Hesburgh lecturer: God has plan for business

By True McManis


God has a plan for business just as He has a plan for people, a noted University of Notre Dame finance professor shared this spring at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Notre Dame’s Dr. Martijn Cremers shared this and other thoughts about “Business in Light of Catholic Social Teaching” presentation at the eighth annual Hesburgh Lecture.

The Hesburgh Lecture Series is a product of the University of Notre Dame and covers a wide range of topics and speakers. Named after the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, a Notre Dame president emeritus, the series is an effort to encourage intellectual dialogue between students, alumni, community members and Notre Dame faculty.

Sponsored at UIW by the HEB School of Business Administration, the lecture featured Cremers, the Bernard J. Hank Professor in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. He has had his academic work published in some of the top academic journals such as the Journal of Finance and Review of Financial Studies. His work has also been used in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

Cremers said he believes a corporation can be viewed as a community or a sort of social organization,

During the lecture there were a lot of questions on the topic that Cremers welcomed and navigated with ease despite the two different worlds. Cremers said business is done by people, with people and for people.

The religious center for many of Cremers’ teachings stem from teachings of various popes as well as the biblical Book of Luke specifically focused on one of the Lord’s parables focusing on a rich man who wants to store vast amounts of earthly treasures for himself.

Teaching business as something that should be used to satisfy the basic needs of everyone in the organization as well as to form a group at the service of society as a whole, Cremers does not consider there to be anything inherently wrong with business.

Profit is the regulator of the life of business but should not be the only regulator kept in mind. In the long term, other human and moral factors are believed to be more important to the life of a business than profit.

Citing Pope Francis, Cremers discussed the importance of politics as well as economics in promoting an inclusive approach to everyone. Cremer went on discussing how humans have a social responsibility to others, especially to those that are the most frail and weak, that should shape every political and economic decision.

“We should all benefit from the fruits of our labors, but fundamentally goods are meant for everyone,” Cremers said. “All gifts are gifts from God.”

According to the Catholic Church, wealth is only considered legitimate if it serves useful work. Wealth should be used not only to provide for the needs of the individual and their family, but also their community and nation, ultimately providing for the needs of humanity.

“Through work and business we can become better persons,” Cremers said. “We can use skill and freedom to grow.”

Even if the profits of business are used to help others, there are many things to be careful about, he said. If aid is given to those that can fully help themselves, the opportunity for them to grow as well as their freedom is taken away. Rather, a community should support others in need and coordinate its activities with those of others, always working towards the common good.

Another thing to be careful about is how one acquires the wealth they may use for others, as any materials achieved through unjust practices are considered immoral.

The purpose of “Business in light of Catholic Social Teachings” is believed to contribute to human flourishing and advancing human dignity in the common good for the glory of God, Cremers said, “provided that as individuals we give to our society, our society will give back to us and we will have our needs provided for.”

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