In an unprecedented act in the history of relations between Italy and the Holy See, who signed a concordat in 1929, the Vatican demanded through diplomatic channels the reform of the law against homophobia discussed by the Parliament of Rome.
It is an action that can lead to serious political conflict because right-wing parties oppose the bill presented by the deputy of the center-left Democratic party Alessandro Zan, already approved by that House by 265 votes in favor and 193 against.
The project is since then in the Senate, where it has been lit a very tense debate by the rabid opposition of the right-wing parties.
The Corriere della Sera, the main Italian newspaper published on Tuesday all the details of the conflict raised by the Vatican to Italy.
The “minister” of Foreign Affairs of Pope Francis, Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, British, presented last Thursday at the embassy of the Holy See to Italy a “verbal note” in which the Vatican formally asks the government of Rome to modify the bill.
Italian MP Alessandro Zan paints a bench in a square in Milan, in the colors of the gay rights movement, in a picture from May. Photo: AP
The Vatican had never intervened while a future Italian law is being discussed in Parliament.
The text affirms that “some current contents of the legislative project that the Senate is examining reduce the freedom guaranteed to the Church”, included in article two of the agreement to review the Concordat.
These paragraphs refer to “the freedom of organization of the public, the exercise of worship, the exercise of teaching and the episcopal ministry.”
It also gives guarantees “to Catholics and their associations and organizations for the freedom of assembly and expression of thought.”
Against attacks on homosexuals and trans people
The Zan bill it persecutes the aggressions and all kinds of attacks against homosexuals and transsexuals.
The Vatican’s claim points above all to private Catholic schools, which would not be exempted from organizing activities during the future National Day against Homophobia.
It also manifests fear that the law will attack the freedom of thought of Catholics even with possible legal consequences.
A march in Italy, in support of the law that protects the rights of the LGBT community. Photo: AP
Already on two occasions in the last year the Italian Episcopal Conference of more than three hundred members opposed the Zan bill.
Assaults against homosexuals and transsexuals, including murders as well as serious beatings, are practically everyday in Italy.
The Church maintains that “a law that seeks to combat discrimination cannot and must not pursue that objective with intolerance.”
The bill supported by the center-left parties expands individualized crimes in the Penal Code, which punish so-called crimes against equality and they provide specific protection for the categories of people who are victims of hateful attacks against what they are and not against what they do.
The initiative adds to the crimes already mentioned in the penal code discrimination on grounds “based on sex, gender and sexual orientation.”
Another point that is the subject of criticism from the Vatican refers to gender identity, defined in the first article of the Zan project with “the perceived and manifested identification of oneself, in relation to gender even though it does not correspond to gender”.
In other words, a transgender person, although he has not yet obtained the gender change in the documents, can be the object of discrimination and violence as such.
Right-wing parties maintain that a reference to biological sex is enough for gender identity.
Assaults for sexual hatred
A bill by the right-wing leader, Matteo Salvini, provides for a punishment for homophobic aggravation, but does not include cases of transphobia, which have become common in sexual hate attacks.
The Salvini project is accused of not offering any protection to transsexuals.
The leader of the Democratic Party Enrico Letta, a Catholic, declared: “We uphold the Zan law and are naturally available to dialogue.” Letta pointed out that it is “a law of civilization.”
The author of the project, Congressman Alessandro Zan, pointed out that “in the Chamber of Deputies we have always listened carefully to all concerns. The text does not limit in any way freedom of expression or religious freedom. And it respects the autonomy of all schools ”.
For his part, the right-wing leader Salvini said that the stop and revision of the Zan law has his approval.
But he agreed with the dialogue of all sectors. “We must not cancel the freedom of opinion, but also protect it from aggression and discrimination,” he concluded.