How Churches Invest Their Money | MintLife Blog

Online money management site Mint.com published an interesting post on their official blog today concerning the investment practices of three prominent, worldwide churches including the Catholic Church, the LDS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC). Whether they wanted to or not I got the sense that the short blog post dished scrutiny in the order that I named the churches above.

Take a look at the blurb about the Church below:


Roman Catholic Church

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(Joao Maximo)

In 2005, MSNBC reported that the Roman Catholic Church owned more real estate globally than any other organization or individual on earth. Interestingly, a surprising amount of this land does not produce income for the church. Gabriel Kahn, a Rome Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, told MSNBC that the church’s land assets “are not liquid and they can’t be put to use for the Catholic Church in the way they could be for, say, a corporation.”

But just five years earlier, the church’s own financial statements told a different story. In 2001, an official report stated that the church’s real estate activities in fiscal year 2000 produced $81.7 billion in revenue on $51.8 billion in expenses: a nearly $30 billion profit.

Outside of real estate, MSNBC suggests that the Catholic church maintains a portfolio of conservative investments. In 2006, the Boston Globe revealed that the church turned a profit of roughly $55 million on a portfolio heavily concentrated in government bonds. The Vatican’s TV and publishing operations, too, were said to have produced an unspecified surplus.

Of course, the bulk of the Catholic Church’s yearly income continues to come in the form of donations. The Boston Globe found that “contributions from worldwide dioceses” totaled $92.9 million in 2005, while individual donations made directly to the Pope neared $60 million.

In recent years, the Vatican has suffered from having a portfolio biased toward dollar-denominated investments. The UK’s Guardian found that in 2008 the church suffered its first loss in four years, owing to the decline of the dollar relative to the stronger Euro

Okay, I am going to nitpick on one item first and that is the name. The post refers to the Church as the Roman Catholic Church. The Church does not refer to herself in such a manner. According to Kenneth Whitehead, this “is a relatively modern term, and one, moreover, that is confined largely to the English language.”

Anyway, the tone of the post speaks about the LDS, describing in a few short paragraphs that the Mormon church is a pretty savvy investment group whose assists are pretty liquid and generate quite a bit of income. In the section on the LDS, there appear no words such as “told a different story.”

After the portion on the Church, the author moves on to examine the ELC. The tone of the article changes because the ELC, “is less guarded than either the Catholic Church or Church of Latter-Day saints, releasing detailed yearly financial reports on its website.” The figures given for the ELC also show that this organization is a pretty savvy investor.

To contrast both religious institutions, the author speaks of the church in a more skeptical manner and even references Pope Benedict at the end. Leaders of the other two groups are not referenced in such personal detail. The tone for the portion on the Church relate a bit of disbelief concerning the revelation by MSNBC  corespondent Gabriel Khan, in a 2005 report, that despite owning “more real estate globally than any other organization or individual on earth,” the Church’s assets “are not liquid and they can’t be put to use for the Catholic Church in the way they could be for, say, a corporation.”

That is why, in my opinion, the author refers to a 2000 report released by the Church that states that the Church “produced $81.7 billion in revenue on $51.8 billion in expenses: a nearly $30 billion profit.” As usual there is no mention to the fact that the Church is also the world’s largest charitable organization and that it also acts as an independence and sovereign city-state.

In any event, the post is not extremely venomous against the Church but it does show that there usually exist some unknown bias against her.
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