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ITALY: Vatican vs Italy on new homophobia bill: why it’s a religious liberty issue

Vatican vs Italy on new homophobia bill: why it’s a religious liberty issue

The Vatican claims the new law would breach the Concordat between Italy and the Holy See, an international treaty. It is not about LGBT rights, it is about freedom of religion or belief.

By Marco Respinti

Bitter Winter (24.06.2021) –  https://bit.ly/3xOKpaN -The Italian Senate is now discussing the so-called “Zan bill,” named after its original drafter, MP Alessandro Zan, of the Democratic Party, which the House of Representatives approved on November 4, 2020. Those favorable to the bill claim that it merely extends to LGBT+ persons (and those with handicaps) the provisions of a 1993 law (known as “Legge Mancino”) against hate speech, and discrimination and violence because of race, ethnicity, religion and national identity, by adding also sexual orientation and handicaps to the categories protected by that law. But critics (among which, by the way, are also some prominent homosexuals, and feminist activists) mention some flaws in the bill, while approving the provisions against all kind of violence and incitement to violence against LGBT+ persons (unnecessary to say, this is also my position). There are two main objections.

The main objection

First, current Italian laws already punish hate, discrimination, and violence against LGBT+ persons. In fact, when identified, perpetrators of hate crimes against anyone, including LGBT+ persons, are arrested, go to court and, if found guilty, serve terms in prison. This would seem to settle the question, but the “Zan bill” introduces a novelty. In addition to sex, gender, and sexual orientation, it also protects “gender identity.” Article 1, paragraph d, of the “Zan bill” defines “gender identity” as “the perceived and manifested self-perception of one’s gender, even if not corresponding to one’s [biological] sex, independently from having concluded a transition path” (“l’identificazione percepita e manifestata di sé in relazione al genere, anche se non corrispondente al sesso, indipendentemente dall’aver concluso un percorso di transizione.) But a “perceived gender identity,” critics of the bill argue, is not unanimously accepted and cannot be clearly defined, thus opening the way to arbitrary interpretations.

The risk, critics say, is that every expression of legitimate criticism of the notion of “gender identity” by anyone can be constructed as hate speech, curtailing freedom of expression. But there is more. Critics argue that in the case of priests and pastors, rabbis and imams, catechists or simple religious believers, every theological, philosophical, and moral criticism of any sexual behavior based on religion and theology could be labeled as “hate speech,” and the supposed trespasser brought to court. It is the case also for agnostics or atheists, who could be sanctioned if they express opposition  to a specific sexual behavior based on their own secular philosophy.

As a matter of fact, article 4 of the “Zan bill,” claims to protect freedom of expression in the field but, only if statements do not create a “danger of discrimination” (or violence). Critics are afraid that a priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, or lay preacher who would, for example, preach that those who have entered into a same-sex union should be censored from the relevant religious community, or lecture his or her flock against same-sex marriage might be accused of creating a situation leading to a “danger of discrimination.” The problem, critics say, is not whether we agree or disagree with such statements. It is whether a law should prevent religious believers from freely expressing them.

An ancillary problem is article 7, instituting May 17 as the National Day Against all Forms of Homophobia, to be celebrated in all schools. Critics of the bill fear that this may compel religious schools, and teachers who have alternative opinions about homosexuality based on their religion, to teach something they do not agree with, and be sanctioned if they don’t.

The Vatican response

Now, in an unprecedent move, the Vatican has asked the Italian government to reconsider some provisions of the “Zan bill,” because they may breach the Concordat between the Italian Republic and the Holy See, and thus religious liberty.

On June 17, Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with the States (in substance, a Vatican Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs) delivered a “verbal note” (this is the technical definition) to the Italian Embassy to the Holy See.

The foremost Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Serapublished the core sentence of that “verbal note”: “Some current contents of the bill under examination by the Senate reduce the liberty granted to the Catholic Church by Article 2, paragraphs 1 and 3 of the agreement revising the Concordat” (“Alcuni contenuti attuali della proposta legislativa in esame presso il Senato riducono la libertà garantita alla Chiesa Cattolica dall’articolo 2, commi 1 e 3 dell’accordo di revisione del Concordato”.)

The Concordat, also known as the “Lateran Treaty,” was signed by the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See on February 11, 1929. In 1948, it was received in the Constitution of the Republic of Italy at article 7, and in 1984 it was revised. Article 2, paragraph 2, of the 1984 revision grants the Catholic Church “liberty of organization, liberty of public worship, and liberty of exercising its episcopal teaching and ministry,” while paragraph 3 grants “to Catholics and their associations and organizations full liberty of assembly and manifestation of thought in words, texts, and every other way of sharing.”

It is important to note that, unlike the ‘intese” with other religions (a word also usually translated in English as “concordats”), the 1929/1984 Concordat with the Catholic Church was not stipulated between Italy and the Italian representatives of the Catholic Church. It is an international treaty signed with a foreign state, the Vatican, and as such, again unlike the “intese,” can only be litigated in international fora.

Why did the Vatican intervene, invoking international law? The Holy See is afraid that freedom of teaching their traditional doctrine on homosexuality may expose priests and lay believers to the serious penalties imposed by the law against those who create a “danger of discrimination.” Of course, within the Catholic Church, there are different positions about homosexuality. What the Vatican is trying to do is to protect the expression of all of them, conservative as well as liberal.

Accusations to the Vatican of interfering with Italian politics are growing, but this is a false problem. The Concordat is an international treaty, not a part of Italian domestic law. When Italy signed this treaty, it guaranteed to bishops, priests, and lay Catholics an immunity from prosecution when they teach what the Vatican believes to be part, or within the boundaries, of Catholic doctrine, no matter whether these teachings are unpopular, or not shared by non-Catholics (or even by a portion of the Catholics).

It is not about the Vatican’s power, and it is not even about LGBT rights. It is about religious freedom. The “Zan bill” is about homosexuals, but other bills may prevent religions from creating a “danger of discrimination” against their expelled ex-members, or politicians who may be excommunicated from promoting certain laws, or from criticizing the laws of the state on a variety of matters, from social policies to immigration. While the Concordat is unique in its nature as an international treaty, other religions may have domestic remedies based on their “intese,” or on the general principle of freedom of religion or belief, which is protected by the Italian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Vatican’s statement, in this sense, may be beneficial also to non-Catholics.

Photo : Mgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with the States (credits).

Marco Respinti is the Editor-in-Chief of International Family News. He is an Italian professional journalist, member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), essayist, translator, and lecturer. He has contributed and contributes to several journals and magazines both in print and online, both in Italy and abroad. Author of books, he has translated and/or edited works by, among others, Edmund Burke, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, Russell Kirk, J.R.R. Tolkien, Régine Pernoud and Gustave Thibon. A Senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, a non-partisan, non-profit U.S. educational organization based in Mecosta, Michigan, he is also a founding member as well as Board member of the Center for European Renewal, a non-profit, non-partisan pan-European educational organization based in The Hague, The Netherlands, and a member of the Advisory Council of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief. He serves as Director-in-Charge of the academic publication The Journal of CESNUR and Bitter Winter: A Magazine on Religious Liberty and Human Rights in China.

 





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GERMANY: German Catholics plan huge blessing of gay unions on May 10

By Inés San Martin

 

Cruxnow (15.04.2021) – https://bit.ly/32sCTVF – Continuing to openly challenge the Vatican, several Catholic leaders in Germany are openly supporting the blessing of same-sex couples, with a massive blessing service scheduled for May 10, in direct opposition to Rome’s chief doctrinal office.

 

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen said that the priests in his diocese will face no canonical consequence if they decide to bless gay and lesbian couples next month as part of the event called “Love wins, blessing service for lovers.”

 

However, the website organizing the campaign has no public blessings registered in his diocese to take place on May 10 or “around that date,” as the website reads.

 

His comments came in an interview with WDR earlier this week, and follow his comments on Easter, when he argued that there are “many blessings for gay couples” in Germany. He also said that the Catholic Church is not supposed to reject gay people but “find ways for homosexuals to be able to live together.”

 

Overbeck’s stance is in direct opposition to a statement released by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) March 15 with papal approval.

 

The document, technically an answer to a question posed to the CDF, argues that the Church cannot do so because “God does not bless sin.”

 

The Vatican never said who posed the original question.

 

The response caused division both among the faithful and the hierarchy, particularly in Germany, which is currently undergoing a synodal path to try to address the Church’s response to clerical sexual abuse, while at the same time reviewing Church teaching on human sexuality, priestly celibacy and the ban on ordaining women into the priesthood.

 

Among the German high-ranking prelates who support the CDF’s response are Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne; Bishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg; and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg.

 

“Love wins. Love is a blessing,” says the website for May 10th blessing of same-sex couples. “People who love each other are blessed. On May 10th, 2021, we invite you to various places in Germany to blessing services. We don’t want to exclude anyone. We celebrate the diversity of people’s different life plans and love stories and ask for God’s blessings. Without any secrecy. On this page you will find the services that take place and you can register for a service and send us a blessing.”

 

Organizers also ask that on that day, Catholics in Germany use “creative symbols to make visible how many people in the Church perceive the colorful diversity of different life plans and love stories of people as an enrichment and a blessing.”

 

Photo credits: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters via CNS

 

 





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WORLD: 29 Catholic missionaries killed in 2019

Vatican (01.01.2020) – According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, in 2019 29 missionaries were killed throughout the world, mostly priests: 18 priests, 1 permanent deacon, 2 religious men, 2 nuns, 6 lay people. After eight consecutive years in which the highest number of missionaries killed was recorded in America, since 2018 it is Africa that has taken the first place in this tragic category. In Africa in 2019 12 priests were killed, 1 religious man, 1 religious woman, 1 lay woman (15). In America 6 priests were killed, 1 permanent deacon, 1 religious man, 4 lay people (12). In Asia, 1 lay woman was killed. In Europe, 1 nun was killed.

See 14-page report at:  http://bit.ly/2QVIM7B


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