Faith and Work: Vocation of the Business Leader

This post comes from UST's John A. Ryan Institute, which explores the relationship between the Catholic social tradition and business theory and practice by fostering a deeper integration of faith and work.

Friday, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, presented Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection, at the XXIV UNIAPAC World Congress in Lyon, France.

Speaking to 2000 Christian businesspeople, Cardinal Turkson noted the common malady that afflicts many, particularly businesspeople: a tendency to separate one's faith from one's work. This leads to the modern affliction of a divided life. Citing the desire of the Church to help businesspeople live out their professional lives fruitfully for the common good, the Cardinal evoked the Church's social doctrine, with its desire to implement its principles in the concrete.

The 30-page reflection had its beginning at an international seminar of business leaders and scholars in Rome, 24-26 February 2011, entitled, "Caritas in Veritate: The Logic of Gift and the Meaning of Business". In the light of the lively exchanges, participants resolved to write a handbook or guide for business men and women and business educators, to address the important role of vocation for the business leader in today's global economy and the contribution of the Church's social principles for the modern corporation.

Cardinal Turkson explained, "The Vocation of the Business Leader, fulfils its purpose of being a helpful guide to business leaders seeking to grow in the virtue of charity as befits their vocation... The book covers three constitutive, interconnected moments of the process of discernment: seeing, judging and acting."

Seeing focuses on how one interprets the "signs of the times" with special attention to the transformative developments of globalisation, communications technologies, financialisation, and cultural trends.

Judging "prepares entrepreneurs to make sound judgments with enduring principles within the complex reality of the world of business. They are given as 'lighthouses' two fundamental principles of the social doctrine of the Church: human dignity and the common good," The document also focuses on six social principles and their practical relation to business (see below).

Acting calls for action, the integration of the aforementioned principles into one's ordinary working-life.

"The crisis that we have been experiencing for the last three years," Cardinal Turkson explained, "is of course due to technical errors and lack of accountability, but also moral failures like greed and the sway of ideologies -foremost among these, an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls. This the Holy Father sums up as a fundamentally moral and ultimately anthropological crisis.

So when The Vocation calls for "producing goods and services that meet genuine human needs...organising productive and meaningful work recognising the human dignity" of everyone involved, and "using resources wisely to create both profit and well-being, then obviously a turn-about is urgently needed and a very real change in gears."

"The Church does not relinquish the hope," affirmed the Cardinal in the book's preface, "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."