How to Invest as a Catholic Without Selling Your Soul

The group Investing for Catholics offers funding options that ‘closely match’ the guidelines set by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

(photo: Andy via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0))

WASHINGTON — For Catholics who want to invest in a retirement plan but hesitate for fear of unintentionally supporting causes contradicting their faith, a financial advising group is now offering a new option.

“We’d like to see every Catholic organization invest in accordance with their values and not compromise on their expected outcome,” said Mary Brunson, vice president of Investing for Catholics.

She said many people want a retirement plan without investing in anything counter to their beliefs.

“We’ve managed to capture everything that the market has to offer, but still screen out the companies that are not in keeping with what we hold true as Catholics,” she told CNA.

Investing for Catholics is a division of the California-based Index Fund Advisors, Inc., which has 2,100-plus clients and about $2.7 billion in assets under management as of mid-2015. The Catholic investment division dates back to 2009. The division’s investment strategies are used in the retirement plans of dioceses, religious orders, cemetery funds, Catholic foundations, endowments and individual clients.

Investing for Catholics announced two of its newest funds at the Catholic Diocesan Fiscal Managers Conference Sept. 27 in Atlanta. The newest funds will help provide retirement plan options for employees.

According to Investing for Catholics, the funds “closely match” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ guidelines for socially responsible investing.

The U.S. bishops’ investment guidelines stress several principles, including protection for human life and dignity, reduction in arms production, economic justice, environmental protection and corporate responsibility. The guidelines were last revised in November 2003.

Investing for Catholics index portfolios are screened to exclude companies that directly participate in abortions, develop or manufacture abortifacients, profit from contraceptive development manufacture or are involved in embryonic stem-cell or fetal-tissue research.

The portfolios exclude companies that have had recent major controversies about child-labor infractions or that do business in Sudan. They filter out companies that derive 15% or more in revenue from pornography, alcoholic beverages or tobacco products. They exclude companies that derive 20% or more in revenue from gambling and from the production or sale of military weapons or weapons systems. They exclude companies that are involved in the production of landmines or their components.

The portfolios also exclude companies that own or operate acute-care hospitals or surgical centers.

Brunson said historically it has been “very costly” to invest in accord with Catholic values. It has also been difficult to diversify investments when seeking companies that follow Catholic standards.

Investing for Catholics’ portfolio includes about 9,700 companies in domestic and international markets, out of about 19,000 companies in the global markets.

In particular, Brunson said she thinks it is important for bishops seeking investment plans for their dioceses to understand that they can fulfill their financial responsibilities and still invest in a manner consistent with Catholic teaching.

Such an investment strategy can also help show consistency in political disputes, Brunson added. She noted the controversy over the federal mandates requiring some Catholic organizations to provide drugs and procedures that violate Catholic teaching in their health-benefits plan.

She said that bishops who sue the federal government for religious-liberty violations when it requires certain benefits in their health-care plans can face criticism about whether their retirement plan is profiting from such benefits, drugs and procedures.

Investing for Catholics’ ecclesial adviser is Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer. He is a former president of Gonzaga University and founder and president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center for Ethical Leadership.

The investment filter is applied by the fund manager Dimensional Fund Advisors, with the advice of several religious organizations. Investing for Catholics developed the funds in collaboration with Hand Benefits & Trust, a company with Benefit Plans Administrative Services, Inc.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy