Vatican Intervenes in Proposed ‘Anti-Homophobia’ Law in Italy

The bill seeks to prevent and oppose “discrimination and violence for reasons based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.”

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States within the Holy See's Secretariat of State during the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, June 29, 2019.
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States within the Holy See's Secretariat of State during the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, June 29, 2019. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA/EWTN)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has intervened with the Italian state in a proposed “anti-homophobia” law, saying that the legislation as written violates freedoms of the Catholic Church in Italy. 

According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, gave a formal diplomatic note to the Italian embassy to the Holy See on June 17, expressing concern about the text under debate.

Local media have called the Vatican’s action “unprecedented” in the history of the relationship between the two states.

The “anti-homophobia” bill, known by the name “Ddl Zan,” is being examined by the justice commission of the Italian Senate, after the text received initial approval from the House last November.

The bill seeks to prevent and oppose “discrimination and violence for reasons based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.”

Corriere della Sera reported that the Vatican note said that parts of the legislation reduce the freedom guaranteed to the Catholic Church by Article 2, paragraphs 1 and 3 of the Agreement for the revision of the Pact.

In 1984, Italy and the Holy See signed an agreement amending the Lateran Pacts of 1929. The agreement guarantees that the Italian Republic recognizes “the full freedom of the Catholic Church to carry out its pastoral, educational and charitable mission, of evangelization and sanctification.”

According to article 2, paragraph 3 of the agreement, “Catholics and their associations and organizations are guaranteed full freedom of assembly and expression of thought by word, writing and any other means of dissemination.”

The “note verbale” from Archbishop Gallagher — the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister — said that the proposed legislation, as currently written, violates this agreement and asked for its amendment.

According to Corriere della Sera, the Italian embassy to the Holy See delivered the note to the cabinet of Italy’s foreign ministry and the office for relations with the parliament.

It is next expected to be brought before Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the parliament.

The Italian bishops have also raised concerns over what some in Italy have dubbed the “homotransphobic” bill.

Last month, Archbishop Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, urged more “open dialogue” about the issue “to arrive at a solution without ambiguity and legislative stretch.”

In a June 2020 statement, the bishops expressed reservations about the bill, saying that in the protection of the person in Italian law “not only is there no regulatory vacuum, but also there are no gaps which justify the urgency of new provisions.”

They also said that introducing further legal penalties on discrimination risked infringing on freedom of speech and introducing a “crime of opinion.”

“Rather than punishing discrimination — it would end up striking the expression of a legitimate opinion, as learned by the experience of the legal systems of other nations in which similar internal regulations have already been introduced,” the statement said.