The Catholic Finance Association recently held a debate in NYC on Socially Responsible Investing. Participants included: Dr. Robert Kennedy, University St. Thomas; William Mumma, Becket Fund; Rev. Robert Connor, Chaplain Riverside Study Center, and Sean Fieler Equinox Partners LP.

The debate was billed as a look at Wall Street through the prism of Catholic social teaching, with a particular emphasis on the efficacy of SRI (socially responsible investing) as a tool for promoting good in the world.

In his remarks, Fr. Bob Connor tried get the group to consider the bigger picture — not just the morality of investing, but the larger “crisis about God” and the “meaning of man.” He said that in a world dominated by big data and Google, ‘reason’ has been dumbed down to where people don’t know what is real anymore. “Reality is the word of God.” He pointed to the “problem of crossing the threshold of consciousness” — emphasizing the need to see the morality of work in the secular world — the need to seek holiness while working out our salvation in temporal affairs and then quoting St. Josemaria Escriva — “finding something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations.” Fr. Bob called for a “person centered approach” to investing in the whole economy (getting beyond moral categories and ethical sectors), saying that “the investment philosophy that ignores that aspect and judges the morality of investments solely or primarily on the moral quality of the object companies to produce, is merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.”

From the book of Proverbs:

“My son, if you take my words to heart, if you set store by my commandments, tuning your ear to wisdom, and applying your heart to truth: yes, if your plea is for perception, if you cry out for discernment, if you look for it as if it were silver, and search for it as for buried treasure, you will then understand what the fear of the Lord is, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord himself is giver of wisdom, from his mouth issue knowledge and discernment. He keeps his help for honest men, he is the shield of those whose ways are honorable; he stands guard over the paths of justice, he keeps watch on the way of his devoted ones. Then you will understand what virtue is, justice and fair dealing, all paths that lead to happiness.” Proverbs 2: 1-9

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