Business in an Inclusive Economy

Learn how ‘common good’ applies to the world of business.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of secular books and articles concerning the common good. The treatment of the subject makes one wonder if the political and economic conversation on the common good is simply the latest fad. In fact, it is a concept deeply embedded in the Catholic social tradition.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been calling for an economy that includes all. His call reflects an insight into the critical role institutions play in creating economic inclusivity: “Within each social stratum, and between them, institutions develop to regulate human relationships. Anything which weakens those institutions has negative consequences, such as injustice, violence and loss of freedom” (LS, 142). This is nothing new. Francis is drawing upon a fundamental teaching of Christianity to love your neighbor as yourself and teachings found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community ... conducted according to its own proper methods, [economic activity] is to be exercised ... in keeping with social justice so as to correspond to God’s plan for man” (2426).

From June 21-23, 2018, the Center for Catholic Studies’ John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, in partnership with the University of St. Thomas and other institutions, will host the 10th International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Business Education, and Sixth Colloquium on Christian Humanism in Business and Society, to study what the “common good” means and the extent to which it applies to the world of business. The title and theme of the conference is “Building Institutions for the Common Good: The Purpose and Practice of Business in an Inclusive Economy.”

Professor Monsignor Martin Schlag, director of Ryan Institute, and conference participants will gather to discuss this topic from a particular focus that will help economists, scholars and practitioners be more concrete: How are we to create institutions that effectively promote the common good and include as many people as possible in the free creation of prosperity?

The conference will bring together academics and practitioners across a range of disciplines to develop answers to these questions. Keynote speakers, plenary respondents and panelists will include Martijn Cremers, professor of finance, and Clemens Sedmak, professor of social ethics and adviser in Catholic social tradition, from the University of Notre Dame; Mary Hirschfeld, associate professor of economics and theology at Villanova University; and Stefano Zamagni, professor of economics for the University of Bologna. The plenary respondents and panelists will also include, among others, St. Thomas Catholic Studies faculty Dr. Robert Kennedy and Dr. Michael Naughton.

The conference has drawn international attention, and the Ryan Institute has accepted more than 100 papers from participants in multiple academic and professional disciplines with a broad range of cultural perspectives. Ryan Institute conference organizers hope this will create a robust, constructive dialogue on the common good and how to grow participation in the market economy and finance system in an equitable, stable and sustainable way.

The discussion will focus on three tracks established during the call for papers. Track one explores the common good, its meaning and its capacity to inspire and sustain ethical institutions. Track two applies more specifically to the common good and how it is relevant to particular fields of management within business. Track three is an educational track whose goal is to provide curricular materials, processes and ideas that reflect the significance and practical wisdom of business and leadership in service of the common good.

A Mass presided by Bernard Hebda, archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, will open the conference Thursday, June 21. Each day of the conference will begin with Mass followed by panelists, concurrent sessions for paper presentations and plenary sessions with keynote speakers and respondents throughout the day.

The Ryan Institute hopes to welcome many conference participants and invites St. Thomas alumni and friends to register by visiting