In 1991, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote the Papal Encyclical Centesimus Annus on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. In this encyclical, Pope John Paul II explored economic principles and how they should be seen through the light of social factors.
In this document, John Paul vigorously defends the right of private ownership and the positive role business plays in the well-being of humanity. But he also pastorally warns about the role that profits should play in measuring the success of a business. His words are ones that every business person should read and consider. He wrote:
“The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied. But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm's condition.
It is possible for the financial accounts to be in order, and yet for the people — who make up the firm's most valuable asset — to be humiliated and their dignity offended. Besides being morally inadmissible, this will eventually have negative repercussions on the firm's economic efficiency. In fact, 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 endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society.
Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business.”
This is a powerful reminder that the unbridled pursuit of profits over all else is not only immoral, but also a bad business practice.
This same concept about business and profitability explored by Pope Saint John Paul II will be the theme of a powerful three-day conference titled “Good Profit: How Profitable Business Can Be A Force For Good." This conference hosted by The Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America and the Napa Institute will explore the synergies between business and Catholic social teaching.
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