German Catholic Bank Apologises for Contraceptive Investments

By Hilary White

Cologne, August 4, 2009 ( - A Catholic bank in Germany has apologized for its investments in a pharmaceutical company that manufactures abortifacient contraceptives. It was revealed on Monday that, as part of its "ethical" investment scheme, Cologne-based Pax Bank, with Liga Bank, another church-owned institution, had invested  159,000 (US $229 073.62) in shares of US pharmaceutical company Wyeth that makes hormonal contraceptives.

Today the bank's spokesman apologized for what it said was behavior "not in keeping with ethical standards" and thanked journalists at Der Spiegel newspaper for bringing the matter into the light. "We regret it, and will immediately rectify the error on Monday, without giving rise to disadvantages for our customers," the chairman of Pax Bank, Christoph Berndorff, told the German Press Agency dpa.

"Unfortunately in a few internal reviews, the critical investments in question were overlooked - we deeply regret this," he added.

The bank's policy on ethical investment funds was to avoid arms and tobacco companies as well as those that run counter to Catholic moral teaching. As part of the same investment scheme, however, Der Spiegel newspaper reported that the bank had also invested  870,000 in British and American tobacco companies and  580,000 in British arms company BAE Systems that makes nuclear submarines and fighter jets.

Clients of Pax Bank, whose governing body is headed by the provost of Cologne Cathedral, include ecclesiastical institutions such as religious orders, hospitals and charities as well as theology students. Liga Bank was founded by Catholic priests and is Germany's oldest church bank. 

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