How Can My Investments Reflect Catholic Values?
As followers of Christ, we are called to love God and our neighbor. We are called to show our love for Christ’s teachings in all aspects of our lives and to make positive contributions to our society for the sake of our children and future generations. This means that living out our faith must go beyond our weekly mass attendance and just dropping an envelope into the collection basket. It should carry over into our daily activities and interactions as well. Living out our Catholic faith can be demonstrated in many ways, including our financial and investment decisions.
In choosing to invest in ways that do not contradict the church’s social teaching, we are making a conscious effort to offer to God our finances and to ask His blessing as we seek to follow His will in this part of our lives. Making a place for God in our finances, especially when it comes to investment decisions, is a way that we can work toward investing in a better tomorrow for our children by not supporting businesses that oppose our Catholic moral values. With so many choices and investment options, we want to make sure that the investments we choose are sound both financially and morally. Is this possible? The answer is YES! We can seek to incorporate our Catholic values into our investment decisions by looking to the Catholic Church for guidance. The Church provides us with a roadmap for investing according to our Catholic moral values through her social teaching.
Catholic Social Teaching, A Starting Point
Catholic social teaching is the church’s interpretation of scripture and tradition and how it applies to social justice in society and how to live out the Christian life in the midst of the world. The church’s social teaching addresses the issues of poverty and wealth, economics, social organization and the role of the state, and is divided into seven main principles:
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Preferential Option for and with People who are Poor and Vulnerable
- Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
- Care for God’s Creation
These principles form the basis for the Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines for screening investments according to Catholic values.
Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines
In 2003, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines. This document provides us with guidance on how to invest according to our Catholic conscience and is rooted in Catholic social teaching. The Guidelines are broken into six main topics:
- Protecting Human Life
- Promoting Human Dignity
- Reducing Arms Production
- Pursuing Economic Justice
- Protecting the Environment
- Encouraging Corporate Responsibility
The Guidelines screen investments according to both positive and negative screens. Positive screens encourage investments in companies that either promote, or generate revenue from companies that support activities that are aimed at promoting the common good in society. The U.S. Bishop’s Guidelines apply positive screens for the following activities:
- High Labor Standards
- Access to Affordable Housing
- High Environmental Standards
- Demonstrated Corporate Social Responsibility
The Guidelines negative screens exclude or restrict investments that generate revenue from activities that do not adhere to Catholic values. Companies that derive revenue from activities that violate human life are excluded per the Guidelines zero tolerance investment threshold. Investments in companies that generate revenue from the following activities are excluded:
- Abortion and Abortifacients
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research
- Adult Entertainment Content Production
- Anti-Personnel Landmines
- Biological and Chemical Weapons
- Cluster Bombs
- Nuclear Weapons (whole and/or strategic parts)
The Guidelines also restrict investments in companies who generate 50% or more in revenue from conventional military sales, and for companies that have been reported for having significant incidents of child labor employment both in their corporate operations, or supply chain.
Putting Our Catholic Values Into Action
So how can we put these Guidelines into action? The good news is that the work has already been done, and there are options for Catholic values screened investments. One way to ensure that your investments are screened according to your Catholic values is to use the services of a Catholic investment adviser, such as InvestingCatholic (www.InvestingCatholic.com). One of the important benefits of using an investment adviser over the “do it yourself” investing approach is that the adviser helps their clients to invest appropriately based upon their ability to bear risk.
The way we choose to invest our money can make a significant impact on society both for ourselves and for our children’s future. In choosing to invest according to our Catholic moral values, we are making a decision to impact society for the good and to ask God’s blessing as we put our trust in His Fatherly protection. Saint John Paul II touched upon this subject when he wrote:
“It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards “having” rather than “being”, and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself, It is therefore necessary to create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments. In this regard, it is not a matter of the duty of charity alone, that is, the duty to give from one’s ‘abundance’, and sometimes even out of one’s needs, in order to provide what is essential for the life of a poor person. I am referring to the fact that even the decision to invest in one place rather than another, in one productive sector rather than another, is always a moral and cultural choice.” Centissimus Annus #36
May Saint John Paul II’s words inspire us to align our investment and financial decisions with our Catholic values and the common good of society.