Apostles of the Modern Day: Legatus Helps Catholic Businesspeople Respond to the Challenges of ‘Woke’ Ideology

Alongside of its basic structure of formative programs, the Catholic executive peer group has added new initiatives to assist members in living out their faith constructively in their corporate and business contexts.

Michael Knowles speaking at February Legatus Summit. Legatus President Stephen Henley addressing the crowd at the summit.
Michael Knowles speaking at February Legatus Summit. Legatus President Stephen Henley addressing the crowd at the summit. (photo: Courtesy photos / Legatus )

When attorney Charles LiMandri joined Legatus, an organization of Catholic executives, 20 years ago, he had just heard Jesuit Father John Hardon say the culture would one day become so hostile to Catholics that some would be martyrs.

“I thought, ‘We live in America. This could never happen.’ But that was 20 years ago and now I know differently. He was prophetic.”

Today, through his law practice and work with the Thomas More Society, LiMandri is fighting some of the battles the late Father Hardon foresaw, bolstered by his membership in Legatus (Latin for “ambassador”). 

Attorney Charles LiMandri
Attorney Charles LiMandri.(Photo: Courtesy photo)

The Catholic executive peer group was founded 35 years ago by entrepreneur Thomas Monaghan, whose vision of forming influencers to take their faith and its values into the world of business also seems to have been prophetic. 

As so-called “woke” ideology pervades the culture, impacting corporations and even small businesses, Legatus has responded on multiple levels by adding new initiatives while continuing to do what it always has done: grounding Catholic business leaders and their spouses in their faith so they can apply it to their personal and business lives. 

Thomas Monaghan
Thomas Monaghan(Photo: Courtesy photo)

One of its latest offerings is a concierge service linking members to the National Catholic Bioethics Center for consultations with experts on moral and ethical issues. 

Stephen Henley, Legatus president, said the benefit is designed to ensure that members maintain their moral compass and get advice for the conundrums they are facing. 

For example, Henley said, with Silicon Valley companies entrenched in woke ideologies that conflict with Catholic teaching, a Legatus member might ask, “Is it moral to use different types of software programs built and made by these organizations? How do you get away from such companies or do you have to?” Through the service, members are provided with a specific phone number and email address enabling them to reach out to the NCBC team with their questions.

Legatus also is collaborating with the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America to offer webinars to Legatus members on topics relevant to the current business culture. In one planned for early summer, Andrea Lucas, a member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), will talk about practical and legal implications of diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Additionally, in the next few months, Legatus will be sponsoring its own webinar for members on navigating the diversity, equity and inclusion landscape.


Formative Activities

Alongside such newer initiatives, Legatus continues to offer its 5,000-plus members direction through its basic structure of monthly chapter meetings and annual summits as well as forums, small groups that meet separately to share their personal, professional and spiritual lives. Over the years, this basic format has been instrumental in forming Legatus members so they can be salt and light in the world, engaging in the cultural battles of the day.

Recent speakers at chapter meetings and summits have sought to educate members and address their concerns about the current ideological environment. Among these has been attorney Mary Rice Hasson, cofounder and director of the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Person and Identity Project, who spoke on “Gender Ideology: A Challenge to the Wonder of Who We Are” at the Legatus Summit in February. 

Mary Rice Hasson speaking at the summit.
Mary Rice Hasson speaking at the summit.(Photo: Courtesy photo)

Other speakers at the latest summit included the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles; former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr; University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, who talked about living his faith while working at a public institution; and pro-life activist Mark Houck, who was arrested by the FBI during a raid on his home and later acquitted of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Houck also was presented the Legatus Defender of the Faith Award. 

Mark Houck speaking at the summit.
Mark Houck speaking at the summit.(Photo: Courtesy photo)

When it comes to dealing with the current challenges facing Catholics in business, Henley said Legatus forums may be the organization’s most powerful vehicle. These offer members the opportunity to seek help with particular problems or get feedback on business plans, all under the veil of complete confidentiality. 

“It’s almost like the confessional,” added Christine Owsik, Legatus’ communications director. “Everything is kept in strict confidence. Members don’t even talk about what is discussed with their families or spouses. They know it’s a safe place where there will be no leaks and they can get confidential advice and hit the ground running with it before things get out of hand.” 


Influencing the Culture Positively

In founding Legatus, Monaghan envisioned inspiring members to influence the culture for good and indeed, Henley said, those like Tim Busch, founder of the Napa Institute, would say Legatus is what lit the fire in them to do the work they have done. 

Likewise, LiMandri of the California law firm of LiMandri and Jonna, credits his Legatus relationships with leading him to form the nonprofit Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which recently merged with the Thomas More Society, enabling him to take on more religious liberty cases. These include the recent Tastries Bakery case in which cake artist Cathy Miller refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding reception and another in which a Disney shareholder, Kenneth Simeone, is seeking access to company documents to determine how the board decided to take a stand against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act. “If not for Legatus, I don’t think we’d be doing this work,” LiMandri said. 

His law partner, Paul Jonna, who is president of the Legatus San Diego Chapter, said he considers the chapter meeting — which always includes Mass, the Rosary and an opportunity for confession in addition to a dinner and speaker — to be a key component of Legatus. 

“Just being together in community and gathering regularly for meetings and the sacraments is very important with all the insanity in our culture today.” Additionally, he said, Legatus gives busy executives a place to go where they can hear from leading voices about the issues of the day and how to respond to them. 

His own chapter, Jonna said, has always been very much focused on such issues, including religious liberty, the pro-life cause, traditional marriage and family values. This is true of the national organization as well and is reflected in regular emails from the president on various issues and articles on relevant topics in the monthly Legatus magazine. 

Jonna said a famous quote — “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” — resonated with him when he decided to leave a large law firm and handle religious liberty litigation. 

“I didn’t want to stay neutral and allow evil to triumph. I decided to use my legal talents to help save our culture — one case at a time. I think we can all do more to fight against the evil we see. Catholic executives have a unique role to play. You can keep your company profitable without compromising your values and caving to the pressure of cancel culture. Legatus helps equip Catholic leaders with the resources to find the right balance.” 

Lindsey Nix said Legatus has shown her and her husband, Matthew, that they can run their business and still live their Catholic identity. For instance, she said, as woke ideology threatens the nuclear family, Nix Companies, Inc., has sought to combat those efforts and strengthen employees’ families through such policies as paid maternity and paternity leave and time off during the day for parents to attend their children’s activities.

Lindsey Nix.
Lindsey Nix.(Photo: Courtesy photo )

 “In our area where there are lots of manufacturing jobs and employees don’t get time off to do little things, our workers can leave for an hour and a half in the middle of the day and come back and pick up where they left off,” she said.


New Member’s Perspective

Brian Middleton of Teleos Partners, a succession-planning firm, has only been a Legatus member since January, but he said, “I can see the synergy already. If you put a group of entrepreneurs together and throw a challenge at them, something good’s going to happen.”

Middleton said he and his wife, Susan, ultimately decided to join Legatus because, “We are at a point in our life where we recognize that we need to be around people from our world who are involved in bringing hope into the world … It was time to be part of a group of people as opposed to doing these things on my own.” 

A founding benefactor with his wife of Domestic Church Media, the EWTN affiliate in Ewing, New Jersey, Middleton also helped revive his parish school and bring it under the umbrella of Regina Academies, which he currently serves as a board member. Regina, a private Catholic academy network, was founded by Legatus member Barbara Henkels and her late husband, Paul. 

Brian Middleton
Brian Middleton. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

As a Regina board member, Middleton has had to confront the gender and sexuality issues raised by woke culture. “We’ve rewritten all of our policies that address these issues very clearly to say that if a behavior is inconsistent with the doctrine of our faith, it won’t be acceptable in our school.” 

Now that he is part of Legatus, Middleton thinks being with other members will give him confidence and courage to march in the right direction even more aggressively than he has in the past. 

“For many people in business,” he said, “you think you’re all alone, but being a member of Legatus, I’m around other people that in their own way are trying to figure out ways to bring faith into the marketplace.” 

Middleton said he sees Legatus members as apostles of the modern day. 

“I’ve always believed that if you can affect an entrepreneur, he can touch 200 lives,” he said. “If we can gather as a chapter and have these conversations, each of us can be iron sharpening iron and each take our message in a palatable way into our own community.”