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Catholic Colleges & Universities

Teaching ethics after Enron

A significant national story this year has been the corporate scandals. Almost weekly, newspapers have pictured yet another former high-flying executive on his way to court for alleged financial wrongdoing. President Bush last summer lauded corporate leaders who recognized that “there is more than just a balance sheet.” The same week Jay Leno quipped: “The Senate voted 97-to-0 for tougher regulations. For example, when corporations buy a senator, they must now get a receipt.”

As the scandals spread, the Dow Jones and Nasdaq took a nosedive. Seniors have found their retirement incomes cut substantially. On the other end of the age spectrum, widespread corporate malfeasance raises questions for students preparing to enter the world of business.

Kenneth Goodpaster, who holds an endowed chair in business at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., asks: While Catholic educators have strict guidelines -- in the form of a mandatum -- when it comes to teaching theology, “the same kind of mandate is not in place to guide educators in other disciplines.” He said the spirit of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the 1990 papal document that called for a strengthening of Catholic identity in Catholic higher education, “suggests that Catholic universities that have business programs might want to give special emphasis to Catholic moral teaching on ethics.”

“Is that teaching just ‘outsourced’ to the philosophy or theology departments?” Goodpaster asked.

In this special section on Catholic Colleges and Universities, Patricia Lefevere and Joe Feuerherd report on two Catholic graduate business schools that are using the corporate scandals as “teaching moments.”

Also, we look at a Fordham professor who teaches cyberethics and the newly formed National Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, along with a profile of a Jesuit moral theologian and a new center that studies Catholics in the South.

-- Rich Heffern

National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 2002