Tag Archives: Dr. Andrew Abela

Church teaching on business responsibility

Dr. Andrew Abela helps mark the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate by discussing Church teaching on the responsibilities of Christians in business. He excerpts from the forthcoming Catechism for Business, tackling this issue of Catholic social teaching as applied to business as found in 118 years of papal encyclicals . . .

Dr. Andrew Abela

Dr. Andrew Abela

To celebrate the June release of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, our selection from the forthcoming Catechism for Business includes just one question about the overarching themes in Catholic social teaching as applied to business. The selected quotations illustrate the continuity and fruitfulness of this teaching across 118 years of papal encyclicals.

What general themes occur throughout Church teaching regarding the responsibilities of Christians in business?

“The Church’s social doctrine holds that authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity, and not only outside it or ‘after’ it. The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner.” — Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 79.

“It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love — a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love.” — Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 5.

“… the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society.” — Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 35.

“What are less than human conditions? The material poverty of those who lack the bare necessities of life, and the moral poverty of those who are crushed under the weight of their own self-love; oppressive political structures resulting from the abuse of ownership or the improper exercise of power, from the exploitation of the worker or unjust transactions.

“What are truly human conditions? The rise from poverty to the acquisition of life’s necessities; the elimination of social ills; broadening the horizons of knowledge; acquiring refinement and culture. From there one can go on to acquire a growing awareness of other people’s dignity, a taste for the spirit of poverty, an active interest in the common good and a desire for peace. Then man can acknowledge the highest values and God himself, their author and end. Finally and above all, there is faith — God’s gift to men of good will — and our loving unity in Christ, who calls all men to share God’s life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men.” — Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 21.

“The great truth which we learn from nature herself is also the grand Christian dogma on which religion rests as on its foundation — that, when we have given up this present life, then shall we really begin to live. God has not created us for the perishable and transitory things of earth, but for things heavenly and everlasting; He has given us this world as a place of exile and not as our abiding place.

“As for riches and the other things which men call good and desirable, whether we have them in abundance or are lacking in them — so far as eternal happiness is concerned — it makes no difference; the only important thing is to use them aright. Jesus Christ, when he redeemed us with plentiful redemption, took not away the pains and sorrows which in such large proportion are woven together in the web of our mortal life. He transformed them into motives of virtue and occasions of merit; and no man can hope for eternal reward unless he follow in the blood-stained footprints of his Savior. ‘If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him’ (2 Tim 2:12).

“Therefore, those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles; that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ — threatenings so unwonted in the mouth of our Lord (Lk 6:24-25) — and that a most strict account must be given to the Supreme Judge for all we possess.” —Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 21-22.

Dr. Andrew V. Abela is chairman of the Department of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America. He received the Acton Institute’s 2009 Novak Award for research into the relationship between religion and economic liberty. He is a charter member of Legatus’ Arlington Chapter.

Life issues faced by Catholic business leaders

Andrew Abela continues his series on the forthcoming Catechism for Business. . .

Dr. Andrew Abela

This column continues its look at four questions from the forthcoming Catechism for Business (see September 2008 column). We focus here on life issues, covering four relevant questions.

May we sell any product or service to an organization whose purpose is hostile to innocent life?

The Church draws a distinction between formal and material cooperation with evil. Formal cooperation is where your intention or your own action is evil. Material cooperation with evil is where you do not share the evil intention of those you are cooperating with, and where your own action is not evil, but somehow contributes to the evil action of another. In this example, offering cleaning services to an abortion clinic because you support what they are doing is formal cooperation. Offering cleaning services to an abortion clinic because you need to keep your workers employed in a recession, while you despise what is going on in the clinic, is material cooperation.

Formal cooperation is always forbidden. Material cooperation should be avoided, except where avoiding it would cause a greater evil. In cases of attacks on innocent life though, even material cooperation is forbidden, because there can be no greater evil than the taking of an innocent life. Therefore, it is not permissible to sell cleaning services to an abortion clinic, even to save your employees’ jobs.

“Formal cooperation is carried out when the moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, sharing in the latter’s evil intention. On the other hand, when a moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, without sharing his/her evil intention, it is a case of material cooperation.

“Formal cooperation is always morally illicit because it represents a form of direct and intentional participation in the sinful action of another person. Material cooperation can sometimes be illicit … but when immediate material cooperation concerns grave attacks on human life, it is always to be considered illicit.”—Pontifical Academy for Life, Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses, June 5, 2005.

Is it morally acceptable to offer health care benefits that cover abortion or birth control to employees?

The answer to this question is similar to the preceding one: Offering health care benefits that cover abortion or birth control to employees is at best material cooperation in evil, and since in the case of abortion and (often) birth control this involves an offense against life, then it is not permissible.

Should health care workers refuse to participate in actions that are harmful to innocent life?

Health care workers should exercise their right to conscientious objection when asked to participate in any attack on innocent human life (i.e., abortion or euthanasia). Where this right is not recognized, health care workers must still refuse to participate in such attacks, even at the cost of their own career because — as just noted — even material cooperation in attacks on innocent life is forbidden.

“In the moral domain, [the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists] is invited to address the issue of conscientious objection, which is a right your profession must recognize, permitting you not to collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral.”— Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the ICCP, Oct. 29, 2007.

“The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people with regard to the issue of cooperation since they have a right to demand not to be forced to take part in morally evil actions. Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement.”— Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, #74.

What obligations do we have to ensure the health and safety of our employees beyond the legal requirements, especially in countries with less stringent legislation?

Respect for human life requires employers to take every precaution to protect the lives and health of their employees. The Church notes the importance of protecting workers’ moral as well as physical health. Employers also have a responsibility for the safety of the employees of their outsource partners, whom the Church considers their indirect employees.

“Among these rights [of employees] there should never be overlooked the right to a working environment and to manufacturing processes which are not harmful to the workers’ physical health or to their moral integrity.”— John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, #19.

“The conditions in which a man works … must not be such as to weaken his physical or moral fiber, or militate against the proper development of adolescents to manhood.” — Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, #19.

“The responsibility of the indirect employer differs from that of the direct employer … but it remains a true responsibility: The indirect employer substantially determines one or other facet of the labor relationship, thus conditioning the conduct of the direct employer when the latter determines in concrete terms the actual work contract and labor relations. — Laborem Exercens, #17.

Dr. Andrew Abela is an associate professor of marketing at the Catholic University of America, where he is chair-elect of the Department of Business and Economics. He lives in Great Falls, Va., with his wife Kathleen and their six children.