Archbishop Crepaldi on 'Metaprofits'

Van Thuân Observatory Weighs in on a 3rd Business Category

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

ROME, NOV. 14, 2011 ( Here is Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi’s introduction to a book produced by the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory for the social doctrine of the Church. The book considers a category of businesses dubbed «metaprofits.»

The archbishop is the president of the observatory.

* * *

The book by di Giorgio Mion and Cristian Loza Adaui, «Verso il metaprofit. Gratuità e profitto nella gestione d’impresa» (Towards the metaprofit: Gratuitousness and profit in business management) ventures into the field of ‘metaprofit,’ a field still new in many ways. New, as far as I know, in the name itself.

In order to understand the meaning of this research endeavor it is necessary to return to an excerpt from Benedict XVI’s «Caritas in Veritate.» As we know, this encyclical tackles numerous emerging issues, and among them the progressive erosion of the confines between profit and non profit (or not for profit, as some people prefer) on the part of new economic-entrepreneurial activities. Here is the excerpt in question: «When we consider the issues involved in the relationship between business and ethics, as well as the evolution currently taking place in methods of production, it would appear that the traditionally valid distinction between profit-based companies and non-profit organizations can no longer do full justice to reality, or offer practical direction for the future. In recent decades a broad intermediate area has emerged between the two types of enterprise. It is made up of traditional companies which nonetheless subscribe to social aid agreements in support of underdeveloped countries, charitable foundations associated with individual companies, groups of companies oriented towards social welfare, and the diversified world of the so-called ‘civil economy’ and the ‘economy of communion.’ This is not merely a matter of a ‘third sector,’ but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society. It is to be hoped that these new kinds of enterprise will succeed in finding a suitable juridical and fiscal structure in every country. Without prejudice to the importance and the economic and social benefits of the more traditional forms of business, they steer the system towards a clearer and more complete assumption of duties on the part of economic subjects. And not only that. The very plurality of institutional forms of business gives rise to a market which is not only more civilized but also more competitive» (No. 46).

Benedict XVI observes the emergence of many business enterprises in the world of economic endeavor that brim over the borders of both profit and non profit. It is not a matter of economic and entrepreneurial endeavors located along a sort of border line where profit and non profit overlap and blend together with one another, but rather new realities impossible to situate in the two aforementioned categories, and not even a blend of various degrees thereof. After noting the birth of this new economic world and offering a few examples, the Holy Father calls upon scholars and experts to investigate this phenomenon in order to provide politicians and lawmakers with instruments able to help them regulate it in legal and fiscal terms.

Note well how Benedict XVI explicitly asserts that this is not a matter of a «third sector,» thereby seeking to surmount in definitive terms the «residual» conception of non profit, and most likely as well the triangular synergy among market, civil society and state projected by John Paul II in «Centesimus Annus.» In that encyclical John Paul II had spoken about «the society of free work, enterprise and participation,» which «is not opposed to the market, but asks to be suitably controlled by the social forces and the state.» Metaprofit, therefore, is not the «third sector» alone, and the juxtaposition of the three dimensions fails to take reality into consideration.

Benedict XVI’s proposal is rooted in the general structure of «Caritas in Veritate,» which, as I made an effort to demonstrate in an Introduction to it[1], consists in the proposal of the priority of «gift» — the act of receiving — over what we produce ourselves. In the mind of the Holy Father, «gift» belongs to economic activity by statute and not by concession.

Written by two young professors of business economy, this book explores the reaches of the «metaprofit» indicated by Benedict XVI and accepts the Pope’s call to deepen knowledge of it. Coined within the ambit of the International Observatory Cardinal Van Thuân on the Social Doctrine of the Church, the word «metaprofit» is more than suitably expressive of this new reality and this new commitment. In fact, the prefix «meta» means «beyond» as well as «through.» It indicates that profit must tend to something which stands beyond it and with respect to which it serves a functional purpose. This is a new application of the deep lying conviction of the Social Doctrine of the Church that the pursuit of the transcendent also permits the attainment of immanent results.

This is an expression of our Observatory’s research activity in dual fidelity to the Social Doctrine of the Church and the truth of disciplines from a viewpoint of ordered interdisciplinary relations[2].

— — —

[1] G. Crepaldi, Introduzione a Benedetto XVI, Lettera enciclica «Caritas in veritate», Cantagalli, Siena 2009, especially pages 19-24: «Il ricever precede il fare».

[2] G. Crepaldi and S. Fontana, La dimensione interdisciplinare della Dottrina sociale della Chiesa, Cantagalli, Siena 2006.

— — —

On the Net:

«Verso il metaprofit. Gratuità e profitto nella gestione d’impresa»:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation