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Rivista di etica e scienze sociali / Journal of Ethics & Social Sciences


Socio-economic teaching, in general, and the concept of the social responsibility of business, in particular, are considerably less developed in the Orthodox tradition than in Catholic Social Teaching. This applies at the level of general church documents, as well as at the level of works by particular individuals.

Western Christians have inherited much more than a straightforward Roman institutional legacy. The rise of questions such as usury or the lease system, and, later, the development of innovative Italian banking, moving onwards towards today’s advanced capitalist economy – such developments have forced western Christians to turn to economic topics more frequently.

The rise of Protestantism, which laid the foundations for the development of present-day economic theory, and the emergence of forms of economism in western society as it became more secularized have posed serious challenges to older Christian traditions. Supporters of an “economistic” position, founded upon materialistic concepts, considered the economic aspect of society to be that which dominated and governed it. Published in 1891, and thereby establishing contemporary Catholic socio-economic teaching on a strong footing, the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, was a response to these challenges.

The most fatal kind of economism - Marxism - took root in the Christian East, in Russia, in the second half of the 19th century. Its vehemently increasing influence required an immediate response on the part of the Church. Therefore, a number of Committees were organized in 1917-1918, before and during the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The objective of the Committees was to develop an official socio-economic doctrine for the ROC. The Bolsheviks, who at first paralyzed the Committees’ activities and then launched the most vicious persecution campaign against them, undermined the efforts of the Church and impeded its development of resolutions on social and economic issues. The materials they produced are still waiting for the researchers to get to them in the archives. Nevertheless, works of Orthodox writers, based on research of the socio-economic concepts developed by the Holy Fathers of the early Church, appeared in the second half of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The most significant research carried out at this time was that of Professor Vasily Exemplyarsky of the Kiev Theological Academy. Furthermore, a wide range of works by Father Sergey Bulgakov, Vladimir Ern, and by other similar writers appeared in this period, addressing various issues of economic philosophy.

During the seventy years that followed, Russian church institutions were teetering on the brink of survival. Fortunately, however, there were theological writers of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia who addressed socio-economic concepts. The Archbishop of San-Francisco, John (Ioann) (Shakhovskoy), stands out as an exceptional author from this period.

Following the revival of church activities in the 1980s, Orthodox Social Thought returned to these problems. In the year 2000, the document The Foundations of the Social Doctrine of the ROC was passed during the Archbishops’ Council of the ROC. Two sections of this text, Work and Its Fruits, and, Property, addressed economic questions in their entirety. Another document, specifying this doctrine further, The Code of Ethical Principles and Economic Rules, was passed at The Fourth Global Russian Peoples’ Council. Although this is not considered an official church document, it was nevertheless drafted by Orthodox writers and approved by Apostolic authorities of the ROC.

A wide range of publications, addressing Orthodox Christian concepts of the economy and including the social responsibility of business, have appeared in the last 20 years by various authors. Among them are the writings of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Archmandrite Ieronim (Testin), Deacon Konstantin Golubev, Konstantin Kostyuk, Tatyana Koval, Michail Rumyantsev, N.Somin, and V.Kadalintsev.

The Teachings of Holy Fathers as the Foundation for the Orthodox Concept of the Social Responsibility of Business

The Eastern Orthodox Church, including the ROC, insists on the unalterable preservation of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, in their exact form as presented in the Holy Bible, Holy Tradition, and the ancient creeds of the Universal Church. The teachings of Holy Fathers of the early Church were formed upon these foundations and thus have created a basis for later concepts, including the views of contemporary Orthodox authors.

Many Holy Fathers have addressed various aspects of economic life and topics that we would now recognise under the heading of the social responsibility of business.

In this context, considerable attention should be given to the Cappadocian Holy Fathers, namely to Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (The Theologian), and Saint Gregory of Nyssa1. Their views are based on the concept that God is the supreme Owner of all created things found in His world. A man is only a steward, or a manager, of the property that has been entrusted to him, and he is expected to manage the property in compliance with the Owner’s will. The Holy Fathers of Cappadocia considered public property to be the most adequate form of holding property according both to God’s will and the principle of brotherly love. However, they did not favor the abolition of private property, rather calling for wise management of property, meaning according to God’s will and being considerate towards others, as property belongs to all through God.

“How did you gain that what you have now? If you say that you gained it by chance, then you are a heathen, you do not accept the Creator, you are not grateful to the One who gave it to you. And if you admit that is it came from God, then name the purpose for which you received it? Or do you claim that God is unjust and divided the essential commodities of life unevenly among His children? For what purpose do you become richer and richer, and that other person lives in poverty? Is it not, indeed, for you to receive recompense for your kindness and for your true divine economy, and for that poor person to be honored with the reward for his patience?”2

Saint Basil the Great suggests asking yourself the following question, “…Who are you, for what purpose were you placed here, who did you receive it from, and why were you preferred over many?”3 The Saint emphasizes that the one who received the property from God shall give an account before its true Owner, “Do not think that everything was arranged for your enjoyment, but treat what you have as entrusted to you, not your own. It will not keep your heart merry for long; it will soon wither and disappear, but you will be asked to provide an account for your actions.”4 Saint Gregory The Theologian draws attention to the volatile nature of material wealth, which “quickly passes by, is granted for an hour, and, as pebbles in a game, are tossed in and thrown from one place to another in different directions, and belong now to one person and soon to another.” In his opinion, “nothing can be considered owned; it will either be taken away by time or will wander to the hands of others through the deeds of envy.”5

Saint Basil, without speaking against private property, illustrates that the existence per se of such a concept is evidence that the social order is far from the Christian ideal. All benefits in the ideal Christian society, in his opinion, shall be public. “You can say, Whom do I offend if I keep my property to myself? – Tell me, what property is yours? Where did you take it and how did you bring it into your life? Let’s suppose that a certain man took his seat at a performance, and then began to force newly arriving people to leave, considering that which is offered his own - the rich are like that. They take possession of that which is common, make it their property, because they get hold of it earlier that others. If everyone, having taken enough to supply his need, left the rest for the needy one, there would be no rich and no needy. Did you not enter this world naked, arriving from your mother’s womb? You are dust and will return to the dust”6 Saint Basil views favorably the practices of property ownership in Jerusalem’s first century Christians, who made genuine efforts to live according to Christian principles. They had “everything in common: life, soul, amity, common food, cordial brotherhood, unfeigned love, which created one body from many, united disparate souls into oneness and single-mindedness.”7 Fully realizing that his contemporaries were not yet ready to live life within similar structures to that of the Jerusalem Christians, Saint Basil endorsed private property as the lesser of two evils.

Gregory Theologian was not an advocate of the immediate rejection of private property either. He, nonetheless, invites us to strive toward the ideal of a Christian society, in agreement with individual possibilities. Saint Gregory expressed the Orthodox principle of socially responsible conduct: To serve your neighbor with your property to the degree of your inner readiness to such ministry. “Put everything aside; accept the true and only God, because you are a steward of another’s property. And if you do not wish to refuse everything, then give away the largest part. If you do not wish to do even that, then, at least, make wise use of the surplus.”8 The thought of Gregory of Nyssa is in tune with these words, urging each and every one to provide the needy with help, “Give what you have, for God does not expect beyond your abilities. You provide bread, another provides a cup of wine, clothing comes from another one, and therefore, the misery of an individual in need can be eradicated by the common effort.”9

According to Saint Basil the Great, a non-religious approach to socio-economic problems is filled with passion and can even be insane. In a similar way to Aristotle’s position, Saint Basil sees the desire to increase carnal riches as a pathological aberration of economic life. People who consider covetousness a driving force of economic development, are “similar to the insane, frenzy, dream unreality, and express what the illness brought about into them”. Referring to such individuals, he wrote, “So your soul, possessed by lust for money, sees gold in everything, sees silver in everything.... You wish that everything be turned into gold alloys and think only about as many ways as possible to make it happen. Is there anything that you will not do, or have done, for the sake of gold? Bread for you becomes gold, wine is deposited into gold… every thought brings you gold.”10

Christians in the early Church did not oppose private ownership. They saw it rather as a tool, with the help of which they could get rid of extreme poverty and provide for basic everyday needs. Thus, Hermas – author of the book The Pastor, who lived in the second century A.D., and who some think was a brother of Pope Pius I11 - compared the state of being poor to being in shackles, and believed that such a condition could lead a person to commit grave sin. The responsibility of a rich person is to rid the poor from this danger. “He who is in need and suffers from restricting daily life circumstances, is in extreme pain and destitution. Therefore, he who rescues the poor soul from such extremity gains a great joy, because the poor, finding himself in so straitened circumstances, suffers from affliction and torments himself, as in a vicious circle. Many lay hands on themselves as a result of such misfortunes and fail to survive the affliction. Therefore, anyone who learned of such misfortune of a person, and did not set him free, bears a grievous sin and has blood on his hands.”12 Hermas is also one of the first Christian authors who views business and economic life as service to God. “All your wealth and efforts you shall spend for the good of the fields and households, which you received from God. For this is why the Lord made you wealthy - so that you exercise these duties to Him.”13 At the same time, Hermas emphasizes that a highly-moral and ethical environment is an essential part of any business, “You, Hermas, had many personal misfortunes, due to many vicissitudes in your household, for you didn’t intervene with them, but were indifferent and busy contemplating your cunning financial affairs.”14

Many early Christian authors have urged us to consider wealth as a gift from God. St. Clement of Rome, Origen, and St Clement of Alexandria belong to this school. The latter is known to have paid special attention to economic subjects. In the light of our discussion, his views on property and true wealth present special interest. Only the friendship of a man with God makes a man truly rich, “if the friends share common possessions, and a man is in friendship with God, and is a friend precisely through the Logos, then everything becomes the property of that man, and, as everything belongs to God, everything belongs commonly to both friends, to God and the man. It is high time for us to call only a devout Christian rich, wise and godly.”15 A godly Christian, being a friend of God, has a responsibility to treat the relevant property in “God’s way”, that is, to receive and manage it with reverence.

Origen, St. John Chrysostom, and other Holy Fathers also note that, granted by God, property can be only acquired in honest ways. According to Origen, ”That which we honestly and fairly receive - such as sweets fruits and bread, which strengthen the heart of the man, and sweet grapes and wine, which give joy to a man’s heart - we receive from God and by His provision”.16 St. John Chrysostom adds that wealth or poverty can also come from sins. Sinfully acquired riches include wealth gained by deceit, theft, sorcery, etc. Poverty from previous imprudent living can also be the consequence of sin.17 Wealth, by itself, is not evil, but the ways with which wealth is acquired and used can be evil. “I say this not because money is a sin – the sin is not to share with the poor and to abuse money. For God has not created anything evil, but all perfect, therefore, the money is good too.”18 Later, he notes: “We do not ask not to be rich, but protection against being rich in an evil way, because it is permissible to be rich, but not permissible to be covetous or violent, and to be held in ill reputation by all.”19 St. Augustine (Blessed) expresses a similar idea to that of St. John Chrysostom. “Thus, belongings (riches), made for the glory of the Creator and to test the righteous and punish evil people, fairly, by any means, can not be condemned.… The Creator of the Universe and God Almighty divided gold and silver between people in such a way, which is, by nature and character, good, although not the superior good.”20

The Holy Fathers discerned the difference between true and evil wealth. St. John Chrysostom presented the distinction in a most vivid way, “No, it is not the one who does not have anything who is poor, but the one who desires much; it is not the one who has a lot, but the one who feels no need of anything who is rich…. Desires, but not the presence or absence of money, make a person rich or poor … therefore, let us despise wealth, so that we enjoy wealth.”21

When speaking of social responsibility and the faithful management of wealth, the Holy Fathers always point to the association of the idea of wealth with “crying out against inequality”, something which does not deserve to exist in a Christian society. At the same time, they do not advocate the abolition of private property or communist experiments because people, generally, cannot reach the highest degree of perfection. Only the transformation of the inner man can change the material relations between people. According to Lactantius, ”He who wishes to make everybody equal shall abolish not marriages and property, but impudence, pride, and arrogance, so that the most influential barons considered themselves equal with beggars… Nothing, with the exception of God’s religion, can make this happen.” 22 Any Christian can manage his wealth in godly ways in any economic system. The very same Lactantius demonstrates these ways, “The greatest and most godly fruit of wealth is to use resources not for your own pleasure, but for the salvation of many, not for your own present use, but for justice, which never ceases… Therefore, the highest virtue is hospitality… Redemption of captives – is a great and fair act of justice… the “generosity” of people who throw their wealth away into the sea is vain and careless; it is the farthest away from all kinds of justice… No less great deed of justice is to protect widows and orphans, who are left and in need.” 23

St. John Chrysostom not only expresses dogmatic ideas, but also invited his listeners to take action, aimed at strengthening the social protection of the needy. When in Antioch, this minister precisely outlined concrete blueprints for action in one of his sermons. He noted that, judging by property status, the Antiochan society was divided into three classes: the rich, the poor, and the middle class, with the majority belonging to the middle class. “I presume that one tenth is rich, one tenth is very poor, and the rest have moderate capital… There are only a few very rich, a lot of people with average income, and, in comparison to them, a very few poor.”24 The rich and the middle class could feed the hungry without any excessive burden for them. “Nevertheless, with so many rich people around, who could help the thirsty, many still go to bed hungry – not because people with an average income could not afford to help them, but because of hardheartedness and cruelty.”25 As an illustration for wealthy Antiochan Christians, St. John brings their attention to the charitable activities carried out by the Church, noting that the capital and income of those who give does not decrease.26 In addition, he does not make the listeners feel obliged to act the same way, but, descending to the level of their infirmities, he calls upon them to live socially responsible lives, within the limits of their powers. “I do not force you to decrease your property, not because I do not wish it, but because I see little desire in you to do so. Therefore, this is not what I say, but I say that you should share at least part of the profit and do not hide your wealth from them. It is enough for you that you have a source, from which the financial profits come; make the beggars partakers of it, and be a good steward of what was granted to you by God.”27 Increasing the force of his argument, St. John Chrysostom replies to an imaginary opponent who claims that he pays taxes to support the troops that fight for him against the enemies, “… and there are a lot of troops here – the poor, and there is also a battle, in which they fight on your side… therefore, seeing these warriors, who daily fight with the Devil on your behalf with their prayers and petitions, demand from yourself this sweet tribute – their daily living. The King of Heaven, in His meekness, has not sent torturers to you, but wishes that you give with joy.”28 It is worth noting that in many of his sermons St. John Chrysostom raises the question of individual social responsibility, not that of corporations or a state. He views it as a special investment process of its kind, the objective of which is the salvation of the soul. Here is how he develops the thought about “heavenly investments” in his explanatory comments on the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21. “There is no need to pay twice that which is invested by us, no need to exchange the money. Your business is to give: The Lord Himself will invest it in Heaven; He will find the most profitable deal for you… Here, on Earth, when you give something away, you cannot return it, but there, on the contrary, you will receive what belongs to you with great honor and will gain greater and spiritual riches… God himself gave you the note of acknowledgement, saying, “He that has pity upon the poor lends to the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:17) He also gave you the deposit and the bail, despite the fact that He is God. What is the deposit? All the joys of this life, material and spiritual, as a foundation for future gains… Let us not be so wretched, merciless, and cruel to ourselves, but engage into this wonderful transaction, so that we gain when leaving, pass it to our children, and receive future mercies through the benevolence and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Him and the Holy Father, and the Spirit be the honor, glory and power, now and forever. Amen.”29 Continuing his line of reasoning, corporate social responsibility is similar to investment though an agent. The difference between corporate and individual social responsibility is the same as between tax and free giving.

Pastoral Sociology of Archbishop John of San Francisco

During the dictatorial communist regime and the endless persecutions of the church in the USSR, major efforts of the clergy and congregation were put into the preservation of the liturgical life of the church in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was in a better position, with no external persecutions, to do more than this. Moreover, the majority of its members found refuge in the more economically developed countries of the world. This created a more constructive environment for the development of the Orthodox socio-economic school. One of the brightest representatives is Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco, a descendant of a ancient Russian noble family, who ministered as a pastor in Nazi Germany and later moved to California.

In his Foundations of Pastoral Sociology, Archbishop John raises the issue of comprehending poverty and wealth from the Christian standpoint. He discusses the problem of ownership, and pays attention to the social responsibility of business, viewing it as a ministry of the rich. Commenting on the moral neutrality of wealth, Archbishop John mentions that wealth by itself is not evil, and that poverty by itself is not useful… but lust and slavery to wealth as to an idol (by the rich and the poor) is individual and social poison.30 According to Archbishop John, there are three camps on the moral map of ethics: 1- the godless poor, 2- the godless rich, 3 – poor and rich (from the material viewpoint) Christians. The Church of Christ views the rich and the poor differently: the “rich” – are the poor in spirit, the “poor” – are those who are rich with earthly gains.31

The position of the Church toward those who are materially rich, according to Archbishop John, is the following: The rich serve the Church. The position of the Church toward the poor: The Church serves them. The poor are considered needy of being served; the rich deserve the right to serve. “On an earthly understanding, wealth, power, and status are always interwoven with the concept of service, but not with enjoyment of secular living (which is the philosophy not only of the paganism, but also lower paganism for the greater elevated itself above this principle of utmost Epicureanism).32 Archbishop John further develops his thought in the following way: “Saying to the world, “May the greater one be the servant of you all”. Under “the greater one” our Lord Jesus Christ meant a rich person – rich with money, position, talent, or gift. The greater one shall serve, but not govern through the gifts (material or spiritual) which were given him only for a period of time.33 According to the words of the Archbishop John, that which is granted to a person as a “talent” must be employed wisely for the good of the world but not kept to oneself. To keep the talent to oneself means using wealth egoistically. It can be added that making profit for yourself, from the Christian standpoint, is the same as keeping the gift to oneself and not a wise investment for the good of the world. Wise management of the gift, according to the Archbishop, can be achieved in two ways: the first one involves giving your property away to others, either all at once or gradually; the other is to retain visible ownership, but interiorly to have given one’s property to God, and thus caring only about how to manage it properly into the future. This correct management can take the form of “usual economic management, or building of a good factory or agricultural enterprise”. However, as Archbishop John notes, “it will have an outward appearance of all things of the world, but in its essence, intrinsically, it will be a small creation of the Kingdom of God…”34 Wealthy Christians, land owners and entrepreneurs, being formal owners, in reality become attentive fathers and even servants of their employees. “Such is the mentality of all wealthy Christians: owners, industrialists, and manufacturers… Such was the dominion of truly Orthodox kings.” 35

Contemporary Orthodox View on the Social Responsibility of Business

The Archbishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church was held more than a decade after the end of the church persecutions in Russia and the countries of the ex-Soviet Union, at the turn of the millennium. The most significant document adopted by the Council was The Foundations of the Social Concepts of the ROC (later the Foundations). In sections devoted to economic problems, questions of social responsibility of business are also raised. As noted above, a more extensive presentation of the Orthodox view on this problem can be found in the The Code of Ethical Principles and Economic Rules (later the Code), adopted at the Fourth Global Russian People’s Council. Both documents are regulatory teachings, and describe, as noted in the Preamble to the Code, the ideal model of economics, which does not exist nowadays, but towards which we can strive in our daily lives.36

The personal social responsibility of an entrepreneur is given special emphasis in the Foundations and the Code. It should be noted that entrepreneurship is considered as a professional work activity, although a very specific one. “The Church grants its blessing to any work/professional activities that serve the good of people, if the work does not contradict Christian moral standards....”37 The Foundations mention that our Lord Jesus Christ in his parables, when mentioning various professions, including the ones related to management and business (merchant, steward) does not show preference with regards to any of them. In the Code, entrepreneurship is equal to any other type of work. “The wellbeing of all honest entrepreneurs and workers shall correspond to their work contribution.” By expressing this opinion, the Church, obviously, tries to overcome the deeply rooted Communist stereotype of the irreconcilability between work and capital. Moreover, the Church draws attention to the common objectives of the business and employees - in Christ there are no entrepreneurs, nor employees. If there are “no bond, no free”, as the Apostle Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians,38 in the same way it refers to free employers and employees.

Every employee and every employer are subject to social responsibility. This idea gains its special significance in the contemporary world, especially for the citizens of Gigapolis39, where the share of employment income in total income exceeds 60% and is increasing. Moreover, the income of many formal employees (representatives of top management of corporations, successful athletes, popular musicians, etc) are many times higher than the income of small and middle size business entrepreneurs, as well as profits of the shareholders from the shares, to such extent that it is high time to consider exploitation of capital by work. The Foundations mentions two reasons for work: to provide for yourself and to give to the needy.40 It also mentions that it is God’s commandment to those who work to take care of those who, for whatever reason, cannot provide for themselves – the disadvantaged, sick, foreigners (refugees), orphans and widows – and share with them the fruits of one’s labor, “so that the Lord Your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deut. 24:19-22).41 The Code develops this idea further, ”Assigning part of your income to help the elderly and needy, disabled and disadvantaged children shall be a norm for any profit-making enterprise, for any working well-off individual, including any employee”.42

Due to the specifics of entrepreneurial activities and hired workers, entrepreneurs bear certain responsibilities before the employees. First of all, the responsibility to reward honest work in a timely manner. The Foundations mentions that the refusal to pay for honest labor is not only a crime before that person, but is also a sin before God.43 Employment is the main source of income for a hired employee, therefore, dismissal without a proper cause, low wages, untimely and incomplete payment of salary (a common practice in Russia in the1990s) push employees to the verge of existence.44 The Code considers entrepreneurs’ failure to pay salaries a theft, which dehumanizes employees, drives them to destitution, provokes them to anger, and prevents them from enjoying the fruits of their labor.45 The Code sets a minimum level of living expenses, the lowest possible salary. A living salary shall provide not only healthy food, but also enough to cover the cost of everyday supplies, for the support of children, and to pay rent.46 This is the most important, but not the only, responsibility of employers, according to the Code and the Foundations. Good economics in all its forms is a socially responsible activity.47 The Code and the Foundations point out some aspects of such business responsibilities:

Responsibility for the spiritual, intellectual and physical development of the employees (especially of the managerial level), and a concern for their quality rest. The Code mentions that material and financial capital is impossible to be created and kept today without intellectual capital – benevolent application of an individual’s abilities, knowledge and skills. Employers with wise long-term goals will take care of the free time of the employees in such a way that their personalities will grow and develop. Individuals with fully blossoming potential and talents will bring the most profit and contribute more fully to society and, in general, to achieving concrete economic goals. 48

Participation in social and pension security programs of the employees. “An employee, who does not have a long-term perspective to receive a decent pension and who does not have access to education, medical services, social insurance – will never find joy and fulfillment in his work…” 49

Employers shall develop partnership programs and give access to the employees to managing the enterprise, in accordance to their professional level of education and expertise. The purpose of such programs shall be the transformation of an employee into a partner, who feels “involved in the destiny of the common business”.50

Business shall not be built upon the destruction of public morals. Moreover, employees shall not be involved in such destruction. The Foundations mentions that our modern world has given birth to the industry of show-business, the aim of which is to promote sins, evils, and encourage to fulfill deadly lusts and habits, such as drinking, drug abuse, fornication and adultery. The Church is a witness of the sinful nature of such activities, because they corrupt not only employees, but society in general.51 Morally responsible business shall not have anything to do with such activities as trafficking in persons, prostitution, pornography, medical and spiritual charlatanism, sales of illegal weapons and drugs, or in political and religious extremism.52

Ecological responsibility. Manufacturing and other types of economic activities shall not cause any significant damage to the environment, which is an asset not only for all currently living people, but is also intended for future generations. The non-renewable natural resources, which are necessary to today’s people, shall be used wisely, thinking of the next generations and, where possible, shall be replaced by renewable resources. Participation in environment protection projects and the introduction of energy saving and waste-free technologies are among the most important goals of the business class.53

Tax evasion, understatement of true income, and illegal capital outflow are considered by the Code to be stealing from your fellow countrymen.54

Socially responsible behavior takes the form of fair competition; in particular, this means abstention from the use of morally-degrading advertisement. Commercials which contain obvious deception, exploit sexual desire, and encourage people to drink, smoke, or abuse the immaturity of children and teenagers – shall be considered amoral and may not be supported by business people. Religious or national feelings shall not be offended by advertisements either.55


In summary, contemporary Orthodox views on the concept of the social responsibility of business are based on the teachings of the Christian Holy Fathers of the early Church. Special attention to the issues of economic life, including the social responsibility of business, has been given by Hermas, Saint Clement of Rome, Origen, Saint Clement of Alexandria, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. John Chrysostom. The teachings on the social responsibility of business of the Holy Fathers are based on the important principle: To serve your neighbor with what you have to the degree that you are willing to do so.
The idea of ministering with property was developed by Orthodox authors in the last two centuries. A representative of the ROCOR, Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco formulated the idea of service in this way: The rich serve the Church, the Church serves the poor. The poor are considered needy of being served; the rich deserve the right to serve.

Detailed presentations of the contemporary Orthodox position on the problem of social responsibility can be found in two most significant works: The Foundations of the Social Concepts of the ROC and The Code of Ethical Principles and Economicpdf Rules. The first is an official church document; the second is a Church-approved text. The Foundations and the Code emphasize the personal social responsibility of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship, in this case, is considered a type of work, although a very specific one.

The Foundations and the Code, therefore, express, in economic terms, the idea of service to God and to neighbor in a more detailed, contemporarily acceptable form. One can suggest that further development of the Orthodox teachings on the social responsibility of business will continue in this direction.


1 Their views on the subject of property are presented in the article by the deacon Konstantin Golubev On problems of property in Christian Society (based on the teachings of the Cappadocian Fathers).- Problemy Sovremennoy Ekonomiki, 2003.- n.1(5),-

2 Vasiliy Velikiy. Beseda 6. Na slova ot Luki (12,18); i o liubostiarzatelnosti // Vasiliy Velikiy. Tvorenia. M. 1993. Ch IV. P.96-97.

3 Ibid,P.87.

4 Ibid.

5 Grigoriy Bogoslov. O Liubvi k bednym// Grigoriy Bogoslov. Tvorenia. Sviato-Troitskaya Sergieva Lavra. 1994. V.1. P.217.

6 Vasiliy Velikiy. Beseda 6. // Vasiliy Velikiy. Tvorenia. M. 1993. Ch. IV. P.96.

7 Vasiliy Velikiy. Beseda 8. // Vasiliy Velikiy. Tvorenia. M. 1993. Ch. IV. P.138.

8 Grigoriy Bogoslov. Mysli, pisannye chetverostishiyami // Grigoriy Bogoslov. Tvorenia. M. 1889. P.173.

9 Grigoriy Nisskiy. O Nishcheliubii i blagotvoritelnosti. Slovo1 // Grigoriy Nisskiy. Chto znachit Imia Hristianin. M. 2000. P.193.

10 Vasiliy Velikiy. Beseda 6. // Vasiliy Velikiy. Tvorenia. M. 1993. Ch. IV. P.91-92.

11 Zeipel I. Hoziaystvenno-eticheskie vzgliady Ottsov Tserkvi. M., 1913., P.46.

12 Hermas, Pastor, sim. 10,4,2. // Zeipel P.47.

13 Hermas, Pastor, sim. 1,8. // Zeipel P.47.

14 Hermas, Pastor, vis. 2,3,2. // Zeipel P.47.

15 Clemens, Alex., Cohortatio ad gentes,12. // Zeipel P.48.

16 Origenes. Contra Celsum, 8, 67. // Zeipel P.48-49.

17 Ibid. P.49.

18 Chrysostomus, In ep.1 ad Cor., hom. 13,5. // Zeipel P.50.

19 Chrysostomus, In ep.1 ad Cor., hom. 5. // Zeipel P.62-63.

20 Augustinus, Sermo, 50, 3-6. // Zeipel P.50-51.

21 Chrysostomus, In Philipp., hom. 2, 5. // Zeipel P.62-63.

22 Lactancius, Divin. Itstit., 3,22. // Zeipel P.91.

23 Ibid. P.92.

24 Sv. Ioann Zlatoust.Tolkovanie na sviatogo Matfeia evangelista // Polnoe sobranie tvoreniy sv. Ioanna Zlatousta. V. VII,II.- Moskwa, 2001. P.678.

25 Ibid.

26 “In order to see the inhumanity of the rich, we should note that many widows and virgins are provided for by the Church, which does not receive more income than one rich and one middle income individual. In reality, the number of people cared for by the Church is up to three thousand. Besides, it provides for prisoners, visitors, the sick and healthy, foreigners, the disabled who sit before the church begging for food and clothing, and others, who simply turn up everyday for help, but the Church does not become poor. Thus, if only ten people wished to spend as much on these people, there would not be even a single beggar.” ibid.27] Ibid, P.679.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid. P. 680-681.

29 Ariepiskop Ioann San-Frantsisskiy. Izbrannoe. Petrozavodsk, 1992.- P.109.

30 Ibid, P.111-112.

31 Ibid, P.112.

32 Ibid, P.114.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid.

35 ibid

36 The Code of Ethical Principles and Economic Rules // Pravoslavnaya beseda, 2, 2004.

37 The Foundations of the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church. VI.5. http: //

38 Galatians III,28.

39 Mostly developed countries of the world, with a population of approximately 1 billion people, which form a kind of unified city due to their highly developed communications and identical lifestyles.

40 The Foundations… VI.4.

41 The Foundations…VI.6.

42 The Code…V.

43 The Foundations…VI.6.

44 The Code…VI.

45 The Code…VIII.

46 The Code… VIII.

47 The Code… V.

48 The Code… IV.

49 Ibid.

50 The Code…V.

51 The Foundations…VI.5.

52 The Code…VII.

53 The Code…VIII.

54 Ibid.

55 The Code…IX.




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Albino Barrera OP  -  Stefano Menghinello  -  Sabina Alkire

Introduction of Piotr Janas OP