Vatican protests Italy's anti-homophobia law in rare public intervention: 'An unprecedented act'

Friday, 25 June, 2021 - 01:27

The Vatican took the rare step of voicing a public objection that a proposed law to criminalize homophobia in Italy would threaten "freedom of thought."

The "Note Verbale" was delivered June 17 and confirmed a few days later. The contents of the letter have not been publicly disclosed, but the spirit of the message is clear.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, delivered a letter last week to the Italian ambassador to the Holy See, in which the Vatican laid out its concerns and claimed the "Zan Law" would, in part, violate the Lateran Treaty made between Italy and the Catholic Church in the 1920s, The Guardian reported.

The concerns relate to parts of the agreement associated with the Church’s "freedom of organization" and "freedom of thought," and it raised questions as to whether private schools would be forced to create events in light of a new national day against homophobia and transphobia.

Italian newspaper Corriera della Sera reported that the Church is seeking to change the law rather than outright eliminate it.

The bill, named for Democratic Party lawmaker and gay rights activist Alessandro Zan, received approval from the lower house of parliament last November, but it stalled in the Senate due to objections from conservative lawmakers.

"We support the Zan law, and naturally we are open to dialogue,’’ Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta told state radio. He stressed, however, that the party wants to see the law enacted.

Some historians have labeled the Vatican objection an "unprecedented act" that is "political" in nature, The New York Times reported.

"It’s an important question," Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, said at a news conference on Tuesday as lawmakers attempt to figure out how to respond to the Church’s concerns.

Zan said Tuesday that the law already protects freedom of speech and that it allows Catholic schools to opt out of certain observances in the bill, but a Vatican official told the Times that he saw no such clause in it.