The co-editor of A Catechism for Business says religion belongs in the corporate world, and moral guidance drawn from Catholic social doctrine belongs in one’s tool kit to evangelize in the workplace.

Andrew Abela, Ph.D., provost at The Catholic University of America, urged against splitting up those pairs of assets when he delivered the annual Servus Omnium lecture at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, IN, on Feb. 13. He said Catholics must resist pressures to exclude religion from business. Also, corporate leaders can be drawn to the Church when its principles provide answers that secular ethics experts cannot.

When asked whether business people could be catechized without first being evangelized, the business ethics scholar told SPES that guidelines for moral accountability—and the impact of those guidelines—can be compelling for executives wherever they are in their own faith journeys.

“There are many ways to evangelize, many ways to begin a conversation,” Abela said. “What I have seen is, people who have been exposed to the social doctrine of the Church” and recognize its “thoughtful, insightful” content can embrace it as an entry point for faith.

“The teaching is so nuanced, so profound, and makes so much sense in an area where there’s often a lot of division and disagreement, that I think it can be an avenue to evangelize,” said the self-described “revert,” who earned his own Ph.D. in business and ethics from a secular university.

Abela added that it’s a two-way streetpeople discovering or rediscovering the Catholic Church may explore the religion’s social teaching because they say, “I want to know what it means for my work life.”

That’s a healthy curiosity because “it’s really important not to give in to the pressures to keep religion out of business.” Christ’s loving presence in every circumstance of life means “all of our work, everything we do,” should help build up society, Abela said in the lecture. Society should not ask companies to surrender their moral perspective, and business leaders should aim not merely to capture wealth, but to optimize the good for themselves and all stakeholders.

Such an approach is impossible without Christ’s grace because original sin yields self-centered decisions, he said. While legal considerations about imposing religious values and the avoidance of unjust discrimination must be heeded, religion must be welcomed into the workplace as “the source of morality. This fosters better employers, employees, products and services.

“You’re not pressuring anybody,” Abela explained. “You’re just arguing for the freedom to be the best person you can be and for everyone on the planet—loving God makes them the best person they can be.” He noted that “modern ethics,” presented as strictly secular wisdom, “has no way to justify morality” without an appeal to faith in God.

Abela’s lecture was part of a University of Saint Francis (USF) series named for the Latin phrase, “Servus Omnium” (“servant of all”). It is taken from a letter in which St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my Lord.”

The USF lecture series draws hundreds of people every year, including leaders from the diocese and the region, as well as the university and its founders, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, who promote the school’s Franciscan values.

The Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, opened the 7 a.m. event with a prayer invoking God’s blessings on The Catholic University of America and the University of Saint Francis “in their noble mission as institutions born from the heart of the Church.”

Abela described how Catholic social doctrine focuses decision-makers on the need to pay just wages to employees and the responsibility to use wealth and private property for investments and acts of charity that serve all people. Pursuit of those and other principles in Church teaching can be challenging in the marketplace, but it is possible—and often successful in the earthly as well as eternal sense—when executives rely on the grace that flows from their constant relationship with Christ.

“Doing good and doing well tend to go together,” he said.

In response to an audience question about how The Catholic University of America evangelizes its own faculty to embrace faith and the Church’s social doctrine, Abela said the university engages in various forms of faculty formation.

Reading groups on campus are now studying the apostolic constitution on higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which reminds teachers to bring truth, beauty and goodness to their students.

He cited a teaching of the Second Vatican Council: “Man finds himself by making a gift of himself.”