A retired business executive and author recently wrote “A defense of business education in Catholic schools” for America magazine.
Joseph Dunn wrote, “There are excesses and abuses in business and in our capitalist society, and Pope Francis has named many of them. There is also nobility, as he reminds us. We need to recognize the differences.”
Catholic universities should continue business education for a number of reasons, according to Dunn, including that we might “more efficiently…move toward a just society if every graduate of a Catholic university had an understanding of business.”
Business was the route by which a sharecropper’s grandson became chief executive office rof a major financial firm; a fellow with a coffee shop in Seattle built a company that pays fair trade prices to coffee farmers in Africa; and the son of a plumber brought iPods, iPads and iPhones to the world. Business built the enormous wealth of Francis A. Drexel, which funded not just a library but also the lifelong works of his daughter, St. Katharine Drexel, her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and others who brought education to people of color and Native Americans in a time when these groups were considered outcasts.
…In social justice work, right moves bring improvements that advance the common good and serve the poor. Wrong moves waste resources and sometimes cause real misery. Catholic universities are uniquely positioned to provide a new generation of graduates, one million of them in the next 10 years, equipped with the authentic teaching of the encyclicals and episcopal letters, a spirit of solidarity and with an understanding of business and its role in society. Reaching out to all, including today’s and tomorrow’s business leaders, in a spirit of creative concern and effective cooperation would be the best protection a university can adopt to avoid, as Pope Francis put it, “drift[ing] into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talk” (No. 207). That would be a powerful rejection of the undue influences that threaten the essential mission of our universities, that of educating men and women who are with and for others. That would be the most effective way to enlist the services of one more noble vocation into building the world that Francis wants.
Dunn also mentioned the letter from some academics opposing a $1 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation to Catholic University of America’s new School of Business and Economics. CUA issued a statement last December in response, stating that the authors of the letter,
…seek to instruct The Catholic University of America’s leaders about Catholic social teaching, and do so in a manner that redefines the Church’s teaching to suit their own political preferences. We are confident that our faculty and academic leadership are well versed in Catholic social teaching and well equipped to apply it. We created a school of business and economics for the express purpose of promoting respect for the human person in economic life, based on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, human dignity, and the common good. The aim of the Charles Koch Foundation grant — to support research into principled entrepreneurship — is fully consonant with Catholic social teaching. On that point the letter’s authors are strangely silent.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.