Archbishop Criticizes Vatican’s Intervention Over Italian Non-Discrimination Bill

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia

A top archbishop has criticized the Holy See’s intervention in the debate about a proposed bill in Italy to enhance non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, though the archbishop also critiqued the bill itself.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, commented on the controversy over the so-called “Zan bill” during a panel discussion. Paglia said the nota verbale sent by the Holy See to Italy was a misstep, as the bill “is a problem regarding only the Italian republic.” He continued, according to Crux:

“‘It has nothing to do with the concordat,’ he said, referring to the 1929 Lateran Pacts, which established the Vatican City State as a sovereign entity and which governs relations between the Holy See and Italy.

“‘So, to me, that note, in my opinion, should not have been written. Absolutely,’ he said.”

But the archbishop also said there were “mistakes on both sides,” commenting:

“‘The law as I’ve read and studied it is poorly done,’ he said. ‘It identifies a problem but doesn’t help to resolve it. It’s more of a manifesto, and as a manifesto, it’s fine, but if you have to translate it into legislative language, it must be precisely written.’ . . .

“In his remarks, Paglia recalled how in a speech some months ago, when the Zan bill was first being discussed, he had encouraged ‘a joint, in-depth reflection to reformulate a legislative dictation which, to me, is very superficial, especially in some articles.’

“At the moment, the bill lumps the problem of homophobia together with other issues, such as disability and feminism, he said, adding that there are ‘short circuits’ in the bill ‘which in a text you can do, but in a legislative proposal’ can cause problems.”

Though the Zan bill may include perceived errors, its intention to combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a worthy goal, according to Paglia. He said, “That the problem [homophobia] exists is obvious; that it must be fought is even more obvious still.” The Zan bill “brings to light a very important issued that must be faced,” but Italian law is already adequate to fight discrimination of this type, added the archbishop.

Paglia’s comments contradict those of another top Vatican official, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who earlier this week defended the Holy See’s intervention over the Zan bill. Parolin, however, also affirmed the need to combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

With Paglia’s criticism, there are now two notable, positive outcomes in what is an otherwise negative story. First, it is good that a ranking church official like the archbishop would so openly challenge an action by the Vatican, especially when that archbishop is an ally of Pope Francis. This style of open, transparent disagreement is actually quite healthy for a church where secrecy and the veneer of unity have caused such ills.

Second, when discussing the Zan bill, the Holy See’s objections, as well as those of Parolin and Paglia, were all focused on technical details of the bill and how it may impact church institutions, not the bill’s overall aim regarding LGBTQ rights. Indeed, both the cardinal and the archbishop affirmed explicitly the need to legally protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Contrasted against previous Vatican positions on LGBTQ civil rights, this shift is significant.

It was misguided for the Holy See to intervene in Italian politics. But, like in many instances, this situation seems to be one where progress can emerge from error.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 1, 2021

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