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Can Business Be Catholic? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 02 June 2008 21:06
Very interesting Zenit article today: an interview with Michael Naughton, who holds the Moss Endowed Chair in Catholic Social Thought and is director of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

The topic: Can Business Be Catholic?

It's a long piece and worth reading in its entirely but here are some particularly intriguing quotes:

"Q: Many critics believe a business school has no place in a Catholic university because business promotes selfish ends. How would you respond? Can business really be a professional calling?

Naughton: There is, as you say, a bias against business, particularly among some of the faculty in the liberal arts. They often operate with a Platonic/Aristotelian bias against commerce, since they understand business only in terms of its economic and instrumental dimensions.

Once I had a theologian say to me that success for him was persuading students away from majoring in business, since he saw little redeemable value in pursuing such a line of work.

However, if we look at some of the great Catholic thinkers on education -- Cardinal John Henry Newman, Jacques Maritain, Poe John Paul II, etc. -- what we find is that they all see a role for professional education within the university, precisely because they hold to the importance of the dignity of work.

Today, business is one of the major forms of work for our students; a Catholic university, as a cultural institution, plays an important role in the formation of students as to what this work should be.

Q: How should the principles and pillars of Catholic social teaching -- subsidiarity, solidarity, respect for human dignity and the common good, and a preferential option for the poor -- shape the curriculum and culture of a Catholic business school? Do Catholic business schools currently live up to this standard?

Naughton: It is important to remember that all business education involves an education in principles. The question is in what principles are we forming our students -- Machiavellian principles, economic principles, Catholic social principles, etc."


Snip.

As to the culture part of your question, I see four important areas to engage these principles that can shape the identity of a Catholic business school.

The first is hiring. When Catholic business schools hire faculty, they should have candidates read an essay on Catholic social principles and ask them how they would engage such principles in their discipline. This would give a good sense of mission fit of potential new faculty.

Faculty development is a second area. If a Catholic business school is going to take its mission seriously, it has to devote time to engage faculty on the Catholic social tradition.

The third is research. Father Ted Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame, once said that the Catholic university is where the Church does its thinking.

In a Catholic business school some of that thinking as it relates to the Church’s social principles should be engaging questions within finance, marketing, human resources, entrepreneurship, etc.


Snip.

Q: Benedict XVI stated in his recent address to American college and university presidents that a Catholic institution of higher education should assist students in deepening their relationship with Jesus Christ. Can this really be accomplished in a business education program?

Naughton: John Henry Newman wrote that “every profession has its dangers,” and business is no exception.

The excessive pursuit and desire for money and power, the cold pragmatic instrumental reasoning of treating employees as means only, rather than ends, the prideful conceit of understanding business as only a career, etc. are all indicators to a destiny that excludes God.

The Second Vatican Council document “Gaudium et Spes” warns us that the split between one’s professional life and one’s religious commitments is a dangerous error of our age. This divided life, particularly for Christian businesspersons, seriously impairs their relationship with Christ.

A Catholic university, if it takes its mission seriously, needs to engage its business students in ideas of vocation, faith and reason, spirituality of work, principles of the Catholic social tradition, the cardinal and theological virtues, responsibilities to poor and marginalized, all of which can move the student to a richer understanding and relationship with God.
The last area is curriculum. There should be specific courses on Catholic social thought and business in which Catholic social principles and business theory and practice are specifically engaged.


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