The Vatican has officially asked the Italian government to modify the bill against homophobia and transphobia that is being examined these days in the Senate, after its approval in the Chamber of Deputies. The Vatican Secretariat of State, the governing body and external relations of the Church, considers that certain passages of the norm violate the so-called Concordat, the agreement which governs the relations between the Church and the State which was signed under the socialist government of Bettino Craxi in 1984.
As the newspaper revealed on Tuesday Corriere della Serathe Secretary for Relations with the Vatican States, Paul Richard Gallagher, presented last Thursday to the Italian Embassy to the Holy See an official communication in which he underlined that “certain current contents of the legislative proposal currently being examination in the Senate, they reduce the freedom guaranteed to the Catholic Church by article 2, paragraphs 1 and 3 of the Concordat revision agreement”.
Concretely, the Vatican protested against the provision according to which private Catholic schools would not be exempted from organizing activities during the future National Day against Homophobia. The Holy See also considers that the Italian bill undermines the freedom of thought of Catholics and has expressed its fear of possible legal consequences. “We ask that our concerns be taken into account,” the Vatican wrote, according to Il Corriere.
The person in charge of external relations at the Vatican alleges that if Italy realizes its intentions regarding the new law against homophobia, it would violate the new Concordat, which in turn is a revision of the one signed with Benito Mussolini in 1929, which marked the reconciliation between the Italian State and the Holy See. Although for the moment the Vatican has not pronounced itself on the question, the Italian newspaper underlines that Gallagher, in his solemn note, defends that the current agreement guarantees to the Church “the freedom of organization, the exercise worship, the exercise of teaching and the episcopal ministry.
The first point of the Concordat to which the Secretary of State refers expressly states that “the Italian Republic recognizes the complete freedom of the Catholic Church to carry out its pastoral, educational and charitable mission of evangelization and sanctification”. Gallagher also argues that the bilateral document certifies to Catholics and their associations and organizations “complete freedom of assembly and expression of thought through speech, writing and any other means of dissemination.”
Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced that tomorrow, Wednesday, he would speak on this issue in Parliament.
An unprecedented shock
This is an unprecedented confrontation in the history of close relations between Italy and the Vatican, since the latter, until now, had never intervened directly in the process of dealing with Italian laws. On other occasions, the Church had already entered the Italian political debate, such as when dealing with divorce and abortion laws in the 1970s and 1980s, or recently against the law on civil unions, fertilization assisted or scientific research on stem cells, but the diplomatic mechanisms have not been set in motion and a similar climate of diplomatic conflict has not been created.
This decision by the Vatican Secretariat of State, the governing body of the Church, is significant and has been interpreted as a show of force, since such a response could rather be expected from the local bodies of the Italian Church, through of the Episcopal Conference of the country. At the same time, the Episcopal Conference has already expressed its rejection of the Italian bill against homophobia, through public statements. The last one took place in April and the Italian bishops there underlined that “a law that aims to fight against discrimination cannot and must not pursue the objective with intolerance, calling into question the reality of the difference between men and women”. From now on, the matter will be managed directly between the Vatican and the Italian executive.
Although in the past the Papal State has maintained frictions with Italian governments, in particular due to the ironclad anti-immigration policies of Matteo Salvini when he was Minister of the Interior, bilateral relations during the past decades have been narrow. They are now particularly close, with the Prime Minister, Draghi, a declared Catholic who was trained in Jesuit institutions and who is also a member, appointed by the Pope, of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a Vatican body which promotes the study and progress of the social, economic, political and legal sciences in the light of the social doctrine of the Church. Also Draghi’s predecessor, Giuseppe Conte, maintained excellent relations with the Pontiff.
The bill against homophobia and transphobia promoted by the deputy of the Democratic Party (PD) Alessandro Zan was approved in the Chamber of Deputies with 265 votes for and 193 against on November 4. Since then, he has been waiting for the green light from the Senate due to fierce opposition from the right and the far right. With the intervention of the Church, the debate intensified. The leader of the League (extreme right), Matteo Salvini, thanked the Vatican for “its common sense”. Other representatives of politics, such as Alessandro Zan himself or Senator Alessandra Maiorino of M5S (5 Star Movement, left) and former Speaker of the Chamber Laura Boldrini (PD) have repeated that the bill does not does not prohibit the expression of opinions, but only punishes incitement to hatred. The PD, the main Italian progressive party, has opened the door to dialogue. “We have always been in favor of very strict regulations against homotransphobia, and we continue to be in favor of these regulations and the Zan bill, but [también] We have always been open to discussion in parliament and we will be open to legal issues,” training secretary Enrico Letta said after the Vatican’s request emerged on Tuesday.