May 10, 2005

Layered Cores

Reading the current NRSP newsletter I find myself in conflict with Tom Barnett's characterization of the Catholic Church. We're both Catholics so this is a bit of inside baseball but it's also useful to illustrate a general point.

Abstractly, The Core and Gap are useful tools for denoting connectivity of mutually acceptable rulesets. The rulesets themselves can be anything. Core/Gap analysis is a useful tool in explaining the propagation and interaction of the rulesets. Political/economic connectivity is pretty much all we generally talk about because these rulesets are crucial to war and peace, starvation or material plenty.

The Catholic Church does not consider war and peace, starvation or plenty to be the most important thing to worry about. They are secondary to its mission to bring Truth unto the world and save all our souls. Political reform, economic progress, these things are all very nice but you can't understand the Church if that's the lens you are looking through. The Catholic vision of community maps into connectivity but it's not economic or political in nature.

Looking through a spiritual lens, having a base of economically powerful nations aligned with your interests enhances the spiritual mission by providing the material base for the real work. Politically stable nations that permit the work of priests and missionaries are useful but they are not the goal.

Barnett's analysis (page 9 in the link above, a Word doc) is practically irrelevant because it applies the conventional map (politico-economic connectivity) to an institution that uses a different criteria in creating its own maps of connectivity and disconnectedness. Adding a new map layer is crucial and Barnett simply doesn't do that.

For the Catholic Church, the territory of the Romanian Orthodox Church has at least as much reality as the country of Romania and the two entities do not have exactly the same boundaries. The Romanian Orthodox Church, in a Catholic map is a seam state just as Romania is a seam state in the conventional politico-economic map. The reason why the two entities are seam states in the two map systems are quite different though. That difference makes any prospective analysis of what is proper to do to bring each into the Core crucially depend on which map you're talking about.

Romania gets into the Core by negotiating an entry into the global politico-economic rulesets that have been negotiated among the Core for the past century plus. The Romanian Orthodox Church gets into the Core by negotiating a mutually acceptable role for the Pope in the Church, something that has also been the subject of centuries of negotiation. These are two different Cores but the mechanism for admission, agreement on a common enough ruleset, are exactly the same.

The maps interact with each other. Most famously the Islamic map religiously is interacting with the politico-economic map in the Global War On Terror (GWOT) but it does it in less obvious ways too. The Romanian Orthodox Church is holding back Romania's admission into the Politico-Economic Core (PEC) because of its insistence on the government of Romania not honoring the rule of law with regards to properties it received in 1948 as part of an odious communist land/power grab.

More specifically, Barnett's analysis of this Pope mistakes the status of Germany. He's looking at the wrong map, where Germany is a solid part of the PEC instead of the Catholic Religious Core (CRC) where Germany is sliding backwards from Old Core to New Core and arguably is already a Seam state.

Germany's Seam or New Core status in the CRC is what fundamentally matters to the Catholic Church. Germany's status mismatch makes dealing with it difficult because the markers of PEC membership are much more visible than the markers for CRC membership and people tend to believe that there is a close match between the two (where they recognize the two layers existing at all as separate entities). Backsliding state analysis is probably the least developed part of Core/Gap analysis so this remarkable new toolset doesn't help as much as it usually would.

So is Benedict XVI an Old Core Pope? It really depends on which map you're talking about. If you're looking at the PEC, Benedict XVI is about as Old Core as you can get. If you're talking about the CRC, he's coming out of a backsliding state, trying desperately to retain the light and reverse the slide into spiritual darkness. His name pick for his papacy (a crucial early clue into the mind of any Pope) is much more in line with that second vision of his papacy.

So what does all this mean for us poor geo-political amateurs? It means the papacy is likely to surprise. Viewed from a politico-economic view, Benedict's papacy will be full of unexpected activity, vaguely disturbing moves that will be categorized left or right, conservative or radical, and there will be a heavy tendency to censor the reporting of his actions to fit a preconceived news filter.

Treat news reports on the papacy with special care during this pontiff's reign because Barnett's conflation of PEC with CRC is likely going to be the high point of most secular media analysis. For the media to catch on and understand this papacy, they will not only have to understand the Pentagon's New Map but also understand that Catholicism has one too and analyze the Church's actions on its own terms, something that has not happened for decades at the very least.

Posted by TMLutas at May 10, 2005 10:00 AM