INSIGHT-Pope's climate push at odds with U.S. Catholic oil investments
By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON Aug 12 (Reuters) - Pope Francis heartened environmentalists around the world in June when he urged immediate action to save the planet from the effects of climate change, declaring that the use of "highly polluting fossil fuels needs to be progressively replaced without delay."
But some of the largest American Catholic organizations have millions of dollars invested in energy companies, from hydraulic fracturing firms to oil sands producers, according to their own disclosures, through many portfolios intended to fund church operations and pay clergy salaries.
This discrepancy between the church's leadership and its financial activities in the United States has prompted at least one significant review of investments. The Archdiocese of Chicago, America's third largest by Catholic population, told Reuters it will reexamine its more than $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," Betsy Bohlen, chief operating officer for the Archdiocese, said in an email.
The pope's encyclical, a letter sent to all Catholic bishops, has sharpened a debate well underway in Catholic organizations and other churches about divestment. But many major American dioceses have resisted the push.
"You now have this clash between Pope Francis' vision of the world, and the world that the bishops who run the investments live in," said Father Michael Crosby, a Capuchin friar in Milwaukee who advocates socially responsible investing in the church.
"The bishops are a very conservative group, and I'm not hopeful this will be resolved anytime soon."
Dioceses covering Boston, Rockville Centre on Long Island, Baltimore, Toledo, and much of Minnesota have all reported millions of dollars in holdings in oil and gas stocks in recent years, according to documents reviewed by Reuters. Continued...