Human ecology conference at Catholic U. to apply Catholic social teaching to business

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The daily decisions of businesspeople, from the CEO of an international corporation to a burgeoning entrepreneur, can have lasting effects on politics, economics and culture, as well as on the poor and marginalized. An upcoming conference at Catholic University in Washington will explore how Catholic social teaching can inform such responsibility and offer practical ways attendees can practice their faith and promote inclusive prosperity.

The conference is co-hosted by the university's school of business and economics and the Napa Institute, a California-based organization working to advance the Catholic faith in secular society.

To be a Catholic businessperson means more than attending Mass and keeping the Ten Commandments, said Andrew Abela, provost of Catholic U. and the first speaker at the March 16-18 event. "We also have the mandate to be Christ to others, (and) Catholic social doctrine addresses the moral and ethical quandaries business people face, offering useful principles to guide action."

Entitled "Human Ecology: Integrating 125 Years of Catholic Social Doctrine," the conference focuses on three encyclicals: Pope Leo XIII's "Rerum Novarum" ("Of Revolutionary Change"), St. John Paul II's "Centesimus Annus" ("Hundredth Year") and Pope Francis' "Laudato Si'" ("May You Be Praised").

This year marks anniversaries for the encyclicals - 125 years, a quarter-century and one year, respectively - and the conference will show how each work builds upon its predecessor.

"Catholic social doctrine remains constant, but it is constantly formulated for the time we are in, so that aspects of daily life are explained in a way that is relevant," said conference organizer Andreas Widmer, director of entrepreneurship programs at Catholic U.

Abela, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls, said "Rerum Novarum" discusses our duty to the poor and places emphasis on the virtues. In "Centesimus Annus," St. John Paul II "builds upon Pope Leo's words and says that there must be economic and political stability for people to rise out of poverty," he said. Pope Francis pulls the themes together in speaking about "our common home." Yet "Laudato Si,'" added Abela, is not only about natural ecology, but also human ecology - the relationship between humans and their economic, social and political organizations.

While much attention has been focused on the encyclical's discussion of natural ecology, Abela said his talk will point out that "human ecology is of primary importance" in the work. "We need to address human ecology with the same moral and scientific resolve as we address natural ecology," he said.

Additional conference speakers include Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Juan José Daboub, former managing director of the World Bank; and Michael Novak, former ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Widmer said he invited guests who could bring an international perspective, and their talks will explore a range of topics, including religious liberty, the impact of faith on capitalism and the role of justice in economics and business.

Around 150 people are expected to attend, with academics and religious leaders joining businessmen and businesswomen. Widmer wanted to keep the conference small enough so that speakers are accessible to attendees, and each day includes time for networking and discussion.

The conference, the second of its kind at Catholic U., is an occasion for spiritual growth and will provide opportunities for confession and Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The paramount goal of the conference, said Abela, "is that participants go back to their businesses, work or ministry and make the most of their own gifts and capacities to put Catholic social doctrine into action."

The registration deadline for the conference is March 10.

To register

Go here or call 202/319-5881.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016