Franciscan professor speaks on role of Catholicism in economic system


“Without the moral basis, the modern economic system will self-destruct,” said Professor Joseph Zoric in his presentation on economics and the papal encyclical “Centesimus Annus” on Oct. 22. Zoric, director of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s MBA program and associate professor of business, gave a presentation in the Gentile Gallery on how the United States’ current economic situation would be different if the principles of “Centesimus Annus” were put into practice.

“Centesimus Annus,” written by Blessed Pope John Paul II, focuses on Catholic teaching on the social order. The encyclical, Zoric said, elaborates on a three-part Catholic society consisting of democracy, economic freedom and a moral culture.

Zoric emphasized the need for a vital moral culture and the validity of Pope John Paul II’s assertion that in an ideal Catholic society, “The human person is at the core of the economic system.” He pointed out that just as successful firms focus on serving the needs of workers and customers, so do successful nations focus on serving the needs of the people.

Zoric added that while the encyclical allows certain amounts of government intervention, it simultaneously stipulates that government should ultimately function at low levels in society. He said that people often believe it is permissible to use violent means to gain power, but warned, “No political hierarchy can ever be confused with the Kingdom of God.”

Pope John Paul II stressed that we need to use our freedom responsibly, Zoric explained, which means the government ought not to coerce its people but ought to cater to the good of the people.

Zoric further emphasized “Centesimus Annus'” insistence that people in an authentic Catholic society ought to work together.

He quoted the encyclical: “Mention has just been made of the fact that people work with each other, sharing in a ‘community of work’ which embraces ever widening circles. A person who produces something other than for his own use generally does so in order that others may use it after they have paid a just price, mutually agreed upon through free bargaining.”

Zoric then discussed how the U.S. would be different if it adopted the encyclical’s vision of the human person. He said that if the government took a more person-oriented approach to education, then various methods of education could be tried to see what works and what doesn’t work.

The current “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach,” Zoric said, does not put the person first and never allows society to figure out what method works best. Zoric also said that putting the human person first would drastically improve our health care and housing issues.

At the end of his presentation, Zoric humorously noted that he could go on and on about the necessity of a virtuous economic system in order to experience the freedom the founding fathers wanted us to have. But, he said, “This room is only reserved for 90 minutes.”

Zoric’s presentation was sponsored by the Students for Freedom and Justice Club.

“We feel that, especially on this campus, there is a lot of good intention but not a lot of knowledge about things like economics,” said Michael Schmiesing, president of the club. “So we thought professor Zoric’s presentation would help us learn how to make informed decisions in different situations, like when we are voting.”

“Professor Zoric’s talk was excellent as he presented one of the finest social encyclicals of the 20th century with exemplary analysis,” said Joe Zenge, who attended the talk.

Another attendee Gary Lizotte said, “The main thing I got from the presentation was that it’s better for the dignity of the human person when people earn things for themselves rather than having things handed to them. This applies whether it’s a nation or an individual.”

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