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Major Catholic newspaper divests from fossil fuels

National Catholic Reporter appears to be in the vanguard of publishing companies making a public commitment to divest from fossil fuels.

(RNS) – The National Catholic Reporter, a Kansas City-based Catholic newspaper with a readership of about a million readers a month, has divested its $12.7 million endowment from fossil fuel companies.

The National Catholic Reporter’s board ratified the move in May 2021, and the decision went into effect on Thursday.

“I’m very proud of NCR,” said Jim Purcell, board chair, in a phone interview with Religion News Service. “The process was just as important as the end result,” Purcell said. “It was a great example of a board really doing its due diligence.”

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The process officially began a year before the vote, when a board member suggested reassessing the publishing company’s portfolio to ensure their investments reflected the paper’s values. In May 2020, the Vatican released guidelines that provided best practices for Catholic organizations in implementing the principles of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on care for creation, Laudato Si’. 

“The board was concerned about two things: our fiduciary responsibility to steward our funds in the best interest of prudent investing, and aligning our investments with Catholic Social Teaching and NCR’s core values,” Purcell said.

The board selected Catholic Investment Services to manage the portfolio and choose funds that were in line with their ethical commitments.

NCR joins the ranks of approximately 250 other Catholic organizations that have publicly divested from fossil fuels. Faith-based organizations make up 34%, the largest contingent, of institutions that together have funneled more than $14.5 trillion away from the fossil fuel industry, according to Fossil Free, a group that tracks divestment in the energy sector.

But those organizations include far more religious orders, universities and dioceses than media organizations. National Catholic Reporter appears to be in the vanguard of publishing companies making a public commitment to divest from fossil fuels, according to Brian Roewe of NCR.

Evangelicals are losing their climate skepticism

Bill Mitchell, National Catholic Reporter’s publisher and CEO, said that environmental concerns have been at the core of NCR’s mission for a while. “NCR has been focused on environmental issues and creation care way back to the ’80s,” Mitchell said in a telephone conversation.

Mitchell was NCR’s first climate editor and was part of the development of its Earth Beat section, which covers “stories of climate crisis, faith, and action.”

“Divestment — and investment in alternative forms of renewable energy — are very much a part of what we’ve been looking at as a news organization,” said Mitchell.

National Catholic Reporter is a subscriber to Religion News Service. This story has been updated to correct the number of NCR’s monthly readers.

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