Time Ripe for Business Ethics, Says Cardinal

Curia Figure Warns That Scandals Amount to a Suicide Attack

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ROME, MAY 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- In the face of financial scandals and failures of large enterprises, the field of business ethics must be addressed again, says a cardinal of the Roman Curia.



Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, retired prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, expressed this conviction when he addressed a recent congress of the Union of Industrialists of Rome, organized under the theme "Business, Ethics and Legality."

"The last two decades have certainly been of great economic development, but also of great moral failures for the financial community," the cardinal said.

"Legality is certainly an essential guide for financial activity and should be something obvious for businessmen," he said. "In fact, business could not survive without the legal order, since contracts, which govern the whole system, have no validity without everyone's respect of the law."

"For this reason, when there is a crime in the business world, the scandal is double: scandal because of the moral failure and scandal because it is a suicide attack on the system itself," Cardinal Silvestrini explained at the May 20 congress.

"More freedom presupposes greater responsibility," he said. "The laws must not be seen as a limitation to freedom, but from a genuine social perspective, as a guarantee of the right of all."

The cardinal stressed the importance of the social dimension of work, quoting John Paul II's encyclical "Centesimus Annus," which speaks of business as "a community of work."

"The Church does not cease to proclaim the principles of the common good and of solidarity as the compass of all social activity," Cardinal Silvestrini said.

"As human beings, we are called to make of our work a means to achieve a harmonious life, in which we grow in full humanity," he continued. "It would be a terrible contradiction and something absurd if our work resulted in making us less human."

He added: "Ethics and religion must not stay at home when we go to work."