Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Italy Attacks The Church?

Thanks to Haskovec for this nugget.

There's a Bloomberg article indicating that Europe is now turning its guns on the Church, starting in Italy.

Prime Minister Mario Monti plans an amendment to an Italian law that will force the Catholic Church to pay taxes on all its commercial properties, according to a statement posted late yesterday on the government’s website.

The church currently pays property tax only on buildings designated as “purely commercial,” based on an Italian law originating 20 years ago and extended in 2006. The wording is ambiguous when it comes to clinics that have a chapel or monasteries that offer bed and breakfast accommodation.

The Catholic Church owns about 100,000 properties in Italy, a third of which are commercial, according to the Italian Radical Party, which historically has challenged the church.

Why is this happening now? You might think it's just because the country is broke and is wanting the Church to bail it out. Sort of. The article leaves the motives to the end. For now, let's read on:

Italy would gain an additional 100 million euros ($130 million) from increasing levies on the church to include all its commercial property, Paolo Berdini, an urban planner and consultant for local administrations, said in an interview last month.

Interesting how the focus here is on what Italy will gain, not what the Church will lose. And for those who think the Church is flush with cash:

The Vatican reported a profit of 9.8 million euros ($12.7 million) in 2010 after three years of losses during the recession.

I know "the Vatican" isn't the same as "the Church institutions in Italy," but it's significant that the writer of the article seems to think so yet still doesn't explore what the ripple effects of this action might be.

As to the reasons why:

Following a complaint by the Radical Party, European Union regulators opened a probe in 2010 into Italian tax breaks on real estate granted to the Catholic Church, saying they may distort competition.

Ah. So we're doing this in the name of capitalism? Really?

The outcome of the investigation will be made public by next month and if the decision goes against Italy, the EU could order the country to pay a fine and to demand that the church reimburse the government for unpaid taxes of the last five years, the secretary of the Radical Party, Mario Staderini, said in an interview in Rome on Dec. 21.

Monti has informed European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia of his decision to overhaul the rule and hopes “the government’s initiative will allow the European Commission to close the procedure,” according to the statement.

I don't know how accurate this is, but look at what was just said. The EU can order the Church to reimburse Italy for unpaid taxes that Italian law said were never due in the first place. Moreover, since this is being done because it might be "distorting competition," what is to stop this from spreading to every other country in the EU? If it distorts competition in Italy, wouldn't that also be the case every where else?

This is pretty bad stuff, and by that, I mean liquidating-the-monasteries bad.

Anybody ever read Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson? Something in the neighborhood of that kind of bad.

1 comment:

Philip said...

As far as attacks on the Church go, I would put this one low on the list compared to some of the things that are happening in other countries (including the US).