Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Vocation of the Business Leader

Today the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has published "Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection."  Sr. Helen Alford and my colleague Mike Naughton coordinated the project, supported by a cast of contributors that includes Stefano Zamagni, Andre Habisch, and my colleagues Ken Goodpaster and Bob Kennedy.  From the foreword by Peter K.A. Cardinal Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso: "This reflection offers business leaders, members of their institutions, and various stakeholders a set of practical principles that can guide them in their service of the common good. . . . [T]he Church does not relinquish the hope that Christian business leaders will, despite the present darkness, restore trust, inspire hope, and keep burning the light of faith that fuels their daily pursuit of the good."


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According to the Catholic Left the business leader has no vocation, because he has no conscience. He has no right to claim the government may not force him to violate his religious beliefs. Only the Catholic Church and nonprofits have a conscience according to them, and they are unswervingly sure that the Bishops are wrong to insist on conscience protection for any religious or moral objector including in business, as the Blunt and Fortenberry bills would provide (and as Ted Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan had always supported in federal health policy).

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Mar 31, 2012 1:42:17 PM

This is a brilliant new statement from the Cardinal Turkson's office. The gist is that private enterprise is never truly "private" enterprise. It occurs within the context of the common good and the dignity of the human person and within the recognition that the goods of our economic life are ultimately never ours alone but always gifts from God that we are to steward for His glory and the universal destination of all goods in salvation. Hence, our business activity needs to be understood as deeply enmeshed in a solidarity of moral imperatives--for the poor, for the environment, and so on.

Here's a bit from +Turkson's Introduction...

Business leaders are called to engage the contemporary economic and financial world in light of the principles of human dignity and the common good. This reflection offers business leaders, members of their institutions, and various stakeholders a set of practical principles that can guide them in their service of the common good. Among these principles, we recall the principle of meeting the needs of the world with goods which are truly good and which truly serve without forgetting, in a spirit of solidarity, the needs of the poor and the vulnerable; the principle of organising work within enterprises in a manner which is respectful of human dignity; the principle of subsidiarity, which fosters a spirit of initiative and increases the competence of the employees—considered “co-entrepreneurs”; and, finally, the principle of the sustainable creation of wealth and its just distribution among the various stakeholders.

Posted by: Stephen Schneck | Apr 2, 2012 9:41:50 PM

Hi Mr. Bowman,

As a Catholic who works in the secular business world, I don't think your statement about Catholic business owners not having a conscince is correct. Many of these folks do have a conscience but they also realize the limits on religious freedom in a secular workplace. We discussed this in the "Other People's Freedom (on religious progressives and Religious Freedom)" thread.

The secular business world allows folks of many different faiths to work together to attain common business goals. I can think of no greater danger to this that to allow personal religious beliefs to come into play on these issues. Secular American business has enough to contend with these days.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | Apr 3, 2012 10:19:22 AM

It is too bad that advocates of business ethics and economic justice such as Prof. Schneck have fundamentally rejected those same principles by denying that lay Catholics in business have consciences that deserve protection from the secularist Obama mandate that they violate their consciences by covering intrinsically evil items in health insurance. It is simply incompatible with this J&P document, not to mention Vatican II, for Prof. Schneck and others to claim the Obama mandate on lay Catholic businesses is acceptable, and that the Bishops are wrong to insist on an exemption for religious objections by lay Catholics and others of good will.

If businesses have no conscience rights against a government mandate to provide intrinsic evils, it is nonsensical for Prof. Schneck to claim that businesses have ethical duties. He and other liberal-Obama Catholics who sign statements with Catholics in Alliance simply cannot oppose lay business conscience vis a vis the abortifacient-contraception mandate, and still agree with J&P that business leaders must be “guided by ethical social principles,” that the adherence of a business’s practice according to Christian ethics “is a genuine human and Christian calling,” that the “most significant” obstacle to the common good in economic justice is the “split between faith and daily business practice,” that lay business leaders must “integrate the gifts of the spiritual life, the virtues and ethical social principles into their life and work,” and that business leaders must be “guided by ethical social principles.” Prof. Scnheck's support of the president's mandate is necessarily a rejection of these principles and of the concept of economic justice in general.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Apr 4, 2012 8:46:31 AM