I tend to give great leeway to people who like to knock the Church simply because we are the big kid on the block. Fr. Benedict Groeschell describes the Catholic Church as a hippopotamus. No matter how gentle it tries to be it is so huge people can tend to get crushed so I try to listen with a sympathetic ear. So when I do decide to make my voice known in defense of the Church, I mean it.
Last week Adoro invited readers to write to Starbucks concerning this article to tell them that their song by Joni Mitchell that mocks Catholics is offensive and that they should do something about it. I didn’t jump on right on the bandwagon. I looked into it a bit, prayed, and though that I would contact the company.
In my letter to them I stated that I was a Catholic priest and that I found the message of the song reprehensible. “Do you also have songs slandering Jewish people or Muslims or atheists or coffee drinkers?” I asked. “Even if you do, this is inappropriate behavior just the same. I am disappointed.” Why did they decide Catholics specifically were Okay to attack?
The return letter stated that, “We understand that our customers have diverse tastes and perspectives. In selecting music, we strive to represent the work of a variety of talented artists who reflect many creative viewpoints. Starbucks is an avid supporter of free speech and the creative process. When considering new projects, our primary goal is always to help our customers discover and acquire quality music.”
Now, I could care less about the genre of her music. If it were the case that I simply did not like the type of music I understand that that is more my problem than anything else. But this was not about liking or disliking the music. The letter brought to their attention the message of the view being presented by them. And it was most definitely not simply, “a creative viewpoint” or “free speech”, but a clear message that they do not want me or my parishioners or fellow Catholic in their store. "Free speech", which they invoke, means debating ideas, philosophies, presenting alternatives, and such like. I have no problem with that. But even in an artistic representations ridicule and unfounded statements are still slanderous, irresponsible, and reprehensible. And while it may be sad that a major company would defend an attack on their customers, it is a tragedy that those same customers would still gleefully enter and buy their product. Even had they said something like, “We’re sorry. We understand why you might feel this way and we certainly do not dislike Catholics but this was part of a larger project. In the future we will at least try to be more careful or more balanced” I would be happy. I would still drink Starbucks. But telling me (and you) in essence, “Get over it,” is unacceptable.
So what am I going to do? Apparently exactly what Starbucks want. As sad as it makes me, I will no longer be going to Starbucks. When I am with people who want to go, I will tell them this story. And in fairness this post will be mailed to the company.