hold deep religious beliefs have an obligation to make informed moral decisions about how they will respond to those who promote a social and political agenda that does not conform with their's.
For Roman Catholics, there are certain questions that must be raised. Do we patronize a hospital or a physician that performs abortions? Do we go into a drug store that sells pornography, or artificial birth control? Do we patronize a lawyer who profits from divorce? Do we buy cable TV service that also includes pornography on its channels? Do we belong to an organization that excludes minorities? Do we buy fruits and vegetables from farmers who abuse and mistreat laborers? Do we patronize retailers who open stores on Sunday? Do we become friends with public sinners, adulterers and fornicators?
My list can go on and on. In all of these, not only should a concern for common good motivate one's decision-making, but the practical ramifications as well. The highest level of moral decision making involves a recognition that my decision will impact my life and in some cases have a negative effect.
Just think of the Roman Catholic priest whose acts of civil disobedience at Fort Benning landed him in jail. He was protesting the army's training of Central American soldiers whose tactics in right-wing governments often led to the killing of civilians and church leaders who opposed their government's political agenda. He knew that his acts would land him in prison, but was willing to risk this for a higher cause. This is most admirable.
In my opinion, if the Southern Baptist Convention believes that their boycott will lead to the common good and the promotion of the Judeo-Christian tradition in this country, more power to them. They will miss out on many wonderful Disney products that extends far beyond the obvious Disney brand names. That is the price that they must be willing to pay. Let us hope, however, that any Christian's action is motivated by faith, hope and love. The greatest of these should be love, or else there might be a need to boycott those Christians whose motives go against the highest virtue, love.
The Rev. Allan McDonald is priest of Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta.