WASHINGTON (November 7, 2003) -- The U.S. bishops will vote to revise their guidelines governing investments of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at their annual November meeting in Washington, Nov. 10-13.
Investment positions are based on principles of Catholic theology.
The new guidelines are being proposed by the bishops' Committee on Budget and Finance and mark the first major revision since the original guidelines were adopted in 1991. The guidelines, the committee said, "have become somewhat dated" given that "the investment landscape has changed significantly since 1991."
The proposed guidelines would expand the list of types of companies to be avoided when investing so that it includes those involved in pornography, embryonic stem cell research, fetal tissue research, cloning, production and sale of landmines, sweatshops and predatory lending.
The new policy would continue the already existing ban on investing in companies involved in abortion, contraceptives, weapons production and those which are guilty of racial and gender discrimination.
The guidelines also state that the conference will support "shareholder resolutions directed toward making life sustaining drugs more available and affordable to low-income communities and nations."
They note, in particular, that the conference would "urge the international community – and major pharmaceutical companies – to respond more effectively to the needs of AIDS patients in poor countries …"
The guidelines also call for promoting shareholder initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting human rights and protecting the environment.
The guidelines were developed by a task force which noted that current conference investment strategies are limited to stock screening and alternate/community investing.
The task force reported that "the time has come to move the Conference from merely a screening position to a more active stance.
"Accordingly, the Task Force will develop a proxy voting guide, which would be a written policy on how the Conference will vote the shares of stock it owns on certain issues."
The Task force also agreed "to look into the possibility of joining in corporate resolutions filed by the Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) or some other source, with CBIS acting as an intermediary."
The USCCB holds an investment portfolio of $175 million. The money for investments includes the conference building fund, a quasi-endowment fund to offset increases in the annual diocesan assessments, the USCCB general and operating reserve funds which support ongoing operations, and funds equal to the annual budget that national fundraising offices are required to keep in reserve. The estimated annual budget of the USCCB is $127 million.