The Government will open in September the ‘melon’ of the new taxation of the Church. The conflict can be unleashed once the definitive list of registrations (property that the Church registered as its own without having to prove its ownership) is public, as confirmed by elDiario.es sources of Vice President.
Last week there was a discreet meeting between those responsible for the Episcopal Conference and the Executive that revealed some differences. Thus, while the department of Carmen Calvo insisted that there would be an agreement starting in September to resume the talks on taxation and assets registered by the Catholic Church, the EEC statement He dispatched the issue with a “shared opportunity to launch talks on some economic issues in the coming month of September” and pointed to the “concern” of the bishops for educational and anthropological issues. The bishops are extremely concerned about the reform of the Education laws and the possible approval of euthanasia. Two issues that, as this newspaper has already announced, the Government is not going to negotiate with them since it does not consider them valid interlocutors, especially with regard to the regulation of dignified death.
Formally, the meeting, in which the Undersecretary of the Presidency, Antonio Hidalgo, and the Deputy Director General of Religious Liberty, Mercedes Murillo, the Secretary General of the EEC, Luis Argüello, and the economic managers of this institution, Carlos López and Fernando Giménez Barriocanal, had as an excuse the presentation of the Memory of Activities of the EEC. But it has served to mark the distance between the two institutions the same week that Vice President Calvo met with the minority confessions in an attempt to make visible the “neutrality” of the public powers regarding the religious fact and the end of the privileged relationship of the Catholic Church with the Executive in Spain.
And it is that Carmen Calvo has wanted to make clear that the Catholic Church is no longer a privileged interlocutor when it comes to talking about issues related to religious freedom. The bet is clear: to equalize ‘by bottom’ all the religions, with a single exception, not to touch the Church-State agreements. In this sense, the Executive bets on reforms in the regulations that develop them, pointing out that, as it is an agreement between two sovereign states (Spain and the Vatican), the ‘Concordat’ is a diplomatic instrument in force. Another thing is that many of the changes that are proposed affect, to a great extent, the presence and relevance of the Catholic Church in Spain.
So, next to the announced reform of the Religious Freedom Law, the Government wants the bishops to accept a new tax system, retouching the Patronage Law of 2002 so that the Church has no choice but to pay the IBI of its non-worship properties. At this point, which the bishops do not formally discuss, the main stumbling block is the lack of transparency when it comes to determining what goods belong to the Church, what is their real use and, ultimately, what is considered ‘Church’ in Spain. It seems clear that dioceses, parishes or religious congregations are and, therefore, their temples, parish houses, centers of Caritas or convents, due to their religious use, would be exempt from paying the IBI.
But what about different civil associations, universities or Catholic-inspired centers? Similarly, there are properties in the bishoprics throughout Spain that are dedicated to profit, from renting apartments to garages, that should pay the tax, but do not. What is the excuse of the Church? That the funds raised finance activities of worship or those linked to Catholic NGOs. Something with which the Executive does not agree.
Around the Court of Accounts
With regard to taxation, the details included in the final report of the Court of Auditors on the Catholic Church and the use it makes of the funds from the Income box, which were published this week. A report that concluded that the State does not have the capacity to supervise the money of the Catholic Church, and that, according to government sources, will serve as an excuse for the Executive to modify the current tax system. And it is that, as eldiario.es advanced, one of the keys to the vault is that “the Church draws up memory with its own criteria” that the State cannot object to.
Thus, the absence of effective public control to regulate this obligation is verified, to monitor, for example, the surpluses resulting from this income for “the adequate support of the Church” stipulated in the Agreements or the amounts dedicated to commercial activities (TreceTV, COPE or others) that would violate community legislation. The self-financing of the Church is pending, an acquired commitment that remains unfulfilled and that has not been required. Changing this dynamic is essential at this time, and the report of the Court of Auditors – which curiously the bishops have welcomed – will be one of the weapons to be used in the negotiation.
The ‘melon’ of registrations
The other big topic of debate that will come out after the summer is the controversial registrations during the period between 1998 and 2015, and which could exceed 35,000 properties. It is likely that in September, at last, the Government will publish the final report of the College of Registrars, which would allow individuals or Administrations to claim ownership of said property against the registration by the Church, to which the ‘Aznar law ‘allowed to put temples, garages, farm fields or pediments to his name only with the signature of the bishop, who acted as a notary. In this sense, the bishops have expressed their calmness at the possibility of lawsuits, and have been open to returning those assets that are proven to have been fraudulently registered. Of course: they threaten to go to court to keep the bulk of the properties (the Church estimates that there may have been ‘errors’ in the registrations, but that they would not reach 0.5% of the total), as the bishops have already announced Catalans.
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