Sunday, December 5, 2010

Moral & Civil Liability

George Gerlach
John Patrick Publishing
1707 Fourth Street
Trenton , New Jersey 08638

Dear Mr. Gerlach,

As you are aware, I believe that Catholic parishes and institutions need to disassociate themselves from those who prescribe/ dispense/ market abortifacients and contraceptives. Yet, ads even remain in parish bulletins handled by your company, for providers of the notorious abortifacient Plan B.

As per your own notice to potential advertisers, parish bulletins are the "primary information tool used by parishes to communicate weekly messages and announcements." You remind those advertisers that the bulletins are "familiar and trusted," and that "Readers save and refer to their bulletins throughout the week." Further, you tell those potential advertisers that "Parishioners are grateful for your support of their bulletin and become loyal 'repeat' customers." Citing a University of Missouri survey, you report that
  • "70% Consciously look at the advertising section of the bulletin"
  • "68% Patronize a bulletin advertiser over a non-bulletin advertiser"
For better or worse, inclusion of an ad in a parish bulletin apparently strikes most individuals as a "Good Housekeeping seal of approval." I would dare say that inclusion in the bulletin even leaves some parishioners with the mistaken notion that the advertiser has received some sort of "Nihil Obstat." Doesn't this place a tremendous moral responsibility on the pastor and the publisher, to ensure that they are not advertising businesses which promote offenses to the sanctity of human life?

I am curious as to whether indiscriminate advertisements also present issues of civil liability for the pastor and the publisher. This past Friday, I had the good fortune to be in Washington, DC, for a Human Life International America conference. As reported by, HLIAmerica released a survey, in conjunction with that conference, indicating that widespread usage of the oral contraceptive pill, "despite women not knowing much about potential harmful effects." As per Central New Jersey's Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, "The most egregious omission affecting a young woman’s life is the fact that in 2005, the International Agency on Research of Cancer listed oral contraceptives as Group I carcinogens for breast, cervical and liver cancer....You’ll find cigarettes and asbestos in the same group as risks for lung cancer.”

I have taken the liberty of copying the Archdioceses of New York and Philadelphia, as well as the Dioceses of Allentown, Brooklyn, Camden, and Trenton on this communication. As these dioceses appear to be where you do most of your business, I believe that they have the right and duty to be included in this conversation.


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