quinta-feira, outubro 18, 2007

Concordatas,Isenções e Trapalhadas

Não sei se alguma vez expliquei aqui na lista o
imbróglio que resulta de as Concordatas preverem
várias isenções fiscais para instituições da ICAR.
A Comissão Europeia já declarou, em várias ocasiões,
que a devolução de IVA a favor da ICAR (o que acontece
na Espanha, na Itália, em Portugal...) infringe directivas
da UE e é considerada sonegação de fundos comunitários.
As isenções de contribuição autárquica também são
De Agosto para cá, há um novo desenvolvimento: a UE está
a ameaçar abrir uma investigação à Itália sobre a contribuição autárquica que a ICAR não paga. O texto que reproduzo mais abaixo (também retirado da Newsletter da National Secular
Society) refere que a Espanha será o próximo Estado a ser investigado por causa das isenções fiscais da ICAR.
Seguir-se-á a ocidental praia lusitana? Esperemos que sim.
Saúde e fraternidade, Ricardo Alves

The Pope's latest Big Lie
The Pope made the incredible claims last week that the
Vatican does not seek power or tax privilege and that
its concordat with the Italian state – a treaty that
gives it enormous financial privilege and political
influence – is actually for the benefit of the people
of Italy.
Receiving Italy's new ambassador to the "Holy See"
("The Holy See" is a purely imaginary 'state' that
gives the Vatican access to political privileges
denied to all other religions), Ratzinger spoke about
the "mutual collaboration" between Church and State
"for the promotion of mankind and the good of the
entire national community."
Recently, the Church's financial privileges in Italy
have come under scrutiny from the European Commission.
In August the EC said that it was seeking information
from the Italian government on tax advantages accorded
to the Church for its property dealings and that it
might open a formal investigation to determine whether
they violate EU competition rules. The Catholic Church
is exempt from Italian property tax for its commercial activities, such as those of many Catholic institutions that house pilgrims.
In September, Vatican number two Cardinal Tarcisio
Bertone said the debate over the Italian Church's tax advantages aimed to "destroy the credibility of religious institutions." This is the time-honoured Vatican tactic of attacking critics and claiming persecution when its nefarious activities come under scrutiny.
If an investigation finds that state aid is illegal,
the Commission can require Italy to recover from the
Vatican all the money it has lavished on it through
the existence of a concordat, which gives the Church
enormous influence and financial leverage.
Now the European Commission has turned the spotlight
on the Spanish Catholic Church and asked it similarly
to open its books to reveal the advantages it enjoys
from its tax concessions in that country.
The EU Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said
that the Spanish Church was under investigation to
find out if it the Church enjoys an "illegal subsidy".
Next year the Church will be compelled to pay VAT.
Losing this tax perk will be a major financial blow,
but to compensate, the Spanish Government last year
raised its contributions to the Church from 0.52 per
cent of income tax raised to 0.7per cent per year.
Last year the Church received the equivalent of £3.5
million in tax benefits, and every year is paid around
£20.8 million directly from the state. The Church
enjoys exemption from council tax, income tax and
inheritance tax in a deal reached in 1953 with the
fascist dictator Franco. Nor is it taxed on donations.
In Spain, all taxpayers have a portion of their income
tax paid to the Church if they give permission. If
they refuse, the state makes up the difference. Every
year, fewer people give their income tax contributions
to the Church. In 1993, 42 per cent of Spaniards
allowed this share of their income tax to be paid to
the Church, but by 2004 the proportion had fallen to
33 per cent.
The German pope referred to the concordats and the investigations indirectly when he said, with breathtaking dishonesty, that "the Church does not aim to acquire power nor does she seek privileges or positions of economic and social advantage." After that self-evident lie, Ratzinger went on to claim "[The Church's] only aim, is to serve mankind, drawing inspiration, as the supreme norm of behaviour, from the words and example of Jesus Christ who went about doing good and healing everyone." Which is just about the opposite of what the Catholic Church has been doing for the past two thousand years. Obviously on the back foot after the concordat was questioned, Ratzinger went into that particular kind of cleric-speak that sounds terribly important and profound but is actually just self-interest: "The Catholic Church," he said, "asks to be considered for her specific nature, and to have the opportunity freely to carry out her special mission for the good, not only of her own faithful, but of all Italians." He did not make clear how creaming off millions of euros from the Italian economy was helpful or beneficial to Italians.
Then with the kind of brass-faced cheek that has come
to characterise the Vatican, he claimed that
Christians were responsible for the introduction of
Human Rights. Pointing to the fact that 2008 marks the
60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights,
Ratzinger said that the Declaration "is regarded as a
sort of moral commitment assumed by all mankind. There
is a profound truth to this, especially if the rights
described in the Declaration are held to be based not
simply on the decisions of the assembly that approved
them, but on man's very nature and his inalienable
dignity as a person created by God."
"Italy," Pope Ratzinger said, "by virtue of its recent
election as a member of the Council for Human Rights,
and even more so for its own particular tradition of
humanity and generosity, cannot but feel committed to
the tireless construction of peace and the defence of
the dignity of human beings and all their inalienable
rights, including the right to religious freedom."
What he forgot to mention is that the "Holy See" is
the only "state" in Europe that hasn't signed the
European Convention on Human Rights.
In another confrontation between the Church and the
State in Spain, the Zapatero Government has introduced
a new secular civics curriculum that has replaced the previously mandatory Catholic religious education syllabus. The Church is seething at its gradual loss of influence in what was once Europe's most Catholic nation.
The man behind the new civics program is Gregorio
Peces-Barba Martínez, Professor of Legal Philosophy at
Madrid University and one of the authors of the
Constitution of 1978. In an article in the Spanish
daily El Pais, he warned the Catholic bishops – who
have been agitating so manically over the past couple
of years – not to "pull so hard on the rope".
Criticising them for their "extreme arrogance, a
sensation of impunity and an insufferable sense of
superiority, derived from the fact that they
administer 'superior truths'", he accused them of
"defying the legitimate authorities, the Constitution
and the law, attempting to impose their criteria
before the common good and the popular sovereignty
residing in the Parliament" and held them "responsible
for the agitation that impedes social peace". If the
Church was not able to adjust itself to the new social
climate in the next legislature, he concluded, "it
would be necessary to address the topic of the actions
and situation of the Church and establish a new
status, that puts them in their place and that
respects the autonomy of the civil authority." Prof. Peces-Barba's statements are considered significant because of his influence in Spain's government.
What can all this mean? Is the Vatican expecting to
find its iniquitous treaties laid bare as the EC
investigation draws closer and the Government of Spain
grows increasingly impatient with the Church's
arrogance? And if what the Pope says is true, then why
doesn't the Vatican voluntarily return all the money
it has extorted from the many countries with which it
holds undemocratic concordats?

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