The Vatican, an independent city state within Rome, under the sovereign jurisdiction of the Holy See dates back to early Christianity. As its own entity of international law, while a religious institution and technically considered a ‘theocracy’ of sorts lead currently by Pope Francis, the Vatican’s strong influential presence in both, Italian politics, as well as international politics, has held its grip. It’s latest news: it’s refusal to solidify condemnation of homophobia.
The Vatican, also known as the Vatican City contains some of the most important cultural and historical sites for all of mankind. St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican museums attract thousands, if not millions of tourists every year, calling to witness the beauty and the grandeur of what it hosts within its walls. The historical relevance of the Catholic Church is an important aspect of every society, but considered an especially vital characteristic for Italy’s history. While the area which is now known as the Vatican held great importance far before its title, being that the first church built was St. Peter’s Basilica, as Italy unified in 1861, the Pope felt to be a prisoner of the State, rather than an inclusion of it. It was in 1929, when the Lateran Treaty signed by Benito Mussolini, established the recognition of the Vatican and the Holy See, officially creating the Vatican State and creating its role within Italian society – socially, politically, and economically.
While Italy is, by constitution, a secular state, in reality it’s connection, ties, and political relevance from the Vatican has yet to be erased. The government of Italy is in the process of drafting the ddl Zan, a law against hate speech and discrimination towards gender identity and sexual orientation; essentially against all acts of homotransphobia. Whilst in the process, for the first time in history, the Vatican has decided to intercept, stating that it violates an agreement, i Patti Lateranensi or the ‘Lateran Treaty’ of 1929. Signed by Mussolini, this pact between the Italian State and the Holy See, was meant to establish the papacy’s recognition of Rome as its capital, and Italy’s recognition of the Vatican as a sovereign state. Specifically, in article 7 of the Treaty, it explicitly sanctions the Church’s right to carry out its mission, pastorally, educationally, and charitably. In regards to the bill however, it guarantees and protects freedom of expression and school autonomy; aiming to discourage hate speech or hate crimes, including the spread of distasteful propaganda. According to the Holy See, this bill directly violates said article, stating that it would prohibit freedom of expression, as well as the religious freedom of the Catholic Church. Afraid that this law goes against and places threat on both, the Church’s and Catholics’ “freedom of organization and thought,” their outspoken disagreement creates extensive difficulty in making segue within the legal process.
Considering the past actions of Pope Francis, the current head of the Vatican since 2013, he has provided considerably progressive statements and ideals when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community and homosexuality as a whole. Though stating that the Church should welcome, rather than exclude, all members of the religion, regardless of sexual orientation, this move from the Vatican City comes as a slight contradiction to these past actions. While the Catholic Church has always been known for its constant conservative stances against homosexuality, this move, considered to be a historical first, may demonstrate a regression for both the papacy as well as anti-discrimination legislation.
There has yet to be a definitive understanding as to what is to come next within this process. However, this event reveals the significance of the Vatican within Italian governance and the strength they hold within the decision process. Now is the time to keep a close eye and see what awaits from this incident.