Are Girl Scout Cookies delicious goodness or moral evil?

Here’s the article over at National Catholic Register: Girl Scout Cookies: Now That I Know, No Thank You by Ann Saladin. And this excerpt represents the main concern of the author:

In an ironic coincidence, last month’s commemorations marking Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the landmark Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion in 1973, coincide with Girl Scout cookie season in most areas of the country. This iconic organization and its fundraising product have become an increasing flashpoint for pro-lifers, as more and more become aware of the numerous concerns regarding the Girl Scout organization.

In January 2014, numerous pro-life groups organized a “cookiecott” that garnered significant media attention.

Reading further into the article, one finds a list of offenses of the Girl Scout organization against the pro-life cause, and in favor of “reproductive rights” and wide access to abortion. Girl Scouts USA is a member of other organizations, “alongside the International Planned Parenthood Federation.” Girl Scouts USA also funds and is part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which itself supports anti-life positions and causes.

So, if you buy Girl Scout cookies, you are funding the Girl Scouts USA, and thereby indirectly funding and supporting other organizations and their activities. Do we, as pro-life Catholic Christians, have a moral obligation to boycott Girl Scout cookies? Or can we enjoy their delicious cookie essence without a twinge of conscience? I’m phrasing this apparent moral dilemma somewhat humorously because it is really not a difficult moral issue.

Three fonts of morality:
1. intention
2. moral object [an evil moral object makes the act intrinsically evil]
3. circumstances
If all three fonts are good, the act is moral. If any one or more fonts are bad, the act is immoral.

If you intend only to buy a good product and to support whatever is good in the work that the Girl Scouts do, your intention is good.

Buying and eating cookies is not intrinsically evil. The money paid to the organization goes into a general fund, which supports their work with girls across the nation. Some money goes to the international organization, which supports their work internationally. The money is not solely or mainly for the purpose of any sinful endeavor. Most of the work with girls that the Girls Scout organization does is good and moral. So giving Girl Scouts money does not constitute an intrinsically evil act. The moral object of the act is two-fold, to obtain a good product (food) and to support the good work done by the organization.

The circumstances of this act include the fact that some adults involved with these organizations sin, at least objectively, by supporting contraception and abortion (and any other sins that fall under the umbrella of “reproductive rights”). Some adults are behaving stupidly and sinfully. But this has little effect on the girls in each troop. Their activities are good and wholesome.

So when a Catholic Christian buys cookies or donates to the Girl Scouts, that act is only remotely associated with the sins of some adults involved in running the Girl Scouts. This remote association is a bad consequences in the circumstances of the act. But the good consequences of helping young girls in the local troops outweighs that consideration. Abortion is a grave sin, but buying cookies is so remote that the moral weight (of the association with abortion) is greatly reduced. By comparison, the good that is done for girls in local troops is proximate to the act. You usually buy the cookies directly from some of the girls. Most of the money helps these girls, and others like them, in good and moral activities.

This type of evaluation of the circumstances falls under the principle of cooperation with evil, which I have explained at length elsewhere. In summary, if your act has only good intentions, is not intrinsically evil, and does not directly participate in the intrinsically evil act of another person, then the moral evaluation comes down to an evaluation of the circumstances. And when the sin of another person is remote from your good act done with a good intention, and the good consequences of your act outweigh that remote cooperation, then it is moral to act.

And this issue is not so complex and difficult that moral theologians would be divided on its evaluation. This situation is a text-book case of an act that is moral under the principle of remote material cooperation.

Faithful pro-life Catholic Christians can buy Girl Scout cookies and donate to the organization without committing any type of sin. Your acts in this regard do not directly support or condone the sins of some of the adults who lead that organization. You are responsible for your own choices in life. If some other adults sin gravely by their choices, you need not shun every person and group associated with those sinners. The principle of cooperation with evil, taught by the Church, allows the faithful to be participate in society, despite its sinfulness, as long as our own words and deeds are moral.

See my booklet: Roman Catholic Teaching on Cooperation with Evil

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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1 Response to Are Girl Scout Cookies delicious goodness or moral evil?

  1. Dot says:

    I remain unconvinced after a visit to this website:

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