Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 27 February |
Saint of the Day: St. Gregory of Narek
home iconNews
line break icon

Economics As If People Mattered

Mat McDermott

Elias Crim - published on 02/09/14

For a Catholic, the economic question is not whether to be for or against the market, but how to make the market as human as possible. Here’s one way how.

As CEO of his own mid-sized environmental consulting firm, John Mundell has over twenty years to practice his “welcome to the firm” speech. “In it, I always explain that we operate a little differently.” That’s when the new hires learn that the definition of success at Mundell & Associates includes taking a portion of the profits and using them to help communities in need worldwide.

“I don’t get into the fact that my family and I are members of the Focolare movement or even that my business is part of the Economy of Communion network,” he adds, since most new employees seem satisfied with a simpler description of the company mission.

“A couple of years after the we started the company, however, two of our young associates asked to see me for a minute,” Mundell says with a chuckle. After he closed his door, one of them said, “We just have a question.  We have noticed that there’s something different going on here—really different. And we’d just like to know more about what it is.”

One difference with this company is that, from a Catholic perspective, it is part of a grassroots revolution in applying the principles of Catholic social teachings to everyday life—including business life. So if you want to understand where Pope Francis and before him, Pope Benedict (who specifically mentioned the “economy of communion” in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate), are “coming from,” we need to review some recent history leading up to this revolution in thought and action.

When Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus appeared in 1991, some American observers read it as a break with Church tradition, suggesting it somehow endorsed a particular set of economic arrangements—i.e., those of American-style free market capitalism, also known as neoliberalism.

Focolare’s founder, Chiara Lubich, read the document rather differently—perhaps more presciently, in fact.  She did not read the Pope as bestowing a blessing on “business as usual.” Instead, she saw him calling for a social economy that was capable of orienting capitalistic society toward the common good rather than individualistic consumerism. Unblinkered by any technical training in economics, Lubich’s own thinking about society and business drew a special guest to one the Focolare meetings in Poland in 1978: none other than the Archbishop of Krakow himself, Karol Wojtyla, soon to become Pope John Paul II. The future pope’s  interest in the meeting and in Focolare generally was due to the heightened awareness of this group to the interrelationship between spirituality and socioeconomic life. The Focolare movement’s special charism of unity, one which grew to include an “economy of the gift,” with its values of cooperation, sharing and justice, was extending outward from an initial focus on family life to an influence upon the larger community. This relational economy was indeed a form of capitalism but with a strong emphasis on the human person rather than on a deterministic confidence in an “invisible hand.”

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Tags:
Economy
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
2
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
3
MADONNA
V. M. Traverso
The 9 oldest images of Mary
4
SEARCHNG PURSE
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things every Catholic woman should have in her purse
5
RECONSTRUCTED CHRIST
Lucandrea Massaro
This 3D “carbon copy” of Jesus was created using the ...
6
Jacques Fesch
Brother Silas Henderson, SDS
Meet the Death Row prisoner who discovered a ...
7
CELEBRITY MARRIAGES
Cerith Gardiner
10 Celebrities whose marriages have stood the test of time
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.