Can the rise of digital assets help or hinder human flourishment? We speak with three Catholic financial experts to find out
Disclaimer: Detroit Catholic and the Archdiocese of Detroit do not offer financial advice. The content of this podcast is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast should be construed as financial advice.
(0:02) Amid the rise of cryptocurrency and a constant stream of advertising, many Catholics have questions. How does it all work? Is this all real? And is it moral?
(2:15) Tiffany Welka, a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth and founder of the podcast "Welka Wealth," which delves into faith-based investing, describes what cryptocurrency is, how it started and the appeal for crypto miners and traders.
(3:15) Daniel Svogun, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance at the Busch School of Finance at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., describes digital assets, including how one obtains cryptocurrency through third-party exchanges.
(4:20) Deacon Richard Napoli, a recently retired CEO of a software company that specializes in blockchain technology, describes how blockchain works as an online distributive ledger that allows multiple users to keep track of and verify transactions.
(7:03) Welka describes the nature and history of currency, which started with bartering goods and services for other goods and services, and how that eventually evolved into the "fiat" currency we have today, as well as digital currency.
(11:20) Deacon Napoli describes the origins of BitCoin, a currency developed from blockchain, and the nature of "mining," which is a computer process that creates BitCoins and other types of cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency is not regulated or is centrally monitored, which makes investing in crypto a riskier proposition, and potentially, on shakier ethical grounds, Deacon Napoli said.
(16:46) Deacon Napoli delves into whether or not cryptocurrency is a moral good, and the responsibility of users to use cryptocurrency for good ends.
(18:36) Welka speculates on a few principles Catholics can apply when thinking about cryptocurrency. All investments can be used for good or evil, so it’s important to assess why someone is investing in cryptocurrency.
(22:04) Svogun describes a case in which cryptocurrency was used as a method of payment in support of human and drug trafficking, with Bitcoin being the primary currency in 2011-13. However, cryptocurrency has also allowed for people to support those who are oppressed by their government, particularly the underground Catholic Church in China, or in times of war when people can donate aide via cryptocurrency. Svogun notes how cryptocurrency can help facilitate microfinancing and using cryptocurrency to create a financing structuring to help those shut out of the traditional banking market.
(25:33) Another key concern for Catholics is that cryptocurrency takes a significant environmental toll, Svogun says. Cryptocurrency mining uses 0.5 percent of the world’s electricity supply, with warehouses full of computers running algorithms day and night — a huge drain on the electrical grid.
(27:59) Deacon Napoli speculates how NFTs (non-fungible tokens) might be used more than cryptocurrencies by average investors. Deacon Napoli explains how NFTs might allow for investors to contribute to the preservation and restoration of Catholic art and churches.
(32:48) The Church doesn’t have formal encyclicals or teachings on the morality of cryptocurrency or NFTs, but there are Catholic principles one could apply to the investment and use of digital assets, Welka says, along with government regulation coming to the digital-asset market.
(34:00) Can Catholics use cryptocurrency and digital assets to develop a Catholic economy around the principles of Catholic social teaching that work toward human flourishing? Svogun says while rare, some parishes do accept cryptocurrency as a form of tithing, and some Catholic groups have begun to accept donations via crypto — something for the Church to discern in an ever-changing economy.
Reporting and script by Daniel Meloy; narration by Emily Mentock; production by Ron Pangborn
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