"My House Shall be a House of Business"

“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12).

Organized pilgrimages (tours) to Lourdes, the Holy Land or Rome; hotels and restaurants ready to host and feed pilgrims, absolutely NOT free of charge; shops selling holy water, crucifixes or John Paul II or Benedict XVI postcards (buy them, the Pope personally blessed them!); hospitals, bookstores and universities. Billions of whatever currency you want flowing into the coffers of the Catholic Church (henceforth, CC) with the promise of a better post-mortem future.

What is the CC, then?

To be intellectually honest, we must acknowledge the work of thousands of priests and nuns, who, though not always challenging the real causes of poverty, nevertheless live in real deprivation, in difficult areas of the world, really devoting their daily existence to helping the poor and the hungry, often giving their lives for their brothers (think of the priests working and dying in Latin America, Asia or Africa; or, without going too far, those killed in southern Italy by the Mafia).

However, who holds the reins of power is not the Amazonian priest or Indian nun. Real power lies within Vatican hierarchy and national Episcopal Conferences (CEI for Italy), that is the Vatican’s (business) arm in all countries of the world.

It is true that we should not confuse the Vatican and the CC. The Vatican is a sovereign, independent State, with its own king, the Pope. Episcopal Conferences are the Vatican’s tentacles.

In the end, what distinguishes the CC from a gigantic corporation? Very little, I would say. Probably nothing. Just like a corporation, it wields enormous political and economic power and lobbies Parliaments to get economic favors, such as tax breaks or state funds. However, as not all countries’ political institutions are influenced by corporations at the same degree, the same can be said about the CC. It would be interesting to analyze, therefore, the situation of the country where the CC wields the most power in the world, Italy.

Italy is an amazing country: though officially independent from the Vatican, it is actually not. Most of TV news time is daily devoted to the Pope, whether it is his homily, his vacation on the Italian Alps or at his Castel Gandolfo residence (another example of apostolic poverty), or even his anathema against those Italian politicians, elected by the (at least according to the Constitution) sovereign Italian people, who dare oppose the word of the CC, for example, on abortion, gay or even unmarried heterosexual couples’ rights, on euthanasia, on the removal of crucifixes from public hospital, tribunal and school walls (you may not believe this, but they are still there). It is also a country where many politicians of both coalitions (and particularly those who, in British parliamentary terminology, we would call front-benchers, that is, top ones) are always ready to genuflect before the Vatican’s high or low hierarchies.

Particularly puzzling is the case of supposedly progressive politicians, who act the opposite way. Unforgettable remains Massimo D’Alema’s visit to St. Peter’s Square for the sanctification of Monsignor Escrivà de Balaguer, Opus Dei founder, a collaborator of Spanish Fascist dictator Francisco Franco and an admirer of Pinochet, praised by D’Alema for his “managerial” banking skills (another very Christian activity).

However, even better is current Vice-Prime Minister Francesco Rutelli’s story, blinded on his way to Damascus, in one of the most astonishing examples of personal religious (and political) conversion: in his youth member of the Radical Party (that is, the most anticlerical bunch of people around, who led furious battles against the CC and the Christian Democrats in the 1970s for people’s right to abortion and divorce); then MP for the Green Party (not very soft on the CC either); then Mayor of Rome for the Center-Left coalition, office which allowed him, amongst many things, to manage the enormous amount of public money devolved to the city of Rome for the 2000 Jubilee; and now, after re-marrying his wife in church in 1995, definitely one of Italy’s chief theo-cons, one of the most stalwart supporters of U.S. militarism, and CC diktats on abortion, gay rights, euthanasia and so forth and so on.

Thanks to such subservience on the part of Italy’s top politicians, the CC enjoys economic privileges which sound outrageous for all those Italians who regularly pay their taxes, and see them going not to healthcare, education, or the environment, but, rather, into the coffins of an entity representing a minority of the Italian people. As a matter of fact, if Catholics are officially 91,1% of the people (even people like me are considered in that percentage), people who actually attend masses weekly are around 30%.

So, how have we got to this point?

“Libera Chiesa in Libero Stato”: “A Free Church in a Free State”. This principle, envisaging a perfect separation between the new-born Italian nation and the Catholic Church, was enounced by Camillo Benso Count of Cavour, the first Prime Minister of (not completely) united Italy, during several speeches to the new Italian Parliament between March and April 1861. It is a principle completely forgotten in today’s Italy, even though it has been remarked by the Constitutional Court, in art. 4 of sentence 203 of 1989, that secularism is a “supreme principle of the State”.

Now, Cavour’s statement, together with massive confiscations of Church properties that had been taking place between 1848 and 1870, were probably instrumental to the political situation of the time. After all, art. 1 of the Albertine Statute, that is, the Constitution of the Sardinian Kingdom, extended to the rest of Italy after unification, stated, after all, that “La Religione Cattolica, Apostolica e Romana è la sola Religione dello Stato. Gli altri culti ora esistenti sono tollerati
conformemente alle leggi.” That is, the CC was the only religion of the State, and other existing cults were tolerated in accordance with the law. It might seem that, because of such provision, the CC should enjoy preferential treatment and therefore not undergo anything damaging, let alone confiscations.

However, it should be remembered that, when Cavour died in 1861, Rome and its surrounding region, Lazio, where still under papal rule. Pope Pius IX was, therefore, the sovereign of a much larger State than the one Popes rule today, that is, Vatican City. Therefore, anything leading to the weakening of CC temporal power was more than welcome.

Thus, argued Cavour, not only was the presence of such temporal power in contradiction with “those concessions required by the times and progress of civilization” (for example, non-religious weddings or secular education), that is “those whose tolerance is by now acknowledged as necessary”, whose existence “however clashes with religious positive precepts”; so was even the presence of a state Religion, whose existence would make it impossible to enforce such “concessions”, as the Prime Minister from Piedmont called them.

Once Rome was conquered, on 20 September 1870, the Italian Parliament passed the so called “legge delle Guarentigie” on 13 May 2007, in order to regulate the new status quo. In spite of its generosity, as it guaranteed the Pope’s inviolability and regal status; his power to have diplomatic delegations; endowed him with the Vatican, the Lateran Palace and Castel Gandolfo, which were granted extra-territoriality; supplied him with 3,250,000 lire annually to support himself, his palaces and the High Clergy; and exempted bishops from swearing allegiance to the King and allowed unlimited freedom of assembly, it was nevertheless turned down by Pius IX, who regarded the new law as an Italian unilateral act (he even invoked the help of German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, who was a Lutheran, imagine that).

Then, the Pope issued the “Ubi nos” encyclical, which sanctioned the impossibility to separate temporal and spiritual powers, and then went on to prohibit Catholics’ participation to political life in 1874 (principle gradually abandoned during Giolitti’s age), through the “non expedit” (“it is not convenient”) formula. In response to the Pope’s attitude, the government, prodded by the anticlerical Left, shut down all Theology faculties and put seminaries under state control. Besides, the Coppino Act, passed on 15 July 1877, which made the first three years of grammar school compulsory (that is, for children aged between six and nine), cancelled the compulsory teaching of religion within compulsory education.

It was with Mussolini, whom then Pope Pius XI defined, on 14 February 1929, as “the man Providence allowed us to meet”, that the issue was solved. After all, the dictator strongly needed CC support to tighten his grip over the Italian society.
On 11 February 1929 the Vatican and the Italian State acknowledged each other through the signing of the two Lateran Pacts, the first one of which created the Vatican State and granted it large compensations; and the second one, in the form of a Concordat, which regulated the relations between Italy and the CC (not the Vatican State): it required bishops to swear loyalty to the Italian government (with the exception of the cardinal vicar, as this member of the clergy is the representative of the “real” bishop of Rome, that is the Pope, therefore in observance of the Pope’s independence from Italy), declared the Catholic religion state religion (and made its teaching compulsory in schools), and committed the government to exempt the clergy from national military service and adapt marriage and divorce laws to those in force for the Church. Furthermore, the Italian state pledged to pay for Catholic priests’ stipends.

The Lateran Pacts were then acknowledged by the Italian Republican Constitution of 1946 (art. 7.2), also thanks to the Communist Party, and with the opposition of Socialists and members of the Action Party. This does not mean that they can be considered as constitutional provisions: they are an atypical source of law (Constitutional Court, verdict 31/1971), more “resistant” than ordinary Acts of Parliament (which can be modified by following Acts), but still subjected to the supreme principles of the Italian constitutional system. They require the agreement between the Vatican and the Italian Republic for any modification. Otherwise, the State may unilaterally modify them only by amending the Constitution.

The former procedure was the one used in 1984. The new agreement abolished the concept of “State religion”, and, since the number of priests (and therefore the amount of money the CC would get paid for them) was quickly decreasing, it also provided that citizens might earmark part of their IRPEF (Personal Income Tax) for the CC (or different cult with which the Italian Republic has signed agreements, such as, for example, the Valdese, the Lutherans, the Jews) in the amount of 0.8% (the so-called “otto per mille”), according to Act 222 of 1985. Nothing scandalous, some would say, with citizens deciding where to allocate their tax money, even though the Italian Constitution states (art. 7) that “State and catholic church are, each within their own reign, independent and sovereign”. This clearly implies that such independence should not just be political and legal, but also economic.

However, such mechanism is devised in such a way that a lot more money than the amount freely allocated finds its way into the CC’s coffers, as we will see later. And this is just one of the many fiscal favors and subsidies the CC enjoys and we pay for nowadays. ICI (Council Tax) and IRES (Corporate Income Tax) exemptions are so absurd that they currently are under EU scrutiny for violation of rules on state subsidies and competition. And, as we will see later, the “progressive” government currently in charge has done nothing to correct the situation.

Ah, we miss those nineteen-century liberals (liberals in the continental European meaning)! Never, ever could we expect something like these past events to happen again!

Today, the CC wields more power than ever. As one of Italy’s two masters (the other being the U.S.), the CC is more than ever stifling the country with its never-ending presence, maybe not so much on the territory (because of a crisis in vocations to priesthood), as in the media (how could we forget the non-stop live coverage of John Paul’s agony?), in Parliament and government, continuously lobbied or called to order whenever the CC deems orthodoxy has been profaned, as in the case of DICOs, a sort of watered-down version of French PACS (the bill, by the way, still lies abandoned in Parliament after vehement CC and Vatican protests).

Unfortunately, such irritating interference in the work of the political institutions of a sovereign nation does not limit itself to “moral” principles; it extends to economic privileges, paid for by all tax-payers.

Such privileges, directed mainly to the CC, extend in some cases to the Vatican as well. As reminded by Silvio Manzati in his report to the national convention on secularism held in Verona on 14 October 2006, art. 6.1 of the Lateran Treaty provided that Italy would supply water to the Vatican, without specifying whether that would be free of charge or not. Of course, continues Manzati, quoting a L’Espresso magazine report of 2 November 2000, the Vatican has never paid a dime for yearly consumptions of some 5 million liters, enough to quench the thirst of 60,000 people, but mostly used to water the lush Vatican gardens.

Manzati also reported that, up to the 1970s, Vatican and Rome sewage would be dumped directly into the river Tiber. Then, the City of Rome built depurators, used also by the Vatican, which has never paid a single bill for it. In 1999, the Vatican owed the city of Rome 44 billion lire (that is, approximately 21.5 million euros). When Acea, Rome’s municipality-owned concern, was listed on the Stock Exchange, shareholders claimed that money. The Treasury Ministry (that is, Italian tax-payers) paid for the bills, on condition that the Vatican would regularly pay the 2 million euros required every year for the draining of sewage.

Of course, the Vatican has never paid for this. An amendment to the 2004 Budget introduced by Forza Italia (Berlusconi’s party) senator Mario Ferrara, which was then passed, allocated 25 million euros for 2004 and 4 million euros per year (beginning in 2005) to help the Vatican create its own water system.
Thus, tax payers donated a very big amount of money to a “country” of 798 inhabitants, with a life expectancy of 78 years, a per capita GDP of U.S. $25,500, and a 100% literacy rate, according to National Geographic, which does not quite qualify as “needy”.

To this, it should be added that the Vatican owns priceless buildings, which enjoy extraterritoriality: in Rome (among which, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, the Latern Palace and dozens more, including colleges, universities and hospitals), as well as in the rest of Italy (Castel Gandolfo and the Lake of Albano; the Pontifical Palace and Villa Barberini in the town of Castel Gandolfo; the area of Santa Maria di Galeria, where the antennas of Radio Vaticana are located).

Besides these buildings, the Vatican owns others, which do not enjoy extraterritoriality, such as the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto, near the city of Ancona; the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, near Perugia; and the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua.

We are not quite finished. The Vatican also owns the I.O.R., Istituto per le Opere Religiose (Institute for Religious Works), better known as Vatican Bank.
The Vatican Bank became a true profitable bank only with the Lateran Treaty, which redefined the canon sin of usury: no longer simple money-lending, but rather, getting exorbitant profits out of it. Mussolini donated the new Bank some $80 million to start business.

At any rate, the Bank has been carrying out some not very Christian activities throughout its history.

It was involved, according to a 1998 U.S. State Department report, with the Croatian Nazi collaborationist regime, whose treasure was illegally transferred to several banks, including the Vatican one, after WW II.

It is also said to have managed U.S. secret funds to the Contras and to have directly financed Solidarnosc in Poland.

The Bank got into deep trouble because of the Banco Ambrosiano $3.5 billion bankruptcy in 1982, of which it was a major share-holder. At that time, Governor of the Bank was Paul Marcinkus, who was indicted in 1982 in Italy as an accessory of the bankruptcy. He was accused of money laundering activities for the mafia and Propaganda Due (P2), an outlawed masonic lodge, led by neofascist Licio Gelli, who worked with GLADIO. Marcinkus was considered immune from prosecution by Italian courts, and never stood trial in Italy.

Though claiming its innocence, the Bank acknowledged its “moral involvement” and paid $241 million dollars in damages. That was a terrible blow to Vatican finances. But then came the managerial skills of Cardinal Ruini, who became secretary of CEI in 1986, and then chairman in 1991; and the “otto per mille” in 1985.

The Vatican Bank had invested by the end of the 1990s more than $10 billion in foreign companies. It works just like a normal corporate bank: it is run by a professional CEO, responsible before a committee of cardinals, and ultimately the Pope (or the Cardinal Camerlengo during an interregnum).

What would Jesus Christ say?

And, finally, I would like to mention Radio Vaticana, the “voice” of the Vatican.
According to a report issued by the Public Health Agency of the Region of Lazio in March 2001, people living around the radio transmitting pylons are six times more likely to develop leukemia than the national average. Children between 0 and 14 are the most affected.

These pylons are about 60 in number, and are 10 meters tall. They do not have to comply with Italian regulations on radiation emissions, as they are deemed extraterritorial, and the amount of radiations they give out is approximately twice higher than the one allowed by Italian law, as officially verified by the Italian Civil Defense and the Environment Department of the Region of Lazio.

The Vatican has always claimed its freedom to do as it pleases thanks to the Lateran Treaty. That is, its freedom to poison the people, especially children.
What would Jesus Christ say?

Now, let us move on to the CC.

First of all, it should be noticed that there is not one single year, in which the Italian Paliament has not granted some sort of economic favor to the CC.
For example, the 2004 Budget allocated 20 million euros for 2004 and 30 million for 2005 to the Bio-medical Campus University, managed by Opus Dei; the 2005 Budget allocated 15 million euros for Saint Raphael of Mount Tabor Center, managed by Don Luigi Verzè (a priest); Act of Parliament 293 of 23 October 2003 legally acknowledged the St. Pius V Institute for Political Studies, which was allocated 1.5 million euros annually. All this, in a country where there is never any money for research and researchers have to move abroad, as pointed out by Manzati.

Besides, thanks to the Concordat, the State pays for the 35,000 religion teachers, for a cost, in 2004, of 478 million euros, as reported by Piergiorgio Odifreddi, mathematician, author of best-seller “Perché non possiamo essere cristiani (e meno che mai cattolici)[Why we cannot be Christian, let alone Catholic], Longanesi, 2007; and of 650 million euros in 2006, according to Curzio Maltese, journalist of La Repubblica (see I conti della Chiesa: ecco quanto ci costa [CC’s accounts: here is how much it costs us], 28 September 2007).

It is interesting, however, that, though these teachers are paid their salaries by the state, they are nevertheless chosen by bishops amongst non-sinners (divorcees, for example, are not fit for the job), therefore not through public competition as the Constitution states. In August 2003, the Berlusconi government, supported by the center of the then center-left opposition, pushed the bill which would give permanent jobs to 15,507 new religion teachers, who were granted preferential treatment in comparison to thousands of other subjects’ teachers, still waiting for a full-time position. And, we may ask, why hire permanently people teaching a non-compulsory subject, such as religion?
This masterpiece, however, was completed by Act of Parliament 27/2006, which states that all religion teachers who have worked for more than six years with yearly contracts are not only entitled to three auotomatic wage raises (2.5% each, for an overall 7.5%); and, once they win a public competition and become full-time teachers, they will not have to start again from the lowest salary, but will preserve their raises. This rule, obviously, does not apply to other subjects’ teachers with the same working age.

Furthermore, the Constitution prohibits the public financing of private schools with public funds (art. 33). However, dozens of tricks have been devised in order to dodge this annoying provision. One of these is school vouchers, for example.

It is interesting to notice how support for such infamous “donations” is absolutely bipartisan.

In 1999, then Leftist Education Minister Luigi Berlinguer issued two decrees (261 of 1998 and 279 of 1999), allowing grants to officially certified secondary schools. In 2000 (Massimo D’Alema was Prime Minister), Act of Parliament 62/2000 officially certified private schools, which, from that moment on, had to be treated just like state ones. The Act created school vouchers for 300 billion lire (the equivalent of about 150 million euros). In 2005, the decree (n. 27) signed by Minister of Education Moratti (Berlusconi government) changed the word “grants” into “participation to the expenses of officially certified secondary schools”.

In 2005, according to Ministerial Circular n. 38 of 22 March 2005, contributions to non-state schools amounted to about 500 million euros; school vouchers amounted to 353 euros per student for grammar schools, 420 euros for middle schools, and 564 for the first year of high school.

However, it should be noted that these are state vouchers. Some Italian regions have created their own voucher systems. Since the national law mentions no incompatibility, both financings can be claimed.

To this, it should be added that the State, Regions and local authorities, because of an Act of Parliament of 1 August 2003, passed with a bipartisan 404 votes in favor (as opposed to 19 against and 14 abstained) may grant the gratuitous loan of their real estates to oratories; oratory facilities are exempted from ICI (Council Tax), and local authorities’ losses will be covered by the State (that is, tax-payers) for a yearly amount of 2.5 million euros.

The State also pays for army and prison chaplains, for an amount of 8 million euros in 2004.

The State funds private hospitals, many of which are managed by the CC, for a good slice of the 1.5 billion euros allocated to health care. According to above mentioned Curzio Maltese, CC schools and hospitals cost us an overall 700 million euros yearly.

Act of Parliament 10 of 28 January 1977 created so-called urbanization burdens, divided into primary and secondary. These burdens imply that all those who build or restore something have to pay a sort of tax to city authorities, in order to share the burden cities bear to improve urbanization.

Urbanization burdens are divided into primary (concerning, for example, the sewerage and water systems) and secondary (for example, for schools).
Now, cities must pay 8% of what they receive for secondary burdens to the CC.

The Italian State also finances religious events: the 2000 Jubilee received the equivalent of 1,800,000,000 euros; the last Loreto meeting received 2,5 million euros.

Let us move now to tax relief. First of all, it is important to remember that, according to Odifreddi, the CC owns some 90,000 immovable properties (churches, oratories, convents, seminaries, schools, hospitals, etc.), whose value could be estimated at around 30 billion euros.

Thanks to the law passed by Parliament in 1992, which created the ICI, non-profit organizations, including religious ones (and therefore the CC as well) are exempted from the payment of ICI on immovables used for socially relevant activities. Not a big deal, according to Avvenire, the CEI newspaper, and certainly the only case.

According to Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s main economic newspaper, the reality is very different.

First of all, as far as IRES is concerned, non-commercial ecclesiastical charitable and educational institutions get a 50% relief. However, when such institutions carry out both commercial and religious activities, incomes need to be clearly separated. That is because commercial incomes are supposed to pay IVA (VAT), with the exception of schools and hospitals (that is, an enormous chunk of the cake). Furthermore, Holy See properties rental incomes are exempted from IRES, whereas exclusively religious and cemetery properties and their fixtures are not considered as revenue-bearing, no matter who owns them.

Secondly, IRAP (Regional Business Tax): stipends paid to priests are IRAP-free, even though CC associations may deduct part of these stipends in determining their corporate income.

Thirdly, IRPEF (Personal Income Tax): Holy See and Vatican employees pay no IRPEF on their wages and pensions (even if they are legal residents of Italy, which is obviously the rule, and therefore enjoy all public services paid for by other Italian tax-payers).

Fourth, ICI, the most notorious case. It all started when a verdict by the Italian Supreme Court of 8 March 2004 stated that an ecclesiastical assistance center in L’Aquila, about 100 kms. east of Rome, had to pay this tax, because its hosts would regularly pay their fees and therefore the activity could not be considered as “non-commercial”.

After vehement protests on the part of the CC and kneeling politicians, the Berlusconi government attached a provision to the 2006 Budget, exempting all CC real estates from ICI (and also those belonging to other cults having agreements with the Italian State, though, obviously, their size makes them immaterial).

The masterpiece was then completed by the “Bersani decree” of 4 July 2006, then turned into law by the Prodi government through Act of Parliament 248 of 4 August 2006, officially in response to the European Commission Competition Department investigation on the Italian anomalous fiscal situation. The decree cancelled the ICI exemption for CC and other cults’ real estates wherein “exclusively commercial” activities are carried out. It is very simple to understand, then, that if one square meter of a CC bookstore, hotel or hospital is devoted to an altar for prayer, the property might no longer be considered as “exclusively commercial”. Consider that the city of Rome alone loses some twenty million euros a year thanks to Italian legislation.

According to Curzio Maltese, every year the Italian state loses between 400 and 700 million euros because of ICI exemptions; 500 million euros because of IRAP, IRES and other tax exemptions; 600 million euros for legal tax avoidance on the part of CC tourism organization, which takes care of some 40 million pilgrims and tourists travelling from and to Italy every year.

Are we done? Of course not.

I mentioned above the notorious 8 per mille (0.8%) mechanism. How does it work?

Every year, Italian tax payers have to fill out their income-tax return. In the form, there is a little box, with which to choose the recipient of this 0.8% of a person’s IRPEF. The choice is between the State, the CC and a few other cults which have signed agreements with the Italian State (for example, the Lutherans, the Valdese and the Jews). Conspicuous by their absence are the Orthodox and the Muslims. The reason for this is pretty obvious: the massive influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe (notably Romania), mostly Orthodox; and the massive immigration from predominantly Muslim African and Asian countries (such as Morocco, Tunisia, Bangladesh etc.) would definitely harm CC finances, should those immigrants decide to donate part of their IRPEF to their own cult. No wonder the Italian State has never signed any agreements with these cults.

Usually, in the weeks preceding the filling out of income-tax returns, the Italian media are inundated with CC commercials, showing priests working in poor countries, building schools, hospitals, etc. etc., to the accompaniment of tear-jerking music. Then, all commercials end the same way, that is, emphasizing the value of money donated to the CC through the 0.8% mechanism.

However, in reality, only 8% of what the CC gets goes to the Third World. Approximately 30% goes to priests’ stipends; about 13% goes to the building of new churches (with existing ones getting emptier day after day), and so forth and so on.

The Valdese cult, on the other hand, devolves 94% of its meagre income to charity, 6% to advertising, whereas pastors make ends meet through devotees’ donations. Even some CC priests have urged tax-payers to donate their 0.8% to the Valdese Church, rather than the CC.

The State, on the contrary, does not advertise.

The amount devolved through the 0.8% mechanism is generally used to relieve hunger in poor countries, assist refugees, for the preservation of art and cultural heritage. When Minister Livia Turco proposed, back in 1996, to use the money destined to the State to help underprivileged children, the CEI treasurer Nicora replied harshly and argued that “the State must not compete unfairly with the CC”. Of course, the Italian state has faithfully followed orders.

The 2004 budget (Berlusconi government), however, devolved 80 million euros accruing from this mechanism for ordinary expenses. Part of this money was used to finance the Iraq invasion. That certainly prevented many people from donating their money to the State afterwards.

Now, if I pay, say, 5,000 euros of IRPEF and decide, for example, to destine my 0,8% to the CC, the CC WILL NOT get 40 euros from me. The State makes a different calculation: it calculates the entire IRPEF amount, and then calculates the 0.8%. Then, it calculates the percentage destined to each cult (or the State). Afterwards, it calculates how much will go to each cult (or the State) according to this percentage.

However, what happens if I “forget” to make a decision? Any normal taxpayer would assume that the 0.8% would go to the State. It does not.
The part of IRPEF not destined to anybody is again redistributed between 5 of the 7 possibilities (that is because the Assemblies of God in Italy have refused to accept the money not coming from a direct tax payer’s choice (not so direct, as we have seen); and the Valdese refused to do so until 2001, when their synod decided to accept it. The agreement has been modified, but it still needs to be passed by Parliament). This means that, since the CC usually gets around 87% of preferences, the State around 10%, and the rest goes to the other cults (whose percentage is therefore immaterial), the CC gets a lot more than it is supposed to (that is, about one billion euros per year).

Furthermore, cults receive sums related to the income-tax return of three years before, whereas the CC receives an advance of the amount related to the current year (art. 47 of Act 222 of 1985).

Also, the same Act (art. 49) provides that the IRPEF percentage of 0.8% may be modified by a joint government-CEI committee every three years on the grounds of IRPEF income of previous years.

It should also be noted that, should the IRPEF rate be increased for any reason, the CC would receive more funds, which are related to that tax. So, should Italy be in financial trouble and raise Personal Income Tax in order to balance the budget, with the effect of harming citizens, the CC would instead be benefited by such an event.

What would Jesus Christ say? At this point, all we can think of is that he must be crying on his Father’s shoulder.

VALERIO VOLPI is a PhD. student in Comparative Political Institutions at the University of Bari. He lives in Rome and can be reached at: vvolpi77@yahoo.it

 

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