QUESTION: “If an unmarried friend on Facebook announces that she has moved in with her boyfriend I don’t click ‘Like’ because it seems to be a form of approval. But if an unmarried friend announces that she is pregnant, is it hypocritical to congratulate her?
ANSWER: Your raising this question is commendable because it demonstrates an awareness of the responsibility that we have to avoid co-operating in the wrong done by another person. Traditionally theologians have identified nine general ways to co-operate in evil: by counsel, by command, by consent, by provocation, by praise or flattery, by concealment, by being a partner in the sin, by silence and by defending the wrong done.
Although clicking ‘Like’ for a Facebook status is fairly trivial it can be a way of praising something wrong and so I agree with your decision to avoid clicking “Like” when an unmarried couple announce that they have moved in together. It is not always necessary to comment negatively on a person’s status but it might be necessary to say something if others draw an inference from our lack of comment. Even here we do not need to respond if people are simply attempting to draw us into an online fight.
In the case of an unmarried friend announcing a pregnancy, there are other considerations. In many cases an unmarried mother will be asked whether she wishes to continue with the pregnancy – in other words, whether to opt for the killing of the baby through abortion.
For someone who is young and in difficulties, considerable pressure may be brought to bear. In such cases we are right to congratulate a young mother on making the courageous choice of life for her unborn child.
In the case of a mother who is in a long-term cohabiting relationship we can still congratulate her on the conception of a child, though we may be in a position where we should encourage her to marry. Facebook is probably not the place for such a conversation to take place, and simply clicking ‘Like’ does not imply that we approve of all the circumstances of the pregnancy.”
– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published as part of the feature “Catholic Dilemmas” in the “Catholic Herald” issue March 7 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).