“Doing good for the people”

The Catholic Church wants to motivate parishes, religious orders, dioceses and aid organizations to invest their money according to ethical, social and ecological criteria. The exclusion criteria include abortion, armaments and genetic engineering.

"Ethical-Sustainable Investment" is the title of the 40-page brochure presented in Bonn on Friday by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, and Alois Gluck, President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).

Ensuring transparency

It was "a central question for the credibility of the church" how it dealt with its finances and assets, Gluck said. This also includes transparency of church financial structures and asset relationships, said the chairman of the Catholic lay representation with regard to the scandal surrounding the financing of the bishop's residence in the Limburg diocese.

It is a task of the church to "invest ethically-sustainably," said Cardinal Marx. All church institutions should therefore base their investments "on Christian values". It's not just about "doing good for people and for creation" with the interest, Marx said, but also about considering the impact on the environment and on other people, "especially the poor," when investing. Marx referred to the environmental and social encyclical "Laudato si" (translated: "Praise be to you") by Pope Francis, which was published two weeks ago.

Classic investment goals

For the guidance of church investors, the bishops and laity present 17 "possible exclusion criteria" for capital investments. These include, for example, abortion, labor rights violations, pornography and addictive substances. Investments should also be avoided that promote corruption, human rights violations, armaments, the death penalty, totalitarian regimes, nuclear energy, climate-damaging substances and so-called green genetic engineering.

According to the authors, however, it is up to the individual church investors to decide whether and how they take these criteria into account. According to Marx and Gluck, financial service providers who specialize in analyses based on sustainable criteria should be able to help. For all their good intentions, however, parishes, dioceses and other institutions should keep in mind the "classic investment objectives." Return on investment, security and liquidity should "not be disregarded," Marx said.

Ethical and ecclesiastical investment

Sustainable investments are not entirely new, at least for the lay organization. In 2007, the Central Committee of German Catholics published a handout entitled "Ethical Investment".

In October 2011, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) presented a guideline for ethical financial investments. The EKD working group "Church Investments" continues to work on the topic and update the guide, most recently in 2013. There are positive criteria listed in addition to the exclusion criteria.

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