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Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:
If I know some of the products I buy (like Nike sneakers for example) were made in sweatshops, am I morally bound by the church not to purchase them?
Are you morally bound by the church or your conscience? The church teaches you must follow your rightly formed conscience. Check out this video of Jim Keady who gave up a job as a soccer coach at St. John’s University rather than wear Nike apparel.
Jim now spends his life trying to educate us on the issues you raise. Visit his website http://educatingforjustice.org/
Walter LaFeber’s Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism (Norton 2002) revealed that Nike paid Jordan more per year to be Nike’s “face” than they paid all the women combined who labored long hours in sub standard conditions in the far East to make the shoes.
Personally, I find New Balance shoes really well made and comfortable. Does anyone know if they are as good as they used to be in meeting demands of justice to workers and buyers?
There are tons of websites revealing the unjust practices of sweatshops. You may also want to read chapter 25 of Mathew and consult the teachings of the Catholic Catechism as you discern how and what to purchase.
“Social Justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him” (CCC #1929).
“The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ ” (Mt 25:40 quoted in CCC #1932).
There also exist sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel (CCC #1938).
The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of “friendship” or “social charity” is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood. (CCC #1939).
Solidarity is manifested in the first place by distribution of goods and remuneration for work. It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation (CCC #1940).
Socioeconomic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace in part depends upon this (CCC #1941).
The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities (CCC #1947).