No-one talks about abolishing the Concordat these days, yet Italian society is increasingly secular, and during these austere times the country can ill afford costly Church privileges while essential services like health and education are being cut, says Raffaele Carcano
Thirty years ago the “new” Concordat was signed. It was ratified by more than 90% of MPs . Even the Communist Party voted in favour. A few years later, however, a congressional motion that called for abolition picked up a surprise 40% of the vote. Strong opposition to the Concordat existed, and clearly had grown. But no action was taken.
Thirty years later, the Communist Party no longer exists. But the Concordat does, unfortunately. In this legislature, no MP has yet proposed the abolition of revision of Article 7 of the Constitutution that guarantees the Concordat. Today, as then, however, dissent does exist. The Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics, is trying give voice to that dissent with an online petition* addressed to all members of parliament, which has already exceeded twenty thousand signatures. Not bad for an initiative unknown to most people.
Because questioning the Concordat is not written nor talked about. It’s a taboo subject. The media declare that Italian society is increasingly secular and celebrate religious pluralism, but do not have the courage to take note of the fact that, in such a changed landscape, such a medieval institution no longer has any raison d’être. How can you seriously say that it is right that one religious confession enjoys unique privileges? In fact, no one affirms this; that would be too embarrassing, better to pretend it doesn’t exist.
And yet the adverse effects are so plainly evident: from weddings that are “cancelled” on grounds of atheism or even mammismo , with ecclesiastical sentences ratified by the civil courts, to huge tax exemptions, even in times of crisis, enjoyed by ecclesiastical bodies. There are no funds to hire doctors or nurses, but hospitals do not reduce the public costs of Catholic chaplains. Headteachers invite parents to buy toilet paper for their children, but the jobs of teachers of religion, chosen by the bishops but paid by taxpayers, are protected. For a total of over a billion euros each year.
These are all situations considered untouchable because they are protected by the Concordat. But a Concordat is not forever. If we want to change this country, we cannot think of doing it without taking action against anachronistic and absolutely unjustified privileges. There is no secular state in Italy for now, and there certainly won’t be one by grace of some god. It can, however, be conquered through daily commitment.
The secularists are many in Italy, and we have a thousand good reasons on our side: we just need to find a way to translate them into practice. The twenty thousand signatures collected and delivered in parliament are just the beginning of this journey.
* The online petition – handed into Italy’s Parliament this week – asks the Italian parliament to replace the Articles 7 and 8 of the Constitution with a clear assertion of the principle of state secularism.
Translated by Revolting Europe