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Hall Shame

Catholic Answers

by Catherine Frakas 24 Apr 2008

Catholic Answers is inducted into our Hall of Shame for what we feel are unethical fund-raising methods. Catholic Answers uses an opt-out method of marketing. This means that subscribers to This Rock magazine, for example, will have their names and addresses sold to outside companies and organization without their permission or knowledge. A subscriber finds out, or suspects this has happened only after he begins receiving dozens of pieces of junk mail per week after subscribing to This Rock. The subscriber can then call Catholic Answers and request to opt-out (be removed from the list that is sold) but it is too late — the subscriber’s name is already out there. For a definition of the opt-in / opt-out strategies see the article E-Mail Marketing – Opt-in And Opt-out Methods. This article refers to email marketing, but the terms also apply to snail mail marketing. Opt-out strategies have been controversial for many years. Numerous consumer complaints about this marketing method has prompted the Federal Government to pass legislation and regulations to ensure the consumer in several industries (e.g., the financial industry) is well informed of an opt-out option. The National Do Not Call Registry is response to protect consumers from opt-out marketing. The Direct Market Association offers a service to opt-out of direct mailings. All of these services were responses to the massive complaints from the public concerning junk mailers, telemarketers, and others who were intruding upon people without their permission. From this information alone it is rather obvious, we believe, that the opt-out method of marketing and raising money is not ethical and not consistent with Christianity. To sell a person’s name and address to others without the person’s permission is on-its-face unethical and a violation of privacy. Catholic Answers states (in a phone conversation) that they must do this to raise money for their ministry. When it was suggested that this was unethical they said that it benefits them to do this. It was then pointed out that in Christian morality the ends do not justify the means. While the customer service person said she would pass along the complaint, she remarked that selling names and address of their subscribers is needed and that it was standard practice among non-profits. We replied that as Christians we are to be counter-cultural and not do things the way the world does things. In addition, there are thousands of non-profits who refuse to use this method, including this ministry, because of its ethical problems. Catholic Answers has failed to pursue the excellent course, to take the high road that Christ called us all to follow. They have, instead chosen the low road of worldly standards that offer little consideration for their subscribers in favor of raising money. BUYER BEWARE: If you subscribe to This Rock Magazine or have your name and address recorded on Catholic Answers database expect to get flooded with junk mail.

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