Tom Nash is a Research Associate at Ave Maria Radio, and he formerly served as a Theology Advisor at EWTN. Tom is the author of What Did Jesus Do?: The Biblical Roots of the Catholic Church (Incarnate Word Media) and The Biblical Roots of the Mass (Sophia Institute Press). He is also a contributing author of Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass (Emmaus Road Publishing). He is also a Regular Member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
There something to be said for the axiom, “Don’t major in the minors.” That is, don’t, waste time and effort on less significant things in living the Gospel and effectively encourage others to do the same.
For example, you can become rather distracted if you attempt—in our modern society—to avoid grocery stores, pharmacies or gas stations that sell condoms or other contraceptives. In addition, patronage of such stores would only constitute remote material cooperation, in which one would not incur moral guilt. (Yet, I recommend telling a manager or owner at least once that God will honor them and their business if they don’t. It’s a great way to cultivate your New Evangelization skills.)
However, when you find a Christian or other business person taking a strong moral stand in our troubled times, and it’s not onerous for you to support them, do what you can to provide them support, let them know why you’re supporting them, and encourage others to do so as well.
One such businessman is Paul Berry, the owner of Colonia BP in Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of the most “liberal-friendly” cities in the country. Which makes his moral stand all the more impressive. Berry, a Methodist Christian, not only doesn’t sell condoms, which is rather unusual, but he also doesn’t make a profit on rolling papers. (Rolling papers can be used for cigarettes but here in Ann Arbor, well, they’re more likely to be used for a more mind-altering type of smoking product.)
“I want to make a living,” Berry succinctly explained to me. “But I also want to sleep at night.” Now that’s refreshing to hear.
Not too long ago, legalized marijuana in America was only a dream for some, and condoms were behind the counter and usually only available at pharmacies. I remember working at Kroger’s supermarket in high school and college from 1978-84 in—you got it—Ann Arbor. While the city’s annual “Hash Bash” protest began in 1972, I thankfully never had to bag a package of condoms for any customers during my tenure at Kroger.
We simply didn’t stock them. There were not yet any “family planning” sections in grocery stores, and major chains like Kroger didn’t have pharmacies. The AIDS crisis that began in the early 1980s and society’s response gradually changed all of that. What I describe as the “virtue-ization of vice” took place. It became honorable, even “morally obligatory” in some people’s eyes, to sell or otherwise make available condoms.
Berry disagrees. He understands what I have longed called the “latex-immune nature” of the moral law: a condom can’t protect your heart, which encompasses both our body and soul (see CCC 362-68). In short when we—as persons made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; Rom. 2:14-16)—act against our “operator’s manual,” we inevitably inflict psychological and spiritual harm upon ourselves and others (condom or not), and there can be physical damage as well.
And even if Berry may not agree with the Church’s teaching regarding contraception within marriage—see Patrick Coffin’s Sex au Naturel for a fine primer in that regard (cf. CCC 2366-72)—he realizes that those who buy condoms typically do so to facilitate fornication, adultery and same-sex relations.
“Sexual liberation” also has particular fallout for children. For example, wherever contraception has become pervasive, the legalization of abortion as a social back-up plan has inexorably followed. Here in America, Roe v. Wade (and its companion case Doe v. Bolton ) followed Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) at the U.S. Supreme Court level, and the progression—or, social erosion—can be traced in other countries, even if many who oppose abortion don’t grasp the connection.
In addition, because it can be understandably difficult to practice vice in a disciplined manner, the unwed birth rate in America has not unsurprisingly risen from about five percent for the general population in 1963 to more than 40 percent in recent years. And when a society collectively denies that the possibility of procreation has any intrinsic connection to the conjugal expressions of a husband and wife, the 50-year trajectory from Griswold to Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court redefined marriage in 2015, should not be a surprising outcome, even if some secular journalists can’t grasp the deeper moral connections between the two landmark cases.
So if you’re ever in Ann Arbor, consider patronizing Colonia BP and please tells other to do the same. And because Berry’s station is right off the exit of a major highway—on the southwest quadrant of U.S. 23 and Plymouth Road—his gas prices are a little higher to help pay for the correspondingly higher rent that accompanies his prime location ($15,000 per month). But supporting Berry is well worth the price. His mechanics also do great automotive work.
And be on the lookout for other similar business people in your area, including hotel and motels that don’t make pornography available to their patrons. And spread the word accordingly.