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Why Is a Catholic Manager Different?

Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET,volume 43)


A Catholic is a person who, beyond any way of life or moral or spiritual practices, follows Christ in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Catholic theology shows how this influences the life of the Christian. Even in today’s secularized society, the Christian is seen as a person with a distinctive view of life and goals. Yet when we see the Christian, and more specifically the Catholic, as an entrepreneur or manager – i.e., engaged in the task of creating and managing companies – his outward activity seems no different from that of other, non-Christian entrepreneurs. The purpose of this chapter is to understand what makes the Catholic who works as an entrepreneur different, in order to try to answer the questions we may ask ourselves about the advantages and disadvantages of being a Catholic. We argue that religion provides to managers a wider view of business and helps them to understand reasons for ethical behavior. At the same time, it gives him or her spiritual and ascetical means for good behavior.


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  1. 1.

    In this paper I use the word “man” to mean man and woman, as it appears in many documents of the Catholic Church, without giving it any sexist meaning.

  2. 2.

    For an approximation to the Christian view of the entrepreneur, see Alford and Naughton (2001), Cornwall and Naughton (2003), Cortright and Naughton (2002), Novak (1981). On business as a vocation, see Chamberlain (2004), Clark (2004), Garvey (2004), Novak (1996), PCJP (2011), and Sirico (2000).

  3. 3.

    In particular, I do not discuss Weber’s (1992) argument about Calvinist ethics and the vocation of the entrepreneur, nor the question of whether the task of the entrepreneur is a “vocation”.

  4. 4.

    As the reader will verify, in many aspects of my interpretation of what distinguishes the Christian, especially as regards the theology of work, I am indebted to Saint Josemaría Escrivá, although I must emphasize that my statements on these matters are not to be attributed to him. In Argandoña (2004b, 2011) I discuss some of his ideas about work and the education of the manager.

  5. 5.

    It is possible that this work should have engaged in dialogue with some of the sociological, political, ideological and moral trends prevailing in today’s society, such as individualism, hedonism, relativism or materialism, as these currents influence the interpretation of what it is to be a Christian today, what is good or evil, or how a person should behave. I have not tried to do this, as it would have diverted me from my main concern. Yet their influence is not to be underestimated.

  6. 6.

    This and other abbreviations of official documents of the Catholic Church used in this chapter are listed at the beginning of the book.

  7. 7.

    And “one cannot believe in Jesus Christ without having a part in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals to men who Jesus is” (CCC 152). Faith in the Trinity of God is a central point of Christianity. In fact, the relationship of the Christian with God starts in Baptism “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1272).

  8. 8.

    From the above it is not to be concluded that the practice of the Christian life is unimportant. On the contrary, the virtues and the practices of piety are the Christian’s way of encountering Christ, of recognizing him and advancing in the identification with Christ. The important thing, though, is not the practices but the intention – the love – with which they are carried out.

  9. 9.

    There are also negative views of work – as the cause of alienation, for example, or as a punishment or curse, etc. However, these views do not belong to the core of the Christian tradition, at least not without proper qualification.

  10. 10.

    “The moral rule tells us not only ‘don’t do this because it is bad’, but also ‘don’t do what is bad because doing it makes you bad’” (Polo 1996b, 87).

  11. 11.

    This obviously cannot be said of all ethical conceptions. The relevant point here, though, is that applying moral criteria to work-related decisions is not something that is distinctive of Christianity.

  12. 12.

    And to believe that the Christian must devote a large part of his time to spiritual activities or part of his income to charitable activities is simply a false conception of what it is to be Christian.

  13. 13.

    The Christian may also benefit from other aids, such as spiritual guidance and counsel; but the non-Christian also has access to such aids.

  14. 14.

    PCJP (2011) in an important source of ideas and suggestions on how to put into practice the demands of the manager’s Christian vocation, “practicing ethical social principles while conducting the normal rhythms of the business world. This entails seeing clearly the situation, judging with principles that foster the integral development of people, and acting in a way which implements these principles in light of one’s unique circumstances and in a manner consistent with the teaching of the Faith” (PCJP 2011, no. 14). The first dimension, seeing, means to examine the “signs of the times” (GS 4, 11, 44; cf. PCJP 2011, no. 15–26), something connatural with the activity of the managers. The second one, judging, is exercised through the application of the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching (PCJP 2011, 27–59. The third dimension, acting, means that the businesspeople should take aspirations into practice, being “witnesses of action” (PCJP 2011, no. 60; cf. 60–80).

  15. 15.

    This paper is part of the work of the “la Caixa” Chair of Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance at IESE. I have dealt with this subject in Argandoña (1995, 2004a, 2007), although with different approaches from the one attempted here.


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Argandoña, A. (2015). Why Is a Catholic Manager Different?. In: Melé, D., Schlag, M. (eds) Humanism in Economics and Business. Issues in Business Ethics, vol 43. Springer, Dordrecht.

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