While Catholic Social Teaching (CST) plays an important role in the educational programs of many Catholic liberal arts schools, the inclusion of such studies is generally found exclusively in those schools’ philosophy and theology departments, but not in their business departments – even most ethics courses are concentrated in those departments. It is true that much of the understanding of CST comes from moral theology, namely a mixture of the cardinal virtues and the faith; nevertheless, there is room for and an absolute need of such teachings in our business programs. Throughout history, the Catholic Church has provided a variety of encyclicals addressing social issues contemporary to each age. Although there may be a number of reasons why inclusion of CST in business programs is limited and such studies are often relegated to other disciplines, students taking part in business courses infused with CST are exposed to information that can better assist them in being formed for the whole of life.
When integrated into business education programs, CST uniquely complements the efforts of the faculty of mission-driven programs. In addition to calling those faculty members to an interior examination of how they can develop their students in their courses, there are ancillary benefits to society as a whole. First, students of such programs develop a greater appreciation for their own lives and how they can make a more just contribution to their communities, particularly the poor and the marginalized. Second, students who have benefitted from the integration of CST into business courses are formed in the ability to recognize that business is a noble vocation and how business can be used as a force for good. Such students are likely to develop a more virtuous, integrity-based perspective. Finally, the wisdom and insight provided by papal encyclicals, along with other Church and scholarly writings on CST, offers business students a richness of understanding of the true meaning of success, helping them to link their personal and professional responsibilities and allowing them to infuse such newfound wisdom into every realm of business and daily life. In general, the embedding of CST into business education programs allows the curriculum to go beyond simply providing for the technical skills required to live one’s profession and assists students in understanding their own vocations and place in society.
Receiving, Assembling, and Mediating
Nevertheless, exposure to CST does not necessarily lead to proficiency or deeper understanding. Pope Benedict XVI eloquently provides a blueprint for the educational benefits of studying CST, noting that CST “is a service to the truth that sets us free. Open to the truth from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church’s social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity the fragments in which it is often found and mediates it within the constantly changing patterns of the society of peoples and nations” (Benedict XVI, 2009, no. 9). This triune approach – receiving, assembling, and mediating – is one that all professors in business programs should seek to emulate and encourage within students. Without intentional formation, student reflections on encyclicals, scholarly writings, and conference presentations by notable theologians are rarely able to demonstrate the reception and assembling of ideas, let alone the mediation of such thoughts. The study of CST in business education programs can play a vital role in students’ interior work, forming them in the ability to reflect upon the Gospel properly and subsequently integrate such knowledge into their respective careers and vocations. Faculty of mission-driven business education programs cannot rely solely on liberal arts courses for such formation. Business education must be about the formation of the whole person.
Catholic Social Teaching and the Formation of the Whole Person
This formation of the whole person, as the subject of their work, follows upon the teachings of St. John Paul II in a number of his encyclicals. The notion of the formation of the whole person in education is not profound; however, it is a rarity in business programs. As one student noted,
Five Principles of Catholic Business Education
It was noted above that the integration of CST into business education programs is beneficial to society. Laczniak, Murphy, and Gassl (2012) wrote that there are meant to be five principles underlying a Catholic business education, and these five principles demonstrate how benefits to students are closely related to societal benefits. The first principle they present is the development of the moral and spiritual character of students. The second rests in the ability to nurture students such that they can use their managerial skills for the benefit of others. The third is fostering in students a special concern for the welfare of all employees, which is closely related to the fourth: instilling in students an awareness of the social ramifications of their business decisions. The fifth and final principle is to help make students aware of and develop a special concern for the disadvantaged in our society.
Students make it clear that a business education curriculum can accomplish all five of these principles through the integration of CST. CST is a time-tested, proven model for living a life ordered toward the common good, and it illuminates a path toward the creation of an environment in which human flourishing can exist. Importantly for a mission-driven Catholic school, CST provides all these benefits within the context of the faith and allows students to reinforce their faith. Archbishop Charles Chaput expressed a related idea in this way:
Catholic universities and colleges that instill CST into their business curricula as a complement to what their students may receive in their liberal arts studies will find not only that they gain a competitive advantage, but also that their students are brought deeper in their own relationships with God. This integrative approach assists students in incorporating their faith into their studies in business and liberal arts courses alike. These benefits – and all those mentioned above – should be considered an invitation to business instructors in Catholic universities and colleges to find ways to incorporate CST into their curricula. Such inclusion would uphold what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Deus Caritas Est: Catholic Social Teaching’s “aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgement and attainment of what is just” (28).