School of Theology and Seminary Faculty Publications

The Economic Personalism of John Paul II: Neither Right Nor Left

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1999


Arts and Humanities | Catholic Studies | Economics | Ethics in Religion | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences


In a helpful essay in the inaugural issue of this journal, Gregory Gronbacher describes economic personalism as “an attempt to analyze the moral ramifications of economic activity in light of a theological vision of the human person.” This absolutely essential interplay is generally neglected in the dialogue over the ethics of economic life. As he phrases it, this exercise will require a careful interaction between two independent disciplines: “A true synthesis cannot afford to be reductionistic but must respect the genuine claims of both economics and moral theology.” The economic personalism that Gronbacher describes has been shaped by the work of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, “economic personalism’s intellectual progenitor.” This article responds to Gronbacher by proposing to extend the conversation in four ways. The first will outline a number of elements that helpfully appear in both the work of John Paul II and Gronbacher’s survey. The second will identify three problems in the use of these schools of economics (the Chicago, Austrian, and Virginia Schools) as conversation partners. The third will recount several elements in John Paul’s personalism that are largely absent from Gronbacher’s summary. The fourth will suggest further work to be taken up within economic personalism.