The Moral Dimensions of Transparency

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By recognizing the dignity of the person and seeking the common good, transparency has both practical and moral benefits.

The Global Institute of Church Management advocates for the implementation of best practices from the business world in the administration of the Catholic Church. These best practices belong in the Church not only because they increase efficiency, but also because they possess a valuable moral dimension. Transparency, for example, safeguards against fraud and scandal. Yet, transparency also upholds the Catholic Social Teaching, through which the Church articulates human nature and applies the faith to aspects of every day life. By recognizing the dignity of the person, upholding the value of knowledge in deliberation, and seeking the common good, transparency has both practical and moral benefits.

The Dignity of the Person

Transparency supports the rights to knowledge and free choice which are fundamental to the Catholic understanding of the person. In order to do good, a person must act freely in light of relevant information. The practice of transparency – whether in finances, the workplace, or the larger institution – ensures that each person serve to the fullest of their capacity.

People are ends in themselves, created and loved by God. Transparency recognizes the reality of human nature, refusing to manipulate people or treat them as means to an end. Instead, transparency acts as a safeguard within the workplace by promoting honesty, openness, and cooperation. It prevents unsuspected manipulation and significantly decreases the opportunity for fraud and embezzlement, which unfairly take advantage of others.

Knowledge Empowers for the Good

Transparency ensures that relevant people receive pertinent information. In distributing knowledge to the rightful recipients, the practice of transparency implicitly affirms the value of this knowledge within the deliberative process. The best decisions are made with full access to accurate information. Transparency enables better deliberation and empowers the organization to fulfill its aims through legitimate and thoughtful means.

For example, financial transparency assists organizations in stewardship because it entails an accurate financial assessment, a clear understanding of responsibility, and an open communication with both employees and people outside of leadership positions. Internally, individuals can ensure that their financial decisions effectively promote the mission of the organization. Externally, donors can be assured that their contributions are being used well. Everyone is empowered to choose the good through the availability of relevant information which helps them determine which course of action to take.

The Common Good

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the common good as “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (CCC 1906). Since transparency affects an organization and all its constituent parts, it presents an opportunity to nourish the common good of that group.

Within organizations, transparency creates a culture of openness and honesty which facilitates greater achievement of the mission. All people – both inside and outside the organization – benefit from transparency because it offers a paradigm which promotes moral action within business. By promoting ethical practices, respecting human beings as moral actors empowered by knowledge, and creating a culture favorable to virtue, transparency offers a trajectory which promotes the common good. The Catholic Church can lead by example, instilling her own institutions with transparency and promoting morality’s role within business practices.

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