US bishops are considering guidelines for socially responsible investment

A draft investment regulation policy by the American Catholic Bishops’ Conference sets broader limits on the investment of funds and promotes a policy of engagement with corporate practices that affect human dignity.

Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, presented the draft policy and said it builds on the current 2003 bishops’ investment policies.

Bishop Malloy presented the guidelines and represented Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, Fla., USCCB Treasurer, who was unable to travel to Baltimore due to illness.

The new guidelines have been in development for three years, with full advice to nine USCCB committees, led by Christian Brothers Investment Services, who acted as managers of the process, Bishop Malloy said.

The new document includes input from a survey of bishops on what they think should be part of a revised policy, he added.

The directive adds guidance in areas such as telecommunications, media and impact investing, and expands to include steps ranging from no investment to involving companies in their business practices.

Companies, stocks, or mutual funds that generate significant income from immoral activities should not be invested

“This update maintains and builds on aspects of the (existing) guidelines that users found most useful,” Bishop Malloy told the congregation.

Questioned why fossil fuels are barely mentioned in the document, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego described the section as “weak” because the Vatican and Pope Francis have encouraged the segregation of such energy sources as to slow climate change required are .

Bishop Malloy responded that investing in fossil fuels was discussed extensively by the working group that produced the guidelines. The group decided, he said, “it is not now possible to get a full end” to fossil fuel investments and decided that it would be best to give financial advisors working with the USCCB “room” to determine which investments are appropriate.

A fuller discussion and vote on the new guidelines was scheduled for November 17, the second of two days of public sessions during the Autumn Bishops’ Assembly, November 15-18.

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The draft document submitted to the Catholic News Service contains numerous concerns in which the USCCB would not invest, as well as others in which the conference would involve companies through proxy voting and support for shareholder resolutions to change company practices.

Recognizing that the USCCB has a responsibility to increase its financial assets to serve the various ministries it has assumed, the document states that the conference has a responsibility to do so in a responsible manner “for the growth of each person and to promote the whole person “. “, Said Pope Francis in a speech in 2019 before the Council for Inclusive Capitalism.

The document begins by looking back at the declaration by US bishops more than three decades ago that preaching the gospel in a complex economic environment “requires a prudent strategy in which decisions are made according to the moral doctrine of the Church”.

Such an effort requires assessing investments by identifying how businesses and other entities “protect lives, promote human dignity, act fairly, promote the common good and protect the environment”.

The document also addresses the principles of corporate governance that shareholders must require to protect human dignity.

“The intertwined web of corporate relationships that characterize today’s economy makes it nearly impossible to understand all of the implications an investment in a single company, security, or mutual fund can have. Even so, we must do everything we can to ensure that we invest in them. ” Companies and institutions that promote human dignity and strengthen the common good, “says the document.

It adds, “Any company, stock, or mutual fund that generates a significant portion of its income from immoral activities should not be invested.”

The document offers three corporate strategies that can be pursued: avoid harm, actively work for change and promote the common good.

In executing the strategies, the USCCB will continue to build on current efforts and oversee how corporate actions propel or undermine Catholic teaching and conference policies, the document says.

The draft guideline also calls on the USCCB to work with investment advisers “to clearly articulate its objectives and guidelines”; use common sense and prudence in implementing investment strategies; and require financial advisors to report every three years on the effectiveness of the guidelines and their implementation.

The investment policy of the document encompasses five categories: protecting human life, promoting human dignity, enhancing the common good, seeking economic justice and saving our global common home.

The directive does not require investment in companies directly involved in abortion; Euthanasia; Euthanasia; in vitro fertilization; Human cloning; Contraception or research on embryonic stem cells and fetal tissue that terminates a child’s life in the womb or uses tissue from abortion “or other life-ending activities” and / or develops products and services resulting from such research.

Other companies that would not invest include those involved in pornography or sexual exploitation, or those “directly involved in sex reassignment surgery, or in the administration of drugs or hormones for the purpose of delaying normal puberty or change.” of a man’s body are involved “. Individual corresponds to a gender that does not correspond to biological gender. “

The document also aims to maintain investment to enable efforts to encourage companies to improve labor standards

It would also not invest in companies “that generate any income from the manufacture of weapons that contradict Catholic warfare,” such as biological and chemical weapons, land mines, first-strike nuclear weapons, and weapons of mass destruction.

In addition to such investment restrictions, the policy requires the USCCB to “actively engage” companies through voting and support for shareholder resolutions affecting other Church social doctrinal issues.

One effort would be for the USCCB to encourage companies to make life-sustaining drugs and vaccines available at affordable prices in the US and developing countries, the guidelines say.

Another area of ​​engagement mentioned in the guidelines is to urge companies to “advocate an understanding of marriage or sexuality that is in accordance with Church teaching and natural law”.

In addition to its commitment, the USCCB will “seek opportunities to work with other investors to invest in companies, organizations and other financial initiatives that not only aim for financial return, but also actively seek to address the common good and create positive and environmental change “, So called the guidelines.

The draft directive calls on companies to address climate change, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, environmental protection, water scarcity, human rights, racial and social discrimination, human trafficking, hate speech on social media, discrimination or violations of religious freedom, privacy and civil liberties.

The document also aims to maintain investment to enable efforts to encourage companies to improve labor standards, promote social, environmental and financial responsibility, introduce ethical and responsible banking and support initiatives for affordable housing.

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