Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Holy P*rn" US Bishops Invest in Abortion & P*rnography?

ILLICIT INVESTMENTS Holy Porn! February 2008 By Thomas Strobhar Thomas Strobhar, President of Thomas Strobhar Financial in Dayton, Ohio, has over 25 years of investment experience. He is the founder of Citizen Action Now (www.citizenactionnow.com), an advocacy group that combats the imposition of the homosexual agenda, and Chairman of Life Decisions International (www. fightpp.org), an advocacy group dedicated to challenging the Culture of Death and promoting chastity. He is also the founder of Pro Vita Advisors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing and confronting the business aspects of abortion. His shareholder resolutions against contributions to Planned Parenthood have affected corporate policies at AT&T, American Express, General Mills, Target Stores, Berkshire Hathaway, and others. *******************************************************
Five hundred years ago the Catholic Church was laid low for selling indulgences. Six years ago the Church was rocked by news of bishops covering up the sexual misdeeds of their fellow priests. Today hundreds of Catholic groups -- dioceses, archdioceses, and religious orders -- help fund their work through the sale of sex. Not sex per se, but the graphic depiction of sex found in hardcore pornography. Yes, the seamiest and steamiest hardcore porn films are brought into our living rooms and hotel rooms everyday through the investments of a veritable who's who of Catholic religious groups. What do the bishops have to say about this? Not much. Until a few years ago, they had nothing to say. The investment guidelines of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), first formulated in 1991, ran over 15 pages and treated esoteric subjects, like affordable housing, in some detail. But there was not a single word about pornography, one of the most likely precipitators of personal sin. Apparently, the bishops hadn't thought of it or did not think it was important. Maybe they hadn't heard many confessions lately. In 2003 that changed. They altered their guidelines and included the problem of pornography. The result: the bishops gave their blessing to investing in porn-related companies as long as the company's revenues from porn were not "significant." The USCCB's express policy, as stated in its "Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines: Principles for USCCB Investments" (Nov. 12, 2003), is: "The USCCB will not invest in a company that derives a significant portion of its revenues" from pornography. According to one bishop, the original language offered by a committee commissioned to study the problem of porn called only for divestment if a company "has a majority investment or participation" in pornographic material. This was seen as too lenient by some bishops, who managed to have the language changed to "a significant portion of its revenues." The "majority investment or participation" language reflected the then-current practice of the Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), whose specific policy alluded to a 50 percent or more interest in porn-related material. The Christian Brothers are one of the largest investors of Catholic institutional money in the world. They invest billions of dollars for over 1,000 Catholic "dioceses, religious institutes, educational institutions and health care organizations." Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Ore., is a trustee of CBIS, and Archbishop Emeritus James Keleher of Kansas City is a former trustee. CBIS helped formulate the bishops' original investment guidelines in 1991 and boast on their website that "CBIS was honored to be the only investment firm asked to advise the USCCB in the development of the updated guidelines" in 2003. CBIS, which touts its "disciplined approach to socially responsible investing" as a way for "Catholic institutions to invest in a manner that is consistent with their mission and with the teachings of the Catholic Church," is presumably in the best position to know what "significant" means to the bishops in practice. Whether the wording is "primary" or "significant," CBIS apparently has no misgivings about investing Catholic funds in a wide array of companies that distribute pornography, or more politely, "adult content." As long as the company's "primary" business is not porn, CBIS deems it acceptable. As Wilson realizes, this means that "relatively few" companies are avoided. The result is that almost every company responsible for bringing pornography into our lives is fair game for investment purposes. Considering the close relationship the bishops have long had with CBIS, and the fact that many entrust diocesan funds to CBIS to this day, it appears that many bishops, too, have little problem investing in porn. Whereas the bishops consulted the Christian Brothers on how to deal with porn, it appears neither of them looked to see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about it: Pornography "does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public) since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others" (#2354). The Catechism doesn't talk about "primary" or "significant"; it makes it quite clear that any profit from pornography is "illicit." According to the Catechism, pornography is "a grave offense," and "civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic material" (#2354). Indeed, it is a bizarre situation when the Catechism calls on civil authorities to "prevent the distribution of pornographic material" when the bishops and countless Catholic religious groups knowingly own shares in companies that distribute pornography every day. Investing is sometimes seen as a passive activity, but as a shareholder one is promoting and profiting from whatever that company does. If a company sells porn, the investor is encouraging and profiting from sin. On this point, the Catechism says, "we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them: by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so" (#1868). The bishops clearly aren't doing much to hinder sin when they own companies whose profits are dependent on porn sales. Keep in mind, porn sales, with their low production costs, are exceedingly profitable. To these companies, their profits from porn are most "significant." Actual companies recently owned by the Christian Brothers, as reported on their website, include: Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications, Com­cast, DirecTV Group, Echostar, News Corp, Rogers Communications, Time Warner, and Viacom -- all of which entice the public with pornography via either cable or satellite television. In addition, they own Choice Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Host Hotels & Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and Marriott International -- which all profit by offering in-room porn movies to their guests. The Christian Brothers, on behalf of their Catholic clients, also own Lodgenet, which is one of the largest providers of in-room porn to the hotel industry, serving 1.8 million rooms. Some of the movies offered by Lodgenet include Girls Who Love Girls, Filthy Young Innocents, and AC/DC Sex. A complete list of almost 100 titles can be seen at www.truthaboutlodgenet.com. According to CBS News (Sept. 5, 2004), it is estimated that in-room porn films are purchased by "a whopping 50% of their [big chain hotels'] guests, accounting for nearly 70 percent of their in-room profits." It is arguable, even by the incredibly lax standards of the bishops and the Christian Brothers, that Lodgenet's porn business is its most "significant," if not its "primary," business. While ownership in companies that profit from graphic images of sex provokes little outrage among the USCCB and CBIS, it is interesting to note a shareholder resolution brought last year by the Maryknoll Sisters and the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order. The resolution asked Viacom to divest itself of Paramount Pictures, because a number of its films showed people smoking! The religious groups argued that images of smoking would influence the behavior of younger viewers. Of course, a good number of Paramount movies have shown people in sexual situations, but this was not mentioned in the resolution. Catholic religious orders have offered scores, if not hundreds, of shareholder resolutions dealing with tobacco, but it is difficult to find even one in which the issue of porn is addressed. Smoking is apparently a most serious taboo among Catholic investors. The Christian Brothers do a great job of keeping the bishops' money out of tobacco companies, even though the bishops' guidelines say nothing about the subject. As regards smoking, Catholic groups apparently can't be sensitive enough. Perhaps the bishops and other Catholic groups would be more upset if the porn films they help distribute showed people smoking after sex.