Many organizations in Western culture subscribe to a secular philosophy when conducting business as it relates to their labor management policies and practices. I believe that Catholic Social Teaching Principles (CSTP) can be successfully introduced into organizations, but it would require a number of building blocks in order to open up opportunities for CSTP to be introduced into industry, workplaces and our communities. In essence without CSTP in the workplaces, families – the building blocks of any society – suffer, along with the communities they live in.
To get a proper perspective on what I am suggesting below, it may help if one has a fundamental appreciation for two specific encyclicals:
LABOREM EXERCENS – St. John Paul II
RERUM NOVARUM – Pope Leo XIII
I encourage all Catholics to read these since they directly impact our lived experiences on our communities and our families.
The purpose of my proposal below is to help introduce, if not CSTP, at least a semblance of spirituality and humanization in the workplace, resulting in the long sought dignity of the worker, who in essence, spiritually speaking, is carrying the weight of the world on his/her shoulders.
Through these proposals, it is my hope that those who seek to promote or create a workplace
that adheres to CSTP will find in these proposals a practical approach; a set of goals and objectives that take the spirituality of Rerum Novarum and Laborem Exercens right to the shop floor. These proposals are meant to work in tandem with each other rather than independently of time and space. They are to work cohesively and collaboratively if they are to have any effect at all. Any headway made by any one of these proposals will create an opportunity for anyone of the others. Any weakness in one will potentially create a weakness in the others.
Finally, the proposals which involving the larger institutions or organizations should be considered those that need to lead the charge; the battering rams of spirituality of work and the dignity of the worker.
1. The Roman Catholic Church must fully support the principles of CSTP as historically proclaimed by
Popes St. John Paul II and Leo XIII. This would include the Church at the international level and at the local level working collaboratively with labour groups, employers and state representatives helping them to understand and formulate policies, principles and practices in support of CSTP in the workplace. The support of Catholic lay groups and networks is essential. Furthermore, the Church should form strategic alliances with organizations at the community level that support and practice CSTP to better connect with organizations that can provide practical applications of CSTP in a community on a daily basis.
2. There must be a collaboration among International Labour Organizations, particularly those that
currently actively or indirectly espouse CSTP, to ‘evangelize’ CSTP at the International level and across International borders. CSTP should be practiced internally by all International Unions to acclimatize
their executives and senior members to CSTP. In particular they must establish a practical and principled connection between CSTP, and positive labour/employer/community/state and Church relations.
3. National/regional/local Labour Unions must spearhead CSTP in the workplace by negotiating and including practical and actionable contractual and covenant language reflecting CSTP into collective agreements. In addition, CST should be included as part of the daily local union business operations at the work floor level. It should permeate all communications between union members, their union local and employer representatives. Furthermore, the CSTP language should not be used as ‘fodder’ language to trade off for gains in financial resources offered by the employer, but should be self-standing negotiating language that the union is willing to take ‘action on’ such as a strike or take less on the financial side of any settlement they may reach. The focus should be long term and not immediate gains for the membership.
4. Business/professional schools must introduce, as part of their core curriculum, ‘spiritual related courses’ exploring ethical, moral and social justice themes to better prepare students for the reality of their profession in its full spectrum and in a holistic fashion rather than a narrowly defined technical application of learning principles based on positivist principles and applications. What I seek is not indoctrination, but introduction to and an exploration of these complex themes as practical professional tools at their disposal should they wish to use or promote them.
5, Graduate and Post Graduate students studying CSTP should further study, research, analyze, critique and generate scholarly discussions on research reflecting CSTP in practical application properly outlines the theoretical, biblical and practical principles of CST in workplaces. They must be able to successfully straddle both the academic field and the economic realities of business/industrial organizations. These academics must present their finding or arguments in a way that allows for scholarly examination yet is practical enough for business, community and state non-academic professionals to understand.
.6. Catholic economists, accountants and financial professionals need to develop social economic/finance theory, research methods, practices and analytical methods that help support CSTP in workplace decisions, national considerations at the state level and in the social fabric of communities. This would also include supporting research at the academic institutions as well. There has to be a distinct move from simply conceptualizing ‘the spiritual’ to actually setting practical applications of ‘the spiritual’. As part of the practical applications, internal organizational reports need to be developed that account for a social accounting of the organization. In particular, accountants and finance professionals need to develop business economic/financial concepts that allow the organization to look at profitability as an indicator of success rather than its sole purpose. Financial success needs to be redefined using CSTP.
7. Organizations that are serious about work/life balance, the holistic wellbeing of their employees, human rights, employee engagement, and community support, must develop, promote and action ‘vision and mission’ statements that reflect CSTP as a starting point. They must also explain, educate and provide practical examples of how they expect their employees, and managers to adhere to these vision and mission statements. They cannot simply post them on the wall for all to see – they must be lived.
8. Governing bodies of Professional Associations should introduce value/mission statements and professional standards for members that reflect CSTP or at the very least elements of spirituality focusing on ethical and moral standards, practices and considerations for the profession. This should be holistic in nature. In other words, reflecting all stakeholders. Furthermore violation of these standards should result in a discipline that reflects the severity of the violation and does justice to those who were violated, and to those who consistently strive to meet these standards.
9. State Governments must allow for the liberalization and the free practice of faith and spirituality in government workplaces while maintaining a secular position as far as the endorsement of any particular faith or belief system is concerned. As with the professional associations, governments must also introduce value/mission statements and professional standards that reflect CSTP principles (in a secularized format) or spirituality focusing on ethical and moral behaviour. This ‘workplace spirituality’ should be part of the orientation training for all new employees and any employees entering or being promoted to a supervisory or management position.
My attempt at outlining these proposals is not to provide specific practices, but to allow opportunities for the natural development and growth of CSTP or at the very least an introduction of spirituality into the workplace. Though CSTP, in my opinion, is the most developed foundation for providing dignity to workers and humanizing the workplace, any form of spirituality that allows the movement away from strictly or narrowly defined profit oriented organizational goals or objectives to one that is more holistic and employee/community inclusive/centered in its view is a step closer to humanizing the workplace and providing a workplace where the dignity of the worker remains the primary focus of the organization.
Ultimately, the onus of introducing, championing and putting into practice these proposals lays squarely on us Catholics. Nothing will get started unless we, as Catholics, take the first bold steps and lay the ground work for those that follow. Just as Jesus Christ set the example for His Apostles; this current generation of Catholics needs to set the example in our workplaces, organizations and our communities for those Catholics coming up behind us. Where others may view our sacrifices as a cost, we as Catholics should view our sacrifices as calling.
Copyright 2016, Luciano Corbo