September 28, 2012

Editorial

Catholic business leaders show profit and ethics can go together

Is being a successful business leader compatible with being a good Catholic? Or do you sometimes have to compromise your Catholic principles in order to be successful in business?

The Vatican is convinced that the answer to the first question is a definite yes. In fact, it believes that being a business man or woman should be considered a vocation. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has published a booklet titled Vocation of the Business Leader.

In a foreword to the 32-page booklet, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the council, wrote, “Business leaders are called to engage the contemporary economic and financial world in light of the principles of human dignity and the common good.”

Earlier, in 2011, the Vatican had a seminar titled “Caritas in Veritate: The Logic of Gift and the Meaning of Business.” The booklet grew out of that seminar on Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 social encyclical.

In reporting about the booklet and the seminar, the national Catholic newsweekly Our Sunday Visitor said that the booklet states that “businesses, at their root, are contributors to the common good, communities in which the human dignity of all members is recognized and respected, and instruments for the just distribution of wealth in society.”

Undoubtedly, as has been demonstrated too often, business leaders can be subject to corruption when the only important thing is “the bottom line.” Companies must make a profit or they will go out of business—to the detriment of their workers and customers.

However, it is possible to make a profit while integrating ethical principles in the policies of a company. Today, more and more Catholic businessmen and women are learning how to do that.

Legatus is an organization which is proving that successful business and Catholicism are compatible. It’s composed of chief executive officers, chairmen, presidents, controlling owners, managing directors, managing partners and publishers—the men and women at the top of business organizations and their spouses.

The mission of Legatus, Latin for “ambassador,” is “to study, live and spread the faith in our business, professional and personal lives.” There is a chapter of Legatus in the archdiocese that is based in Indianapolis. Other similar Catholic business organizations in central and southern Indiana include the Catholic Business Exchange and Lumen Dei.

Also present in the archdiocese is a small group of business owners that follow the principles of the Economy of Communion, a program of Focolare, an international lay movement in the Church.

Businesses such as the Indianapolis-based environmental consulting firm Mundell and Associates and Sofia Violins work hard to turn a profit, but choose to use some of those earnings to develop businesses in Third World countries.

Through these efforts and those focused on building up local community organizations, Economy of Communion business owners also try to use their enterprises to foster a greater communion among all people, both on a local and global scale.

Because of this, Economy of Communion, which was featured in the May 6, 2011, issue of The Criterion in its annual evangelization supplement, was specifically cited for praise by Pope Benedict in Caritas in Veritate (“Love in Truth”).

The booklet “Vocation of the Business Leader” addresses an obstacle that some business leaders might have—leading a divided life. “This split between faith and daily business practice can lead to imbalances and misplaced devotion to worldly success,” it says.

It continues, “The alternative path of faith-based ‘servant leadership’ provides business leaders with a larger perspective, and helps to balance the demands of the business world with those of ethical social principles, illumined for Christians by the Gospel.”

The booklet can be downloaded at www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/cst/VocationBusinessLead.

The article in Our Sunday Visitor gives examples of business men and women who put their faith into action in their work. It quotes Dave Cyrs, a financial adviser, who said, “I get up every day and try to have my reflection or meditation every morning about what’s important in life. When I get into my workday, I see numerous opportunities to practice my faith.”

Thomas Muldowney, chairman of the board of Savant Capital, said, “If you set out to do the right thing, you will do very well. We don’t have to do anything furtive or sneaky.”

And Fran Morrissey, who, with her husband, John, runs The Morrissey Family Businesses in Rockford, Ill., said, “Definitely, God is the leader of our business.”

—John F. Fink

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