Q: Many years ago, my sister and I
purchased stock in a drug company
that was later taken over by a second
company, one of the largest generic drug
manufacturers in the world.
I recently learned that it has acquired
another company that makes the morning-after
pill and probably intends to boost
sales by acquiring companies that produce
birth-control pills. We never directly
purchased the second company's stock.
If my sister, who owns more shares
than I do, sold her stock now, the proceeds
would permanently increase her
monthly Medicare premium by over $44—even though her income would soon return
to its pre-sale level. Under these circumstances,
what is her obligation and mine
regarding the sale of this stock?
Also, are we obliged to buy pain-relief
products only from companies not involved
in selling contraceptive pills or devices?
A: This situation has several angles
that must be addressed. First,
you may want to recheck the tax information
that you have received. If it is
accurate, a sell-off over several years
might be advisable. Keeping this stock
raises the moral issue known as "cooperation
in evil." Are you promoting
something immoral (facilitating abortions)
by owning this stock? Third, people
have a responsibility to pay their
Moral theologians speak of "formal
cooperation" (direct) and "material cooperation"
(indirect). Formal cooperation
means making someone else's
immoral action one's own, deliberately
joining in it. Material cooperation contributes
to another person's immoral
action without truly assenting to it.
Someone employed by a clinic that
only performs abortions is clearly
involved in formal cooperation. A person
who works for the United States
Postal Service, which delivers the
clinic's mail, is involved in material
cooperation—unless that person knowingly
supports the clinic's work in other
ways, which then become formal cooperation.
A person's moral responsibility is
proportionate to how direct the connection
is to the immoral action, how
much the person knows about that
connection and what other options he
or she has. Our increasingly interconnected
world makes it very difficult to
avoid all material cooperation in evil.
The drug company with the patent on
a life-saving medicine that I need—or
the pain-relief medication that I have
found to be effective—may also make
drugs intended to induce an abortion.
Holding stock in almost any international
company requires prudential
decisions—about which conscientious
people may disagree. Sometimes a company
makes a perfectly legitimate product
(T-shirts, shoes, pants, dresses) but
knowingly profits from unjust or inhumane
labor practices in another
country. A boycott of that company's
products may be justified but not morally
You clearly want to do the right thing.
I encourage you to recheck the relevant
facts and options, pray over this matter
and then make your decision.
Q: A discussion in our recent Bible
study class involved difficult phrases
in well-known prayers. For example, in
the Lord's Prayer we say, "Lead us not
into temptation." But we know that God
does not lead us into temptation.
Similarly, the Apostles' Creed says that
Jesus "descended into hell." Why would he
do that? If he did it, how long did he stay
A: These are indeed unusual
phrases. In last December's column,
I addressed the "lead us not into
temptation" expression, noting that
Sections 2759 through 2865 of the Catechism
of the Catholic Church offer a
phrase-by-phrase explanation of the
In section 2846 we read: "It is difficult
to translate the Greek verb used by
a single English word: the Greek means
both ‘do not allow us to enter into
temptation' and ‘do not let us yield to
temptation.' ‘God cannot be tempted
by evil and he himself tempts no one'
[James 1:13]; on the contrary, he wants
to set us free from evil. We ask him
not to allow us to take the way that
leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle
‘between flesh and spirit' [#2516]; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment
Footnotes in the New American Bible or other translations often explain puzzling
biblical expressions. Father John
L. McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible addresses this passage in similar terms
under its New Testament entry for temptation.
Regarding your second question, I
wrote in the July 2004 "Ask a Franciscan"
column that the term hell in the
Apostles' Creed does not mean "place
of eternal punishment." I continued:
"This is actually a poor translation of
the Hebrew Sheol (place where all the
dead go, in the Old Testament understanding,
regardless of the type of life
they lived) or of the Latin ad inferos (the underworld).
"The Creed uses this expression to
link the saving death and resurrection
of Jesus with the salvation of all the
good women and men who died before
Jesus did. All the saints invite us to
believe in God and act accordingly."
The Apostles' Creed is not interested
in describing how long Jesus was in
Sheol; it simply affirms that each person's
salvation is linked to Jesus. Father
McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible addresses this issue under its New Testament
Q: During Lent, our deacon led parishioners
in praying the Stations of the
Cross each Friday. Although the pamphlet
we had has 15 Stations, he used only 14.
The pamphlet said that Vatican II added
a 15th Station, the Resurrection of Jesus,
and that without that event the other Stations
are meaningless. Was our deacon
correct in not saying the 15th station?
A: Vatican II did not officially add
this 15th Station to the 14 that
were established by Pope Clement XII
in 1731. In her February 2010 article,
"A New Look at the Stations of
the Cross," Managing Editor Barbara
Beckwith noted this recent custom and
wrote: "This is not universally accepted.
Some people feel that moving to the
Resurrection too soon diminishes the
reality of Jesus' death and slights the
desolation felt by his followers."
I think that this 15th Station was
popularized by the Cursillo movement;
it has certainly spread beyond that
group. After all, popular devotions
reflect popular piety.
I suspect that most Catholic churches
do not have a 15th Station. Your deacon
made a pastoral judgment about using
the 15th Station in public devotion.
There is nothing to prevent people from
saying privately the prayers indicated
for the 15th Station.
Q: Can you suggest how I can dispose
of the many religious cards, novenas,
holy cards, medals and rosary beads
that I have received over the years? The
amount is overwhelming!
I also have many back issues of St.
Anthony Messenger and other Catholic
magazines, plus booklets and pamphlets.
A: This column has published
addresses for groups that accept
donations of rosaries, medals, statues
and other religious items. Because
groups change addresses or cease this
service, I recommend that you use an
Internet search engine and enter
"donate religious items" or "donate
rosaries" or a similar phrase.
Readers who do not have Internet
access at home can use a public library's
computer or ask someone else to perform
this search. You can ask that person
to print out a description of any
group that sounds like a good one to
receive these items.
Regarding magazines and pamphlets,
many prison chaplains are grateful for
such items. The Internet, your parish or
diocese may help you connect with
people who ask for such literature. It is
no sin to recycle it.
Q: I liked your response about whether God hated Esau (April issue).
I know that Judas was sorry for betraying Jesus, tried to return the
30 pieces of silver and then hung himself (see Matthew 27:3-5).
I still pray for his soul. In Mark 14:21, Jesus says regarding his
betrayer, "It would be better if that man had never been born."
There is much here that I cannot put together for my satisfaction.
A: We cannot know for certain that Judas is in hell. If you have
Internet access, see my response to the first question in the April 2007
"Ask a Franciscan" column. God knows all the facts and judges accordingly—without human advice. We can safely say that suicide is always
wrong—even if Judas may have repented of that too and been saved.
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be
mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.