One of Italy’s top bishops has expressed a desire for dialogue after legislators voted down a bill that would have provided non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ people, a bill the church hierarchy has strongly opposed up to now.
The Senate’s 154-131 vote on October 27th killed the legislation first proposed by gay legislator Alessandro Zan that would have also expanded LGBTQ education in schools, reported Crux. The Italian parliament’s lower chamber approved the bill in a November 2020 vote.
In response to this latest vote, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Città della Pieve, in his role as president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, issued a statement on the Italian Senate’s defeat of the so-called Zan bill. Bassetti commented in a press release:
“‘The outcome of the vote in the Senate on the Zan bill confirms what has been stressed several times: the need for an open and non-prejudicial dialogue, in which the voice of Italian Catholics can also contribute to building a more just and supportive society. . .a law that intends to combat discrimination cannot and must not pursue the goal with intolerance.
“Between the approval of ambiguous legislation and the possibility of direct reflection to an open confrontation, the Church will always be at the side of dialogue and the construction of a right that guarantees every citizen the aim of mutual respect.”
The debates over the Zan bill this year have been intense, and have very much involved the Catholic Church.
In June, the Holy See sent a nota verbale (a form of diplomatic communication) to Italy protesting the legislation under the Lateran Treaties. This major step was the first time the Vatican has taken such action, and church leaders were criticized for it. Nevertheless, the Vatican’s top diplomat defended it, and one archbishop who criticized then rescinded his comments.
Additionally, the Italian bishops issued two critical statements in June 2020 and April 2021 protesting in particular the inclusion of transgender protections and education.
However, not all Catholics opposed the bill. Members of Noi Siamo Chiesa (the Italian branch of We Are Church), Cammini di Speranza, and Progetto Gionata joined 71 Christian organizations in an appeal to support Zan’s proposal earlier this year.
The Italian bishops express a desire for dialogue only now that their position has won. Yet, harm has already been done to LGBTQ people. But continuing to advance arguments that the Zan bill was prejudicial and intolerant, as Cardinal Bassetti does in his statement, is not a good basis for real dialogue.
Establishing any dialogue will–and likely should–prove challenging for the bishops. The Vatican’s nota verbale in this debate exemplifies the intensity with which Catholic leaders opposed the Zan bill, and that harm done will not be easily overcome. Church leaders must now prove that they dialogue in good faith with the ultimate goal of protecting LGBTQ people. Whether they can convince LGBTQ Italians and their allies this is the case, however, remains to be seen.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 2, 2021