VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a dramatic flip-flop, the Holy See's second-highest ranking official after the pope has rowed back opposition to Italy's proposed bill on homotransphobia, humiliating the Vatican's foreign minister who earlier protested the anti-free speech legislation.
Secretary of State Cdl. Pietro Parolin, who championed compromise with China through the Holy See's secret deal, said the Vatican is not seeking to block the controversial Zan bill — a proposal that threatens to criminalize the Church's teaching on homosexuality.
In a Thursday interview with Andrea Tornielli, editorial director for the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, Parolin blamed the media for blowing out of proportion an "internal document" sent to Pietro Sebastiani, Italian ambassador to the Holy See.
Parolin admitted approving the "note verbal" sent by Vatican Foreign Minister Abp. Paul Gallagher last Thursday to Sebastiani but insisted it was "a text written and designed to communicate some concerns and certainly not to be published." A note verbal is a form of written diplomatic correspondence.
Gallagher's letter warned the Italian government that its proposed Zan bill would violate the Concordat of 1985 between Italy and Vatican City, Church Militant reported Tuesday.
"Some of the current contents of the legislative proposal reduce the freedom guaranteed to the Catholic Church by article 2, paragraphs 1 and 3 of the revised Concordat," Gallagher noted in his note verbal.
However, Parolin maintained that the Vatican's communique "in no way asked to block the [Zan] law" since the Holy See was "against any attitude or gesture of intolerance or hatred towards people" because of sexual orientation, ethnicity or beliefs.
"It was not an interference. The Italian state is secular, it is not a confessional state, as Prime Minister [Mario Draghi] reiterated. I fully agree with Draghi on the secular nature of the state and on the sovereignty of the Italian Parliament," Parolin added.
"There is a risk of lumping all kinds of attitudes together [in the bill] and making it possible to punish every possible distinction between a man and a woman," he explained.
On Tuesday, Bp. Antonio Suetta of Ventimiglia–San Remo diocese in Liguria, northern Italy, hailed Gallagher's diplomatic intervention as an "opportune act done by those who have the competence to do so."
"All of us, both faithful and pastors, benefit from the provisions of the Concordat, but the Concordat, being a bilateral pact, requires the State on the one hand and the Holy See on the other. We don't proceed unilaterally. It would be a violation of the agreement," Suetta said.
Asking how it was possible to legislate against "hate speech" without defining the "material objectivity" of such a crime, Suetta argued Catholic teaching was not compatible with "the ideological, anthropological, cultural-social presuppositions" in the Zan bill.
"If I, while preaching, say that sexuality is defined by the material and physical nature of a person, all that today goes under the name of gender theory is contrary to and differs from Church doctrine. If a law claims that affirming the opposite of gender theory is a crime, it prevents the Church and many other realities from exercising their mission," he stressed.
"There is a risk of criminalizing legitimate dissent with the risk of a very dangerous drift," the bishop warned.
Parolin, a proponent of Ostpolitik (pragmatic collaboration with communism adopted during the Cold War), has capitulated to the pro-gay lobby as he did in signing the deal with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — exacerbating the persecution of Christians, a source said.
The cardinal, who supports Pope Francis' "prioritization of dialogue with the Islamic world" and had close relations with Iranian diplomats, came under fire in 2018 for saying the Vatican would not help Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic woman who had been on death row for many years on account of blasphemy charges, to obtain asylum.
In 2019, Parolin received a group of about 50 activists, lawyers and other professionals working to decriminalize consenting homosexual conduct.
A diplomatic source told Church Militant Parolin was spinning the technical aspects of the "note verbal" to minimize its impact and, depending on the context, such a form of communication can be important or unimportant.
The official Italian document, leaked to the media, states:
Some contents of the legislative initiative — particularly in the part which establishes the criminalization of discriminatory behaviors for reasons "based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity" — would have the effect of negatively affecting the freedoms guaranteed to the Catholic Church and its faithful by the current concordat regime.
There are expressions of Sacred Scripture and of the ecclesiastical traditions of the authentic magisterium of the Pope and of the bishops, which regard sexual difference, according to an anthropological perspective that the Catholic Church does not consider negotiable because it derives from divine revelation itself.
This perspective is in fact guaranteed by the agreement between the Holy See and the Italian Republic for the Revision of the Lateran Concordat signed on February 18, 1984. Specifically, in Article 2, paragraph 1, it is stated that "the Italian Republic recognizes the Catholic Church full freedom to carry out his pastoral, educational and charitable mission, of evangelization and sanctification."
In particular, the freedom of organization, public exercise of worship, the exercise of the magisterium and the spiritual ministry is assured to the Church, as well as the jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters. In article 2, paragraph 3, it is further stated that "full freedom of assembly and expression of thought is guaranteed to Catholics and their associations and organizations, by word, writing and any other means of dissemination."
The Secretariat of State therefore hopes that the Italian State will be able to take into due consideration the aforementioned arguments and find a different modulation of the legislative text, continuing to guarantee compliance with the Lateran Pacts, which for almost a century have governed relations between State and Church and to which the Republican Constitution itself reserves a special mention.
The document has sparked dire concern for religious freedom.
Last June, Cdl. Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Conference of Italian Bishops (CEI), warned that "introducing further incriminating norms would risk a drift towards liberticide" and "subject to criminal proceedings those who believe that the family requires a dad and a mother."
Simone Budelli, president of the Union of Catholic Jurists of Perugia, blasted the bill as "cloaked in freedom and progress, but in reality [it is] a liberticidal law, which does not bring further guarantees for the gender minority."
"The objective is not to punish haters, but to create a new caste, leading to a liberticidal drift which risks punishing not only discrimination, but the expression of a legitimate opinion," Budelli said. "If I want to criticize the gender lifestyle even in private, I will risk jail."