Golden silence

When Presidential Adviser for Poverty Alleviation Secretary Larry Gadon declared that the Catholic Church is one of the richest institutions in the country, it was not empty talk.

Gadon, guesting on Daily Tribune’s weekly “Straight Talk” program, said priests and bishops should take it upon themselves to care for the poor in their dioceses and help the government defeat poverty.

One of the biggest budget busters for a family is the high electricity rates against which, curiously, little protest, if at all, has been heard from the usually vociferous prelates.

Nor were protests heard against the maneuvering of San Miguel Corporation to increase power rates despite an Energy Regulatory Commission ruling against it, which SMC overcame by going to the Court of Appeals and obtaining a permanent injunction.

The reason for the near absolute silence, based on documents obtained by the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development, is that Catholic Church institutions are heavily invested in SMC.

Among the Catholic Church-related shareowners of SMC are the Carmel of the Divine Infant Jesus of Prague Inc. with A/C no. 2 with 957,516 shares (value: P100.5 million) to rank 15th in the top 100 stockholders of the conglomerate.

Others include The Roman Catholic Bishop of Tuguegarao (17th) with 856,639 shares (P89.9 million); Real Monasterio de la Purisima Concepcion de Nuestra Madre Santa Clara de Manila (18th) with 810,282 shares (P85 million); Carmel of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (23rd) with 592,956 shares (P62.3 million); The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Cebu (27th) with 451,864 shares (P47.4 million);

The Religious of the Virgin Mary (38th) with 333,649 shares (P35 million); Carmel of Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Grace Inc. (42nd) with 302,986 shares (P31.8 million); Carmel of the Divine Infant Jesus of Prague Inc. A/C no. 1 (43rd) with 295,402 (P31 million); Religious of the Virgin Mary-A (52nd) with 265,277 (P27.8 million); Roman Catholic Bishop of Bangued Inc.-CAT FUND (63rd) with 231,426 shares (P24.3 million); Prelature of San Jose, Antique (68th) with 217,977 shares (P22.9 million);

St. Joseph’s Convent of Perpetual Adoration (72nd) with 211,404 shares (P22.2 million); The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Fernando (75th) with 193,034 (P20.3 million); Asilo de San Vicente de Paul (90th) with 165,952 shares (P17.4 million); and Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Imus (for the support of poor but deserving seminarians of the diocese) (99th) with 153,331 shares (P16 million).

The values were rounded off based on the average price of SMC common stocks of P105 per share at the bourse.

Taken together, the top 100 Catholic Church-affiliated institutions have P634 million invested in SMC.

The investments also run counter to the supposed campaign of the Church leadership for a transition to clean energy, according to CEED.

In recent years, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, or CBCP, has shown great leadership in finance and corporate engagement for energy transition, the group stated.

In its pastoral statement entitled, “A Call for Unity and Action Amid a Climate Emergency and Planetary Crisis,” the CBCP made the “commitment to call for action from its congregation and accountability from financial institutions, energy and extractive companies, and government leaders to turn away from fossil fuels, particularly coal and fossil gas, in keeping with the ideals of ecological and social justice, equity, and stewardship of our Common Home, especially in the face of an enduring pandemic.”

The Church putting huge money in SMC and other big businesses compromises its pro-poor preaching, particularly since no one in the country examines religious finances.

Most anomalous is the Church’s silence when the interest of the poor conflicts with the profit motive of corporations in which it has infused huge amounts.

Consider that the money was collected from churchgoers through tithes during each mass.

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