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how much risk is too much?

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 12, 2009

One of the most difficult issues to address for the Catholic In Business (CIB) is assessing the moral permissibility of assuming more than a certain amount of business risk. All businesses carry a certain amount of risk, but when deciding to pursue a particular business venture, how much is too much?

For example: A business owner decides to pursue a new line of business, which requires a certain amount of investment without guarantee of return. His calculations indicate that even if the new line of business should fail, his core business will still be able to remain intact--but existing jobs will be lost. What is the owner's moral obligation to his employees? If the existing business is operating at a sustainable level, is it right to place jobs at risk for the purpose of pursuing another interest (and possibly creating more jobs in the future)?

The above example is an oversimplification, and I won't attempt to provide an answer to the questions raised. However, the point is that moral responsibility should at least be an influencing consideration for the CIB in assuming risk in business.

Many CIB owners/influencers register frustration that the social teachings of the Church typically provide guidance but not definitive solutions in addressing business questions. In the context of the current question...there is no "business risk morality calculator" built into the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The CIB who is the most spiritually mature and steadfast in applying attention to cultivating virtue is most likely to bring the right tuning antenna to the "will of God business broadcast". However, Catholics are called to do all things well--therefore, diligence in properly and objectively building the business case to justify the assumption of risk is in itself a moral obligation.

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