As Catholics, we believe in the power of truth to make old things new. That’s exactly what’s happening at The Catholic University of America.
Last weekend, the university officially dedicated the new home of the Busch School of Business, Maloney Hall. Originally constructed in 1917, it is a beautiful stone building that has long been a mainstay in the university’s life and work in Washington, D.C. Now, it will serve as the hub for several hundred students a year, as they learn to be entrepreneurs and business leaders inspired by the Catholic faith.
This building is centered around a brand-new chapel, and, in a very real sense, so is the entire business school. We don’t believe that business presents a choice between capitalism and socialism, or between right and left. Instead, we enable our students to ground their business decisions in Catholic Social Doctrine, which transcends partisan distinctions and holds the potential to transform our economy in extraordinary ways.
Put another way, we seek to breathe new life into a tired understanding of business. We believe that business can be a force for good.
The principles of Catholic Social Doctrine, developed carefully over more than a century, define the education that our students receive. For instance: They invite students to uphold both the principle of “solidarity,” which is our responsibility to care for others, and “subsidiarity,” the idea that decisions should be made by those closest to the point of impact.
Our students also wrestle with the principle of private property and the universal destination of goods. The first teaches that human beings have the right to manage their own property. The second says to use that property for the good of others.
And students discover the interrelationship between markets and virtue. Often framed as contradictory, markets and virtue are complementary – and in fact, they each need the other. The market economy provides the economic freedom where virtuous citizens can prosper and lift each other out of poverty. Similarly, virtues like trustworthiness, hard work, honesty, and courage, all of which are first cultivated in non-market institutions like the family, churches, and educational institutions — are essential for the existence of the market economy.
In each of these areas, our students learn to go beyond the tyranny of “either/or” to find a better path of “both/and.” Therein lies the genius of Catholic Social Doctrine and its power to revolutionize the practice of business in America today.
But it’s not just theory. The business school also helps students put these timeless principles into daily practice. Finance, management, marketing, accounting – our professors know these disciplines firsthand. Indeed, most have already forged successful careers in the private sector. Now they pass on their hard-earned wisdom to the rising generation, while reinforcing the students’ foundation of faith. Crucially, students will implement what they’ve learned while working alongside small and medium business owners across D.C. and the metro area. At the same time, the school’s location in “the District” allows an engagement with regulators, and inculcates a spirit of public service.
Such a holistic and balanced formation is vitally necessary in today’s world.
The future holds unprecedented opportunity, and rapid technological progress has opened new frontiers. Poverty, starvation, sickness, want – we’re closer than ever before to overcoming the most towering barriers facing humanity.
But, while such progress seems near, it’s far from certain. To reach that future, we need entrepreneurs and innovators who know right from wrong, and who choose the right. We need courageous people who reject lying, cheating, stealing, and coercion. Above all else, we need well-formed women and men who understand the purpose of business – who seek success only by helping others succeed.
This is our vision and mission at The Catholic University of America’s school of business. In Maloney Hall, the school now has a permanent home. Our students, when with us, live and work in the Washington, D.C. area. After they leave, these young leaders take what they have learned to every corner of the country and many parts of the world.
Our prayer – and our plan – is that they make a positive difference in their communities, using time-honored principles to usher in a new era of shared progress for the benefit of all.
Dr. Andrew V. Abela is the provost and senior vice president of The Catholic University of America. He was the founding dean of the Busch School of Business.