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Tue, 6/2/20: "Is it lawful?"

Today's Mass readings can be found: [HERE]

A few months ago, when we first sheltered in place in response to COVID-19, a friend asked me whether or not it was immoral to use a certain video conferencing program, the parent company of which may have supported another organization that committed abortions.

In short, the company whose product they used didn't commit abortions; but that company may have used their profits to directly or indirectly support an organization that committed abortions. A controversial issue.

I referred him to today's gospel passage, and to meditate on Jesus' response to those who asked whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not, and to imagine what a situation like that might look like today.

After all, Caesar was using those taxes in ways that were directly harmful to the Jews and were offensive to God.  Paying taxes to Caesar could be said to be enabling actions against the Jewish people, and equate to collaboration with Rome. Jesus noticeably avoids directly saying either, "yes" or "no" to the question.

That’s a similar (maybe exact) situation to the modern dilemma of using products or services from companies that use their profits to support other organizations like Planned Parenthood or any other organization that commits atrocities and crimes against humanity. And there are many such companies that do so either directly or indirectly (you might be surprised by the list, which can be googled).

The response that Jesus gave to the Pharisees and Herodians is a curious one: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar; Give to God what belongs to God". In practice, what does that mean in today's terms? Had Jesus said, "yes" or "no" directly to the question posed to him, it would make certain decisions very clear to us. But his response causes me, like many others, to ponder at his response, and make each decision with great caution, one at a time.

Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee, by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1618


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