In late September, the Wall Street Journal asked Catholic business leaders for their reaction to Pope Francis’ economic views in an article titled, “For Business, a Papal Pushback.” It ran with the teaser line: “Corporate leaders see merit in pope’s message, if not his broad-brush attack on capitalism.” Journal writer Scott Calvert interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg for his story. He observed that Pope Francis had characterized market economies as generally exploitative. “He doesn’t seem to want to concede the sheer number of people who have escaped from poverty as a consequence of the opening up of global markets and the activities of business,” Gregg said. “I know a lot of Catholic businessmen who are quite demoralized when they hear the pope talk about the daily reality in which they live.”
I recently had a chance to talk to John C. Kennedy III, a Roman Catholic Grand Rapids businessman and a board member of the Acton Institute, for his read of the Francis visit. Kennedy is president and CEO of Autocam Medical. Before that, he was president and CEO of Autocam Corporation, which he founded in 1988 and sold in 2014 (for PowerBlog coverage of Autocam’s legal pushback against the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients go here). Beyond his business commitments, Kennedy devotes time to a number of organizations. He is a member of the Boards of NN, Inc., the parent company of Autocam Corporation, Grand Valley State University, Lacks Enterprises, Shape Corporation, the Van Andel Institute, and Advisory Board Member of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Kennedy received his BA from the University of Detroit Mercy and his MBA from the University of Michigan.
Our exchange follows:
What was your reaction to the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States?
Pope Francis’s visit was absolutely phenomenal. It really spoke to his leadership qualities. As a Catholic, I was proud of the leader of our church. The stamina of a 78-year-old man who went from morning to night every day, with beginning to end mass coverage, four or five times, was incredible. It’s just absolutely amazing to me. He did a great job.
Francis made two major speeches to secular groups, one to Congress, one to the UN. Anything from those speeches that jumps out at you?
His message is that climate change is a moral issue. Some would say it’s a political issue, not a moral issue, but I think that’s wrong. I agree it’s a moral issue. It’s a little bit more complicated, as to how to fix it. But in this world we live in what amounts to a terrarium and we’re taking carbon from the ground and putting it into the atmosphere. That’s going to bring about change in this relatively closed system. I think we get bogged down in terms of the solution. So I think to the extent the pope stated the high level message of our moral responsibility for caring for our environment is exactly where we should be on this. He was appealing to the individual to look in your own conscience and say, “How should you be reacting to these things?” To me, that’s what we’re all called to do. (more…)