Meet the New S&P 500 Catholic Values Index

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/23/2015 09:40:00 PM
Is Catholic capitalism an oxymoron? Let the fund managers and investors decide.
Ah, more of the economics of popery. Lovely stuff to contemplate, methinks. Despite being Catholic, I am not entirely sure what the religion's impact is on the wider world. For instance, Pope Francis' recent economically- and environmentally-focused encyclical has largely fallen upon deaf ears in the United States--even those who are Catholic:
Pope Francis released a 180-page indictment of capitalism and climate change that has fallen, for the most part, on deaf ears in the U.S. Just 31 percent of Americans know that the pope has made fights against global warming and poverty top issues, according to a national poll conducted by the Associated Press, the University of Chicago, and Yale University. Catholics reported familiarity with Pope Francis’s agenda in slightly larger numbers—40 percent—but a majority of the faithful remain unaware of the pontiff’s high-profile issues. His policy on climate change was released with great fanfare in June.

The new poll begins to answer some questions—posed by those paying attention, at least during the yearlong runup to the release of Laudato Si’, or “Praise Be to You,” the pope’s encyclical letter to bishops. Observers have puzzled over how effective, or even willing, the pope’s front-line personnel would be at propagating his message. Would dioceses actually put the document before parishioners? Turns out not many have, at least not yet. Just 37 percent of U.S. Catholics who went to church in late June and July heard the encyclical mentioned, compared with 12 percent of other Christians, according to the poll.
No matter; here's another entry in the mammon 'n' religion sweepstakes. You have undoubtedly heard of socially responsible investing, or putting your hard-earned money to work in companies that treat people, the environment and so on right by prioritizing corporate social responsibility. In the ever-widening market for ethical funds, here comes your latest entry: the S&P Catholic Values Index that evaluates companies by their adherence to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops socially responsible investment guidelines. What follows is the press blurb:

S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI), one of the world's leading providers of financial market indices, announced the launch of the S&P 500® Catholic Values Index which is designed to include the companies within the S&P 500 whose business practices adhere to the Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines as outlined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (US CCB) and exclude those that do not. The Index has been licensed to Global X for product development. 
The S&P 500 Catholic Values Index is the first Catholic index based on such a prominent benchmark as the S&P 500. Constituents are screened to exclude companies who are involved in the following activities that are perceived to be inconsistent with Catholic values as set out by the US CCB, such as:
  • Biological weapons, chemical weapons, cluster bombs, landmines
  • Nuclear weapons – any exposure to whole systems and strategic par
  • Conventional Military sales – companies that have their primary business activity as military products
  • Child labor employment in the company's operation or in supply chain

I am sure that tobacco and (fossil fuel-based) energy also take their lumps. The real questions are, however, [a] whether funds pop up that match their placements to this index and [b] if there are investors out there who would be interested in placing their money in such funds.