The following is part of a series of essays published by the Caux Round Table, an organization of business leaders dedicated to shaping a moral capitalism. Forthcoming on HCS will be the contributions of Dr. H Khayat, Senior Advisor to the Regional Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office; and Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs, the American Jewish Committee, as well as prefaratory remarks by CRT Global Executive Director Stephen B. Young.
Paul Cardinal Poupard was born in August 1930 in Anjou (France). He was ordained in 1954. Named a Cardinal on 25 May 1985, he is currently a member of the Congregations for Divine Worship, Evangelisation of Peoples and Catholic Education, and of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Besides having been awarded various civic, political and religious honours and decorations, he is a doctor honoris causa of several universities including: Aix-en-Provence, Fu Jen, Louvain, Quito, Santiago de Chile, Puebla de los Angeles.
He completed 2 doctoral theses at the Sorbonne in theology (on the links between faith and reason) and history (on Church-State relations). He has made numerous contributions to collections and articles in periodicals and encyclopaedias. His own works have been translated into Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, English, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and other languages. He was principal editor of the Dictionnaire des Religions, now in its 3rd. edition in its French and Italian versions, its 5th. in Spanish.
The Pontifical Council for Culture was founded by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Cardinal Poupard has been President since then. He was also responsible for the Secretariat for Non-Believers, later the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers, of which he was President. That Council was merged into the re-founded Pontifical Council for Culture in 1993.
Many years passed and the eaglet, already an adult bird now, began to grow old. Years later, it grew very old. Throughout his life, the eagle had never raised his eyes towards the sky but kept looking at and digging into the earth. Then one day, he looked up and he saw a magnificent bird in the cloudless sky. It flew so gracefully and flapped its golden wings so majestically.. And as with effortless ease it soared higher and higher, it sang its own song with such shrill thrilling sounds.
The old eagle looked up in amazement and asked:"Who is that?".
“That is the eagle, the king of the birds", said his neighbor. "He belongs to the sky. He was made for higher things. We belong to the earth and must remain alas at ground level."
The poor old eagle, though an eagle, lived and died a chicken, for that is what he thought he was!
II. When I was therefore invited to this Conference and assigned the theme The Foundational Moral Imperatives of Our Times, I willingly seized the opportunity because as a Churchman I am convinced that I have a message to share in the areopagus of what I would term the economic and business world of today. We cannot keep God out of business because it is His business to be in business! Indeed, the world is God's business for He not only created it but continues to sustain it. I am here not so much to offer solutions as to raise questions, not so much to upbraid as to uplift, not so much to excoriate as to encourage, not so much to condemn as to correct, not so much to break down as to build up.
Before we consider the foundational moral imperatives that must govern our personal and social lives, let us take a quick look at the times in which we live. Indeed, the times in which we live are replete with strange contradictions. We have gone to the moon and back, and yet find the neighbor next door far too distant to meet with and help. We have conquered outer space and yet the inner space within ourselves remains unexplored and untenanted. There seems to be an emptiness from which we seem to be running and we are afraid to face. We have built soaring skyscrapers that provide the backdrop for stinking slums. The tragedy is that we can pass such sites without even so much as batting an eyelid. While there are countries blessed with such abundance from bumper harvests that can well afford to waste and throw away food, there are millions of our brothers and sisters who being in want go to bed hungry. Is it not appalling that, according to the statistics provided by the Food and Agricultural Organization, every four minutes someone somewhere in the world dies of hunger? Is it that there is not enough food to go round? Certainly not. The painful truth is that those who have, hoard, and do not want to share with those who have not. The soul-searching words of St. Basil the Great, the monk, bishop and ascetical writer, who lived in the fourth century after Christ come to mind:"The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked. The shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit."
We think of the millions of Euros spent in violence when a small fraction of that sum could have been utilized to meet the needs of the millions of the poor and the suffering in the world. I recall those powerful words of Dwight Eisenhower in his 1953 speech which, after the tragic events that we have experienced in recent times, sound so prophetic:"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, for those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."
III. Let me be realistic: even as I depict the times in which we live, from the time I began my speech this morning, one more person has died and one more family has the burden of grief having to bear the pain of
IV. I have, deliberately, painted a little, the world scenario of our times to enable us to situate in this context the urgency of inserting the foundational moral imperatives as also to help us all sit up and reflect in order to strive to bring about a positive change through principled and enlightened business leadership. The unreflected life is not worth living. Reflection helps us not only to search within but to soar above ourselves. Like the poor old eagle we need to be awakened and to become aware of the fact that we were born and created for greater things, that there are heights to be scaled and ideals to be attained. Each one can humbly yet honestly exclaim: Natus sum ad maiora! I was more than pleased, therefore, to know that almost at the beginning of our meeting here at Caux you have assigned me the important task of dealing with the theme The Foundational Moral Imperatives of Our Times. The theme chosen by you is challenging because it courageously addresses some of the key issues which confront us today both as individuals and as members of this global village. Having thus sketched in broad outline the picture of our times, let me now deal with what I consider to be the foundational moral imperatives.
Foundational: The very term indicates that which is basic, vital, pivotal, important, essential and necessary. To visualize the full significance of this term let us try to imagine a building without any foundations! Something basic and essential is missing. That edifice is doomed to disaster and destined to destruction for it will most certainly collapse. Indeed, the higher a building the deeper must be its foundations just as the taller a tree the deeper are its roots. It is when the roots are rotten that the tree crumbles and collapses. Even cedars of Lebanon have fallen! And the fall does not take place overnight. It is over years and generations that the rot sets in as it eats away at the roots. Then, unexpectedly, in the twinkling of an eye, the tree comes crashing down. The decline in public morals can be viewed in this light. The collapse may appear sensational but it has been long in the making just as the storm brews before it bursts!
What, we may ask, are therefore the very foundations for the Moral Imperatives of Our times? What is urgently required to form and guide our conduct both as individuals and members of society? What will put back on to the track humanity which today seems to have been derailed and heading for self-destruction? More positively, what would enlighten and encourage us in the world of politics, science, economics and business that will enable us to rethink the spiritual and social life within business? As human beings we need, not merely to exist but to live, to unravel the meaning and mystery of life. It is important therefore that we rediscover a culture of work that is not merely governed by the quantum of production but takes into account and caters to the collective needs of the individual human person and society as well. I would categorize these foundational moral imperatives into three putting them in the order of priority: God, Man and Solidarity.
No matter what religion we practice or religious persuasion we pursue, we cannot for a moment deny the existence of God.. To think of the world, or for that matter, a life without God is just as frustrating and futile as trying to conceive a circle without a center. The drama of atheistic humanism is far over and those who tried to evolve the thesis that God is dead, to their great surprise have found that He has far outlived them! We are meeting in a Switzerland that enjoys a world of famous tradition for the excellence of its wrist watches. They are perfect, prestigious and priceless. Now suppose admiring one such excellent wrist watch a friend asked you as to who made it and you answered:"Well, the many intricate parts just fell together and got assembled into a watch!", if your friend did not know that you were joking, he would be the first to run for his hat and get away taking you as one who had lost his mind!
If a small product like a wrist watch needs a maker how much more does the great universe call for a great Maker! We have only to behold the order in the Universe: the solar system with its galaxy of planets and stars; the sun that rises and sets; the tides that flow in and flow out; the seasons that follow one another with such a regular rhythm; the flowers with their particular fragrance, color, shape and size; the fruits with their specific sweetness and seasons; the birds in the air, the fish in the waters, the animals on land. There is such a magnificent harmony, such a wonderful order. If there is such a universal order there must be a Master Mind that minutely planned it and carefully carries out His plan. No wonder the psalmist looking towards the sky exclaimed in adoration and praise:
“Great is your name, Lord, its majesty fills the earth.
When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars that you have arranged,
What is man that you should keep him in mind,
Mortal man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:1)
The whole of creation points to the Creator. The various cycles that we behold in Nature are abundant proof that God is at work. In our short-sightedness we can stop at the creature and forget the Creator, we can contemplate the sign and be oblivious of the Reality. The wise man points to the moon but alas the fool sees only the finger!
The order in the universe indeed points to the One who put it all together. It is one of the most common and convincing proofs of the existence of God. If that is true, it is also tragically true that the disorder in our world is proof of God's existence! If I may revert to the example of the watch, when the hairspring is missing the watch just cannot function. You may have a perfectly polished dial with an attractive design. But if the hairspring is missing, something foundational, fundamental and basic is absent. The watch will stop dead. The malaise that ails our world today stems from the fact that we have forgotten God. He is like the fifth wheel, the spare tire, in our traveling kit to which we have recourse only in the event of a puncture along the road of life. Someone has said that God made man and woman in His own image and likeness. And man and woman have returned God the compliment! We have fashioned God to meet our needs; we have made Him to fit into our plans. And when we find Him inconvenient, we get rid of Him as something disposable. We have invented and imposed on ourselves and on others as well a"Do it yourself morality"! "What pleases me is right; what I decide is true. What I choose is correct", we seem to say, and thus delude ourselves. As a result, we have kept God and morality out of business. We have pandered to our own lust for profit and gain, falsely subscribing to the theory that happiness lies in having what you want rather than in wanting what you have. Often in our confusion we mistakenly conclude that if the vast majority thinks and acts this way, it must be right and that newspaper reports are Gospel truth. But truth is not necessarily with the majority. Truth from whatever source it comes, ultimately comes from God. He is the criterion. He is the yardstick. He is the measure of what is right and wrong. Precisely because we have jettisoned God over board as so much useless jetsam, our shores are littered and lined with so much wreckage and ruin. The restlessness that often fills our lives makes us remember the classic lines of St. Augustine:"Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they will continue to be restless until they find their rest in You" (Confessions 1.1).
In a recent work entitled The New Faithful in which the author Colleen Carroll researches as to why young adults are embracing Christian orthodoxy she states:"…many young orthodox Christian are not content to separate themselves from a society rife with unwanted pregnancies, addiction, violence and divorce, protesting only occasionally at rallies with like-minded peers. Instead, they want to actively engage secular culture…Young believers often reject the separation of the sacred and the secular that marks modern political thought. Instead, they see the two as inextricably connected, and they hope to transform the public square with the same faith that has transformed their personal lives."
In short, many among the youth today and they are the future of the world are searching for authenticity and coherence; they are looking for the happy blend between faith and life. These are not to be compartmentalized but rather coordinated so that one lives what one believes and one believes what one lives. Young people are eager and indeed desire to be always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks them for a reason for their hope. As responsible adults, we must not disappoint or delude them. Having treated with the primordial foundational moral imperative that is God, we turn our attention to Man.
Very much part and parcel of the moral foundational imperatives that we are dealing with is man, the masterpiece of God's creation. While man was made for God, the whole of creation was made for man. He is the high priest of creation in that he gives tongue to the hymn of the universe. While God is the Lord of creation, man is but its steward. As such, he is responsible and accountable to God. Indeed, man is the only creature who really works: machines function and animals labor. It is important to recall that even in the world of business, man cannot act on his own as though he were a law to himself, accountable to no one. "We are not dealing here with man in the ‘abstract', but with the real ‘concrete', ‘historical' man. We are dealing with each individual, since each one is included in the mystery of Redemption, and through this mystery Christ has united himself with each one for ever. It follows that the Church cannot abandon man, and that ‘this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission…the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption'." Business is the breeding ground of a country's economy which, for better or for worse, affects the lives of people. The Church,"expert in humanity", as Pope Paul VI stated on 4th October, 1965, in his visit, the first of a Pope to the United Nations in New York, is fully aware of and appreciates the dilemma in which man finds himself today. Nearly forty years back, in her Pastoral Constitution The Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council he stated:
“The dichotomy affecting the modern world," to which I earlier referred "is, in fact, a symptom of the deeper dichotomy that is in man himself. He is the meeting point of many conflicting forces. In his condition as a created being he is subject to a thousand shortcomings, but feels untrammeled in his inclinations and destined for a higher form of life. Torn by a welter of anxieties he is compelled to choose between them and repudiate some among them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as he is, he often does the very thing he hates and does not do what he wants. And so he feels himself divided, and the result is a host of discords in social life."
It is this basic dignity with which man has been endowed that needs to be taken into account and respected always when dealing in the political, social, economic and business world. Man is not merely a pawn on the chessboard that can be manipulated and moved at will without reference to what he is and without respecting his freedom and conscience. He is the image and likeness of God. He is the only creature endowed with intelligence and freedom. He has both his origin and his destination in God. That is why human life is so sacred. From the womb to the tomb not for a moment can we ever pretend to forget his dignity.
I wish to quote from Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture, a document released by the Pontifical Council for Culture in May 1999 which while speaking of the dignity of the human person affirms:"The Church asserts the dignity of the human person, is struggling to cleanse society of violence, social injustice, the abuses of which street children are victims, drug trafficking, etc…In this context and affirming her preferential love for the poor and the excluded, the Church is duty bound to promote a culture of solidarity at every level of society: government institutions, public institutions and private organizations. In striving for greater union between people, between societies and between nations, the Church will associate herself with the efforts of people of goodwill to build a world that is ever more worthy of the human person. In doing this, she will contribute to: ‘reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere, and the loss of the values of local cultures in favor of a misconstrued homogenization'" (Ecclesia in America § 55).
Indeed the glorification of man in no way diminishes the glorification of God. God and man are not to be seen as rivals for"the glory of God is man fully alive" remarked St. Irenaeus, the French Bishop of the second century. Whether it is politics, medicine, education, economics, business, sport or social uplift, the focus of our efforts and energies must be the good of the human person, for the greatness of man redounds to the glory of God.
But as human beings, we do not live in isolation but in interdependence. We live with others, we interact with others, we depend on others. We need others even as others need us. Our life is a web of relationships. None of us is self-sufficient. None of us can live alone. "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18) said God, after he had created Adam. We live in society. We lived with others. Whatever we do, for better or for worse, is bound to have an impact on others. And whatever others do too has an impact on us. The poet John Donne put it so eloquently when he wrote:"No man is an island. Every man is part of the mainland. And when the death bell tolls, ask not for whom it tolls. It tolls for you, O man, because you are part of mankind."
In an insightful text Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter The Splendour of Truth Shines speaking on morality and the renewal of social and political life states:"Only God, the Supreme Good, constitutes the unshakable foundation and essential condition of morality, and thus of the commandments, particularly those negative commandments which always and in every case prohibit behavior and actions incompatible with the personal dignity of every man. The Supreme Good and the moral good meet in truth: the truth of God, the Creator and Redeemer, and the truth of man, created and redeemed by him. Only upon this truth is it possible to construct a renewed society and to solve the complex and weighty problems affecting it, above all the problem of various forms of totalitarianism, so as to make way for the authentic freedom of the person."
These are weighty words to ponder! The prime place in any foundational moral imperative must be given to God. In the measure that this primacy is preserved does the human person assume importance. It is only when the human person is respected and revered because of his God-given dignity can a renewed society be constructed. We are in the era of globalization, of instant information technology. What we must strive to attain is a globalization and ethic of solidarity and security. At times the media can be wrongly used and can"…sustain economic systems that serve acquisitiveness and greed. Neoliberalism is a case in point: ‘Based on a purely economic conception of man', it ‘considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples' (Ecclesia in America § 156)." Any field of human endeavor or enterprise must strive to bind rather than break, to build rather than to destroy the bond that ties the individual to society at large.
We cannot live insulated or isolated lives precisely because we are ‘part of the mainland.' We need to live in solidarity because"God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone. This is the foundation of the universal destination of the earth's goods." We are living in a fast shrinking world, a world that has already become a global village. Indeed, the Church desires"…a globalization which will be at the service of the whole person and of all people." At the mere touch of a keyboard we can see for ourselves the event that is taking place hundreds of miles away. Information technology spans all distance and bridges every gap. Solidarity is thus easily within our reach!
I wish to end with what I began: the simple story of the eagle who remained a chicken. That can happen to any one of us unless we ponder and are awakened to accept, acknowledge and appreciate the totality of the talents with which we have been endowed by God. We are not just creatures like the rest of creation. No, we are the masterpieces of God's creative handiwork blessed with an intellect and free will. We are not just individuals caught up in our own little world and oblivious of the rest of humanity. No, we are members of society, fellow citizens of a world closely connected in a bond of solidarity with other human beings. We are not just rational animals. No, we are also endowed with an immortal soul. From God we came and to Him must we return. Only an integral understanding and appreciation of the totality of who we are and where we are going will help us to become aware of our God given dignity and destiny. Then, hopefully, our eyes will be opened and we will have the joy of knowing that we need not remain mere chickens scratching the earth to look for the worms and insects of trivialities but like the eagle soar high on the wings of reason and of faith towards God Who made us and Who awaits to welcome us on our return. I like to think that God has created an"incomplete" world. He has invited each one of us to bring it to completion. This we can surely achieve by bringing about a positive change through principled business leadership such as has been dwelt on in this presentation by building firmly on three basic realities: God, Man and Solidarity.