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The Practical Soul of Business Ethics: The Corporate Manager's Dilemma and the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church
Seattle University Law Review
  • Leo L. Clarke
  • Bruce P. Frohnen
  • Edward C. Lyons
Publication Date
This Article focuses on and attempts to dispel an overly narrow view of the moral responsibilities of corporations and their managers. Many businessmen and lawyers, relying on prevailing approaches to business ethics, labor under the misperception that the moral ladder in the business world has only one rung: "Be honest." Americans, however, should, can and do expect more from the managers of our large corporations, and virtually every Fortune 100 company publicly espouses a "social responsibility" far exceeding mere honesty. Further, as is demonstrated, American jurisprudence is consistent with those expectations. This Article's thesis is that Catholic Social Teaching provides a reliable set of principles for resolving the Manager's Dilemma because it provides a consistent basis for evaluating the human aspects of the nature and purposes of economic relationships that corporate law, business ideology and popularly accepted economic theory fail to adequately address. In other words, this Article proposes a strategy for resolving head/heart dilemmas consistent with a manager's corporate fiduciary duties. Part I introduces the ethical dilemma facing officers and managers in today's corporate environment. Part II considers the purportedly conflicting notions of ethical responsibility imposed on a corporation and its actors, and focus on the various interpretations that have been offered in defining the scope of that ethical responsibility. Part III describes the basic elements of the social teaching of the Catholic Church and the pertinent concepts of natural law philosophy that follow from and support that teaching. In particular, it argues that this social teaching can be an effective source of guidance for corporate managers wanting to synthesize their moral, ethical, and professional lives. Finally, Part IV offers five examples of how Catholic Social Teaching would apply to specific business scenarios.
Citation Information
Leo L. Clarke, Bruce P. Frohnen and Edward C. Lyons. "The Practical Soul of Business Ethics: The Corporate Manager's Dilemma and the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church" (2005) p. 139
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