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Cardinal Bertone calls upon business leaders to pursue higher goal than profit

Catholic World News - June 17, 2011

Speaking at a Vatican conference on Pope Benedict’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone challenged business leaders to seek “a goal greater than profit while not rejecting profit.”

“The Church has always stressed that commercial activity is essential to the common good,” said the Vatican secretary of state. “Her social teaching, past and present, insists that commercial activity should be directed to the common good and not merely to the private profit of property holders.”

“The Church is well aware that, like other aspects of human life and perhaps even more so, the sector of economics and labor is prone to the temptations of selfishness and narrow self-interest,” he added. “At the same time, though, the Church sees the world of economics, labor and business in a positive light as a significant sphere for creativity and service to society, a positive element in human affairs. Like any other component of the body politic, it can sometimes develop pathologies, yet its functioning is usually sound, civil and humane.”

Distinguishing the speculator, whose sole aim is profit, from the business leader, Cardinal Bertone said that “business leaders who want to take the Church’s social teaching seriously will need to be more daring, not limiting themselves to socially responsible practices and/or acts of philanthropy (positive and meritorious though these may be), but striking out into new territories.”

“Specifically, there is a growing demand today for labour on the part of entire countries with great numbers of young people and few jobs: innovation and new initiative are needed if business, the economy and the market are to include those presently excluded,” he continued. “The second challenge has to do with the administration of ‘common goods such as water, energy sources, communities, the social and civic capital of peoples and cities. Business today has to become more and more involved with these common goods, since in a complex global economy it can no longer be left to the state or the public sector to administer them: the talent of the business sector is also needed if they are to be properly managed.”

“There is no such thing as an ethically neutral business leader,” Cardinal Bertone added. “Business leaders are either ‘civil,’ in the sense that their commercial activity serves to build up the common good, the good of all and of every individual, or else they are the reverse, as when they fail to produce quality products, ignore innovation, fail to create wealth and jobs, and pay no taxes.”

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