Can a Catholic use Google, Amazon, and similar corporations?
On the website of the Society of St. Pius X, there is a fund-raising appeal that entails using Amazon, using Google Inc. What is the duty of a Catholic regarding the use of a corporation one knows to have a reprehensible agenda and to use its profits to foment evil purposes?
The case mentioned here seems to be one of necessity. As long as one is going to do online shopping through Amazon—which has become the rule—some tax money will necessarily go to some tax-exempt company which has a good or an evil purpose. If it profits the SSPX, it will be used for a good purpose and that is a good effect.
This case also is a perfect illustration of what the moralists call the principle of “double effect or indirect voluntary.” One action, in itself good or indifferent, has two effects, the first good and the other evil. Can I morally perform this action? As long as I intend the good effect and as long as there is a reason for doing the action proportionate to the unintended evil effect, it is lawful to do it. One may have a warm shower although it could give him strange sensations; one may walk down the street although he might come across improperly dressed people; a salesman may then sell wine although he foresees that some customers will abuse alcohol. When I do these acts, I do not intend the evil which could ensue but only the good purpose, yet, I allow the evil which might ensue. This is because life is not lived in a sterile bubble and not everything is black and white.
It is difficult for anyone to shy away from all companies which use their profits for an evil purpose, such as Starbucks and the like. This is because we have to use all types of materials and items and buy foods which somehow or other are connected with such companies. Are we to feed ourselves only with the carrots and spinach from our veggy patch? Are we to not buy anything “made in China”? So, in this particular case, we are only applying the principle used by St. Paul: “not to keep company with fornicators. I mean not with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or the extortioners, or the servers of idols; otherwise you must needs go out of this world” (I Cor. 5:9-10).
May Catholics read the Quran?
From the very beginning of the censures placed by Church authorities on the reading of materials, the Quran was put in the Index of Forbidden Books, which, obviously, oblige under pain of mortal sin.
This is one particular application of the Church’s Magisterium, whose office, given by Christ, is to teach all nations in God’s name and to safeguard souls from error. Hence, within the part on Church teaching in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, there is a section on “The previous censure of books and their prohibition” (c. 1384-1405). For until the mid sixties during the reign of Pope Paul VI, all books having to do with faith or morals had to receive the Nihil Obstat and Episcopal Imprimatur in order to be released and read by Catholics. As we can see, the reason for forbidding books is the preservation of the faith of Catholics, and, as in matters liturgical, the Church has always condemned the mixing of prayers and teachings with non-Catholics. Faith is a delicate virtue and can be lost in contact with heresy for those unwarned or poorly prepared. And in this, the Church’s law only codifies the natural law which commands us to avoid anything which endangers the faith (can. 1405).
The Index was the list of the forbidden books which, as such, could not be edited, read, conserved, sold, translated, or communicated. There was grave sin on the part of one who would read that section of the book which caused the prohibition even if it were only one paragraph. Canon 1399 gave the various motives for including books in the Index, particularly those which defend heresy or schism or attack the foundations of religion, those which attack good customs, and those written by non-Catholics which speak specifically of religious matters, even if they mention nothing against the Catholic Faith.
This being said, bishops and major religious superiors may give to some chosen subjects the license to read certain forbidden books as long as there is a just and reasonable cause (can. 1402). Hence, students in sacred Scripture may use a Bible version from heretics as long as their teacher is with them and guides them through the text and errors of the said forbidden book. Likewise, a university professor or priest may know what the Quran teaches in order to write an article or a book explaining the tenets of Islam so as to better refute it. But the exception only confirms the rule, and the rule is that most Catholics are not sufficiently instructed or trained to be able to handle books of heretics written to defend heresy or paganism.