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.
Roman Catholic Church
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
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.”