A concordat is a convention between the Holy See and a sovereign state that defines the relationship between the Catholic Church and the state in matters that concern both, i.e. the recognition and privileges of the Catholic Church in a particular country and with secular matters that impact on church interests.
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According to P.W. Brown the use of the term "concordat" does not appear "until the pontificate of Pope Martin V (1413–1431) in a work by Nicholas de Cusa, entitled De Concordantia Catholica". The first concordat dates from 1098, and from then to the beginning of the First World War the Holy See signed 74 concordats. Due to the substantial remapping of Europe that took place after the war, new concordats with legal successor states were necessary. The post-World War I era saw the greatest proliferation of concordats in history.
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 in the wake of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis humanae.
The Catholic church historically claimed not to be bound to one form of government over another, but was willing to work with any kind of government, so long as the rights of God and believers were maintained. Pius XI wrote in 1933:
Universally known is the fact that the Catholic Church is never bound to one form of government more than to another, provided the Divine rights of God and of Christian consciences are safe. She does not find any difficulty in adapting herself to various civil institutions, be they monarchic or republican, aristocratic or democratic.
From a Church–State perspective, the contentions regarding Concordats involves two perspectives.
From a Catholic 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 may not be "the same as treaties" because they are entered into by an entity that is BOTH religious and political in nature, viz., the Catholic Church, with exception to states which are expressly atheist or are identified as choosing anti-religious views, whereas any other treaty is regularly 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
- The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly had taken Church properties and issued the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Subsequent laws abolished Christian holidays. Many religious had either gone into exile or been executed during the Reign of Terror. The Church gave up any claims to lands confiscated after 1790, but secured the right to public worship, subject to any public safety concerns on the part of the local prefect. Napoleon was able to pacify French Catholics, while limiting the Papacy's influence in France. While the Concordat restored some ties to the papacy, it largely favored the state. Within a year Napoleon unilaterally amended the agreement with the Organic Articles legislating religious practice.
Some concordats guarantee the Catholic Church the tax-exempt status of a charity, being by fact the largest charitable institution in the world, 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).
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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.
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 president. 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". 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.
|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|
|1210 Parliament of Ravennika between Pope Innocent III and the princes of||Frankish Greece||May 1210|
|1277 Concordat of Tonsberg between Jon Raude, Archbishop of Nidaros and Magnus VI of||Norway||1277|
|1418 Concordats of Constance||France, England, Germany, Spain, Italy||21 March 1418|
|1426 Concordat between Pope Martin V and Charles VII of||France||1426|
|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|
|1610 Concordat of Mi'kmaw between Pope Paul V and Grand Chief Henri Membertou of||Grand Council of Mi'kmaw Nation||1610|
|1753 Concordat of Bologna between Pope Benedict XIV and King Ferdinand VI of||Spain||1753|
|1801 Concordat between Pope Pius VII and Napoléon of||France||15 July 1801|
|1813 Concordat of Fontainebleau between Pope Pius VII and Napoléon of||France||25 Jan. 1813|
|1817 Concordat between the Holy See and||Bavaria||5 Jun 1817|
|1817 Concordat between the Holy See and King Louis XVIII of||France||11 Jun 1817|
|1827 Concordat between the Holy See and the||Netherlands||16 Sep. 1827|
|1847 Concordat between the Holy See and||Russia||3 Aug 1847|
|1851 Concordat 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|
|1854 Concordat between the Holy See and||Guatemala||1852||1854|
|1855 Concordat between the Holy See and||Austria||1855|
|1882 Concordat between the Holy See and||Russia||23 Dec. 1882|
|1886 Concordat between the Holy See and||Portugal||23 June 1886|
|1886 Concordat between the Holy See and||Montenegro||18 Aug. 1886|
|1887 Concordat between the Holy See and||Colombia||1887|
|1914 Concordat between the Holy See and||Serbia||24 June 1914||20 March 1915|
|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 between the Holy See and||Romania||10 May 1927||29 May 1929|
|1927 Concordat between the Holy See and||Lithuania||27 Sep 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|
|1929 Prussian Concordat between the Holy See and||Prussian Free State||14 July 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 between the Holy See and||Spain||27 Aug 1953||27 Oct 1953|
|1958 Concordat between the Holy See and||Dominican Republic||1958|
|1993 Concordat between the Holy See and||Poland||28 Jul 1993||25 Apr 1998|
|1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and||Israel||30 Dec 1993||10 Mar 1994|
|1996 Agreements between the Holy See and||Croatia||18 Dec 1996||11 and 25 Feb 1997|
|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 1997|
|1998 Agreement between the Holy See and||Croatia||9 Oct 1998||30 Dec 1998|
|2000 Basic Agreement between the Holy See and||State of Palestine||15 February 2000||15 February 2000|
|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|
|2004 Concordat between the Holy See and||Slovenia||28 May 2004|
|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|
|2015 Comprehensive agreement between the Holy See and||State of Palestine||26 Jun 2015||2 Jan 2016|
|2016 Framework agreement on matters of mutual interest between the Holy See and||Democratic Republic of Congo||20 May 2016|
|2016 Framework agreement on matters of mutual interest between the Holy See and||Central African Republic||8 Sep 2016|
|2016 Framework agreement regarding the legal status of the Catholic Church between the Holy See and||Republic of Benin||22 Oct 2016|
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