Category Archives: Economic Justice

Invest in a better world

 

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“Individual Christians who are shareholders and those responsible within church institutions that own stocks in U.S. corporations must see to it that the invested funds are used responsibly…their stewardship embraces broader moral concerns.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Economic Justice for All,” 354)

Most people do not realize that the Catholic church presents very clear direction on how an authentic Christian should, and should not, invest their assets. If you think about it for more than 5 seconds, all the dots start to connect.

  • In Genesis, humankind was given dominion, and stewardship, over all creation.
  • When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus makes his famous statement about loving God above all else and one’s neighbor as one’s self.
  • The Second Vatican Council states “…the social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person.”
  • The parable of the talents is all about investing the gifts God has given us, even to the point where the servant who buries his talent in a field is thrown into the darkness!

I could go on and on. Indeed, investing encompasses nearly every aspect of the Christian life, yet it is too often thought of as outside the sphere of faith. Conscientious Catholics vote in alignment with the precepts of their faith. Many individuals will not shop at a store that is suspected of violating human rights or damaging the environment through the production of goods. Yet, the vast majority of individuals have no idea if those same companies are owned in their portfolio! Or worse, they use a mentality that business and investing somehow get their own set of ethics and disregard their faith completely in these decisions.

Think about your portfolio. Do you own individual stocks or mutual funds? Do you know every stock held in that mutual fund? Are you certain the stocks held, individually or within funds, do not engage in the production of abortifacients or embryonic stem-cell research? These issues are known as intrinsic evils, meaning that no amount of good can justify the evil inherent in them. In other words, no amount of profit or diversification can justify holding stocks that participate in these activities. That is not my opinion, that is Church teaching. What about environmental depletion? Pharmaceutical price gouging? Child labor in supply chains? Are you profiting from these extrinsic evils?

But enough of the “Catholic guilt.” What about all the good that can come from investing ethically? That’s where I, personally, got really interested in socially responsible investing. Active ownership is a process by which an investor engages with the companies held in their portfolio to affect positive social change. Activist investors have encouraged numerous firms to start issuing sustainability reports that seek to measure and improve environmental impact. Some of the greatest active ownership achievements have made material differences on issues like human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, racism and sexism.

Furthermore, impact investing is a strategy whereby an investor proactively invests in companies that do good. There are large, publicly traded companies that make good global citizenship a priority. Those are the kinds of profits I want in my portfolio.

Business and investing should not have its own set of rules. If you’re still unsure, check out my piece “The Catholic Case for Ethical Investing” available on http://www.elinvestments.net/literature.* Talk to your financial advisor about socially responsible investing. If they don’t know as much about it as you do, it’s probably time to start interviewing new advisors and living your faith in your portfolio.

About the Author

KJ Smith

KJ Smith, CFP®, ChFC®

KJ Smith founded Ethos Logos Investments after realizing that most socially responsible investment advisors are focused solely on the institutional market, thus leaving individuals and small business owners without the exposure, resources, or guidance necessary to integrate their morals and ethics into their portfolio.

KJ has over a decade of industry experience working with Catholic institutions, Fortune 500 companies, closely-held business owners, independent contractors, and individual investors. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® and a CHARTERED FINANCIAL CONSULTANT®. He has a BBA from Loyola University Chicago where he majored in Finance and minored in Theology, including two summers studying abroad in Rome and Spain. He is a parishioner, a cantor, and a finance board committee member at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Aurora, IL. He is also on the leadership team for Fit Shepherds.

KJ and his wife, Amanda, just welcomed their 4th child in 2018. KJ enjoys coaching his kids’ sports activities, hunting, working out, and spending as much time outside as possible.

KJ recently presented a workshop on Socially Responsible Investing to a gathering of Life and Justice leaders from throughout the Joliet Diocese. We encourage you and your parish to consider further study of this important, but often overlooked, area of Christian discipleship. We highly recommend KJ for an engaging and informative parish presentation.

 

 

*Securities offered through Securities America, Inc Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Securities America Advisors, Inc. Ethos Logos Investments and Securities America are separate entities.

Dorothy Day and the “Duty of Delight”

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by Annemarie Coman, Diocese of Joliet’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development Intern and Catholic Worker at the Nativity House Catholic Worker Farm

I’ve recently been perusing a collection of Dorothy Day’s dairies bound in a book by the title, “The Duty of Delight.” Although in many pictures Dorothy Day appears rather stern, it is beautiful to reflect on what I would like to call her “theology of delight.” Dorothy Day was by no means a frivolous person, and any account of her life will recount her tireless pursuit of justice, her determined work for the dignity of the poor, her strength of will and passion for peace. And how can we forget her actions as a citizen, her boycotting and outspoken articles in pursuit of peace that at one point even got her arrested? All of these point to Dorothy’s incredible grit and perseverance to do what her conscience demanded, and her conscience demanded a lot, guided as she was by her Catholic faith.

But I think it is also important ( and helpful ) to remember that Dorothy, as a human, like all of us, needed beauty and the delight of being a follower of Christ to sustain her in her work. She says, “It is joy that brought me to the faith, joy at the birth of my child 35 years ago, and that joy is constantly renewed as I daily receive our Lord at Mass” (328).  To Dorothy, it seems that delight and the hard work of her faith went hand and hand. Dorothy took great delight in the Eucharist, and in her diary she often notes her experience at daily mass, which she considered to be the climax of her day. Dorothy also delighted in the beauty of nature. In her diary dated September 1, 1962, she writes:

Mass at 8. Most beautiful surroundings. Low tide and I collected shells, very large mussels. Two “lights” which came to me in my life for which I shall be always thankful […]when I realized that the pleasures of the intellect would grow, that the delights in the search for God would never end—at the beach.

It is beautiful to me here that Dorothy mentions Mass and then the tide of the sea all in one breath, we almost don’t know if her phrase “beautiful surroundings” is meant to describe the first or the second experience. I would argue both. In both she sees the beauty of God, and delights in his presence. The next day, September 2, 1962 she writes again of this beauty:

Up at six. A still foggy day, very close. Great clamor from crows, great murmurings among starlings, laughing gulls. I can sit on balcony overlooking water. The smell of the sea at low tide[…]It is good to sit out here in early morning and think and pray[…] (337).

And again on June 8,, 1970:

All this a.m. sat in sun, basking in the beauty of the river (504).

In these excerpts one may wonder, what is this woman of action doing collecting shells, sitting and recording the actions of birds, the fog on a lake, the beauty of a river? How does this help her mission to serve the poor, to be a witness to Christ? It is clear though, that this kind of delightful contemplation was essential to Dorothy’s work and way of being. She saw this contemplation of beauty as more than just a frivolous gift to enjoy when one has time, but a “duty.” In fact, this duty of delight helps her as she thinks through her pursuit of nonviolence. The quote from September 2 continues in the following way,

To me the issue is always that of nonviolence as well as man’s needs on this earth where God put us to work out our salvation. How are we to achieve some measure of justice, striven for because of our love for our brothers?[…] I go to see Christ in my brother the Cuban… (337).

As Dorothy contemplates her mission of nonviolence and her trip to Cuba she delights in the beauty of nature and it does not “distract” her from her duty but rather fuels it. The beauty of God in nature feeds her soul to discover the beauty of God in her Cuban neighbor.

Might we all remember that delight is our duty as Christians, and it is not scarce. In the beauty of nature and the gift of the Eucharist we, like Dorothy Day, can draw delight and true joy in God’s presence and find the strength to work for peace and justice right where we are. In this way we can follow Pope Francis’ direction. For he says in The Church of Mercy, “And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”

 

Works Cited:  Day, Dorothy, and Robert Ellsberg. The Duty of Delight: the Diaries of Dorothy Day. Image Books, 2011.