Back in the late 1990′s I changed jobs and rolled-over my (minuscule) 401k into a self-directed IRA. I did some basic research and chose a mutual fund to put the IRA money into. Every quarter I got a statement from the mutual fund company and I would usually scan it briefly. Imagine my surprise one day when I noticed that they added Playboy to the list of companies they invested in. I wrote the company asking them to stop investing in Playboy. I received a very professional response respecting my position, but telling me that they would remain invested in Playboy as it was good for their investors.
So what was I to do? I figured I had five options:
- Invest in another mutual fund with the possibility that it too would eventually invest in a morally-objectionable company.
- Invest in a “socially-responsible” mutual fund which respected my worldview but could very well lag other mutual funds in performance.
- Invest the money in individual stocks instead of a mutual fund I couldn’t control.
- Invest the money in federal bonds or another non-stock vehicle which didn’t involve morally problematic firms.
- Leave the market.
These are the choices the Catholic faces when involved in the stock market, either directly or through mutual funds. I came to the conclusion that option (1) wasn’t a viable choice for me, as I didn’t want my money being invested in companies that engaged in explicitly immoral activities. I also don’t think option (5) is a good option for those who wish to be good stewards of their money, and option (4), while viable, definitely limits one’s ability to grow their money over time. So that leaves options (2) and (3), both of which have serious downsides: a “socially-responsible” fund usually performs worse than comparable mutual funds because of its restrictions, and do-it-yourself investing has a whole host of potential problems associated with it.
In the end I made my choice and it has worked out fine for me over the years. But these are the type of questions every Catholic must make while living in a culture which increasingly disrespects our values. And with the advent of government-funded abortion, the conceit that our money isn’t directly used for evil is quickly slipping away. What type of choices will the Catholic have to make in the future?