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Ted Pezzullo wrote:

Hi guys,

I currently work for a trade association, similar to the National Dairy Association, or the National Rifle Association which represents the Distributors or Wholesalers of the major drug manufacturers. We represent the distributors and not the manufacturers; however, the manufacturers can be associate members and we do have an annual awards ceremony for the best new products the manufacturers make.

As I am sure you are aware, some of these major drug manufacturing companies manufacture birth control pills, and probably engage in research using stem cells.

My question is this:

  • I work in a technical position (computers) for this association, and I am wondering if I am far enough removed from the manufacturers of these products to be not guilty of a sin, or of contributing to evil?

Thanks ahead of time for your response.


  { Am I far enough removed from this action not to be seen as guilty of sin or contributing to evil? }

Mike replied:

Hi Ted,

This is a good question but a tough one to answer depending on your situation.

You are correct: You do have an obligation as a Catholic to adhere to Church morals and teachings and not be an accomplice to evil in the world.

At the same time any [father/mother] has the obligation to bring home the money from work in order to meet the temporal, and in doing so, the spiritual needs of [his/her] family as well.

I would be interested in what my colleagues have to say on this issue but here is my two cents.

My answer: Prayer plus!

Many times in prayer, God will show us either the way or another way to approach our unique work situation that will allow us to be faithful to the Church morals and teachings while meeting the needs of individual [and/or] family life. Sometimes this may include an occupation change that is more in conformity with Catholic values.

If you believe you have a tough situation, I would recommend talking with a holy priest, even if you're not Catholic. A good, holy priest will be able to advise you on the type of work and what kind of proximity to the evil would, and would not, be permitted.

If the priest says something like, Do what you think is right or is unable or unwilling to at least try to understand your situation, find another priest.

Hope this helps,


Ted replied:


Thanks so much for your reply.

It was very helpful. I will talk to a Priest and get his opinion.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.


Richard replied:

Thanks for writing, Ted.

You're raising an important point about workplace ethics. People often wonder how much responsibility they bear for other people's wrongful actions, especially in organizations and corporations that serve a variety of clients.

The Catholic philosopher J. Budziszewski answered a similar question about workplace ethics on his Christian young-adult web site back in 2005 in a letter titled: "Dirty Hands".

He says rightly that to consent to other people's wrongdoing is not acceptable, but the Christian moral tradition does make distinctions about the degree of a person's involvement with someone's wrongdoing.

Of course, you do not consent to the wrongdoing of some drug companies, but they get an indirect benefit by using the services of the trade association for which you work.

I think that doing Information Technology work for a trade association is only a remote and unwilled involvement in the wrongdoing of any drug companies and your work does not make you at fault for their actions.

I hope Budziszewski's little discussion helps!

Best wishes —

— Richard Chonak

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Ted,

Good question.

The short answer is yes, you are far enough removed that you are not guilty of sin.

Technically, some may say that you might be engaged in remote material cooperation in evil.

  • Remote means far removed from the moral act, not directly or even closely indirectly part of it.
  • Material is opposed to formal, and refers to the form of the moral act, which is the intention.

This article may help you understand these terms.

In other words, you might be doing something that is very remotely part of an enterprise
(for instance, being a janitor at a building that rents to Planned Parenthood), but you, yourself, are not intending or willing the immoral act. I think, however, that your involvement is so remote as to not even be cooperation of any sort.

You do technical computer work for a company that represents the general interests of distributors and manufacturers of many drugs, and some of the companies might do immoral research and some market drugs that some people might use for immoral purposes (though there are good uses for hormones).

If you were designing the marketing campaign for the objectionable products, that would be formal cooperation (assuming you intended to get people to buy the product).

If you were writing computer programs for use in research using human embryos, that would be proximate material cooperation, and immoral.

Hope this helps,

Mary Ann

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