Catholic CEO

How Church teachings can help us build better organizations





Pope Francis.jpg

Principle of Universal Destination of Goods “God destined the earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity" (Gaudium et Spes, 69). This principle is based on the fact that “the original source of all that is good is the very act of God, who created both the earth and man, and who gave the earth to man so that he might have dominion over it by his work and enjoy its fruits (Gen 1:28-29). God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone. This is the foundation of the universal destination of the earth’s goods. The earth, by reason of its fruitfulness and its capacity to satisfy human needs, is God’s first gift for the sustenance of human life (Centesimus Annus, 31).” The human person cannot do without the material goods that correspond to his primary needs and constitute the basic conditions for his existence; these goods are absolutely indispensable if he is to feed himself, grow, communicate, associate with others, and attain the highest purposes to which he is called. (Compendium, 171)

The universal right to use the goods of the earth is based on the principle of the universal destination of goods. Each person must have access to the level of well-being necessary for his full development. The right to the common use of goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order (Laborem Exercens, 19)” and “the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42).” (Compendium, 172)


This principle causes angst with businesspeople.  Everything we were taught in business says that the goods are destined for the owners.  Sure, we pay our employees fairly and treat our suppliers with respect.  That's just good business.  But the profits belong to the owners.

However, the "owner" of the goods is God.  We are merely stewards.  And he has been very clear that the goods of the world, including what we create in our business, belong to all.  

That said, the Church has always recognized that profit is necessary for a business' continued operation, and that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with earning a profit.  But it is a means to an end, not the end itself.  Business exists to serve people, not the other way around.