Sin at Work

A Contemporary Look at Vice and Virtue in the Workplace

The Seven Deadly Sins are alive and well. Media sources are full of stories of pride, greed, lust and envy in society, with many of the stories taking place in some kind of work environment. Eliot Spitzer, Arthur Andersen, the subprime mortgage crisis and disgruntled employees “going postal” all create images in our minds of work gone bad.

Most people don’t see themselves at these extremes, but each day at work brings countless situations where they have a choice regarding their actions. Whether responding to an irritating co-worker, seeking opportunities for advancement or contemplating corporate mergers, people continually confront decisions that call upon them to choose how to respond. Then again, sometimes they don’t choose. They react. But, if people aren’t conscious of their actions, how can they be certain that they’re acting out of virtue and not vice? The Faith and Work Breakfast series shines the light of faith on sin in the workplace and examines the question, “How can I live a virtuous life at home and at work?”

The Faith and Work series is a joint effort of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought of the Center for Catholic Studies and St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis. Now in its 15th year, this well-established series has provided local, national and international speakers to help working people in downtown Minneapolis reflect on the connection between faith and work.

Last year began a two-year series to explore our fallen human nature in the workplace through an age-old category of the Seven Deadly Sins. By raising the awareness of the dark side that lives within human nature, this series hopes to heighten the consciousness about the choices people make in living lives of faith at work.

The first year in the Seven Deadly Sins series began with an overview, titled “Contemporary Idols,” provided by Ken Goodpaster. Following that talk, four sins were addressed over the course of the year:

  • Envy: “Better, Smarter, Faster,” - Michael Novak
  • Gluttony: “When Too Much Is Not Enough,” - Ellen Breyer
  • Sloth: “The Deadly Sin of Too Busy People,” - Peter Kreeft
  • Pride: “If ‘Pride Goeth Before the Fall,’ Are We at the Tipping Point?”- Andre Delbecq

The 2009-10 program opened with an overview for the year provided by Father Larry Gillick, S.J., “Shame on You, God: An Illegal View of Sin and Redemption.” In October, David Walsh spoke on lust, “Spiritual Growth in a Self-Indulgent Culture: Dealing With Lust and the Media.” November’s talk on greed was given by Hank Shea with Carolyn and Nick Ryberg, titled “One Couple’s Cautionary Tale of Temptation, Seduction, Ruin and Recovery.”

The two concluding talks in the series will be:

  • Anger: “Cause or Effect? Power and Control in the Workplace,” Mary Lou Klas, Feb. 18, 2010
  • Closing: “Be Not Afraid: Overcoming Sin and Temptation in the Workplace,” Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, April 15, 2010

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