Google: Better ethics than the Vatican?

Opinion: Two stories broke this week about big enterprises faced with complex social issues. One is doing the right thing. The other is threatening to do the wrong thing.

One story has Google offering a free map resource of where to find flu shots in your area. This cost the company money to develop and, to my knowledge, there’s no direct revenues the company will generate as a result.

Google did the best it could with the tools it had for society at large. It asked nothing in return. Better still, no one even asked the company to respond. It did so of its own volition.

And this is not a one-time shot for Google. It has taken the lead in many projects to better the lives of others. Its support of O3b (the other 3 billion) to build a satellite network for the poorest regions of the world and its work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have been widely praised.

Yes, Google is in business to make money. (Lots and lots of it.) But it still seems to push good deeds.

Of course, we all know about its questionable role in the Chinese government’s suppression of free thought, but that seems more the exception that proves the rule.

Sadly, the second story this week relates to the Catholic Church’s threat to pull its charitable services work from Washington D.C. if the nation’s capital votes to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples.

No one is threatening the Church. No one is asking church members to do anything different than they currently do. Nothing will change except a local ordinance.

Clearly forgetting Jesus’s admonition in Mark 12:17, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” the Vatican is pressuring, one might say extorting, a secular government to follow the church’s teachings as opposed to helping citizens.

Yes, yes. The Catholic Church is not required to help D.C. residents. But neither is Google required to help people get their flu shots.

It’s sad, but telling, when a modern capitalist enterprise has a stronger ethical character than a religious organization. The Vatican might well consider Google’s unofficial motto: Do no evil.

It can learn from those simple words.