CBIS has been closely monitoring the recent failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), First Republic Bank’s decline in shares, and the collapse of Signature Bank over the weekend. CBIS’ Investment Team is working closely with our sub-advisers to monitor the situation and you can expect to hear more from us in the coming days.

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As we look back on a particularly challenging year, I’m reminded once again of scripture. You might recognize the line above from Matthew. In full context, the verse speaks to the miracle of light — the idea that it’s in us all, regardless of circumstances — and that something so precious should not be wasted.

As we head into 2023, we feel optimistic and grateful for our amazing team and incredible investors at CBIS.
During a time when it is easy to only focus on darkness, we choose to look for the light.

By now, most everyone’s aware the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – the USCCB – approved new investment Guidelines at its 2021 General Assembly. The updates, extensive by our account, were overwhelmingly approved by the full body of U.S. Bishops. 

Here’s a big point: This is the first update to the USCCB guidance in 18 years. 

We know the Guidelines help inform investment decisions of a countless number of Catholic religious communities, dioceses, colleges, church organizations, and individual investors around the U.S. 

It’s worth remembering that they don’t have to. 

The Guidelines are, in fact, intended for the USCCB itself– its operations, its funds, its monies. The Conference is not a regulatory agency. Even if a bishop voted for the Guidelines at the plenary session, he could still do something different in his own diocese. Catholic investors choose to align their investments with the Guidelines at their own discretion.

Key Takeaways from the 2021 Guidance

While the CBIS investment team is still analyzing the new guidance, we can already suggest there are FOUR notable attributes to highlight in the update. 

  1. The guidance was developed through a very thoughtful process

The new Guidelines were drafted by the USCCB staff under the leadership of a Bishops’ Working Group, chaired by the USCCB Treasurer, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. 

The working group’s efforts began with a survey of all U.S. Bishops and included meetings with external subject matter experts as well as ESG research providers. The final document was sent out to every Bishop in the United States well in advance of the Conference. Any bishop could offer a modification he wanted to see individually. A good number did.

  1. The Guidelines emphasize a holistic policy approach 

The new Guidelines incorporate teachings of both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis and they intricately connect five major categories of USCCB policies:

  • Protecting Human Life, 
  • Promoting Human Dignity, 
  • Enhancing The Common Good,
  • Pursuing Economic Justice, and
  • Saving Our Global Common Home. 
  1. The USCCB will periodically review the Guideline’s relevance 

In carrying out its investment strategies, the USCCB will now review the Guideline’s relevance every three years. We think this is a huge breakthrough. Remember, the last time the Guidelines were reviewed was 18 years ago. A regular review will keep the guidance fresh and relevant. 

The Bishops are still figuring out exactly what the review will look like – when it will happen, how it will be done, and so on. 

  1. The updated Guidelines reaffirm and expand prior investment strategies 

The final attribute to note is that the Guidelines reaffirm and expand a number of existing investment strategies. The USCCB investment strategies to avoid doing harm as well as to actively work for change as an investor were both reaffirmed and significantly extended. 

The Guidelines also again require a refusal to invest in companies whose products and/or policies are counter to the values of Catholic moral teachings or statements by the Conference itself. This guidance includes any decisions not to invest in the first place, as well as divesting. Likewise, the Guidelines again require the use of the Conference’s position as shareholder and part owner to engage companies through dialogue with management, voting at corporate meetings, and supportive resolution. 

What happens next?

CBIS will continue to comprehensively analyze the robust list of specific policies the USCCB has articulated. 

Like you, we are deeply troubled by the recent attacks on Ukraine. As brothers and sisters in Christ, and on Ash Wednesday, we pray for a swift and peaceful resolution. We pray especially for the poor and vulnerable who are most impacted in times of crisis and conflict. And we pray for the continued strength and courage of the leadership and citizens of Ukraine.

While we cannot predict the outcome in Ukraine, we want to share our thoughts on how this might impact global financial markets and economies and discuss exposure to Russia in our funds.

October 21, 2021 marks an important milestone in CBIS history as we celebrate 40 years of serving Catholic investors. The anniversary comes at a pivotal time as we look forward to The Transformation in December and the opportunity to serve even more Catholic investors who seek to transform the world.

Thank you to those who have made this anniversary possible, including former CBIS’ leadership, our shareholders, our investors, and our employees.

We thank you for your trust as we work to help Catholic investors who are looking to transform the world.