THE VATICAN: JUST ANOTHER BRIC IN THE WALL
This story came to us courtesy of a short email from K.M., which prompted me to go looking for a fuller story. The subject of that email? The Vatican and its relationship to the BRICS nations, a subject that assumes some importance particularly with the recently announced expansion of that bloc by the addition of six new nations, and because of the recent conclusion of a trade between Russia and India for oil, in which the oil was paid for, not in American dollars, but in Indian rupees:
While there is much geopolitics behind this story, and even quite a bit of cracks in the wall of BRICS, the fact remains that the trade by-passed the dollar completely.
So what about the Vatican and the BRICS bloc?
Here's one version of that story:
As usual in such articles, we get the political and financial, and ignore (completely) the theological and cultural (which we'll get back to, because in reality, the Vatican's moves, while impacting the political and financial, cannot be comprehended anywhere close to adequately without the theological and cultural):
By all accounts, China under Xi Jinping was the driving force behind the BRICS expansion, as a key expression of its overall strategic aim of countering Western control of the global economy and major world institutions. China’s aspiration is to build a more multilateral world order, one not exclusively denominated in dollars and not dominated by the United States.
As it happens, that vision dovetails fairly neatly with Pope Francis’s agenda for global affairs. In a recent interview, the pope described himself as a “stone in the shoe” to many for his criticism of empires – and, since he was speaking in the context of Latin America, it was fairly clear which “empire” in particular he had in mind.
Increasingly, China may come to see the Vatican under Francis as an ally in the effort to build an alternative to the Western world order. Naturally, the pope’s willingness to sign and stand by a controversial agreement with China over the appointment of bishops in the country, despite difficulties in its application, augments the impression of common cause, as does the rough alignment between Rome and Beijing on the conflict in Ukraine.
Moreover, a BRICS coalition containing not just Brazil but also Argentina may be in a stronger position to make the case to Xi that the Catholic Church, and specifically the Vatican, can be an asset at least as much as an irritant. Lula, a close friend and political ally of Francis, may be in a particularly strong position to help press that argument.
Then there's Saudi Arabia and its little-known problem of a growing Christian population:
Saudi interest in an arrangement with the Vatican may also be enhanced by the expanding Christian footprint in the country, currently estimated at 2.1 million people out of a total population of 36 million. Most are foreign workers from countries such as the Philippines, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and India. The Saudis, who crave stability, may see a deal with the Vatican as a way to regularize their status.
And finally, there's the growing problem of the much-anticipated and touted possibility of a BRICS "currency":
Certianly the project of a unified BRICS currency as an alternative to the American dollar doesn’t seem to be getting off the ground anytime soon. Ironically, Argentina enters the alliance at a moment when its leading presidential contender, Javier Milei, actually is is proposing to move in the other direction, scrapping the Argentine peso and replacing it with the dollar.
Let's start with the issue of a BRICS currency and the fact that Russia has been wanting to base it on gold. The plain fact of the matter is, I believe, that what we've really been watching with all the stories about this currency are really stories less about its creation and more about how it will be rolled out publicly. In other words, if one looks behind the curtain of the bilateral currency agreements between the BRICS nations of recent years, including (I would insist) that little-known military-logistical agreement between India and Japan that I blogged about some years ago, one will discover the likelihood and probability that a "unit of account" has already been created by the BRICS nations and their central banks as a means of clearing accounts conducted under terms of these bi-lateral currency agreements. Such a unit-of-account would be the BRICS equivalent of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) in use in the central banks of the west. And as for that military-logistical agreement between Japan and India which I blogged about some time ago, you can bet your bottom yen or rupee that the financial clearing of such an agreement will not be denominated in dollars, should either country ever enact that agreement. In short, that agreement alone is a significant indicator that such a unit-of-account already exists.
The stories about a potentially gold-backed BRICS "currency" are, in my opinion, stories about how that unit of account might be rolled out as an actual currency. One way, perhaps, might be via the creation of "regional reserve currencies". But howsoever it might be done, it brings us to the Vatican:
For the Vatican's presence in those countries with which it has any diplomatic relations, including in BRICS nations (or want-to-bemembers) like Brazil or Argentina, the Vatican Bank, The Institute for Religious Operations, will have to be able to trade and clear in that unit of accounts with the BRICS nations. Or to put that same proposition rather differently, if the BRICS nations want to have that unit of account gradually transform into a viable currency, it will have to obtain a global status and "reach", and what better way to achieve that than through the Vatican and its bank, and the almost total global reach of the Vatican?
It's that "global reach" that brings us to the cultural and theological aspects of this story, the aspects that the secular west does not "get": the papal claims themselves. Those claims are global, universal, and immediate. There is a reason that popes began to wear a tiara after the schism of their church from the Church of the East (which refused, and still refuses, to accept those claims). The tiara is a "triple" crown representing authority in heaven, in purgatory, and on earth, a universal and final jurisdiction and power, a plenitudo potestatis to give it the traditional papal terminology. In that earthly authority, there is, again, no limit or restriction on the jurisdiction of the papacy. It can, therefore, enter into political and financial arrangements, and indeed, not only can do so but must do so as a matter of its office and of enforcing and enacting those claims. The claims themselves may be untrue or even blasphemous (as I believe them to be, recall only Pope Pius IX's statement to Cardinal Guidi during Vatican I: Son io tradizione, "I am tradition"), but they are nonetheless there and popes act upon them because they believe them to be true.
Finance thus becomes an ally not only in the maintenance of that office but in the extension of its political and cultural power and effects, including the blessing and sanction and use of any currency or unit of account vying for reserve currency status, or at least, for "alternative reserve currency status."
...and wait for it, because it could very well be coming: the "papal 'ok'" for the use of a central bank digital currency "backed" by gold, just so long as the Vatican is involved with it... the claims themselves, you see, are part and parcel of "that" system, and that is why, if you really want to press the issue, there are Catholic Churches as old as Rome, that have rejected those claims almost as soon as they began to be voiced as being antithetical to Catholic faith and practice, and did so when those claims were allied with dogmatic errors that were backed by the full faith, credit, and "authority" of the papacy...
See you on the flip side...
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