Fr. John Pasquini, Th.D.
Principle of Legitimate Cooperation
People must not cooperate in the evil actions of others.
The problem: What do you do in a situation where paying your taxes has the result of doing some evil in the process? Our taxes support groups that perform abortions, supply abortion-causing contraceptives, provide for physician assisted suicides (in some states), etc. The list of immoral acts supported by our taxes leads to a dilemma: Do we pay our taxes, thus cooperating in evil, or do we refuse to pay our taxes and end up in jail—causing a cascade of other evils.
This is where the principle of legitimate cooperation comes in.
The principle of legitimate cooperation makes a distinction between formal cooperation, mediate material cooperation and immediate material cooperation.
Formal cooperation occurs when one approves, advises, encourages, supports, or performs an evil being done. This is not permissible.
If one disapproves, discourages, and advises against the evil being done, yet has no way of preventing it—such as the paying of taxes—then one is still participating materially in evil. One, however, may pay taxes because the evil that is caused by the use of some of the tax money will occur with or without one’s participation in the paying of taxes. One is not a willful or intentional participant in the evil, and one recognizes that another great evil will follow by not paying taxes. The consequence of not paying taxes leads to imprisonment, an inability to support one’s family financially, and the psychological and sociological consequences associated with the breakup of the family unit. This is referred to as mediate material cooperation—which is permissible. Thus, one may pay one’s taxes.
If one however were to cooperate in the active performance of an evil action where the evil act could not be performed without one’s cooperation, then this is prohibited and is referred to as immediate material cooperation. A person driving a woman to an abortion clinic is an example of immediate material cooperation. Without the cooperation of the driver, the abortion could not take place.
Thus, mediate material cooperation is permissible, but immediate material cooperation and formal cooperation is not.
So you can pay your taxes, albeit under duress.