To put an end to Concordats in Europe
And the established and official religions
And Churches’ properties and earthly advantages
The whole world was shocked by the revelations unveiled by a report presented in France by a senior official, M. Sauvé – otherwise known as a true-blue catholic – in the wake of an independent Commission on sexual abuses within the Church (CIASE). Even more appalling than the number of priests who indulged in child abuse (The Irish Republic still holds a grim record in that field), it is the number of victims which is frightening (330 000), and even worse the fact that these figures are widely underestimated.
Yet it is that same Catholic Church, which everyday disgusts more and more citizens worldwide, that spearheads an all-out offensive to grab public funds and is gaining a political influence that wrecks the rights and lives of women, men and children.
In Metz (France) on December 2017, The European Coordinating Bureau of Free Thought (BECLP/ECBFT) held a conference which brought together representatives from major international secular societies and groups of free thinkers (AILP,HI,FHE,IBKA), as well as delegates from numerous countries (Poland, Spain, Greece, France, Italy, Portugal, Finland, Scotland, Luxembourg, Germany). We then came to the conclusion that the “Concordats” (political agreements between states and The Vatican) that exist in a lot of countries and whose number has been on the rise in the last thirty years, are the linchpin of the growing amounts paid to the Church through public taxes. Such Concordats are also involved in the extension of this practice to other religions.
Four years later, The European coordinating Bureau of Free Thought led investigations and here is a summary of its first analyses:
In Spain – The 1978 Spanish constitution is formally “non-religious” (no religion can be described as a State religion), but it compels the State to have relationships with the Catholic Church. The 1979 covenants replaced Franco’s concordat, but the latter was never repealed.
Four covenants remain in force, namely,
– The covenant on economic issues that allows financing via a tax percentage that makes the Church a compulsory expense in the State Budget.
– The covenant on education makes religion a mandatory subject; on a voluntary basis, children receive religious tuition from teachers who are appointed by the Church but paid by the State.
– The media are also required to respect religious sensitivities.
– The covenant on legal issues offers a particular status to the Catholic religion; religious marriage is legally recognized as is religious assistance in hospitals, orphanages, prisons, etc.
– The covenant on religious services in the armed forces provides military chaplains with the ranks and earnings of the higher military hierarchy.
In Poland – The 1993 concordat, which was ratified in 1998 by a President of the Left today offers support to an arch-reactionary government that relies on the clerical Right, thus reducing women’s rights to next to nothing. Abortion has been made totally illegal since the end of 2020 and morning-after pills are very difficult to get. But today all citizen rights are being threatened; the concordat and its supporters have allowed the Catholic Church to lay hand on education in the hope of turning back the clock . In brief, as fighting women and non-religious people put it: “Here laws are written by priests and not by deputies.”
In Germany – with the 1933 Reich Concordat (that came in the wake of previous concordats in Bavaria, 1924 and Prussia, 1929), the Catholic Church provided the National Socialist dictatorship with an international reputation. In return, the Catholic Church received a far-reaching guarantee on acquired rights, including its real estate and property, its theology faculties, and hoarded a number of State benefits. The Catholic and National Socialist common basis was antisemitism and anticommunism. In recognition for the Reich’s Concordat, the unlawful mention of religious faith on tax documents was ordered in 1934, which turned the Church’s tax collection by the State into a most effective funding mechanism for the Church. Such regulations are still in use in Germany today.
In Italy – Thanks to the Concordat, the Italian State still is the Vatican’s major fund-raiser. The Church’s economic, political and social powers are inextricably linked to the uncompleted separation between the Church and the State, first initiated after Italy’s unification but crossed off by Mussolini who, on 11 February 1929, granted the Church of the Vatican the Latran Pact, aka “the Concordat“. Fascism collapsed but its Concordat remained as a dark blot on the Constitution, even if it was simply mentioned in the official document which still gave precedence to the secular nature of the State.
In 1984, the Pact of the Concordat was revived by order of Head of Government Bettino Craxi. This new version offered the Church a remarkable springboard to pervade Italian society again: It acknowledged “the principles of Catholicism as part of the Italian people’s historical heritage“. A formulation that, in all respects, legitimized the indirect sovereignty which Mussolini’s Concordat had already granted the Vatican.
In France – The concordat that was signed between Pope Pie VII and First Consul Bonaparte on 15 July 1801 established that the Catholic religion was the religion of the majority of the French people. On December 9th 1905, the law of separation between Churches and the State put an end to this Concordat. Nonetheless, the Napoleonic Concordat is still valid in three eastern Départements: priests are paid by the Republic, bishops are appointed by the President of the Republic on the Vatican’s proposal and outrageous advantages are granted to recognized clergies. This situation is still enduring, although according to the major media, religious beliefs are substantially receding. An opinion poll recently stated that less than 50% of French citizens are believers. According to an IFOP opinion poll, the majority of Alsace / Moselle’s inhabitants now disown the Concordat. The Metz bishopric even admitted recently that less than 1% of Moselle’s population attend Sunday masses. In spite of this situation, the 1801 Concordat is serenely going to celebrate its 220th anniversary.
In Portugal: In its 20 April 1911 law, the first Portuguese Republic separated churches from the State. Salazar’s concordat (1940) reacted by giving Catholicism the status of near-official state religion. In 1976, the constituent assembly voted article 41 which granted “inviolable freedom of conscience, religion and worship” and asserted that “Churches and other religious communities were separated from the State and free to organize themselves“. But a new concordat was initiated on 18 may 2004, between the Vatican and the Portuguese Republic. It “guaranteed the exceptional nature of the relationship between Portugal and the Catholic church without there being a contradiction with the Portuguese judicial order“.
In the Irish Republic: The 1937 Constitution is still in effect in the Irish Republic: “In the name of the Very Holy Trinity, from which all authority ensues and to which all men and States must conform, as our ultimate aim, We, the people of Ireland, who humbly recognize all our obligations towards our Lord, Jesus Christ (…) We adopt, we promulgate and we give ourselves the present Constitution.” In the late period, on three occasions, the Irish people unambiguously stood for the right to abortion, the right to same-sex marriage and against the alleged crime of blasphemy. Ivana Bacik, a senator, following in deputy Liz O’Donnell‘s footsteps, declared: “Time has come to launch a campaign for a secular constitution that would represent the pluralistic nature of our society“.
To all these shameful advantages granted to the national representatives of the Vatican, we must add the earthly advantages and excesses of all kinds that prevail in Orthodox, Gallican, Lutheran, Calvinist churches, in all forms of Protestantism and in the “Established Churches“.
In front of this unacceptable situation, the BELCP proposes an international conference that could be held on 8th April 2023 in Paris, where the Separation law between Churches and State was voted and where a World Congress of the Libre Pensée was held in 1905.
This conference will be preceded by a big republican banquet against religious prohibitions in Montmartre between Nadar Square, where the new statue of the Chevalier de la Barre stands, and the Sacré-Coeur basilica, a clerical monument.
On this occasion, the Libre Pensée will symbolically put up the original statue of the Chevalier de la Barre in front of the basilica where it had been erected and then removed under the pressure of the Church.
This conference would have on its agenda the following point:
“What concrete measures should be taken to put an end to the Concordats and the scandalous earthly goods and advantages of the Churches?
To this end, the year 2022 will be a major opportunity to produce, centralize and share the contributions that will reach us after the present appeal.
We then exhort free thinkers, humanists, atheists and agnostics, female and male citizens and all the European associations who are committed to absolute freedom of conscience to prepare and send their contributions for a public debate on what has become a crucial issue again.