Archbishop Retracts Criticism of Vatican Over Italian LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Bill

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia

An archbishop has retracted his criticism of the Vatican over its intervention against an LGBTQ non-discrimination bill being debated in Italy.

A day after suggesting the Vatican’s nota verbale to the Italian government against the bill “should not have been written,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia then said the Vatican’s move was actually “not interference.” Crux reported:

“In his remarks, Paglia argued that ‘If Europe can legitimately intervene if, and when, a country threatens the rights of citizens with homosexual orientations, I don’t see why the Holy See can’t do the same in Italy.’

“‘It is not interference, it is an interest in the common good starting from its precious anthropological vision that the Church protects as a wealth,’ he said, noting that while the Vatican is a small state, ‘its historic closeness to Italy allows it to welcome with extreme sensitivity the common feeling of the Italian people.'”

Paglia blamed the media for giving a “false interview that I never gave” by “extrapolating” from his initial speech in which he criticized both the Vatican and the so-called Zan bill. Crux quoted the archbishop:

“‘I have, in every way, expressed doubts, like many,’ he said, voicing his belief that ‘between the two banks of the Tiber, there was a creativity in coming up with avenues of dialogue and settling differences from which the media should, and can, stay outside of.’

“Rather than saying the nota verbale in itself was a mistake, Paglia said he believes the error was making it public, when it ‘should have remained secret’ – in effect, faulting the news outlets who reported on the note and later published its text. . .

“‘I was misunderstood too,’ he said, adding, ‘the note had the precious effect of shedding light on the serious problems of a decree which, as is, is unacceptable – not only for the Church, but I would say for the majority of Italians.'”

Paglia did not, however, back away from his initial insistence that stopping discrimination against LGB people was a worthy goal. Crux reported:

“Paglia noted that discrimination against homosexual or transsexual individuals is still legal in many countries and stressed the need to end this type of prejudice, including through education.

“However, a new law ‘is not enough,’ he said, arguing that ‘A serene, open, plural confrontation is urgently needed’ among all actors in society, including religious entities.

“‘The idea of a ‘no’ Church is false,’ Paglia said. ‘It is incorrect to think that we are against rights. Nor is it true that there has been, in history, a pure contrast between those who have made themselves champions of the rights of individuals and of humanity and a Church that imposed only prohibitions aimed at stifling individual freedoms.'”

Archbishop Paglia’s retraction is perhaps not unexpected, given that bishops often walk back their initial criticisms of the church, but the retraction is no less problematic. The Vatican’s nota verbale that claimed the Zan bill would curtail Catholics’ religious liberty in Italy was indeed an intervention into the latter country’s politics. Paglia was right the first time that it “should not have been written.” It was not the media’s error in reporting his words, a trope that should be retired by church leaders.

Paglia has taken the position of too many church leaders whereby they call for dialogue but seem unwilling to engage it themselves. Contrary to the archbishop’s claims, the hierarchy continues, as it has for several decades now, to intervene against laws that would offer greater protections to LGBTQ people. The idea of a “‘no’ Church” is not entirely false despite his protests. What is most needed is a church that says wholeheartedly “yes” to civil laws that protect LGBTQ people from harassment, discrimination, and violence–without qualification.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 9, 2021

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