Image: St. Patrick Center web page.
St. Patrick Center has canceled a "Dine at Hooters" fundraising event.
msnbc.com
updated 6/15/2011 3:43:14 PM ET 2011-06-15T19:43:14

Apparently more than a few Catholics in St. Louis give a hoot about Hooters.

St. Patrick Center, a Catholic charity that provides assistance to homeless people, has canceled a Thursday fundraising "Dine and Donate" event with a downtown Hooters restaurant after drawing complaints that such a collaboration wasn’t in keeping with the Christian faith.

Some opponents felt the Hooters image of scantily clad waitresses serving food clashed with a charity that bills itself as ascribing to "traditional social teaching of the Catholic Church."

Kelly Peach, a spokeswoman for St. Patrick Center, said Wednesday the charity decided to cancel the event after receiving "a few dozen" complaints.

"I would say the complaints were ... would you call them religious-based complaints? Essentially the people who complained did not think St. Patrick Center should be associated with Hooters restaurant," she told msnbc.com.

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St. Patrick Center, a member of a federation of Catholic charities that fall under the umbrella of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, serves about 9,000 people a year, providing food, clothing, shelter, job training and other services to people in need.

For years, "Hooters Girls," as they are known, have helped out with the charity, volunteering to serve meals (in proper attire) to the homeless and donating food to the charity's sports championship trivia fundraising event.

But the idea of St. Patrick Center holding a fundraising event at the restaurant, with waitresses clad in their revealing uniforms, rankled more than a few Catholics.

"St. Patrick Center's website cites its adherence to Catholic social teaching in its work.  I am unfamiliar with just where in the long history of Catholic social teaching it proclaims that encouraging the lusts of men is morally good as long as you can get a few bucks for a charity," a Catholic blogger behind the Saint Louis Catholic blog wrote.

Vote: OK for Catholic charity to partner with Hooters?

In a follow-up email to msnbc.com, "St. Louis Catholic" added: "It is inappropriate because the attire required by Hooters of its waitresses violates the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, and can lead patrons into sin. 

"It also exploits these women by using them as commodities to make money for the restaurant. St. Patrick Center, if it collaborated with Hooters to raise money, would cause scandal, encourage others to patronize Hooters, and thus it would participate in the immorality of the restaurant.  In Catholic moral theology, it is not permissible to use evil means to achieve an end, even if the end would be good."

"St. Louis Catholic" added: "Readers of my blog were aghast that the event was scheduled, and are glad it has been canceled. The support for my post from commenters and emailers ran about 9-1."

Not everyone agreed.

"I don't think they should have canceled it," Cheryl Waltrip, a non-Catholic visiting St. Louis, told KTVI-TV.  "I think that any opportunity to raise money especially in our times with people being homeless and jobless.  I think they should take every opportunity they get to raise money."

Waltrip said her husband, who is Catholic, would not object. "He loves Hooters," she told KTVI.

Steve Brown, a homeless man, said St. Patrick Center was wrong to cancel the event. "They're looking at the religious part of it instead of the beneficiary part of it.  You and I would benefit from that," he told KTVI. "Me, being homeless, I go there [St. Patrick's Center] all the time trying to find a job, clothing, and everything else."

Hooters was one of 16 local restaurants that had signed up to participate in a series of "Dine and Donate" events with St. Patrick Center. Under the arrangement, the restaurants agree to donate a portion of the proceeds on a designated night to the charity.

Peach said the Hooters event would have raised an estimated $1,000 for St. Patrick. She said the charity will hold other events to make up for the lost proceeds.

"Another thing that happened is we have donations coming in because of it (the cancellation)," she said.

"One guy emailed us and said he was eating lunch at his deck and writing a check for $100 to make up the difference for 20 people who don’t have to go to Hooters."

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Vote: Is it OK for a Catholic charity to partner with a Hooters restaurant for fundraising?