A commentary on BRUNI, Luigino (2012), “Las raíces franciscanas de la economía de mercado y de la «Caritas in veritate». Ambivalencias y posibilidades,” SCRIPTA THEOLOGICA. 44:145-167 from a Virtue Ethics perspective.

ABSTRACT of the original Scripta Theologica article:


This paper briefly presents the influence of the charisma of St. Francis of Assisi on modern economy. It explains how to translate the Franciscan way of living Christian charity into the characteristic trust of the market economy and its subsequent evolution and ambiguity. In this context, the author also highlights the deep meaning and scope of one of the most difficult and specific concepts of the encyclical «Caritas in veritate» gratuity, related to the logic of gift, which has to be present in economic activities.

Commentary by Aliza Racelis (from Virtue Ethics perspective):

Trust Trust of the market economy:In Chapter 1 of the book “The True Wealth of Nations”, Fr. Albino Barrera, who competently and positively deals with the market economy in his Economics studies and classes, tells us that “unlike Marxism or libertarian capitalism, Catholic Social Teaching (CST) pursues a more difficult path of balancing twofold objectives in a mixed economy. It has an appreciation for the beneficial services provided by market operations even as it calls for extra-market interventions to mitigate the market’s unintended consequences and excesses. Contrary to the claims of commentators from both ends of the political spectrum, CST neither dismisses nor fully embraces the market economy.”

Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize–winning economist, has argued for the importance of trust and other moral relations for economic growth.  “Trust, when established, contributes to the smooth running of political and economic systems which require the success of collective undertakings. Trust must be based on trustworthiness of the actors involved and the reliability of the institutions that are created to provide for the public good. … In the realm of business enterprises, market-based transactions, and the world of for-profit entities, trustworthiness and reliability build confidence in those who are the potential clients or consumers” (Cook and Schilke, 2010).

“Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function” (Caritas in Veritate). In the Journal of Business Ethics article “The Morality of Bargaining: Insights from ‘Caritas in Veritate’ ’’, James Bernard Murphy analyzes the morality of both bargains and gifts by paying attention to the interpersonal relations created by these two kinds of exchange. The social solidarity and mutual trust praised by the Pope depend upon a morality of exchange that respects the moral equality of the parties to that exchange. Whereas, the scholastics sharply distinguished the gift relation from the bargain, Benedict rightly encourages us to think creatively about how to combine bargains and gifts: ‘‘in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity’’ (CV 36).


Charity Gratuitousness and the logic of gift:The document “The Vocation of the Business Leader” by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace says “The first act of the Christian business leader, as of all Christians, is to receive; more specifically, to receive what God has done for him or her.” “[W]ithout receptivity in their lives, business leaders can be tempted by a quasi-Nietzschean ‘superman’ complex. The temptation for some is to regard themselves as determining and creating their own principles, not as receiving them. Business leaders may only see themselves as creative, innovative, active and constructive, but if they neglect the dimension of receiving, they distort their place within the world and overestimate their own achievements and work.”

Thus, for us to understand the reason and meaning of giving, we first need to understand and learn what it is to receive. Only thus will we understand the “logic of gift”; only thus will we appreciate gifts and, in turn, learn to give.

The Abstract of the Journal of Business Ethics article “The Logic of Gift and Gratuitousness in Business Relationships” by Guglielmo Faldett reads: “The logic of gift and gratuitousness in business activity raised by the encyclical Caritas in Veritate stresses a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. The logic of gift in business includes two aspects. The first is considering the logic of gift as a new conceptual lens in order to view business relationship beyond contractual logic. In this view, it is crucial to see the circulation of goods as instrumental for the development of relationships. The second aspect is to qualify the relationships established through the gift, and to think about the motivation in gift-giving, which has an ethical content. We give because we have received, and through gift-giving we develop relationships that have a high ‘bonding value’. Analysing the logic of gift in business management may permit us to gain an understanding of the ambiguity of gift-giving in organizations. Looking at the relationships between organizations and employees, and organizations and customers, we can discover why the logic of gift is often misunderstood or abused in its application, and how it should be applied to be more consistent with the message of Caritas in Veritate.”

Franciscan way Poverty:The Franciscan way is very much that of poverty and detachment in the spirit of solidarity and fraternity as brothers and sisters in Christ. The history of the Franciscan order tells us that “St. Francis … was called to walk by the way of simplicity, and that he would always follow the folly of the Cross…” But this poverty is not gloomy nor unrealistic. Rather, “The men of this Religion with great fruit assemble every year at a determined place, that they may rejoice in the Lord and take their meals … ‘Let the Friars take care not to appear gloomy and sad like hypocrites, but let them be jovial and merry, showing that they rejoice in the Lord, and becomingly courteous.’…”

Thus, the Franciscan poverty was not ―is not― incompatible with the market economy, with acting and behaving freely in economic life: it knows how to take full advantage of its benefits but at the same time, precisely because of that same simplicity, it ensures that others immediately share in those benefits through generosity and magnanimity.


“As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first . . .” (Caritas in Veritate).

The demands of Caritas in Veritate cannot be understood much less carried out if we are not to consider ourselves brothers and sisters of one another. This spirit of fraternity was very much present in the Franciscan order, as it is in many Church institutions and movements.

“Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism… Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity.” (Caritas in Veritate)