Ask a Catholic Geek: Moral Culpability in Service

From the Catholic Geek blog, they’re attempting to start a new series:

I’ve been meaning to start up an Ask a Catholic Geek series, and this question posed in our Facebook group was the perfect opportunity.

How do we explain, using moral theology, why it is licit to allow racists to use your credit card services? CAN we say it’s licit?

What level of material cooperation is licit? I think many people are deeply confused on this question.

~ Stephanie S.

Racism does not enter into it. What you are looking for is the following: When does 
providing a service to those who shall use the service to commit a sin mean I myself participate in that sin?

If you want St. Thomas Aquinas’ take on the subject, you don’t have to look any farther than Q. 169, on modesty. It’s one of my favorites to bring up, for two reasons. One, it has an inherent and very casual defense of the manufacture of weaponry (so casual that it’s obvious that St. Thomas didn’t even consider anyone might object to it, and he only brings it up to prove a point about modesty), and two, because I get a kick out of telling people that St. Thomas has a section on sexy lingerie.

Go read their argument!

More to explorer


  1. To take a very hackneyed example, if A employ B, a locksmith, to make him a set of pick-locks and skeleton keys, not for a particular act of housebreaking, but only as a means of carrying on his general business as a thief, then B cannot be held guilty of the housebreakings which he may commit by means of these implements.

    On the other hand, B may be art and part of a particular act of housebreaking by A, if it appear that he made and supplied A with some special instrument for that specific purpose. For example, if it could be proved that A gave him to the specifications of the lock of a particular house, and asked him to make an instrument suitable for opening it, that might be sufficient to make B guilty art and part of the housebreaking.

  2. I misspent 38 years working in “financial services” but not directly with credit cards. I think I have sufficient experience that I can state, without equivocation, that there is no credit issuer that discerns whether or not an applicant is a racist.

    I mean there are like, say, skatey-eight million credit cards applications/issued each year. I never saw on a credit card/loan application the question, “Are you now or have you ever been a racist?” And, each month they process like 55 billion payments. I don’t see how they possibly could look at all of them to identify who is using the credit card to buy subscriptions to “I Believe Obama Was Born In Kenya” magazine.

    Anyhow, the woman (they apparently are different than men) that raised that question is apparently an unwitting victim of the “shadowy” vast left-wing conspiracy “that had been twisting fate, warping history, and bending culture and all of society to their will.” I got that quote from the Catholic Geek blog entry dated 17 Jan 2019.

  3. T. Shaw-
    I think it’s half that as a “nice*” person, about the only sin you can call out by name is “racism”– and half that Prog activists have started going after credit card companies to destroy their targets.

    * in the pop culture sense– liberal, but not philosophically so.

  4. T. Shaw, I certain you’re right, but we now live in a rapidly disintegrating world. I was quite certain last year that no shaving product company would ever directly attack the very people that buy their products, as did Gillette, but now I see the world is no longer what is was then.
    On another note, this question really gets close to that baker who refused to make a “Gay” wedding cake issue….does it not?

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