Following Standard & Poor’s launch on Aug. 19, the French media declared the advent of Christian finance and of Catholic finance.
The stakes concerning the advent of Catholic finance are not new.
The aim is twofold, to facilitate a sustainable and socially responsible management strategy of the Church’s financial assets, and also to encourage more ethical investments that take into account human dignity, protection of the weak, the defense of basic freedoms, environmental protection and the upkeep of places of worship.
Christian investment, which is more demanding from an ethical standpoint than socially responsible investment (SRI) and solidarity investment, is characterized by its references to the Holy Gospels, the Church’s social doctrine and other ecumenical writings.
Islamic finance draws its principles directly from texts in the Quran that explicitly address financial issues. In contrast, Christian ethical finance was unable to find equivalent rules in the Bible, which is rather vague on these topics. Hence, the Church had to develop its own analysis, based on Biblical texts and its own catechism, to determine Christian ethical financial principles.
The Protestant Church has long been extremely creative in this field, especially in the United States where financial questions have been a topic of discussion in their churches for many years. There are numerous works in English devoted to teaching the faithful how to manage their savings, as well as videos and training to assist those who find themselves over-indebted.
The Catholic Church has also developed a corpus of general principles applying to the economy that are grounded in its social doctrine, notably in the wake of the 2007 crisis. This movement has been relayed or initiated by Catholics all over the world, in particular by the Bishops’ Conferences. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted an initial guide in November 1991, which was amended in 2003.
European Catholics have similarly organized on the issue. The Conference of German Bishops published a guide to promote ethical and sustainable investment in July 2015.
The French Church has few resources, contrary to Germany where citizens pay a church tax (Kirchensteuer), and there are no Christian banks in France.