The New York Times is criticizing Ave Maria Mutual Funds, whose Web site promises “smart investing and Catholic values.”

Now, I’m not getting into the merits of the company which I don’t know. I don’t have the money to do much investing anyway. But the Times Editorial Staff used a little story about Ave Maria as a jumping off point to make a political point about the Church.

Ave Maria says it is designed for people who want to put their money “in companies that do not violate core teachings of the Catholic Church.” It says it screens companies using moral guidelines established by its “Catholic Advisory Board,” which includes such prominent Catholics as Thomas Monaghan, founder of the Domino’s pizza chain, and the columnist Phyllis Schlafly.

Ave Maria, whose logo is a cross and open book within a Gothic window, conveys the implicit certainty that its vision of Catholic teaching is the correct one, that it has not misstepped in treading between God and Mammon. But 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.

Because you know that no Catholic who’s pro-life cares at all about poverty. And Jesus’ views on the value of life are rather murky when compared to his thesis on how government programs are the key to solving the problems of poverty.

But then the Times brings in a rather surprising hero to bolster their point:

One person who bestrode these conflicts with stalwart consistency was Pope John Paul II. He is remembered as a staunch and eloquent defender of church teachings against abortion, contraception and euthanasia. But he did so while broadly proclaiming the sanctity of life and the value of peace. He condemned the Iraq war in 2003 as unjustified, fiercely defended workers against capitalism’s excesses, and deplored the death penalty, writing in a 1995 encyclical that circumstances under which capital punishment could be justified were all but nonexistent.

Ave Maria hews to a far narrower, unmistakably conservative Catholic outlook. 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. (Here is a helpful Q. from Smith & Wesson’s “Investor FAQ” Web page: “Does Smith & Wesson still make the 44 Magnum used in the ‘Dirty Harry’ films? Yes, that gun is the Model 29.”)

Many Catholics will applaud this corporate lineup. Others will blanch. As always, they should read the prospectus carefully before they invest or send money.

Funny that the Times is all of a sudden praising John Paul II. This is the same paper that published Times columnist Bill Keller who wrote of John Paul II: “He has replicated something very like the old Communist Party in his church…Karol Wojtyla has shaped a hierarchy that is intolerant of dissent, unaccountable to its members, secretive in the extreme and willfully clueless about how people live.”

And by the Times article, one would think that the Catholic Church is against any and all weaponry in all circumstances, which it of course is not. The Catholic Church is also not against guns. But hey, you know what it is pretty clear against – killing babies. You see, there’s a little difference between defending oneself from attackers and slaughtering innocents in the womb. I guess the Times doesn’t see that.

Only the New York Times would see an equivalence between America’s armed forces and Planned Parenthood. I’m actually pretty sure out of the two, the Times would support Planned Parenthood a heck of a lot more.