Issues of honesty, morality and political responsibility have grabbed the media headlines since the beginning of 2008, today 2014 even more than usual. In order to address these issues and participate positively in responding to them as practicing Christians, we need to go back to the basics and principles of morality and business ethics, and review them so we can better understand what Christ wants us to do. We share with you excerpts from BCBP’s latest book, Evangelizing Presence: Living the Moral Life Today, authored by Fr. Pat Giordano, S.J., and Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila, and encourage you to get your own copy to fully appreciate our mission as BCBP Christians in the marketplace.
Business today regularly confronts situational dilemmas in the marketplace that put real strain on the application of one’s Christian beliefs and moral lifestyle. We see corporations with Mission and Vision Statements, Codes of Conduct, and Statements of Business Principles and Policies. Yet many times these human-based ethical systems are drawn up to spell out the top management’s human desires and goals without considering what, if any, are the underlying moral values that should provide the Code’s foundation.
The foundation of a moral workstyle is not so much following the rules of ethical behavior as it is imitating the Way of Jesus Christ. Therefore, every Code of Business Morals and Ethics must begin with an identification of the moral character of the business aligned with Jesus’ value system. Ethics, the study of human character, follows. This approach sets priorities in right order – God first; human happiness and fulfillment of business obligations to shareholders, employees and customers follow.
At this point it must be understood that there can be no “moral life” without a companion “spiritual life” and vice versa. One nurtures the other. Authentic spiritual development must occur at the same time as one’s moral development. The prophet Micah (6:8) provides a basis for the balanced life:
“You have been told, O man, what is good,
and what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do right and to love goodness,
And to walk humbly with your God.”
These instructions are quite clear: it is not enough to love goodness and do what is right, to be spiritual. We must act out our faith in our daily life in active service of one another following the example of Jesus.
Living honestly with integrity of character, living the moral life demands living and growing in prayer, being strong and courageous enough to directly confront the sin in our life and overcome it. Christian moral life through prayer is empowered by grace, the gift of God Himself to us. In this sense, Christian morality is a call, a vocation, rather than a law, a vocation to be concerned with life as part of Divine Nature, a calling to be responsive in making this world a friendlier and more caring place in which to live.
Honesty, integrity and morality – moral living is not simply following a set of “do’s” and “don’ts”. It is a way of life, living out our faith and walking with Jesus Christ throughout our journey of life. It is allowing ourselves to grow in love and holiness, to throw away our masks, little hypocrisies, and pretenses, and become authentic Christians through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Living a moral life commits us to the ongoing process of liberating and transforming men and women into disciples of Christ.
How do we respond to the challenges of morality and its distortions in today’s marketplace? This is where moral courage comes in. Moral courage is the capacity to have the moral will-=power to withstand the temptation to succumb to wrongdoing, and to uphold one’s well-formed and informed value system with a clear conscience. Such courage requires confidence in oneself to do the right thing, patience in pursuing the path of justice in love, and the perseverance and vision to follow one’s chosen path.
John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, Regarding Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church’s Moral Teaching, tells us that it is possible to obey God and love God and neighbor, in our every day activities.
“It is in the Crucified Christ that the Church finds the answer to the question troubling so many people today: how can obedience to universal and unchanging moral norms respect the uniqueness and individuality of the person, and not represent a threat to his freedom and dignity? … The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom.” (VS, #85)
We live in society together with other people; we live surrounded by family, by neighbors, by community. Thus politics and political life are integral to our life and work. Is it possible for the Christian to live the moral life when on every side we are surrounded by immoral acts, by dishonesty, by hypocrisy?
Political authority in its purest form directs an ordered and upright community life in such a way as to assure citizens of their basic freedoms and rights as well as define their social and civil responsibilities, for the attainment of the common good. Such authority should be moral in nature and promote justice, peace, and healthy relationships between the political authority (those in leadership positions) and the people (those not holding positions of authority).
The Church clearly tells us that moral values and morality are the foundation for a progressive and democratic society, and for its political leaders and institutions. More than economic formulas or dependence on electing a better group of leaders or change in system of government, if we are to realize a better national community, we must go back to basics – to fundamental Christian moral values. Political parties should not only enumerate their positions on national issues in their party platforms but should also reveal their respective value and morality standards, with each of their candidates aspiring for office living out these values in their personal and political lives.
We cannot change others by shouting in street rallies, or by angry criticisms leveled at our perceived opponents over radio or TV. We must begin with ourselves.
What comprises my value system?
Am I honest?
Am I just in my relationships?
Does my everyday life reflect Christ in me?
Are my business dealings righteous and ethical?
Do I encourage honesty, morality, and goodness in my leaders?
Am I willing and courageous enough to stand up for my beliefs and Christian values?
Am I living out the Vision and Mission of the BCBP in my life and in my marketplace?
We need to acknowledge that politics, political exercises, and political leaders are a reflection of the people they serve. If we sell our votes to the highest bidder, then we should not be surprised when those we voted for look for nefarious ways to recover their “investment”. It is said that there are no great leaders where there are no great followers. We could paraphrase this and say: there are no great moral leaders where there are no morally honest followers.
As committed members of the BCBP and as followers of Jesus Christ, we are challenged and called to be heroically honest, heroically moral, heroically unselfish, and heroically responsible followers and set the example for our leaders. Where the situation warrants, we must also be heroically moral and responsible steward leaders who are, in turn, models for our followers.
This book is available through the BCBP National Office or Nancy Russell Catan, BCBP Manila, c/o MAPECON Phils.