Italy: notes & cuttings
Six billion euros – is that how much the Church costs Italy?
Press release from UAAR: UAAR (the largest Italian humanist association, member of EHF) has compiled the first detailed investigation of the impact of the various contributions and tax privileges enjoyed by the Catholic Church on Italian public finances. And made it available for everybody to see: just go to the website www.icostidellachiesa.it. These costs turn out to be quite considerable: more than six billion euros.
If they were erased, the budget law enacted by the Monti government would be much milder, perhaps avoiding tax increases for the most disadvantaged population groups, such as the young and the unemployed. Or those who have suffered from the unfair competition of Catholic hotels and tour operators. Or those already much affected in recent years. Quite unique in this respect, the Catholic Church always emerged unscathed from the many budget cuts of recent times, including the one approved yesterday. “Six billion euros per year is a lot,” said Raffaele Carcano, secretary of UAAR. “The Monti government promised sacrifices for all. But it did not keep its word. With this study we point out to him costs and waste, so that it will be easier for him to intervene, if he wants to.”
This research by UAAR has required considerable effort: navigating between laws and regulations, and combing through the workings of many local government agencies was not an easy task. But it allowed us to discover that financial grants of the same type (e.g. for the construction or renovation of churches) are lavished at several levels: by municipalities, provinces, regions, state, different state agencies. And this is bound to cause inefficiencies and waste resources.
Unsurprisingly, the ones who benefit of these inefficiencies are most often those closer to power: just like the Church. The decision to publish the project online is intentional: the site will thus become more and more accurate over time, thanks to the contributions that any user (even Cardinal Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference) can send to UAAR. “We invite the Italian Episcopal Conference to launch a project like this, too,” Carcano concludes. “This would benefit transparency and dialogue. Even more, it would benefit citizens. And public finances.”
(5 December 2011)____________________________________________________________________________________
Catholic Strength in New Government
The Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti has issued the following statement:
The rector of the Università Cattolica as minister of Cultural Heritage, a professor of the same University as minister for the Relationships with Parliament, the president of a Catholic movement as minister of Health, the leader of another Catholic movement as minister of International and Domestic Co-operation, a speaker at the Todi convention (which called for a renewed involvement of Catholics in politics) as multipotent minister of Development, Infrastructure and Transport.
Many ministers in the new executive are strongly connected to the Catholic world. Monti’s government thus marks the official return of Christian Democracy, which not many longed for: the wish expressed by Cardinal Bagnasco, president of CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference), has been granted even earlier than expected.
“In a sense, it’s for the best,” says Raffaele Carcano, secretary of UAAR. “The re-clericalization of Italian politics started right after the demise of Christian Democracy: now perhaps the opposite process will start because of its resurrection. Politicians with CEI investiture are soon to have a new home, so that the other parties will find it easier to take secular stances. We will see during the elections,” Carcano comments, “how much weight the bishops’ candidates actually carry.”
In the meantime, however, we have a new government. “Mario Monti promised sacrifices for everybody,” Carcano concludes. “We thus expect that he will be soon cutting the 5 billion euros that are annually lavished on the various incarnations of the Catholic Church.”
Until that happens, UAAR maintains that it will be right to call it the “Bagnasco government”.
(17 November 2011)____________________________________________________________________________________
Parliament rejects law to protect LGBT victims of hate crime
On 26 July 2011 the lower house of the Italian Parliament voted against legislation to protect victims of homophobic and transphobic hate crime. The legislation was rejected by 293 votes to 250.
The rejection of the Bill came despite reports of increasing attacks on LGBT persons in Italy. The 2009 OSCE report entitled Hate Crime in the OSCE Region – Incidents and Responses (published November 2010) included reports of up to ten murders, 38 assaults and seven attacks on property directed at LGBT persons in Italy in 2009.
The rejection of this legislation represents a failure to implement important aspects of Italy’s human rights obligations, particularly those relating to the right to equality.
Source: Equal Rights Trust – full details here
NB: a survey by ILGA reported here placed Italy second only to Cyprus as the most hostile EU country to gays.
(4 August 2011)
Judge Tosti loses final appeal in Italian supreme court
Italian Judge Luigi Tosti has been maintaining a campaign of refusal to administer justice sitting under a crucifix. He is himself a Jew. He was condemned to serve a 7 month term of imprisonment because of his refusal but this ruling was quashed by the Cassation Court in July, 2009. However, on January 22, 2010 the Supreme Magistrature Council decided to dismiss him. Judge Tosti appealed against the decision to the Cassation Court but in March 2011 his appeal was dismissed.
(31 March 2011)
OSCE condemns intimidation of investigative journalists
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has condemned continued intimidation and threats against investigative journalists in Italy and urged the Italian authorities to take action and investigate all such cases.
Source: OSCE – see here
(14 March 2011)
Italian Foreign Minister condemns atheism, materialism and relativism
The UAAR has written to the Prime Minister condemning an article, published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, on 22 October 2010. Here are some extracts from the article:
Christians also have to be aware of the need to seek an understanding with Muslims about how to oppose those aspects that threaten society just as much as extremism. I refer to atheism, materialism and relativism. Christians, Muslims and Jews can work together to achieve this common goal.
I believe that a new humanism is required to oppose these perverse phenomena, because only the centrality of the human person is an antidote that will defeat fanaticism and intolerance. This is why Italian foreign policy sees the promotion of religious freedom as a fundamental point, since this deals with a fundamental right of each human person. This is not a collective issue, but a question relating to the person.
The Italian government has done a lot. We have been busy in the European Union. . .
I also acted at the United Nations in September. . .
We also had to act as the Italian Government against a judgement, which you will all be aware of, of the Court of Strasbourg that forbade the exposition of the Crucifix in public places. I am convinced – and this conviction is shared by the Italian Government – that the Crucifix represents the right to express one’s faith and that there is no contradiction between this symbol, which is a symbol of peace and reconciliation, and the lay state that protects all religions; a state that also protects my religion, though, which I therefore have the right to profess publicly as well.
Italy’s action (the first of its kind at the Court of Strasbourg) was supported by ten countries, small ones like Cyprus and large ones like Russia. It is with great sadness that I note that only Italy, among the founding countries of the European Union, subscribed to this appeal, because the very nations that felt Europe was worth founding did not participate in this action in favor of freedom with us, which is after all one of the pillars of the Charter of Rights that the European Union wanted to establish. . .
Source: Vatican radio website and email from UAAR
(25 October 2010)