Vatican plans to propose ethical framework for financial activities

On the 06/04/19 at 8:12AM


Thibaud Vadjoux

One year after the pope’s ground-breaking statement on finance and the economy, the Catholic Church wants to go further in giving investors and its own dioceses some bearings on ethical investments.

The Vatican is scheduled to present soon a benchmark document on ethical criteria in financial investments. “We are in the process of drafting a text on ethical investment for the world of finance and for the church itself, as we need the financial system to carry out our mission”, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the first prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, said on 29 May 2019, at a meeting held at Meeschaert Asset Management. 

In May 2018, the pope presented his thoughts and criticisms on finance in the document “Economic and Financial Questions” (Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones). The Vatican wants to pursue this effort while raising the value of ethical finance and “good” wealth.

Coming texts must give the financial world “enlightenment rooted in the church’s social doctrine”, said Pascal-André Dumont, bursar of the Saint-Martin community and president of the Fonds Proclero, which is managed by Meeschaert AM. The church will attempt to address precise issues. Pierre de Lauzun, president of the association of catholic economists, believes that “ethical investment in the Catholic sense must be presented (in the text being prepared), along an analysis of what is a good financial market and the issue of debt as opposed to equity”.  

The church will also address the issue of “the vocation of investor” in a project being led with Ora and Labora, a group of financial professionals. And from 26-28 March 2020, Pope Francis will bring together young Catholics to discuss alternative economies.  

Providing dioceses with an investment framework

Work on ethical investment criteria is targeted at local churches. “Dioceses in France and the United States have established investment rules but many others haven’t. That’s why we want to publish this document”, Cardinal Turkson explained.

The church applies these principles to itself. The Institute for the Works of Religion, which is the Vatican’s financing arm (with 15,000 clients and €5.3bn in assets, of which €3.5bn in AuM) has been implicated in several financial scandals and criticised for its lack of transparency. Since 2014, it has been reforming under pressure of Pope Francis and under the supervision of the French financier Jean-Baptiste Douville de Franssu, who has headed the institute since 2014.  

In its 2017 report, the institute noted its commitment to transparency, and its commitment to cooperate with tax authorities and to follow an ethical approach, particularly in its investments, in accordance with catholic principles.  

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