Baptizing business

At the Conference of the International Academy of Management in Chile, Cardinal Turkson seeks and finds common ground between the Catholic Church and the business community

In yet another of his signature blockbuster addresses, Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, yesterday tackled the question of the Church’s relationship with the business sector.

This is not the first time the cardinal has spoken about the business sector. Indeed, given the disquiet of many free-market supporters and others on the social, political, and ideological Right during the pontificate of Pope Francis, the cardinal’s talk should be seen as the continuation of an ecclesial conversation that has grown in importance since the release of Laudato Si’.

Early last month the United States conservative think-tank The Acton Institute conferred in Rome with Church leaders, most especially the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo. Their goal was to join the conversation begun by Laudato Si'. Depending on who you listen to, the gathering was either spirited or downright quarrelsome.

With his speech yesterday in Chile, Cardinal Turkson added his soft but firm pastor’s voice—once again explaining that Pope Francis and the Church both extol the vocation of business leaders while exhorting them to embrace the common good rather than optimizing profit at all costs.

Pope Francis encourages a broadened sense of vocation, which gives rise to a deepened exercise of responsibility. Two years ago, he wrote these words to the World Economic Forum: "Business is - in fact - a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life." (Evangelii Gaudium §203 )

These are scarcely the words of someone who misunderstands or disparages business, as some would have you believe. Indeed, the Pope’s message to the Davos forum was highly appreciative. With reference to improvements in people’s welfare in such areas as health care, education and communications, he complimented “the fundamental role that modern business activity has had in bringing about these changes, by stimulating and developing the immense resources of human intelligence.”

At the same time, he asked the world’s economic leaders to recognize that “the successes which have been achieved, even if they have reduced poverty for a great number of people, often have led to a widespread social exclusion. Indeed, the majority of the men and women of our time still continue to experience daily insecurity, often with dramatic consequences.”

The cardinal called attention to the wonderful little document Vocation of a Business Leader, published about four years ago by his Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. That this document exists at all should be sufficient proof that the Church has been seeking dialogue with the business community for some time. And she does so not to condemn but to embrace—indeed, to baptize.

Stressing this desire to work with the business sector in his talk yesterday, the cardinal offered six practical principles for baptizing the business world, such as fostering the special dignity of human work and maintaining solidarity with the poor.

You should read the entire address for yourself, as reported and published at Vatican Radio.

But if I can draw attention to one of the more important statements by Cardinal Turkson, it would be this:

The Holy Father is not anti-business; he decries an obsession with profit and the deification of the market. But when it comes to the challenges of sustainable development, he calls upon business to lead by harnessing its creativity to solve pressing human needs. And this does not mean forsaking the profit motive. “More diversified and innovative forms of production which impact less on the environment can prove very profitable,” says Pope Francis (Laudato Si', §191).


May God bless Cardinal Turkson and all those at the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace for all their work. And may God’s grace especially shower on all those laboring in the world of business. May they see in their work the many opportunities to bring Christ’s self-sacrificing love to a world that desperately needs it.

Ed. Note: The cardinal's address can be found in its entirety here.

Photo: Flicker/CAFOD

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.