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Lateran Pacts 1985

LATERAN PACTS 1985

On June 3, 1985, with the exchange of ratifications between the Holy See and the Italian government, the Concordat of Feb. 18, 1984, went into effect. This agreement between the Vatican and the Italian State amounts to a revision of the original Concordat which formed a part of the lateran pacts of Feb. 11, 1929. Over the course of time it had become outdated in several areas. The Concordat of 1985, which probably will be referred to commonly as the "Revised Lateran Pacts," retained some of the fundamental provisions of the earlier agreement.

The revised Concordat consists of a Preamble, 14 Articles and an Additional Protocol which is to be regarded as an integral part of the agreement. There is also a Protocol of Approval to which both parties affixed their signatures on Nov. 15, 1984, and which regulates the norms governing ecclesiastical goods.

Outline of the Pact. The Preamble explains why the Holy See and the Government of the Italian Republic thought it necessary and opportune to modify the old Concordat. Since 1929, many changes had occurred in the political and social order which dictated such a modification. Additionally, developments brought about by the Second vatican council on the subject of relations between Church and State likewise demanded change. There had been for several decades in Italy a political regime vastly different from that of the period of the original Pacts. After the Second World War, the nation had adopted a new Constitution and it was therefore both necessary and desirable to revise the Concordat in order to bring it into closer harmony with the Italian Constitution. The Constitution of 1948 included the principle, from the original Lateran Pacts, that "modifications of the [Lateran] Pacts, accepted by both parties, do not require a revision of the Constitution." This principle was important to both the Italian government and the Holy See in reaching their decision to revise the Lateran Pacts rather than simply abolish them completely. Such radical action would have required a change in the Constitution which, quite understandably, would have entailed a far more

complex process. The new Concordat retains throughout its text the above-mentioned principle.

In the very first article of the Concordat, the Government of the Italian Republic and the Holy See reaffirm that the State and the Catholic Church are, each in its proper order, independent and sovereign. Furthermore, each party commits itself to respect fully that principle in their mutual relations and they pledge reciprocal cooperation in promoting the good of citizens and the country. The Church, for its part, acknowledges the independence and sovereignty of the State in temporal affairs and binds itself not to interfere in those matters which are proper to the State. On the other hand, the State concedes that the Church is truly independent and sovereign in the spiritual and religious order.

In its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, the Second Vatican Council dealt with the question of relations between the Church and the political community. The Council document stated:

The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. Nevertheless, both are devoted to the personal vocation of man, though under different titles. This service will redound the more effectively to the welfare of all insofar as both institutions practice better cooperation according to the local and prevailing situation For man's horizons are not bounded only by the temporal order; living on the level of human history he preserves the integrity of his eternal destiny (n. 76).

While the State refrains from expressing judgments of a religious, spiritual or moral value, it does recognize that humanity has certain needs which lie beyond its scope and which the State, of itself, cannot adequately meet. At the same time, the State acknowledges that the Church can accomplish much for the good of the country. This occurs, for example, whenever the Church contributes to the uplifting of the moral tone of the citizenry, or through its acts of charity towards the impoverished in society. The Concordat makes it improbable to think of the Church and State as completely distinct one from the other. Reciprocal ignorance and mutual disinterest have been replaced by a healthy harmony which requires each party to meet with each other and to work together for the common good.

It is highly significant that in the Concordat's Additional Protocol both sides agreed that "the Catholic Church is no longer to be regarded as the only State religion." Such was the arrangement sanctioned by the original Lateran Pacts, but now the concept of a State religion implies that there exists a confessional State which is Catholic. This would be inconsistent with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council where it is declared that the Church does not desire any privileged position vis-à-vis the political community (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 76).

In the second article of the Concordat, the Italian Republic recognizes that the Church enjoys ample freedom in carrying out its pastoral, educational and charitable mission of evangelization and sanctification. This Article takes into account the broad scope of the Church's mission which is not confined merely to worship but includes, among others, the tasks of educating its members and performing charitable acts. When the Church establishes its own schools, whether for the formation of its clergy or for the education of young people, it does so to fulfill its own proper mission and not to supplement the State's educational system.

In regard to the appointment of bishops, article three abrogates the practice previously in force whereby candidates for episcopal appointment had to be presented by the Holy See to the government for notification, in case it had some objection. The requirement of bishops to take an oath of fidelity to the State before the President of the Republic has also been dropped. The fourth article exempts priests, deacons and religious in vows from military service, allowing them to select some form of civil service instead in times of national emergency.

The revised Concordat, in its fifth article, assures that houses of worship cannot be occupied, expropriated or demolished by the State except for grave cause and only with the prior consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority. Additionally, in this article, the right of sanctuary is upheld.

Sundays and other religious feasts determined by both parties are officially recognized holidays according to article six. Article seven guarantees that ecclesiastical institutions and associations receive treatment identical to any other association, without discrimination or privilege. The State acknowledges that institutions established or approved according to Canon Law possess a true juridical personality within society.

The most profound innovations of the Revised Concordat can be found in article eight which treats of marriage. In contrast to the original Concordat, no mention is made here of marriage as a sacrament. This is consistent with the fact that the State no longer holds that the Catholic religion is the religion of the State. The Concordat states only that the State recognizes the civil effects of marriage contracted according to the norms of Canon Law, provided that certain conditions are met. Whereas in the 1929 Concordat, sentences of nullity of marriage and dispensations from ratum et non consummatum marriages received ratification by the State, the Revised Concordat stipulates that only nullity cases will have this effect when one of the parties to the marriage formally requests it. At this point in the Concordat, the Holy See sought to reaffirm its teaching on marriage and wished to emphasize the solicitude which the Church has in safeguarding the dignity and the values of the family. Such a declaration is understandable in the context of legislation which had been passed in recent years that permitted divorce and abortion in Italy.

Article nine guarantees the Church the right to establish its own schools. An important element of this article is the norm governing the teaching of religion in the public schools. "The Italian government, acknowledging the value of religious culture and taking into consideration the fact that Catholicism forms a part of the historical patrimony of the Italian people, will continue to permit the teaching of religion in the public schools at every level except at the university level." The right to choose whether a pupil will receive religious training in the public school is left to the parents or the students at the time of their enrollment.

Although recognized by the State, those institutions of formation in ecclesiastical disciplines that have been established in accord with Canon Law fall under the sole competency of the ecclesiastical authority. Article eleven guarantees the exercise of religious freedom to those whose personal liberty is in some way restricted, as in the case of people in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, the armed forces, etc. The State will appoint ecclesiastics for this service upon presentation by competent Church authority. The Holy See and the Italian Republic have also agreed to collaborate in preserving the historical and artistic patrimony which they share. The final two articles of the Concordat reiterate a constant theme, that of collaboration between the two parties. These articles call for a spirit of collaboration and conclude that not every single situation can be foreseen by the present agreement. Thus, the door is left open for further negotiations, always in a collaborative way, should these prove necessary in the future.

Relevance. Finally, we may ask what is the importance of this Concordat for the Church in Italy? First, it does allow the Church greater freedom. The Church in Italy is now able to exercise that libertas ecclesiae it has received from Christ. This is the ultimate purpose of establishing an agreement between Church and State. Secondly, the Church reaches out to the State and obligates itself to collaborate to a greater extent in the promotion of the well-being of the citizenry. In the words of Gaudium et spes, "whatever truth, goodness, and justice is to be found in past or present human institutions is held in high esteem by the Church " (n. 42). Thirdly, the Church cannot be dependent on the State as it strives to fulfill its own mission. Thus, there is an urgent need to involve the laity in a far greater way and to make the Catholic community understand that it must support its clergy and institutions. The important matter of the teaching of religion in the schools can no longer be taken for granted. Parents and children are now called upon to make an active choice for this institution.

For the Church in Italy, the Revised Concordat signifies greater freedom but at the same time it implies on the part of the Church a greater effort to collaborate with the Italian government. Of particular importance is the notion that the Church must now rely more and more on itself for its own mission.

In addressing Mr. Bettino Craxi, then President of the Italian Republic, Pope John Paul II referred to the Revised Concordat as "an instrument of harmony and collaboration." The Concordat, he noted, "is situated now in a society characterized by free competition of ideas and by pluralistic articulation of the various social components. It can and must constitute an element of promotion and growth, fostering the profound unity of ideals and sentiments by which all Italians feel themselves to be brothers in the same homeland."

Bibliography: Text of the Revised Concordat La Civiltà Cattolica I (1984) 470478 [Italian]. f. lombardi, "I nuovi rapporti tra la Chiesa e lo Stato in Italia," ibid., 479494. g. de rosa, "Che cosa cambia in Italia dopo la revisione del Concordato?" ibid., 176187. Address in L'Osservatore Romano, English edition (August 19, 1985): 67, contains addresses in English on the concordat by a. cassoroli, b. craxi, and john paul ii.

[p. laghi]

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