Thursday, October 18, 2007

Making Bad Investments

Feast of St. Luke

According to a recent report, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), through its Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) mutual funds, has millions of dollars invested in companies who participate directly in, profit from their association with, or philanthropically support organizations involved in pornography, or abortion, not to mention embryonic stem cell research. For one example, according to its semi-annual report, the CBIS Catholic United Investment Trust has a significant position (see p. 29) in GlaxoSmithKline, who has a stated policy of using and partnering with other organizations' use of embryonic stem cell research. This despite having a stated policy that is seemingly to the opposite effect. Now, to be fair, CBIS does do some investment screening. (Just for the record, the Southern Baptist Conference is in the same boat.)

So where does it leave us who know we shouldn't, and who don't desire, to finance evil through our financial investments? My 401(k) at work does not offer value-investing options. Does that mean I should forgo the company match benefit and roll it into one of just a few choices for another vehicle, like an Ave Maria fund, that, in addition to limiting my contributions, may not have similar flexibility, diversity, or opportunity to build retirement resources for me to fulfill that moral obligation to the same level? After all, that level of extra effort does not appear to be necessary for the USCCB.

We can expect a range of answers on that , just as I was recently taken to task by a commenter for not joining the boycott of Miller Brewing for their sponsorship of the Folsom Street Fair. While I think I was on pretty solid ground in that case given the efficacy (or lack thereof) of that particular boycott, the prudential question remains the same: Where does material cooperation end and scrupulosity begin?

[submitted by e-mail]

Cross-posted at Catholic Dads.


  1. I find myself confronting the very issues you face. I would would love to hear some sound/practical advice.

  2. This is now cross-posted at Catholic Dads--so watch there for ideas, too (I hope).



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