Tenderness, strength, and truth essential to law and business

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend delivered a lecture entitled “Staying Tender, Strong, and True in the Modern Workplace” hosted by the MBA Association and the St. Thomas More Society on February 15, 2024. 

Bishop Rhoades’ lecture centered around his claim that virtues such as tenderness, strength, and truth are indispensable to the legal and business professions. The Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph—should be looked to for their examples of these virtues, the bishop said.

Bishop Rhoades also spoke to those who might view Mary’s tenderness only as a viable example for wives and mothers. He said, “We need to look more closely at Mary’s tenderness. It is not disconnected from strength and courage. In fact, Mary, who held her son tenderly in His arms following His bitter crucifixion, first stood courageously at the foot of the cross.” The bishop went on to say that this tenderness is a main calling of those in the legal and business professions, noting that the virtues required to care for clients and those in need are exemplified not just in Christ but in Mary as well. 

Bishop Rhoades also emphasized that men and women possess the same virtues in complementary ways, including the virtue of tenderness. He emphasized that the Catholic tradition provides many exemplars of virtue for both men and women: “Women may be more drawn to look to Mary as an example of tenderness, and men may be more drawn to look at Joseph as an example of tenderness.” 

Speaking to the students of the Mendoza School of Business and the Notre Dame Law School, Bishop Rhoades advised them on remaining true to the ideals of tenderness, strength, and truth in the workforce: “Showing loving kindness in the worlds of business and law may seem like a tall task, but it basically means being a faithful disciple of Jesus in the workplace, treating others with respect, kindness, and compassion. It means witnessing to Christ and His goodness at work as well as at home.” 

Bishop Rhoades stressed that “truth” should be understood to mean loyalty and faith to another, just as it is used in Catholic vows of matrimony. The bishop used the examples of St. Homobonus, St. Matthew, and St. Thomas More as models in truth for those working in business or law, pointing out how each of these men was able to be faithful to God despite pressures to use their human power against God’s will. He gave examples of each man intentionally choosing to serve God over business or legal prowess, instead taking the more difficult path that ultimately led two of them to martyrdom. 

Bishop Rhoades said of St. Homobonus, the patron saint of businessmen and women, “He was a devout Catholic and looked at his employment as a gift from God. He was scrupulously honest, very hard-working and industrious, and enjoyed great commercial success … The more his business grew and prospered, the more he gave his money away to the needy.” 

Again mentioning a saint of the business world, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the apostle St. Matthew: “St. Matthew is patron saint of financial professions because he left behind his occupation as a tax collector to follow Jesus. To be true to Jesus and His teachings, he could not continue to participate in government-sanctioned larceny.” The bishop remarked that St. Matthew did not compromise his belief in God by remaining in his dishonest work, instead leaving his occupation behind to follow Christ.

The bishop also mentioned the patron of the law school group that co-hosted the lecture: St. Thomas More. More’s willingness to remain true to his faith and convictions despite the threat of death from King Henry VIII should serve as an example of the extent to which those in law and business need to remain true to Christ above all, Rhoades said.   

The bishop concluded his lecture with a Q&A session, where he was asked a variety of legal and business ethics questions. Most notably, Bishop Rhoades recommended to all that if they should find themselves in a workplace where their religious views were not being respected, they should look seriously for alternative places of employment. The bishop noted that while modern workplaces do not often promote the same views as their employees, the distinction between difference in belief and restriction of practice is one that must be carefully discerned in cases of such ethical concerns in the workplace.

Bishop Rhoades concluded by remarking that he would continue to pray that the business and law students of Notre Dame grow in these virtues through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He also spoke to Right to Life of Notre Dame on February 19, and responded to Cardinal Mario Grech’s lecture on the role of a synodal bishop on February 26.

Madeline Huie is a sophomore majoring in music performance, theology, and classics. She enjoys spending her non-existent spare time drinking coffee from her wombat mug while crocheting too many blankets. Please send classical music suggestions or random inquiries to her at mhuie@nd.edu.

Photo Credit: Kasia Balsbaugh

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