I’d like to talk about what it means to be a Catholic university, a Catholic business school and a Catholic businessperson.
A Catholic university, to be authentic, has to do three things. It has to be determined to become the best in the business. And St. Thomas has never settled for mediocrity.
The second goal is to be authentically Catholic. If you’re a Catholic university, there’s a rule about truth in packaging that demands that we be who we say we are. St. Thomas has always maintained – under Father Dease and Monsignor Murphy – a desire to be authentically a Catholic institution. If we move away from that, then we lose everything.
Third, we have to take care of the poor. Dean Puto recently wrote about making sure no one who wanted to get into St. Thomas, and who was qualified, should ever be turned away. That is essential. You can’t strive for excellence or to be authentically Catholic unless you take care of the poor. These are the three things a Catholic university must aspire to.
A Catholic business school must take these goals and specify them. It must be founded on the basis of the social doctrine of the Church. It should look for excellence and take care of the poor, but always teach in a way that reflects who we are and what we believe.
A document from the Second Vatican Council refers to those who have a view of economic life that is in conflict with the appreciation of human dignity. It states that “A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimately the end of economic activity is morally unacceptable.” This is what the Church believes; this is what we teach.
A second quotation addresses the danger of making profit motive your only goal: “Any system in which social relationships are determined entirely by economic factors is contrary to the nature of the human person.” It’s a very strong remark. We believe if economic factors are the only key to a social relationship at the expense of human dignity, then you are off-key, and you will not achieve what you are looking for.
So a Catholic business school, if it’s going to be authentically Catholic, has to have an emphasis that seeks human relationships more than a profit motive. That’s the secret of a Catholic business school. And that is the secret of success for the Opus College of Business.
Now, to address the role of a Catholic businessperson. I’ve been a friend of Gerry Rauenhorst’s since he was a little boy, and I have seen him grow in wisdom, strength and generosity over the years. He is a man who supports and lives all the things that I just recited. Gerry understands these goals and has successfully integrated them into the Opus Corp.
There is a wonderful line from Pope John Paul II that can be applied to Gerry, his family and to the Opus College of Business. “Everyone has the right to economic initiative. Everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will hereafter help everyone harvest the just fruit of labor.” In other words, we are allowed to be competitive, but the purpose of the work you do is not just for yourself. You must include others – the common good. Gerry has done this for 60 years.
I’ll end with a wonderful line from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The ownership of every property makes its holder a steward of providence, with the task of making it fruitful, and communicating its benefits to others, first to his family.” This has been the life of Gerry and Henrietta Rauenhorst. It’s a great life, and it’s produced so many good things for so many people. If Catholic social teaching is correct – that what we do in our own initiative is something not just for ourselves, but for others – then they have achieved this. And we are all grateful, from the bottom of our hearts.