Bitcoins and bishops
Odd parallels seem sometimes to occur.
The reports in the Financial Times that mainstream financial institutions were refusing to accept deposits for mortgages in the Bitcon cryptocurrency were a signal that troubled times lay ahead for those who had paid up to $20,000 for a Bitcoin. People trying to convert the virtual into the real were facing probing questions as to how they came by such funds. The credibility of Bitcoin was being called into question, its value being challenged, that it should have lost half its value in recent days suggests that people have lost belief in its worth.
Belief has always been at the heart of the financial system, the term “credit,” which is at the heart of market economics, is derived from the Latin word “credo.” Unless there is a belief that a currency has value, unless one person believes that the payment they receive for some good or service is worth the good or service they have provided, then the currency will fall in value, it will become unacceptable.
The story of the 50% fall in the value of Bitcoins seems an unlikely parallel to the unfolding story of the authority of the Church in Ireland. The debate began in the Irish Parliament today on the holding of a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. The Amendment, approved by a referendum in 1983, provided a constitutional ban on abortion. If declining belief in the value of Bitcoin has caused its value to fall by more than a half, the decline in the belief in the Church has fallen by a considerably greater proportion.
Credit, whether financial or ecclesiastical, depends on confidence that behind the words there is substance.
Bitcoins can only have credit if there is confidence that they can be converted into real goods or real services, if they do not represent things of substance, then no-one will believe in them. It would be futile for the holders of Bitcoins to insist they are worth something if that belief was not more widely held; assertions alone provide no confidence.
The Church has become like the holder of a currency in which people no longer believe. It insists that its credit-standing is still good, that it still commands confidence, but there has been a realisation that, behind the words of the bishops, there is no substance; metaphysical arguments have been seen for what they are, utterances that fail to obscure the decades of injustice and oppression over which the Church has provided.
The repeal of the Eighth Amendment will mark a further downgrading of the credit of the Church; there will be greater prospect of a recovery in the value of Bitcoins than of the Church ever returning to the position of dominance it once commanded.
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