On the Vocation of Business Leaders, in Light of Recent Encyclicals

September 9, 2015

Last November the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published “The Vocation of the Business Leader:  A Reflection,”  In 2011, the Vatican took a “deep dive” look at the vocation of the business leader, in a February seminar entitled Caritas in Veritate: The Logic of Gift and the Meaning of Business.  This meeting followed the October 2010 conference Caritas in Veritate and the USA, which the PCJP held in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies of Los Angeles, and continued its study of business organizations in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Underlying both meetings is the Church’s firm conviction that all Christians are called to practice charity in a manner corresponding to their vocation and according to the degree of influence they wield in the polis (CIV, 7).

As Cardinal Turkson writes in his forward to the 2014 Reflection, available in multiple languages.

Business leaders are called to engage with the contemporary economic and financial world in light of the principles of human dignity and the common good. This reflection offers business leaders, members of their institutions, and various stakeholders a set of practical principles that can guide them in their service of the common good. Among these principles, we recall the principle of meeting the needs of the world with goods that are truly good and truly serve without forgetting, in a spirit of solidarity, the needs of the poor and the vulnerable; the principle of organising work within enterprises in ways that respect human dignity; the principle of subsidiarity, which fosters a spirit of initiative and increases the competence of the employees who are thereby considered “co-entrepreneurs”; and, finally, the principle of the sustainable creation of wealth and its just distribution among the various stakeholders.

The Church maintains the hope that Christian business leaders will, despite the present darkness, restore trust, inspire hope and keep burning the light of faith that fuels their daily pursuit of the good. Indeed, it is worth recalling that Christian faith is not only the light that burns in the heart of believers but also the propulsive force of human history.

This faith, which all Catholics are called to hold, may be contrasted with commentary by some business leaders in recent months.  For example, leading Peruvian business figure, Roque Benavides, CEO of BuenaVentura, the nation’s largest publicly traded precious metals company, read the encyclical. In his Lima high-rise, he told a  reporter dismissively that the encyclical was trying to change the world, and “It’s not going to change the world; nothing changes the world.”

Other business leaders have been lauded by the Pope.  For example Enrique Shaw is a businessman who is in the process of beatification and is endorsed by Pope Francis.   He was a supporter of trade unions and the church’s social justice teaching and an advocate and believer in positive social change.

Leading Peruvian business figure, Roque Benavides, CEO of BuenaVentura, the nation’s largest publicly traded precious metals company, in his Lima high rise

Leading Peruvian business figure, Roque Benavides, CEO of BuenaVentura, the nation’s largest publicly traded precious metals company, in his Lima high rise

Pope Francis, in the words of St. John Paul II, calls all people to “ecological conversion” and to live out their faith by courageously showing how economic and socio-political systems can be transformed to better care for our common home.  Such care, the dignity of all people and creation, and the common good must be prioritized over short-term thinking and profit, so the earth, our common home can be maintained and left in better condition.