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FULL TEXT: Address of Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand to Thai Catholic business leaders, November 3, 2023

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished Catholic business leaders in Thailand,

Thank you for the kind invitation. Firstly, I must admit I feel a bit inadequate to be your presenter, as I am obviously not a businessman, and I have little experience in the area. However, I am a priest and, as you know, we usually have an opinion on most things. Today, I have been asked to try and shed a little light on the noble vocation of business and its significance within the framework of our Catholic faith. As Catholic business leaders, you are called to integrate our religious values into your business practices at every working moment, thus ensuring that your actions align with the teachings of Christ. In this discourse, I will emphasize what I believe to be four crucial aspects for Catholic business leaders today: Catholic business ethics, transparency and honesty, the proper treatment of employees, and the imperative of caring for the environment.

First and foremost, let us recognize the importance of Catholic business ethics. Our faith provides us with a moral compass that guides our decision-making processes.  Our catholic businesses should always prioritize ethical practices that respect human dignity, fairness, and justice. Upholding Catholic values in our dealings fosters an environment of integrity and respect, ultimately benefiting both businesses and society. As stewards of our Catholic faith, we are entrusted with a sacred responsibility to integrate our religious values into every aspect of our professional lives, and that doesn’t just apply to priests and bishops. The principles of Catholic business ethics provide us with a solid foundation to guide our decision-making, ensuring that our actions align with the teachings of Christ and contribute to the betterment of society. There are different aspect to a catholic business ethic.  They are 1) the inherent dignity and worth of every human person, 2) Christian integrity, 3) Moral decision making, 4) solidarity or communion.  

At the heart of Catholic business ethics lies the recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of every human person, every person is created in the “image and likeness of God” and for that reason deserves the utmost respect. Pope Francis reminds us, that although “business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world” which “can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good”, it is also devoid of value without the human person and his or her dignity as its core (Evangelii Gaudium). Our businesses, therefore, should strive to create a positive impact not only in terms of financial prosperity but especially in fostering human flourishing and the advancement of the common good.

Integrity is a fundamental pillar of Catholic business ethics. We are called to embrace honesty, truthfulness, and fairness in all our dealings. Integrity demands that we are transparent and accountable for our actions, demonstrating consistency between our words and deeds. By upholding integrity, we build trust within our organizations, strengthen relationships with stakeholders, and foster a culture of ethical behavior that permeates throughout our business practices.

Moral decision-making is another cornerstone of Catholic business ethics. Here I say Moral and not ethical.  I can make ethical decisions without being a religious person.  As we know, not all “ethical decisions” are moral especially, as they are defined by modern society. A religious person, however,  makes moral decisions.  As leaders, we face numerous choices that have far-reaching consequences. It is essential to discern and evaluate these choices in light of our Catholic values and teachings. By adopting a moral approach to decision-making, we demonstrate our commitment to upholding the fundamental principles of our faith and contribute to the flourishing of individuals and communities impacted by our actions.

Catholic business ethics also call us to embrace the virtue of solidarity. Catholics are defined by the fact that we are in “communion” with our Pope and the rest of the Catholic world.  I would posit that for Catholic business leaders such as yourselves, communion manifests itself in the concept of solidarity. Whether we like it or not, we are members of a global community, interconnected and interdependent. This is especially true in the modern world of business. Decisions should reflect a genuine concern for the well-being of others, especially those who are vulnerable or marginalized. You have a particular responsibility to use your resources and influence to alleviate poverty, promote social justice, and advocate for the common good. By practicing solidarity, you demonstrate your commitment to building a more equitable and compassionate society, always reflecting the love of Christ in your actions. Let us draw inspiration from the words of St. John Paul II, who reminds us, “Business activity must be essentially ethical and socially responsible if it is to be truly human” (Centesimus Annus).

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The second thing I would like to emphasize is the fact that for a Catholic business leader transparency and honesty must serve as essential pillars of successful and virtuous businesses. By embracing these principles, you build trust with your stakeholders and contribute to a fair and equitable society. Transparency involves providing accurate and timely information, ensuring open communication channels, and being accountable for our actions, being truthful and avoiding manipulation. Transparency, as an essential principle of Catholic business ethics and forms the bedrock upon which trust and accountability are built. As we know from experience, authentic transparency is the only real prevention and cure for corruption and coverup. We must tell the truth even if it is difficult and, sometimes, makes people angry. Our bottom line can never be dollars and cents, it is truth, honesty…integrity.

Transparency and honesty are not just ethical imperatives; they also contribute to the long-term success of your businesses. In an era marked by increasing demands for accountability and corporate social responsibility, organizations that operate with transparency and honesty tend to be more resilient, attracting and retaining customers, partners, and investors who value ethical conduct. However, transparency and honesty require more than just lip service; they necessitate a commitment to continuous improvement. If you are transparent in your dealings, your employees are more likely to be transparent as well. This culture of transparency can lead to improved decision-making, as accurate and complete information allows us to assess risks, identify opportunities, and make informed choices for the benefit of our organizations. As Catholic business leaders, you are called to exemplify the values of transparency and honesty in your organizations and beyond. Let us remember the words of St. Paul, who urged the early Christians, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no” (Matthew 5:37). Our words and actions should align, reflecting the truth and integrity of our Catholic faith.

Third, the proper treatment of employees is another critical aspect of Catholic business practices. I cannot emphasize this enough.  There is nothing that makes a more Catholic impact than the CEO who treats the president of his company and the custodian with same affection and respect. Our faith teaches us to recognize the inherent dignity of every human person, and as employers, we have a responsibility to respect and care for our employees. As Catholics, we have an obligation to love them. Treating employees with dignity begins with fair compensation and just working conditions. It means offering wages and benefits that reflect the value of their contributions and enable them to support themselves and their families. It means providing safe and healthy work environments, fostering their physical and emotional well-being. It means ensuring that they have access to adequate rest, reasonable work hours, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. We should foster a culture of mutual respect, recognizing that our employees are not mere means to an end but partners in the pursuit of our business goals. By treating our employees with dignity and fairness, we foster a positive and harmonious work environment that ultimately benefits your businesses.  Happy, respected employees make their companies successful.  This is a fact.

As I have already mentioned, at the heart of our Catholic teachings lies the recognition that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. As Pope Francis reminds us, “We must work for a society in which there is no longer any first, second, or third class, and in which every person is recognized and treated as a brother or sister” (Evangelii Gaudium). Our businesses should be vehicles for human development, promoting the dignity of every employee. Here, I want to bring up another essential point in our globalized markets and that is supply chains.  Make sure that the labor involved with your supply chains is ethical, human and non exploitative, particularly in the areas of human trafficking and child labor. This requires due diligence and commitment of resources and personnel, but it is very important.  What good does it do to run a “catholic” business when your supply chains are contaminated by slave labour?

Beyond fair compensation and working conditions, treating employees with respect requires creating a culture of mutual respect and open communication. We must actively listen to their concerns, ideas, and feedback, valuing their unique perspectives and contributions. By fostering a culture of respect, we build trust, loyalty, and commitment among our employees, leading to enhanced productivity and long-term success.

Fairness is another essential aspect of treating employees properly. It means implementing policies and practices that are just and equitable, ensuring that every employee is treated fairly, irrespective of factors such as gender, race, religion, or social background. Fairness involves providing equal opportunities for advancement and promotion, based on merit and qualifications. It also means recognizing the value of different perspectives and experiences within our organizations.

Furthermore, as Catholic business leaders, you are called to foster a sense of community and solidarity among your employees. By promoting collaboration, teamwork, and a shared sense of purpose, we enable our employees to thrive both personally and professionally. We should encourage opportunities for personal development, mentorship, and ongoing training, empowering them to grow and fulfill their potential. By fostering a supportive community within our organizations, we demonstrate our commitment to their overall well-being, building relationships founded on compassion, understanding, and mutual support.

Also always interact personally as much as possible with your employees. Often we leave decisions to other employees about personnel matters when maybe our own involvement could lead to a more just and compassionate response. People are not numbers, they are not Baht or Dollars, they are God’ children. (Victor Hugo, Les Miserables and Fantine. If Jean Valjean had only paid more attention to her and what was happening.) Let us be guided by the words of St. Paul, who said, “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).

My final point is that as Catholic businessmen, you are called to be stewards of God’s creation. The care for the environment is a moral imperative rooted in our faith. Pope Francis reminds us that “Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude” (General Audience, June 5, 2013). Our businesses should actively seek ways to reduce their environmental impact, promote sustainability, and contribute to the well-being of our planet. This may include adopting energy-efficient practices, reducing waste, and supporting initiatives that protect and restore the environment. By embracing our role as caretakers of God’s creation, we honor our Catholic identity and demonstrate our commitment to building a better world for future generations.

At the core of our Catholic teachings lies the belief that God has entrusted us with the responsibility to care for His creation. As Pope Francis reminds us, “The Earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters” (Laudato Si’). Our businesses should be reflections of our commitment to environmental stewardship, embracing practices that promote sustainability. By reducing our reliance on non-renewable resources and implementing environmentally friendly practices, we demonstrate our commitment to preserving the Earth for future generations.

Moreover, as Catholic business leaders, you have a responsibility to advocate for and promote environmental awareness and conservation. Your businesses possess unique platforms through which we can raise awareness about environmental challenges and encourage others to take action. By engaging in public discourse, participating in environmental initiatives, and supporting organizations dedicated to conservation, we contribute to a broader movement towards a sustainable and ecologically responsible society.

Another crucial aspect of environmental stewardship is embracing ethical sourcing and, as I mentioned above regarding labor,  responsible supply chain practices. As Catholic business leaders, you should strive to ensure that the resources and materials you use in your businesses are obtained in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. This includes considering the environmental impact of your suppliers, supporting fair trade practices, and avoiding partnerships with entities that engage in activities detrimental to the environment. By making conscientious choices in our supply chains, we demonstrate our commitment to preserving the Earth and promoting justice.

Furthermore, being stewards of God’s creation calls us to foster a sense of ecological solidarity, recognizing that our actions have global implications. We must prioritize environmental justice, ensuring that our business practices do not disproportionately harm vulnerable communities or contribute to environmental degradation. We must always be careful about exploiting poor communities for our benefit. This type of resource colonialism has been going on for centuries now, all you need do is look at parts of Africa and Asia.  It has left nothing behind but a a scarred and destroyed landscape and scarred and destroyed peoples. Let us be guided by the words of Pope Francis, who reminds us that “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (Laudato Si’). May our businesses be beacons of environmental stewardship, reflecting the light of Christ and inspiring others to embrace a sustainable and ecologically responsible future.

In conclusion, as Catholic business leaders in Thailand, you are called to view business as a noble vocation, integrating our faith into your professional lives. By upholding Catholic business ethics, practicing transparency and honesty, treating our employees with dignity, and caring for the environment, we exemplify the values and teachings of our faith. Let us draw inspiration from the words of Pope Francis, who urges us to be “builders of a new humanism, that truly serves the human person, and that can come about only through the culture of encounter, dialogue, and reciprocal collaboration” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 7, 2019). May our businesses serve as different examples, a new, hopeful model, spreading the values of compassion, justice, and solidarity in the marketplace, and contributing to the greater good of our society.Thank you, and may God bless each one of you in your endeavors.

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