Social Teaching of the Church and Agenda 2030: two sides of the same coin… Barragán replies

*Interview by Religión en Libertad on 06/07/2023

In a series of four recently published articles, Altum Faithful Investing takes an in-depth look at the 2030 Agenda and compares it with the Social Teaching of the Church with a very clear intention: to help the Catholic investor discern which aspects conflict with the Magisterium and why.

ReL interviews Borja Barragán, founder of Altum, to delve a little deeper into the analysis they have carried out. You can read more articles published in ReL about Altum here.

-In the articles it is mentioned that investing in line with the 2030 Agenda may conflict with Christian morality. Could you explain why?

-There is a potential conflict between Christian morality and Agenda 2030 due to fundamental differences in the vision of the human being. While the Social Teahing of the Church gives primary prominence to the person and his or her dignity, Agenda 2030 seems to be based on a concept of development in which the human being can be used as a means to that end.

“This raises ethical concerns. A clear example is when developing countries are required to adopt anti-birth policies in order to receive development aid, under the justification of promoting reproductive health. This is in direct conflict with the Christian principle of respecting the life and dignity of every human being, from conception to natural death. The imposition of measures that limit procreation, such as the promotion of abortion or forced sterilisation, contradicts Church teaching and poses a serious moral conflict.

-What are the alternatives for a Christian who wishes to invest in a manner consistent with his or her faith, given these concerns?

-It is important for Christians, when investing, to look for options that are aligned with their values and principles. One alternative would be to explore investment funds that adhere to ethical principles and promote morally responsible initiatives. These funds often consider criteria such as respect for life, protection of the environment and transparency in business practices. In this way, Christians can be consistent with their faith and contribute to the integral development of the person without compromising their moral convictions.

-What is the real effectiveness of the 2030 Agenda in promoting true integral human development?

-While the 2030 Agenda seeks to address important issues and has goals that are positive in principle, it is valid to question its effectiveness in achieving integral human development. At times, this agenda can become a universal declaration to “appease consciences” with solemn and pleasant words, without achieving concrete and significant changes. It is essential that the actions and policies promoted under the 2030 Agenda really transform people’s living conditions, promoting their dignity and respecting their fundamental rights.

-What is the importance of analysing the meeting points between the Social Teaching of the Church and the 2030 Agenda, especially in the area of investment?

-As investors (and, of course, also as consumers), the importance of analysing the intersections between the Social Teaching of the Church and the 2030 Agenda lies in the need to align our moral and ethical principles with our financial decisions. The 2030 Agenda seeks to address global challenges, which is positive, but some of its approaches conflict with the Church’s core values.

“By looking at these meeting points, we can assess whether our investments are in line with our faith and principles, avoiding supporting practices that are contrary to human dignity, the protection of life and the promotion of the family. It is an opportunity to be consistent in all areas of our lives, including investment.

-Could you give us concrete examples of how these points are implemented in the 2030 Agenda?

-Of course, we can see how in SDG 3, it seeks to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and the integration of reproductive health into national programmes. This has led to legal reforms in some countries, such as Spain and France, which facilitate access to abortion and contraception. In addition, the Agenda promotes the incorporation (and in many cases an imposition) of a gender perspective (as mentioned numerous times throughout the preamble of the Agenda 2039 adoption document), which departs from the Christian conception of sexuality and the family.

-What is the Holy See’s position on these aspects of the 2030 Agenda?

-There is a document from the Holy See regarding the approach of Agenda 2030 written in 2016 by the nuncio in Spain Bernardito Auza that is worth reading. It expresses reservations about some approaches and emphasises, for example, that the concept of health must include the most vulnerable, including the unborn.

“From the Catholic magisterium, sexuality is understood as a gift with a unitive and procreative character, and methods that dissociate these dimensions are not supported. Furthermore, the Holy See has warned about the denaturalisation and instrumentalisation of sexuality and the family, as can be read in Laudato Si, Amoris Laetitia or the document published in 2019 “Man and Woman He Created Them”.

-How does this affect the investment world and what can Christian investors do in the face of this situation?

-The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is reflected in corporate activism campaigns carried out by many companies. Some of them support laws that threaten religious freedom and take clear positions in favour of access to abortion and contraception. Christian investors need to reflect on which SDGs the investment funds and companies they invest in are pursuing, and whether they respect the religious freedom of all those involved. The investment world cannot be blind to moral values.

-What is the conclusion we can draw about the 2030 Agenda and its compatibility with Christian morality?

-The 2030 Agenda has positive goals, but it is crucial to question whether the means used to achieve these ends are moral. The points of conflict mentioned raise doubts about the compatibility between the Agenda and Christian morality.

-In your articles you mention that states and corporations are becoming “moral arbiters” in relation to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Could you elaborate on this statement?

-Indeed, we are witnessing how both states and companies are taking on an increasingly prominent role as “moral arbiters”. States, through legislation and policies that impose certain ideologies, seek to influence the individual consciences of citizens. For their part, companies, especially large corporations, adopt the Sustainable Development Goals as part of their corporate strategy, thus imposing moral criteria on their stakeholders.

What is the impact of this trend on society and on investors’ decision-making?

-The impact is significant, as this trend can generate ethical conflicts for investors. For example, a Catholic investor is faced with the question of whether it makes sense to invest in companies that cooperate openly and directly with abortion, either through their activity or their philanthropic policies. Furthermore, the question arises as to whether the investment world should simply bow to consensus or whether it has a responsibility to consider the principles of natural law when making investment decisions.

-What is the role of moral law as opposed to majority consensus in the implementation of actions?

Moral law acts as a necessary anchor in decision-making. It is not enough for an action to be consensual or supported by a majority, but it must be in accordance with the dignity of the human person and the dictates of right reason. History has taught us that consensus may change over time, but the fundamental values and principles of natural law remain as elements of an objective moral law.

-What is the challenge for investors and society at large in the face of the moral influence exerted by states and corporations?

-The challenge is not to be blindly swayed by the moral influence imposed by states and corporations, but to be aware of the coherence between moral values and investment decisions. Investors must question to what extent it makes sense to invest in companies with positions contrary to natural law and whether authority is above the moral order. Society at large must also reflect on the importance of preserving core human and moral values in a context where consensus can fluctuate and change.

-In the face of the widespread acceptance of the 2030 Agenda, what should be the approach and position of Christians?

-In my humble opinion, Christians, not only in the face of the 2030 Agenda but in the face of any situation in our daily lives, cannot remain anaesthetised as mere spectators… we must consider our moral responsibility to offer an alternative that allows us to live in coherence with our faith in all the areas around us (from the professional to friendships to leisure).

-In your articles you often mention the concept of a “creative minority”. How can Christians be a “creative minority” in society?

-Being a creative minority means offering an alternative that is centred on the person and on fundamental values. In the area of finance and investment, for example, one can seek a morally responsible choice that promotes life, family, human dignity and care for creation.

-What initiatives has Altum developed to be a creative minority?

-Altum has developed projects such as Altum App, an application for investors and consumers that verifies whether companies comply with the Church’s magisterium. We also have Altum Explorer, a tool that allows you to create investment portfolios consistent with Christian morals, and Altum Certified, a system for certifying investment vehicles. In addition, we have the Altum 100×1 programme to support prayer, mission and vocations.

-What should our true north be in the midst of these circumstances?

-Our true north should go beyond the 2030 horizon and look to the year 2033, where we will celebrate the event that really changed the world: the resurrection of the Lord. I invite everyone to build their own agenda for that year, seeking to generate a Christian culture centred on the person.

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