Pope Francis at odds with US Catholic oil investments

Despite Pope Francis’s call for urgent action on climate change, many US Catholic dioceses and organisations retain major investments in energy companies.

A Reuters’ investigation has shown some of the largest American Catholic organisations have millions of dollars invested in the energy sector.

Investments range from hydraulic fracturing firms to oil sands producers.

Dioceses with such investments include Boston, Chicago, Baltimore and Toledo.

The holdings tend to make up between 5 and 10 per cent of the dioceses’ overall equities investments.

But their fossil fuel holdings have likely triggered losses in recent years due to sliding oil prices.

In his recent encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis declared that the use of “highly polluting fossil fuels . . . needs to be progressively replaced without delay”.

The Archdiocese of Chicago had “under 8 per cent” of its US$1.65 billion portfolio in fossil fuels, a spokeswoman said.

Chicago archdiocese told Reuters it will re-examine its more than US$100 million worth of fossil fuel investments.

“We are beginning to evaluate the implications of the encyclical across multiple areas, including investments and also including areas such as energy usage and building materials,” said Betsy Bohlen, chief operating officer for the archdiocese.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ guidelines on ethical investing warn Catholics and Catholic institutions against investing in companies related to abortion, contraception, pornography, tobacco, and war, but do not suggest avoiding energy stocks.

Fr Michael Crosby, a Capuchin friar who advocates for socially responsible investing in the Church, pointed to a “clash between Pope Francis’s vision of the world and the world that the bishops who run the investments live in”.

“The bishops are a very conservative group, and I’m not hopeful this will be resolved anytime soon,” he said.


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