Investment News's Coverage of NYT Blog Post Criticizing Ave Maria Funds: Fair Balanced, Delicious

AveMariaLogo.jpgNYTlogo.gifBy now, many readers know the New York Times's definition of a "good Catholic."

A good NYT Catholic doesn't necessarily need to go to Church very often. He or she focuses on the importance of alleviating poverty and other world problems, almost invariably through government handout programs and not individual or private charity. Despite the long standing of "just war" guidance, this person opposes all wars, no matter what is at stake. Finally, this person either keeps their yap shut about abortion and sexuality, or mouths platitudes like, "I'm personally against abortion, but ...." Such Catholics, if they are politicians, routinely defend their support of abortion on demand with such platitudes.

Those who run the Ave Maria family of mutual funds don't see things that way. They offer a group of mutual funds that, in their words, invest "in companies that do not violate core teachings of the Catholic Church." Accordingly, they "screen out companies associated with abortion and pornography," and apparently invest in other companies so-called politically correct (but often not orthodoxally correct) Catholics might not like.

Apparently because the funds have run radio ads, the Times's editorial board (as if it's their business) told readers at its blog that it doesn't like Ave Maria's approach. You'll also see in the bolded text that the editorialists fancy themselves to be Biblical experts:

.... anyone familiar with church politics will see that it stands starkly on one side of the old, deep ideological fault line that divides the church’s conservative and liberal wings.

To oversimplify, one side focuses its moral energies on abortion, contraception and other issues of sexual morality. The other is more likely also to weigh in on issues like poverty, war, nonviolence and social justice, topics on which Jesus Christ’s scriptural record is more explicit.

..... A prime objective, explicitly promised, is not to subsidize sexual indecency. Scan its investor materials and you will not find companies like Playboy Enterprises or firms that donate to Planned Parenthood or bestow health benefits on same-sex couples. But you will find United Technologies, which makes Blackhawk helicopters; General Dynamics, builder of Abrams battle tanks and the Stryker combat vehicle; the junk-food giant ConAgra; Exxon Mobil; Halliburton; and Smith & Wesson, one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the world.

..... Many Catholics will applaud this corporate lineup. Others will blanch.

Apparently, Catholics shouldn't invest in companies involved with a nation's right to self-defense, a person's right to self-defense, or (I guess, re ConAgra) junk food. Who knew?

I'm not going to bother with Gospel cites, but suffice it to say that the Times's bolded claim in the excerpt is far from correct. And if you expand the definition of "Jesus Christ's scriptural record" to (properly) include the entire New Testament (as the inspired word of God), the claim is even weaker.

As Jeff Benjamin at at Investment News reported on December 24, the fund's managers, and the Catholic League, responded strongly:

Ave Maria Mutual Funds in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. is firing back at The New York Times editorial board’s recent attack on the investment strategy applied by the Catholic values fund family.

The Times’ perspective, which has also triggered a reaction from the Catholic League in Bakersfield, Calif., is being interpreted as a seal of approval from the $450 million fund family.

“The New York Times has a long history of biased reporting and an anti-Catholic bias, which is why we view such criticism as an endorsement,” said Bob Schwartz, vice president and director of marketing at Ave Maria Funds.

..... Catholic League president Bill Donohue said the Times editorial is missing the point of the investment strategy applied to the five Ave Maria Funds.

“One might think that in a time when the American people are being routinely fleeced by unethical investors that everyone would applaud an investment house that stresses its commitment to religious values,” he added. 

But what's really great about Benjamin's story is his matter-of-fact wrap (bold is mine):

The flagship $86 million Ave Maria Growth Fund (AVEGX) has declined by 35.7% this year through Monday.

This compares to a 36.2% decline by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a 61.9% decline by The New York Times Co. stock over the same period.

A call to The New York Times was not immediately returned.

Ouch.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.