A concordat is an agreement or treaty between the Holy See of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state that deals with the recognition and privileges of the Catholic Church in a particular country and with secular matters that impact on church interests, such as taxation as well as the right of a state to influence the selection of bishops within its territory..
Although for a time after the Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965, the term 'concordat' was dropped, it reappeared with the Polish Concordat of 1993 and the Portuguese Concordat of 2004. A different model of relations between the Vatican and various states is still evolving (see e.g. Petkoff 2007) in the wake of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae.
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From a Church-State perspective, the contentions regarding Concordats involves two perspectives.
From a Catholic Church perspective, the Church has the moral and theological right to enter into diplomatic relations with states in order to reach agreements regarding the care of its members residing there. This is the concept of Libertas ecclesiae (freedom of the Church).
However, from a non-Catholic perspective, Catholic church privileges pose certain concerns regarding religious freedom, such as:
- concordats give to the Church a privileged position that other religious groups are denied (European history in numerous books reveals this fact)
- concordats are not "the same as treaties" because they are entered into by an entity that is BOTH religious and political in nature, viz., the Catholic Church, whereas any other treaty is between two sovereign entities on a horizontal level, i.e., purely political in nature, and
- depending on the negotiations agreed upon in the concordat, some religious groups face the threat of being marginalized. For example, in Spain, although the Constitution guarantees religious freedom (theoretically), yet in practice, the Church is mentioned by name and holds a pre-eminent position among other religious groups. In recent years, debate has occurred regarding whether the Spanish government should maintain a concordat with the Vatican.
Examples of concordats
Some concordats guarantee the Catholic Church the tax-exempt status of a charity, either stating this explicitly, as in Brazil (2008, Article 15) and Italy (1984, Article 7.3), or phrasing it indirectly, as in Portugal (2004, art. 12).
When the political will is present, such concordat privileges can be extended by domestic legislation. In 1992 the tax exemption granted the Church by the Italian concordat was interpreted by a law which permits the Catholic Church to avoid paying 90% of what it owes to the state for its commercial activities. Thus, a small shrine within the walls of a cinema, holiday resort, shop, restaurant or hotel is sufficient to confer religious exemption. In June 2007 Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition announced an investigation of this. Then, in August, the deputy finance minister in Romano Prodi’s fragile center-left coalition said the issue needed to be tackled in the next year's budget. However, after that nothing more about this was heard from the Barroso Commission and a few months later the Prodi government fell.
Another way to keep Church income untaxed is to keep it secret. The Slovak concordat (2000, art. 20.2) ensures that church offertories are “not subject to taxation or to the requirement of public accountability”. This is also the case in Côte d'Ivoire, where far larger sums are involved. The Basilica at Yamoussoukro, is estimated to have cost $300 million, and the additional running expenses for what is the largest church in the world are also shielded from scrutiny by the 1992 concordat concluded with the Ivorian dictator. Houphouët-Boigny claimed that these funds came from his private fortune. A Vatican official is reported to have called the agreement over the foundation set up to administer these funds “a delicate matter”. This spending was heavily criticised, since in Côte d'Ivoire most people die before they reach the age of 50. Nevertheless, this concordat ensures that the foundation’s income and assets remain untaxed (art. 9.1), it holds these funds beyond the reach of both criminal and civil law (art. 7.1), it permits this money to be sent out of the country (art. 13.2) and it keeps all the foundation’s documents “inviolable”, in other words, secret (art. 8).
In Colombia there was a crisis between state and church in 1994 when Attorney-General Gustavo de Greiff accused several Bishops of having illegal contacts with the FARC guerrillas. It turned out that under Colombia's concordat with the Holy See, members of the clergy could only be investigated by ecclesiastical courts which are ruled by canon law, and that the Bishops were therefore immune from investigation by the civil authorities on what many in Colombia considered to be a serious felony.
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The following is a sortable list of the concordats and other bilateral agreements concluded by the Holy See.
|Treaty||Contracting party||Date of conclusion||Date of entering into force|
|1107 Concordat of London with Henry I of||England||1 Aug 1107|
|1122 Concordat of Worms between Pope Calixtus II and Henry V of the||Holy Roman Empire||23 Sep 1122|
|Fürsten Konkordat between Pope Eugenius IV and the Princes Electors of the||Holy Roman Empire||Jan 1447|
|1516 Concordat of Bologna between Pope Leo X and King Francis I of||France||Sep 1516|
|1801 Concordat between Pope Pius VII and Napoléon of||France||15 July 1801|
|1817 Concordat between the Holy See and||France||11 Jun 1817|
|1847 Concordat between the Holy See and||Russia||3 Aug 1847|
|1851 Concordat[unreliable source?] between the Holy See and||Spain||16 Mar 1851||11 May 1851|
|1852 Concordat between the Holy See and||Costa Rica||7 Oct 1852||Dec 1852|
|1922 Concordat between the Holy See and||Latvia||30 May 1922||3 Nov 1922|
|1925 Concordat between the Holy See and||Poland||10 Feb 1925||2 Jul 1925|
|1927 Concordat[unreliable source?] between the Holy See and||Romania||10 May 1927|
|1928 Concordat between the Holy See and||Colombia||5 May 1928|
|1929 Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and||Italy||11 Feb 1929||7 Jun 1929|
|1933 Concordat between the Holy See and||Austria||5 June 1933|
|1933 Reichskonkordat between the Holy See and||Germany||20 Jul 1933|
|1940 Concordat between the Holy See and||Portugal||7 May 1940|
|1953 Concordat[unreliable source?] between the Holy See and||Spain||27 Aug 1953||27 Oct 1953|
|1958 Concordat between the Holy See and||Dominican Republic||1958|
|1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and||Israel||30 Dec 1993||10 Mar 1994|
|1997 Agreement between the Holy See and||Hungary||20 June 1997||3 April 1998|
|1997 Legal Personality Agreement between the Holy See the State of||Israel||10 Nov 1977|
|2004 Treaty between the Holy See and||Slovakia||13 May 2004||9 Jul 2004|
|2004 Concordat between the Holy See and||Portugal||18 May 2004|
|2006 Basic Agreement between the Holy See and||Bosnia and Herzegovina||19 Apr 2006||25 Oct 2007|
|2008 Concordat between the Holy See and||Brazil||13 Nov 2008|
|2009 Concordat between the Holy See and||Schleswig-Holstein||12 Jan 2009|
- Robert A. Graham, “Introduction: Reflections on Vatican Diplomacy,” in Kent and Pollard, eds., Papal Diplomacy, 1, 2
- Andrea Bonime-Blanc, Spain’s Transition to Democracy: The Politics of Constitution-making (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, Inc., 1987), 104.
- Maria Elena Olmos Ortega, “Los Acuerdos con la Santa Sede: Instrumentos Garantes de la Libertad Religiosa,” in Maria del Mar Martin, Mercedes Salido, Jose Maria Vazquez Garcia-Penuela, eds., Iglesia Catolica y Relaciones Internacionales: Actas del III Simposio Internacional de Derecho Concordatorio (Granada: Editorial Comares, 2008), 489-502.
- English translation of 2008 Brazilian concordat
- English translation of 1984 Italian concordat
- English translation of 2004 Portuguese concordat
- “La Ue pronta a processare gli sconti Ici alla Chiesa” (“Property tax relief for the Church: EU takes Italy to court”), Curzio Maltese, La Repubblica, 25 June 2007.
- “Gli alberghi dei santi alla crociata dell'Ici“ (“Tax crusade marches on the holy hotels”), Curzio Maltese, La Repubblica, 25 October 2007.
- Church ready to forgo tax breaks, John Hooper, Guardian, 28 August 2007.
- ASC&kb_id=1222 English translation of 2000 Slovak concordat
- “The Basilica in the Bush”, Richard N. Ostling, Time Magazine, 3 July 1989.
- US Government’s International Database. The life expectancy for Cote d’Ivoire for 2007 is estimated at 49.18 years.
- English translation of 1992 Ivorian concordat
- Concordat of 1851, (English)
- THE HISTORICAL, POLITICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL BACKGROUND OF THE 1927 CONCORDAT BETWEEN THE VATICAN AND ROMANIA
- For the text of the Lateran Treaty see:Lateran Treaty
- Concordat of 1953, (English)
- Concordat on finance (1997)
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Legal Personality Agreement
- Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. Monitoring law and practice in Slovakia by Janka Debreceniova, Zuzana Ocenasova. p. 81
- Baker, Michael (2010). "Security and the sacred: examining Canada's legal response to the clash of public safety and religious freedom." Touro Law Center: International Law Review, Vol. 13 (1). Available online.
- DiMarco, Erica (2009). "The tides of Vatican influence in Italian reproductive matters: from abortion to assisted reproduction." Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 10 (2) Spring. Available online.
- Hosack, Kristen A. (2010). "Napoleon Bonaparte’s Concordat and the French Revolution." Constructing the past, Vol. 11 (1), article 5. Available online
- Hughes, John Jay (1974). "The Reich Concordat 1933: Capitulation or Compromise?" Australian Journal of Politics & History, 20 (2), pp. 164–175.
- Petkoff, Peter (2007). "Legal perspectives and religious perspectives of religious rights under international law in the Vatican Concordats (1963-2004)." Law and Justice: the Christian law review, 158, p. 30- online (payment may be required).
- Plichtová, Jana and Petrjánošová, Magda (2008). "Freedom of religion, institution of conscientious objection and political practice in post-communist Slovakia." Human Affairs, 18 (1), June, pp. 37–51. Available online here.