“Caritas in Veritate:” Looking for a coherent economic system for it

Benedict XVI June 29, 2009.



A)   “53. One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation. If we look closely at other kinds of poverty, including material forms, we see that they are born from isolation, from not being loved or from difficulties in being able to love. Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God’s love, by man’s basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient or merely an insignificant and ephemeral fact, a “stranger” in a random universe. Man is alienated when he is alone, when he is detached from reality, when he stops thinking and believing in a foundation[125]. All of humanity is alienated when too much trust is placed in merely human projects, ideologies and false utopias[126]. Today humanity appears much more interactive than in the past: this shared sense of being close to one another must be transformed into true communion. The development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side[127].

“Pope Paul VI noted that “the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking”[128]. He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity[129] rather than marginalization. Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man’s transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.

“As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations. The more authentically he or she lives these relations, the more his or her own personal identity matures. It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God. Hence these relations take on fundamental importance. The same holds true for peoples as well. A metaphysical understanding of the relations between persons is therefore of great benefit for their development. In this regard, reason finds inspiration and direction in Christian revelation, according to which the human community does not absorb the individual, annihilating his autonomy, as happens in the various forms of totalitarianism, but rather values him all the more because the relation between individual and community is a relation between one totality and another[130]. Just as a family does not submerge the identities of its individual members, just as the Church rejoices in each “new creation” (Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17) incorporated by Baptism into her living Body, so too the unity of the human family does not submerge the identities of individuals, peoples and cultures, but makes them more transparent to each other and links them more closely in their legitimate diversity.

“54. The theme of development can be identified with the inclusion-in-relation of all individuals and peoples within the one community of the human family, built in solidarity on the basis of the fundamental values of justice and peace. This perspective is illuminated in a striking way by the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity within the one divine Substance. The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity. God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: “that they may be one even as we are one” (Jn 17:22). The Church is a sign and instrument of this unity[131]. Relationships between human beings throughout history cannot but be enriched by reference to this divine model. In particular, in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true openness does not mean loss of individual identity but profound interpenetration. This also emerges from the common human experiences of love and truth. Just as the sacramental love of spouses unites them spiritually in “one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:5; Eph 5:31) and makes out of the two a real and relational unity, so in an analogous way truth unites spirits and causes them to think in unison, attracting them as a unity to itself.

“55. The Christian revelation of the unity of the human race presupposes a metaphysical interpretation of the “humanum” in which relationality is an essential element. Other cultures and religions teach brotherhood and peace and are therefore of enormous importance to integral human development. Some religious and cultural attitudes, however, do not fully embrace the principle of love and truth and therefore end up retarding or even obstructing authentic human development. There are certain religious cultures in the world today that do not oblige men and women to live in communion but rather cut them off from one other in a search for individual well-being, limited to the gratification of psychological desires. Furthermore, a certain proliferation of different religious “paths”, attracting small groups or even single individuals, together with religious syncretism, can give rise to separation and disengagement. One possible negative effect of the process of globalization is the tendency to favour this kind of syncretism[132] by encouraging forms of “religion” that, instead of bringing people together, alienate them from one another and distance them from reality. At the same time, some religious and cultural traditions persist which ossify society in rigid social groupings, in magical beliefs that fail to respect the dignity of the person, and in attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. In these contexts, love and truth have difficulty asserting themselves, and authentic development is impeded

B) The  Capitalist Economic System of “enlightened self interest” is antithetic to an intersubjective Communio[1]. Could cryptocurrency in which there is no centralization of exchange but only peripherical exchange in which all are involved in every transaction, begin to introduce active relationality on the economic level?  

C) What are being called to? The Founder of Opus Dei articulated the vision which he “heard” on August 7, 1931 which was Jn. 15, 32: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself,” and on which St. Paul expatiates: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heaven and on the earth, things visible and things invisible…. And in him all things hold together… for it has pleased God the Father that in hm all his fullness should dwell, and that through him he should reconcile to himself all things…” To be clear, we are not being called to oneness with other men that is not accidentally articulated but constitutive of who we are. This is the meaning of “communio” that involved the relation each to the other such that one and the other could not be without the articulation. Father cannot be without Son, and Son cannot be without Father… This is the “one” of the Trinitarian God. And this is the “one” which we are called to be, and the Love is not an interstitial good will between “substances” (in-selfses) but the divine Love itself: AGAPE.

               And so, the economic system of capitalist “enlightened self interest” is insuffient. It is strangling society including, of course, its own economic dynamism.[2] Hence, I am looking for an economic system that is not objective, but subjective in the sense that every transaction involves the entire  system of subjects. I have been reading Charles Taylor (on Ivan Illich) again, and tempted to post his take on the root of secularism as a corrupted Christianity. And that corruption as the institutionalizing of Christian Love into moral rules and regularions: “But the really terrible corruption  is a kind of falling forwad, in which the church develops into something unprecedented. The netweok of agape involves a kind of fidelity to the new relations,; and because we can all too easily fall away from this (which falling away we call ‘sin’), we are led to shore up these relations; we institutionalize them, introduce rules, divide responsibilities. In this way, we keep the hungry fed, the homeless housed, the naked clothed; but we are now living caricatures of the network of life. We have lost some of the communion, the ‘conspiratio’ which is at the heart of the Eucharist… The spirit is standgled.”[3]

   Enter the following paragraph: “Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and others use blockchain technology to record and verify all of their transactions, and have become more popular around the world as a medium of exchange that needs no intermediary like a bank or a broker.”

My question: Is bitcoin and blockchain technology a financial tool imitating a Trinitarian/communio-like paradigm in coherence with what Benedict XVI is describing in 2009?

[1] Ivan Illich

[2] It is interesting to listen to Peter Thiel that we are not really progressing as we really should technologically and economically – which in itself explains his to date 10 “fellowships” of $100,000 each to encourage bright young intellectuals to leave traditional schooling to work on  their own.

[3] Charles Taylor, “A Secular Age,” The Belknap Press of Jarv ard University Press (2007) 737-739.

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