Catholics are looking at crypto with this new conference and the timing is right
(Kitco News) With crypto winter still dominating headlines, many market participants are busy re-calibrating while learning about more grounded ideas. And that is precisely what the new Catholic Crypto Conference has in mind for its launch — bringing crypto experts and Catholic thought leaders together to encourage adoption, develop new ideas, and introduce new technologies to the Catholic community.
The idea of onboarding people into crypto is a common theme in the overall digital assets space, and the Catholic Church is a billion-member institution. That is one of the goals of the conference, said the conference organizer Matthew Pinto, who is also the founder of Ascension Press.
"The key to crypto success is adoption. And the Catholic demographic is a massive demographic, and it's organized," Pinto told Kitco News. "The idea is to introduce important technological advancements like blockchain, crypto, Web 3.0, and the metaverse into this world. And we just need a group of people to step up and say this needs to be done."
The crypto universe offers a lot of benefits that the Church is currently not taking advantage of. And Pinto doesn't want the Catholic community to miss out as it did with the internet a few decades ago.
"This is the first initiative that is trying to introduce these new technologies to an ancient church," he said. "The Church, for the most part, missed the internet. We were really eight to ten years behind the secular world. This is our attempt to ensure the Church does not miss this next technological wave."
The conference will be held on November 17-18 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And it has three goals — let the Church know about these powerful technologies, mitigate potential misuse of new technologies, and create a forum for crypto networking, the organizer described.
Yet, despite having the word Catholic in its name, the conference will have a lot of speakers who are crypto experts and are not necessarily part of the community. Some keynote speakers include Robert Breedlove, host of 'What is Money?' podcast and founder and CEO of Parallax Digital, and Mark Yusko, CEO of Morgan Creek Capital Management.
Breedlove will close the conference with his keynote on moral money and sound civilization. To Breedlove, who is known as a philosopher in the crypto space, Bitcoin is fundamentally a humanitarian movement that exposes the greatest con in human history, which is central banking.
"Central banking is shackling the economic potential of humanity. And Bitcoin is very important in the respect that it liberates us," Breedlove told Kitco News earlier this year. "We've been trying to bootstrap ourselves out of economic scarcity for as long as we've been around."
The current fiat money system is being used to inflate the money supply, and Bitcoin offers a solution. "Bitcoin is different because it is dematerialized, and it has perfected the economic properties that we seek in money. We don't need to centrally custody Bitcoin to scale it for the world. That makes all the difference - people can take physical delivery of Bitcoin, which is to take possession of their private keys any time, anywhere, 24/7, without anyone's permission. This is the option that citizens need to hold government and other institutions in check. Under the gold standard, this was called convertibility," Breedlove explained.
Aside from the philosophical and moral talks, the conference will also host a series of sessions around finance, economy, and technical aspects of blockchain. "I'm interested in some of the talks with more technical expertise on projects that are being done with crypto," said Stephen Barrows, chief operating officer at the Acton Institute, who will also be speaking at the conference.
Timing is everything
Despite it being crypto winter, with prices stuck in a fairly tight range, the conference is creating a buzz in the Catholic world, Pinto pointed out. And the timing of the conference works in favor of a steady approach.
"It would have been much easier to hold a conference during a time of FOMO. But this is a better time to do it because we're really in a time of recapitulation," Pinto said. "This would be a good time of preparation for people because we will have about a year or a year and a half to learn more before the next crypto run starts again."
What's unique about this conference is its potential impact on the larger Catholic community. There are plans to release several white papers that will be shared with all Catholic bishops in the U.S. and Canada and even passed along to the Vatican.
"We are going to release five separate white papers. We're not just making this a conference where we hear interesting ideas. We will come away with practical ideas on what the Church can do with these various technologies," Pinto said.
Catholic Church historically had a favorable view of new technologies. "Catholicism views technology as something that's morally neutral or good," Pinto added.
The Church is unlikely to make any authoritative statement on specific technical matters of crypto, Barrows pointed out. "Catholic Church is interested in crypto because of the potential to bring the unbanked into the economy and help them have access. The Church would take into account the moral dimensions."
And even though the Catholic Church is yet to make an official statement about crypto, there have been several hints.
Last year, the Vatican called on the international community to regulate the crypto space, warning that cryptocurrencies are being used in the smuggling and exploitation of migrants and vulnerable persons.
This year, there is a project in the works for VR and NFT gallery that will host Vatican's art, content, and academic initiatives. "The public-private partnership aims to extend the availability of the Vatican's heritage – manuscripts, masterpieces, and academic initiatives – to people, who otherwise won't be able to experience it," said Sensorium in its press release about the project.
There are also new developments happening in North America — nuns from Kansas City using Bitcoin to build and run their monastery and Washington Archdiocese offering crypto options for donations.
In a recently published book, 'Thank God for Bitcoin: The Creation, Corruption and Redemption of Money,' co-authored by Breedlove and other well-known figures with a Christian background, the topic of how Bitcoin can redeem "the ills of our corrupt monetary system" was explored in detail, questioning the ethics and morality of the current fiat model.
Since the U.S. dollar stopped being backed by gold in the early 1970s, the U.S. government has been able to print money at will, manipulating the dollar's value and negatively impacting the lower classes, the book’s thesis argued. Bitcoin is described by the authors as a decentralized and self-sustaining currency solution that is free of manipulation and limited to only 21 million bitcoins, which is designed to help prevent inflation.
This overall approach differs from other religions. For example, Islam has a much more complicated view of cryptocurrencies. Several well-known Islamic religious figures have recently issued fatwas, urging followers to stay away from the crypto space, comparing it to gambling, which is forbidden by the Koran.
Crypto and the Catholic Church
The Catholic Crypto Conference wants to explore how blockchain and crypto can help the unbanked, lower remittance costs, and promote social justice and the common good. The use of DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) is one exciting example of how these new projects can proceed, Pinto said.
Other interesting ideas on the radar include putting Catholic teachings on an immutable blockchain and using blockchain for sacramental records.
There is also the finance aspect, with several dioceses potentially exploring putting assets like Bitcoin on their balance sheets. "We are holding talks at the conference precisely for this type of conversation to begin, so we can address the question of whether it should be put on someone's balance sheet and the pros and cons of that. I would be very surprised if Bitcoin is not on the balance sheet of most of our dioceses and even parish balance sheets within five to ten years," Pinto said.
For many, it goes back to the sound money argument that Bitcoin offers. "Sound money leads to better day-to-day human decisions," he said. "I don't think it's a big leap at all to conclude that the principles of sound money are conducive to the issue of Christian discipleship and stewardship. I would view Bitcoin as sound money."
The conference also will explore many blockchain applications, said Deacon Rich Napoli, CEO Emeritus and Advisor at Relevantz, who is another speaker and has been in the software industry for over four decades.
Blockchain has a very high potential — from NFT projects to the Vatican having the ability to create its own currency to send money to poor parishes while minimizing the chance for the funds getting stolen, Napoli told Kitco News.
On the timing of the conference, Napoli said it's the perfect time "to look at the tech without the rose-colored glasses."