Andreas Widmer, speaking at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, sees profitability as part of God’s plan. Photo by Michael Swan

Pope John Paul II inspired profitable ideas

  • November 16, 2017
There’s nothing more natural or more holy than making a profit, Catholic University of America business professor Andreas Widmer told about 300 business leaders at a breakfast lecture at the Rotman School of Management.

In a wide ranging talk Nov. 9 sponsored by the Archdiocese of Toronto, the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre and the Rotman School, Widmer recalled his experience as a young man in the Vatican’s Swiss Guards meeting St. Pope John Paul II, and how the pope inspired his own business career.

The 49-year-old, 6-foot-9 Widmer was born in a tiny village in Switzerland, the youngest of four brothers. He served at the Vatican as a Swiss Guard between 1986 and 1988. He went on to a career in finance, became an executive-in-residence at the powerful Highland Capital Partners and lives in Maryland with his wife Michelle and 12-year-old son Eli.

The pope’s theology of the body and his teaching about work formed the basis of Widmer’s career in technology companies, including OTF Group, Eprise Corp., Dragon Systems and FTP Software. Today he is a clinical professor of entrepreneurship at CUA’s Busch School of Business and Economics in Washington, D.C.

“A non-profit company is an oxymoron,” Widmer told a mixed crowd of students and business professionals. “Profitability is part of nature and is part of God’s plan.”

Widmer’s loose definition of profit is anything that permits and encourages human growth and flourishing.

“Nobody is not profitable and flourishing,” he said.

It’s a vision of profitability that is at odds with any unfair exploitation of labour. A successful enterprise can never be based on a mentality that tries to extract the most work for the least money, he said. The purpose of a company is to fulfill the human need for work, according to Widmer.

“There is a right to work, just like there is a right to eat,” he said. “Work is needed, is required, for our human flourishing.”

Widmer brought with him copies of his 2011 book The Pope and the CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard.

Widmer also had advice for people who find the corporate environment hostile to open expressions of faith. He counselled against getting caught up in arguments over saying “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” at the office.

“I don’t want to use my faith to fight,” he said. “We need to lead with love… Spreading that love is something you’re never going to achieve with an argument.”

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