Talk delivered by Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro, Iloilo, during a forum on Church-Business Partnership and corporate social responsibility, May 18, 2011, at Harolds Hotel, Cebu City.

Most Rev. Jose Palma, Archbishop of Cebu, my brothers in the priesthood, members of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, Bukas Loob sa Diyos, and Couples for Christ, representatives from the Cebu Business Club, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cebu Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Mactan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, mga higala ug kaigsoonan, maayong hapon kaninyong tanan.

Right after I was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro in 2008, a religious approached and jokingly warned me, “Now that you are a bishop, there are two things that will happen to you: one, they will feed you well; and two, they will not will tell you the whole truth.” Challenged by this, I always strive to relate with people in such a way that it will be easier for them to tell me the truth, no matter how painful or embarrassing these may be.

This afternoon, I welcome this opportunity to have this dialogue with you, on the truth that really matters: of what we have become as a people after almost 500 years of Christianity. As the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines puts it, “We should have become by now a light of faith to edify the nations of the Orient. We should have become by now a people renowned for its Christian way of life and its fidelity to justice, charity, and peace.” (PCP II Message)

I feel comfortable having this dialogue with you because I can feel your great desire to make a difference through concrete expressions of service.

Forty years ago, in 1971, 35 bishops and 30 businessmen, in the Bishops-Businessmen Conference (BBC) in Baguio City, made a commitment that the church and the business community must cooperate to address the problems of development in the Philippines.

In its statement, the conference vowed to be the beginning “of a continuing fruitful dialogue”– so that church people and businesspeople, with farmers, workers, youth and other sectors, can jointly contribute toward a fuller human life for our people.

In 1971, the term “corporate social responsibility” was not so popular then. Economist Milton Friedman, in a 1970’s article in the New York Times, said that “the one and only social responsibility of business, is to increase profits for shareholders.”

BUT in year 2000, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development defined Corporate Social Responsibility as “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development, while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families, as well as of the local community at large.”

In 2007, Prof. Felipe B. Alfonso of the Asian Institute of Management presented two views on why there is a need for Corporate Social Responsibility:

1) The Immediate View– an illiterate, homeless, sick, unemployed workforce could wreak havoc on the economy. “Without change in those social conditions, companies would not survive.”

2) The Long View– Development is the “process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy and (removing) the sources of unfreedom: poverty, tyranny, poor economic opportunities.” Social development is influenced by economic opportunities, political liberties, and encouragement of the “exercise of people’s freedom in making public decisions.”

It is good that economists are providing some insights why business needs to be involved in social development.

Now, more than ever, we have seen the need to revisit some teachings of our Church, which could strengthen our resolve in jointly taking on the challenges besetting our country and our people.

Together, as Christian business people and leaders of our Church, we STUDY THE SOCIAL TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH on business and the economy to be guided how to put into concrete action, the MISSION OF JESUS for us in the world of business and the economy.

We must take note of the key principles of the Church’s social doctrine, which spring from the supreme commandment “to love God and neighbor in justice.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Libertatis Conscientia, 72)

These principles are the following:

1. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. (CSDC, 160) As good citizens and as Christians, we are called to actively defend the human person and to safeguard human dignity. (cf. CSDC, 538)

2. The common good- Pope Benedict XVI, in his latest social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, explains that, loving someone means taking steps to secure the person’s good. Since we live in a society, we have to strive for the common good, which is the good of “all of us”. Desiring the common good is a requirement of justice and charity. The more we strive to secure the common good, corresponding to the real needs of our neighbors, the more effectively we love them.” (CV, 7)

3. Solidarity – highlights the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights and the common path of individuals and peoples towards an ever more committed unity. (CSDC, 192) Solidarity, as an authentic moral virtue, is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good because “we are all really responsible for all”. As a social virtue, it is a commitment to justice, to the good of one’s neighbor instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him’ instead of oppressing him for one’s own advantage (cf. Mt 10:40-42, 20:25; Mk 10:42-45; Lk 22:25-27)”.

4. Option for the Poor- The special commitment to the poor is to enable the poor to become active participants in the life of society. It is to enable all persons to share in and contribute to the common good.

The “option for the poor” principle perceives that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor, wounds the whole community. The extent of the poor’s suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of persons. These wounds will be healed only by greater solidarity with the poor and among the poor themselves. (Economic Justice for All, 88) Healing these wounds requires from us, our willingness to assume the perspective of those who are the weakest and powerless members of our community.

These are the pillars of the Church’s Social Teachings. In this forum on how church and business could work together for the development of society, let us now take up the specific teachings of the Church on the economy and business.

1. The human being is THE primary reality in the Church’s view on the business world or economics.

Economics is made for human beings, not human beings for economics. The Holy Bible teaches us that human beings are meant to cultivate and nurture nature so that nature can provide human beings with the means to live decently.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power”, but it is meant to serve the entire human community. (CCC, 2426)

Pope Benedict XVI explains that “The economic sphere is part and parcel of human activity and must be structured and governed in an ethical manner.” This means that economic activities should be conducted through genuine human social relationships of friendship and solidarity. (CV, 36)

What then is to be considered while pursuing the objectives of business?

A business’ objective must be met in economic terms, but we must not neglect human values which bring about the concrete development of the person and society. A business is not just a ‘society of capital goods’; it is also a ‘society of persons’. Here, people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital or take part in such activities through their labor. (CSDC, 338)

While pursuing profitability of business activities, “allowing workers to develop themselves fosters increased productivity and efficiency in the very work undertaken. A business enterprise must be a community of solidarity that is not closed within its own company interests.” (CSDC, 340)

An example is the experience of Ancilla’s consultancy firm of Tita and Renato Puangco. Applying Focolare’s concept of Economy of Communion, Ancilla’s mission is to “be a helping hand” in enabling change breakthroughs, adopting practices which respect the dignity of the human person. In the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s, Tita and Renato were still able to manage their company with a certain profit. Impressed by the relationship with their employees, some of their biggest clients worldwide chose them as partners for the Asia-Pacific region. Then, while many Philippine businesses retrenched employees, the company opted to increase salaries to cushion the impact of the crisis on the families of their associates.

2. The dignity of the human owner of capital does not depend on how big or small is his/her capital.

It depends on his/her dignity as made in the image of God. More specifically, the owner of capital shares in the divine ownership of all of God’s creation, as God’s steward; just as the human worker shares in God’s image as a co-creator. Both are CO-EQUAL in dignity as human beings created in God’s image.

The teaching, Universal Destination of the Goods of this Earth says that “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone.” (CSDC, 171)

Those who work in the economic sphere and who possess goods have to consider themselves as “administrators of the goods that God has entrusted to them.” (CSDC, 328) “The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others.” (CCC, 2404)

We have to re-examine the traditional notion that capital is superior to labor. They both need each other; without which nothing could be produced in normal circumstances.

Church’s teachings include the right of workers to have a just or fair share of the goods they co-produce with capital. There are situations, for example in cooperatives, where the owner or owners of capital are also the workers and managers.

The relationship between labor and capital also finds expression when workers participate in ownership, management and profits. On the basis of his/her work, each person is fully entitled to consider himself/herself a part-owner of the great workbench where he/she is working with everyone else. A way towards that goal could be found by associating labor with the ownership of capital, as far as possible.“ (CSDC, 281)

3. Just as the human owner of capital has dignity, the dignity of human labor also does not depend on the kind of work one does; but on the dignity of the human person as such.

This dignity comes from the biblical teaching that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. As a worker, a human being shares in the specific trait of God as the one and only creator; the human worker as God’s image becomes a co-creator of God. Blessed Pope John Paul II says, “Created in God’s image, we were given the mandate to transform the earth. By their work, people share in God’s creating activity.” (LE, Introduction)

For example, when St. Joseph and other carpenters in the world make a table out of a tree created by God, the carpenter activates his or her dignity as a co-creator of God the Creator.

Thus, since the workers’ dignity has to be protected, “Business owners and management must not limit themselves to the economic objectives of the company. It is also their precise duty to respect concretely the human dignity of those who work within the company.” These workers constitute “the firm’s most valuable asset” and the decisive factor of production. In important decisions concerning finances, such as in decisions to buy or sell, to resize, close or to merge a site,” the welfare of workers must also be considered. (CSDC, 344)

a. Since a worker has dignity, the human worker is not a commodity.

Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 noted that “it gradually came about that the present age handed over the workers, each alone and defenseless, to the inhumanity of employers and the unbridled greed of competitors. “ (RN 6) Thus labor has become “a commodity to be freely bought and sold on the market, its price determined by the law of supply and demand”. (CA, 4)

Human dignity is insulted in subhuman living conditions, as well as in disgraceful working conditions, where workers “are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons”. These situations “poison human society.” (GS, 27)

Pope Benedict XVI explains that societal development has a direct link in poverty and unemployment. “In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or “because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it…” (CV 63)

b. The rights of workers must be respected.

Pope Benedict XVI further says that in loving others, we need to practice both justice and charity. “Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him.. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all, we are just towards them.” (CV, 6)

The rights of workers, like all other rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on his/her transcendent dignity. The Church lists some of these rights, in the hope that they will be recognized in laws:

-the right to a just compensation
– the right to rest
– the right “to a working environment and to manufacturing processes which are not harmful to the workers’ health”
– the right to appropriate subsidies that are necessary for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families
– the right to a pension and to insurance for old age, sickness, and in case of work-related accidents
-the right to social security connected with maternity
– the right to assemble and form associations or unions. (CSDC, 301)

Blessed Pope John Paul II said that the Church “recognizes the fundamental role played by labor unions, whose existence is connected with the right to form associations or unions to defend the vital interests of workers.” Unions, while pursuing their specific purpose with regard to the common good, are a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life.” (CSDC, 305) Unions have the duty of educating the social consciences of workers so that they will feel that they have an active role in the whole task of economic and social development. (CSDC, 307)

We have discussed the Church’s social teachings which must be considered in Church and Business Partnership as we jointly work for social development:

1. That the human being is THE primary reality in the Church’s view on the business world or economics.
2. That owners of capital as stewards, and labor as God’s co-creator have co-equal dignity.

The above social teachings of the Church must be lived by the Christian LAITY in business or in the world of economics. Your constant challenge is, “How would you remain faithful to these moral and social principles, while keeping an equal eye on the rules of the market, or the dynamics of the business world?”

The BBC of 1971 said that “every Christian, whether bishop, priest, religious or lay, has a strict duty as a Christian to actively participate“ in the realization of a just and progressive society. “The Church, as the divine guardian of the moral order, must proclaim the truth against all forms of injustices. Just as we condemn irresponsible government action, we must also condemn business whenever business exploits man for material gain. And whenever the institutional church itself fails to live up to its preachings, the institutional church itself stands condemned.”

I’m sure that there have been attempts among you in running your business according to SOUND principles of economics as well as according to SOUND Social Teachings of the Church. I would love to hear more about such attempts since we boast of being the biggest Christian nation in the Far East; and we, here in Cebu, are the first to be evangelized in the Philippines.

The words of PCP II I quoted earlier, come back as a challenge to us church and business leaders: “We should have become by now a light of faith to edify the nations of the Orient. We should have become by now a people renowned for its Christian way of life and its fidelity to justice, charity, and peace.”

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