Questions Answered

  • Pope Francis seems to be placing a renewed emphasis on the teachings of the Church regarding the ethical pursuit of wealth and business. Are there practical norms for the correct use of economic power in a firm?
  • Lumen Gentium was very clear that by including treatment of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a kind of final flourish in the doctrine of the Church as the first and most perfect believer in our Lord, that Marian devotion was always a central part of Catholicism. I have heard that there is a great devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. What is this devotion, and how can it increase our love for Mary and the Church?

Question: Pope Francis seems to be placing a renewed emphasis on the teachings of the Church regarding the ethical pursuit of wealth and business. Are there practical norms for the correct use of economic power in a firm?

Answer: The Catholic Church has always considered business and economics in general to be an extension of the family. While affirming the right to private property, the Church has also emphatically maintained that such rights also imply duties. The duties of management of companies are both economic and political.

A given firm has two major duties. The one is to provide society with useful goods and services at a reasonable cost. The other is to provide the individual with income, power, reputation, and general happiness in his work, whether he is the employer or employee. To do this, a manager must run the business efficiently, recognizing both legal and ethical principles in doing so. The definition of efficiency and of goods and services is constantly evolving within the limits of the natural law. The individuals in a firm may not always act from the noblest human motives, but as long as their actions do not harm the good or service, they are not acting unethically. Profit is not always the best indicator of efficiency. True provision of the good or service at a just price and paying a just wage is.  When a company does this, it can certainly take a just profit which includes money needed to develop the economic health of the company.

The manager is charged with stimulating cooperation among many different people who participate in the business process. This cannot just be for the benefit of any one group, as all should participate in the social good the business exists to provide on many levels. A good book on this subject is Business Ethics, by Thomas Garrett and Richard Klonoski (ISBN: 0-13-095837-9). These authors stress “corporate constitutionalism.” Today, the authority of the manager is not so much an issue, as the manner in which it is carried out. This means that the manager must consult the reasonable opinions of those involved in the company, lest he or she be accused of being arbitrary.

Business owners and managers are not alone in their pursuit of what the rights of property entail. There are a host of others whose rights must also be recognized. These would be employees, competitors, unions, suppliers—the list goes on and on. This is important also for the efficiency of the business since, if a number these others provide shoddy material, or there are strikes which are violent or too frequent, the good or service will be harmed. Self-regulation in these areas is the best regulation. Ethically, this is always a prudent choice between what one, in theory, has the authority to do, and what will actually further the worthy pursuits of the business.

As Garrett and Klonoski point out: “(P)ower is not ethically neutral. Secondly, power must be made to serve society and all human beings. Finally, protection of rights involves control of the power to abuse rights” (p. 21). If checks and balances to power are necessary in politics, they are also necessary in business. In Catholicism, all society exists to serve the common good, which includes the individual good of man. The social good is a true human good, but one an individual cannot attain, left to himself. This means that the shop exists for the human person as an end, and not the other way around. Just goods and services and just wages and a fair day’s work are the way to assure this fact.

In regard to the profit motive of the company or the dividends paid to stockholders, these must be subordinated to the good of the service provided and the employees and the consumers. The employees depend on their salary for their livelihood, whereas, normally, the profit for wealthier stockholders is relative income for which they have accepted the risks of investment. However, many stockholders are ordinary people who have sometimes risked their retirement to further a product. Also, they depend on the profit and good management of the company for their livelihood.  All stockholders should also be treated as co-owners of the company, and so their needs are also central to the providing of the good or service. In the case of the manager, the company primarily exists for the purpose of providing both the service and work. Garrett and Klonoski summarize this in two basic principles: “The quasi-absolute rights of real persons take precedence over the claims of either the company or the general society. … Conflicts about relative rights can be settled in favor of a party whose rights are clearly spelled out in a contract” (pp. 22-23).

 

Question: Lumen Gentium was very clear that by including treatment of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a kind of final flourish in the doctrine of the Church as the first and most perfect believer in our Lord, that Marian devotion was always a central part of Catholicism. I have heard that there is a great devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. What is this devotion, and how can it increase our love for Mary and the Church?

Answer: The theology of the immaculate heart of Mary is quite developed. There are many good books on it. A classic, but popular, treatment is found in Heart of Mary, Heart of the Church by Bertrand de Margerie, SJ (ISBN: 1-56036-041-0). I will summarize some of his ideas in answer to this question.

The theology of Mary is closely related to the theology of the Sacred Heart. In this case, the heart is, not just a physical organ, but represents the entire being of the person, both spiritual and physical. Her heart contains the complete moral character of her own spiritual life which would include “a love that is at once, created, redeemed, virginal, and nuptial” (Ibid., 3).

The first expression of her created heart is her own free consent to the grace of election to be the Mother of God. When she consents to the invitation of the angel, in the name of the whole human race, she, who was conceived in grace with no sin, ratifies God’s choice of her by choosing to believe the words of the angel. She is so strong in her act of faith that she actually conceives Christ virginally in her body. She conceives the heart of Christ and in the renunciation of the glory of physical motherhood, participates, always in a received way, in the redemption which Christ will carry out in his death.

Mary is also a spouse of St. Joseph. In fact, they are both virginal spouses. Thus the love of Mary for Joseph is also a source of the theology of the union of Christ with his Church, who is also a virginal spouse. “Therefore, the Church, in her love for Mary’s irrevocable choice of a virginal marriage, and her heart’s unique nuptial love for St. Joseph, is loving the very conditions and sources of her own existence” (Heart, 17). Mary’s consent is the source of the existence of the heart of Christ in whom the redemption is carried out through his loving obedience in the face of suffering. The sword which pierces her heart is akin to the lance which pierces the heart of Christ.

This participation in our redemption by cooperation and approval, despite intense suffering, is seen especially in her standing at the foot of the Cross. Though the apostolic Church generally deserted Christ in his passion, the Virgin did not. Though centuries of devotional paintings show her stricken and swooning, this is not what the Scriptures say. She stood at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25). “She is both the representative of the People of God, and, through her divine motherhood, the consecrated minister of the Sovereign Priest—heart and mother of the Church” (Heart, 32).  In her suffering, she consents and participates in his.

After the passion and death of her son, she prays with the Church. Mary was given to St. John by Christ on the Cross, and while she lived in John’s home, she participated in the Eucharist. She intercedes also for the Church while still on earth, continuing in the Eucharist her original intercession at the Wedding at Cana: “They have no wine.” The wine she is speaking of after the resurrection of Christ is the wine of charity. John, in turn, heard Christ say: “Behold your mother” in the very act by which he became a priest of the New Testament on the very occasion of the last supper culminating in the Cross, a minister of Christ the High Priest. As John welcomed Mary, each Christian should welcome her especially in the Eucharist, and this is why we commemorate her in each celebration of the Eucharistic prayer at Mass.

Mary was the first and most certain of believers. As a result, though there is a pious tradition that she received a special revelation of the risen Christ, this is not in the Scripture. The reason is that she so believed that she did not need it. Still, she carried her experience of the death of her son daily with her, and, here, the admonition of St. Paul: “I die daily” (1 Cor 15-31) is fulfilled.

Though the death of Mary’s heart is not solemnly defined by the Church, it is commonly taught.  She had a privileged death. This is why her death, which the Western Church celebrates in the feast of the Assumption, is celebrated as the Dormition (Sleeping) of Mary in the Eastern Church—for her death was not painful. “The heart of Mary, whose beating was stilled through love of mortal men, beats anew in purest love for all humanity, now that she is gloriously risen” (Heart, 46).

A number of theologians today wish to make Mary the heart of the Church. Traditionally, this has always been assigned to the love of the Holy Spirit. Some have made the helpful suggestion that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church which permeates every organ. The heart is not so all pervasive, but is, nonetheless, necessary for the existence of the Body. “Due to her humanity, the Virgin is consubstantial with us and with Christ the Head. Her place in the Church is central, yet invisible. Through her intercession and mediation, she brings about the distribution of grace and gifts through the entire Mystical Body. … (T)he heart can act only if it receives direction and movement from the head, and in the same way, the Virgin can do all she does only through the power of Christ”  (Heart, 55).

This doctrine of the heart of Mary can certainly be a powerful ecumenical tool also, as it appeals to the spiritual and subjective nature of Protestantism and to the heavy emphasis on the Mother of God in Orthodox Christianity. As St. John Damascene puts it: “The name of Mother of God contains the whole mystery of the Incarnation and the entire history of the divine economy in the world” (De Fide Orthodoxa, III, 12; MG, 94, 1029-32).

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, "Questions Answered".

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Comments

  1. Michael Austin says:

    What does the phrase ” . . .in the renunciation of the glory of physical motherhood. . .” mean here? What aspect of physical motherhood is supposed to be absent here?

  2. Martin Drew says:

    Mr. Austin, renunciation of physical motherhood from Mary indicates the Anunciation of the Lord from the angel Gabriel who asks her if she would be the Mother of God. Mary’s yes prompts the Holy Spirit to be the Spouse of Mary. Joseph a just man as the gospels tell us received assistance from the Holy Spirit to remain with Mary. The Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus constitute a high degree of the spiritual life where if one lives this way one can practice Religion and love God and others.