ROME — Catholic League President Bill Donohue has defended the Vatican’s stance against an Italian anti-homophobia bill, insisting its fears of abuse are fully justified.
In mid-June, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin delivered a message to the Italian Foreign Ministry pointing out problems with a proposed anti-homophobia law introduced by Alessandro Zan, an openly gay parliamentarian and LGBT activist.
Among other things, Cardinal Parolin noted that the bill’s language was sufficiently vague to cause concern that anyone defending traditional man-woman marriage could be prosecuted for hate speech.
The publication of the message ignited a firestorm in Italian media last week, Zan and his supporters insisting that the Holy See has nothing to worry about because the bill does not seek to deny freedom of expression.
As Dr. Donohue observes in an essay Monday, the Vatican’s fears are based on experience.
“The Holy See’s fears are real,” he states. “It is a sad fact that LGBTQ policies, programs and laws are being used in Europe and North America to punish those who disagree with their agenda.”
“Such initiatives have been interpreted in many democratic countries in very expansive ways,” Donohue writes. “What makes this such a serious matter is that those found guilty of hate crimes can face up to four years in prison.”
As just one example, atheist groups in Scotland have already declared their intention to exploit a proposed hate crime bill to target Christians for prosecution.
The bill “will enable the prosecution of all Scotland’s religions and their Holy Books for spreading hatred,” the convener of Atheists Scotland, Ian Stewart, said.
Stewart stated that his group intends to “monitor all Holy Books, sermons in places of worship and the social media accounts of the various religions” and will report any supposed offenders to Police Scotland for criminal prosecution.
Similarly, police in England have investigated journalists for using “the wrong pronoun” when discussing transgender persons, Donohue writes, and England has also censored the speech of professors who are critics of the LGBT agenda.
“Catholics are rightly concerned that its real target is to muzzle their free speech rights,” Donohue notes. “A more technical area of concern is whether the bill violates the 1929 Lateran pacts, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state.”
Moreover, since Italy already has laws condemning homophobia, critics rightly wonder why the proposed law is even necessary, Donohue writes.
Cesare Mirabelli, a former president of Italy’s constitutional court, has warned the bill would “put at risk” freedom of thought and speech, Donohue observes.
“The Holy See has every right as a sovereign state to fight this menace,” he concludes. “It is not the Catholic Church that is intolerant; rather, it is the zealots involved in this crazed movement.”