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Business Ethics According to Pope John Paul II


By Jim Wishloff | September 2009
Jim Wishloff, an assistant professor and award-winning teacher at the University of Lethbridge in Edmonton, Alberta, has published in the Journal of Business Ethics, the Journal of Business Ethics Education, Teaching Business Ethics, and the Review of Business. He is a member of the Board of Governors of Newman Theological College, also in Edmonton.

Christian discipleship is a radical undertaking. It is not just a matter of being a trustee or manager of God’s resources by making good moral choices. The rich young man had done this and it wasn’t enough (Mt. 19:18-20). Jesus wants His followers to do more by risking more. He wants His disciples to seek intimacy and restore relationships with one another and the whole of creation. The basic Christian endeavor is to recreate community by establishing relationships that are life-giving, transformative, and healing — risking all and trusting God in doing it. Life is lived in thanksgiving without fear because of God’s providence. No matter what one’s profession, whether lawyer, teacher, physician, or so on, the Christian calling is, teaches the late Pope John Paul II, a “vocation to divine love” (Veritatis Splendor, #112). This is no less so for the businessman. Our Lord’s twofold commandment to love (Mt. 22:26-40) is to be fulfilled in enterprise as well. We are to will the good of others in our organizational life just as we do in our personal life. All our actions in enterprise must be “in conformity with the dignity and integral vocation of the human person” (Veritatis Splendor, #67).

To derive the answer to this question it is necessary to recapitulate the understanding of how deeply our social nature is situated in our being. Human life is always life-in-community. A full human life requires material necessities and moral, social, intellectual, and spiritual progress that cannot be achieved in isolation. Social life is necessary for our perfection. Thus, associations of greater to lesser intimacy are demanded metaphysically.

The first form of communion between persons, instituted by God by design, is the partnership of man and woman. God is the Author of marriage, which is the indissoluble union of a man and a woman ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. The human family is the central element of the divine plan from the time of creation. It is the original cell of social life, existing prior to and above all other levels of social organization, and is deserving of recognition as such. The family constitutes nothing less than the foundation of society.

Beyond the family is the local or civic community. This encompasses all the associations or groups intermediary between the family and the state. The political community overarches all, ideally providing a stability that allows for harmonious living between citizens of the polis.

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