Q. I work in the commercial lending department of a multinational bank. My job is to process – approve or reject – loan requests. I focus on non-profit organizations, especially non-profit hospitals, universities and social services. I see the possibility that the Planned Parenthood loan request may cross my desk. What should I answer if and when this time comes? – James, North Carolina
A. Your question concerns what moral theology calls moral cooperation in atrocities. Whenever I do something that contributes to the bad actions of another, I participate in his wrongdoing.
Sometimes I contribute to atrocity because I agree with the villain’s actions. This is called “formal cooperation” and is always wrong, because in agreeing with his atrocities, I share his evil will. So, for example, I vote for a pro-abortion politician. because she promises to work to protect and promote freedom of abortion (see Catechism, 2272).
But sometimes I don’t support the villain’s actions. I might even resolutely resist evil, but I foresee that refusing to cooperate can lead to harm that I want to avoid. When I do not share the evil will, but still somehow contribute to the success of the villain, I engage in so-called “material cooperation.” Sometimes it’s morally legal.
For example, I pay taxes to a government that uses money, among other things, to do evil (for example, to fund unfair wars, pay for immoral services under Obamacare, promote false and destructive understanding of gender in public schools). Since I disagree with these evil projects, I do not share the evil will of the main agents; and since tax money also finances many good projects, those that create a common good, paying taxes is usually morally legal and even obligatory. Although, if the government becomes completely corrupt, I may be forced to refuse to pay taxes to it.
But not all cases of material cooperation are morally legitimate. For example, in all but extreme cases, I am doing the wrong thing if I go to a gay “wedding” because attending can give the impression that I am supportive and can lead people to lie and sin. (I know there is more to be said on this topic, but we’ll leave that for another occasion.)
Your question concerns material cooperation in the evils of Planned Fatherhood. Regardless of what the loan is for – ongoing operations, expansion, debt repayment – the money will help the company remain financially viable and thus continue to kill large numbers of innocent people.
I expect that most bank lenders feel that professional ethics require them to provide lending services to clients whose known interests are legitimate, even if they privately believe that what their clients are planning to do with the loan is wrong. And to some extent this is true; but only to a certain extent.
Banks exist for the common good. They do this by protecting and promoting the fair interests of savers and borrowers, facilitating the flow of money between them, thereby helping the economy.
If the interests of some borrowers severely undermine the common good, then the banks should refuse to grant them credit. Banks in the 18th century, for example, had to refuse loans to shipping companies seeking to expand their practice of transporting slaves from Africa to America.
If banks refuse to fund Planned Parenthood, the company’s projects will be scrapped. Similar reduction happened in 2003 when cement suppliers, drywall installers, and heating subcontractors refused to help build a new family planning facility in Austin, Texas, and the builder finally gave up the job.
As a loan officer, you are likely to have little to say about a bank’s lending standards and are expected to comply with your institution’s rules already established. If you refuse, you could jeopardize your job. The more serious misconduct is committed by bank executives who have power over lending policies and therefore formally cooperate in the evil of Planned Parenthood when they authorize loans. But other people who are materially cooperative and in practical positions like you may also be doing wrong. There are three reasons for this.
First, helping your bank loan to Planned Parenthood may not be fair to babies murdered with your bank’s financial support. Ask yourself if refusing to process your loan request and explaining the reasons will make it less likely that Planned Parenthood will provide funding. If the answer is yes, then you should refuse. This is an application of the Golden Rule (Luke 6.31): If you were living under threat of death due to planned parentage, wouldn’t you want someone in your position to step in and prevent the company from obtaining the funding it needs to kill you?
Second, financial partnership with Planned Parenthood can be harmful to you, as it threatens to undermine your own moral prohibitions against abortion and those who perform it. How many decent people are tired of the question of abortion today? They would like it to go away, not to be forced to think about the bloody procedure. But because public opposition to this could cause them inconvenience and suffering, they continue to act as if everything is fine, as if the abortion business in the city is not really a massacre of people. Your refusal can revive your own moral outrage, build courage, and prepare you to face future atrocities.
Third, because you are a Christian, you have a responsibility to live your life so that when people see you, they also see Jesus. Saint Paul tells us that we were crucified with Christ, and now it is not we who live, but Christ who lives within us (Ephesians 2.20).
Your Christian testimony is your most precious gift to others. It is never morally legal to do something that deliberately undermines it. Material partnership with Planned Parenthood can make it clear that you support what they do, you don’t care, or at least you agree to coexist with companies that do heinous evil.
The next logical question is: what if my refusal does not prevent the company from securing the funding it is looking for, but only fired me? What if I’m confident that working with the abortion giant will not undermine my own moral convictions and undermine my Christian testimony? Will it be eligible for material cooperation in processing Planned Parenthood loan applications?
The answer is not simple: yes or no. But there are a few things I can say to help you come to the right judgment.
First, the only reason good people consider materially cooperating in atrocities is to avoid the harm that can arise from non-cooperation. If there were no harm to be avoided, then there would be no reason to think of cooperating in another person’s atrocity.
If you were able to get the Planned Prenthood loan exemption from processing, you would not face this problem. Thus, before it arises, you should talk to your supervisor and ask if you can be relieved of such responsibilities if they arise. And you must give the reasons why you are asking for this release. If you thought it would be beneficial, you might even try to convince your manager to talk to the bank’s senior management about making such a waiver policy the bank.
Second, if your manager requires such cooperation as a condition of recruitment, you should ask yourself if you have an affordable alternative to work that does not require this kind of material cooperation. If the answer is yes, you should accept the alternative.
If there are no real alternatives, and if the loss of your job threatens to seriously harm you and your dependents, then, in raising my objections to your superiors, I don’t think it would be immoral to take the minimum steps necessary to get it done. professional responsibilities, even processing a parenthood planning application.
But if there really is a possibility that this dilemma will arise at some point, you should now look for an alternative job. Material collaboration in funding companies such as Planned Parenthood over time would be unacceptable for any Christian.
Finally, even if it may be morally legal, you can understand that God wants you to publicly oppose the evils of Planned Fatherhood and endure the subsequent suffering.
Courageously confronting evil and suffering can be of great benefit. We testify of goodness and truth to our colleagues, our spouses, our children and grandchildren, as well as everyone who learns about our sacrifice. We urge them to resist evil, even if it promises harm to them.
Suffering for good works is also like Christ; it uniquely unites us with our Lord. St. Peter exhorts us to rejoice when we share in the suffering of Christ so that we can rejoice when the glory of Jesus is revealed (1 Peter 4:13). Suffering for doing God’s will is not just imitation of Christ, it is sharing his own suffering, cooperating with him in his redemptive plan for the universe, a plan that includes much suffering.
Given the world today, all who aspire to be Christians and live according to them will have to endure suffering. You face this in your professional life. Others see it differently. But none of us can get around it.
Thus, we must pray, pray earnestly for grace that would help us see our responsibilities clearly and know God’s will with confidence.
The Kingdom promise is what sustains us. As Peter says, we await a revelation of the glory of Jesus, a revelation that will characterize the final overcoming of all evil and evil, especially the terrible crime of abortion, and the glorification of those who fought against it.