Document offers reflection for business leaders

| Tom Bengtson | June 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

If you’ve ever had the idea that the church is antithetical to business, please read the latest document to come out of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

“Vocation of the Business Leader,” unveiled in France on March 30 by Council President Cardinal Peter Turkson, is a practical reflection for people involved in commercial enterprises.

The document, written chiefly by Michael Naughton of the University of St. Thomas, acknowledges business as a catalyst for the common good and invites its participants into an integrated life where business decisions are the result of serious spiritual pursuit.

Sense of calling

The ideas in this 30-page reflection are meaningful for professionals at all levels, from the CEO to the entry-level employee. It regards the company as a social institution which has the opportunity to educate people in virtue.

Sadly, many businesses miss this opportunity, but those that get this right instill in their employees a “deep sense of God’s calling to be collaborators in creation.” These are the folks who see their work as a vocation, not merely a job or career. These are the folks who have the greatest potential to contribute to the common good.

The document proposes six practical principles for business, two each under three headings: Meeting the needs of the world through the creation and development of goods and services, organizing good and productive work, and creating sustainable wealth and distributing it justly.

The reflection includes a healthy discussion on profit, saying: “The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indicator that a business is functioning well,” but cautions “profit is a good servant, but it makes a poor master.”

Regarding the appropriate use of profits, the reflection notes the conscientious business person’s decisions “aim not at an equal but at a just distribution of wealth, which meets people’s needs, rewards their contributions and risks, and preserves and promotes the organization’s financial health.”

The strength of the document, in my opinion, is the way it personalizes the business enterprise, by calling business people of all stripes into a deeper relationship with Christ. The writers warn against a “divided life” where employees and managers leave their moral compass at home when they leave for work.

Paragraph 68 nails it: “When the gifts of the spiritual life are embraced and integrated in the active life, they provide the grace needed to overcome the divided life and to humanize us, especially in our work. The first act to which the Church calls the Christian business leader is to receive the sacraments, to accept the Scriptures, to honor the Sabbath, to pray, to participate in silence and in other disciplines of the spiritual life. These are not optional actions for a Christian, not mere private acts separated and disconnected from business.”

Promoting the common good is a big, complicated proposition; without question business enterprise has an important role in contributing to the common good; “Vocation of the Business Leader” provides compelling material for reflection — and ultimately action — for business leaders of all kinds.

Tom Bengtson writes about faith and the workplace.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Faith and the Workplace, Featured