The Vatican has raised its objection to a proposed Italian law that would combat anti-gay discrimination, a diplomatic decision which is historically notable.
Church officials raised their formal objection to the so-called “Zan bill,” which seeks to curtail homophobia, over supposed religious liberty concerns. The objection was raised under the Lateran Treaty, which normalized diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Italy in 1929. But despite the diplomatic arrangement having existed for decades, Crux reported this latest move is actually quite novel:
“The Vatican’s concerns were expressed in a nota verbale, meaning a formal diplomatic communique, presented by British Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, to the Italian Ambassador to the Vatican, Pietro Sebastiani, in mid-June. It’s not a personal letter by Gallagher, but rather a corporate statement by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
“While the Lateran Pacts, which created the Vatican City State after the loss of the Papal States amid Italian unification in the 19th century, affords the Vatican the opportunity to assert its rights to the Italian government, this marks the first time the Vatican has utilized that provision to object to a draft piece of legislation before it’s adopted.”
France 24 reported some of the details of the Vatican’s objections:
“Specifically, the Vatican’s letter objected to Catholic schools not being exempted from a proposed national day against homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia, to be held on May 17.
“It also expressed concern that because of the Zan law, Catholics could in the future face legal action for expressing their opinions on LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) issues, Corriere said. . .
“The Italian bill states that schools and other public bodies should organise “ceremonies, meetings and any other appropriate activity” for the anti-homophobia day.
“They should ‘promote the culture of respect and inclusion, combat prejudices, discrimination and violence motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity,’ it adds.”
The Italian Bishops’ Conference has previously expressed its displeasure with the Zan bill, suggesting that rather than expanding non-discrimination, it would promote intolerance.
While some right-wing politicians applauded the church’s objections, Alessandro Zan, the gay legislator behind the bill, denied charges that non-discrimination efforts would curtail religious liberty, freedom of expression, or educational autonomy.
What happens now is unclear. According to Crux, “the Lateran Pacts envision the creation of a joint commission between Italy and the Vatican to resolve the dispute.” A top liberal politician expressed openness to “dialogue,” but so far, no commitments have been made. The bill’s political future is uncertain. The ruling government has no official position given its members’ divided opinions, reported France 24.
If reports are correct, it took nearly a century–a Fascist dictatorship and a world war–for the Vatican to exercise this diplomatic right under the Lateran Treaty. To do so now over a non-discrimination law aimed at protecting LGBTQ people is deeply misguided, and reflects an obsession with homosexuality on church officials’ part that even Pope Francis has said must be curbed.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 23, 2021