Six billion euros. That’s how much the Catholic Church costs Italy every year, according to the first detailed investigation of the impact of state support and tax privileges received by the Church. The findings by Italy’s Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR), a member organization of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, were published the day after Italy’s new government announced a budget filled with new taxes and drastic spending cuts.

“Six billion euros per year are a lot,” said Raffaele Carcano, secretary of UAAR. “The Monti government promised sacrifices for all. But it did not keep its word. With this study we point out to the Prime Minster the costs and waste, so that it will be easier for him to intervene, if he wants to.”

The UAAR reports that it took a great deal of work to conduct this first-of-its-kind research into the financial entanglements between Italian state and church. The research required navigating between laws and regulations, and combing through the workings of many local government agencies. But it revealed that financial grants of the same type (e.g. for building work on churches) are lavished at several levels: by municipalities, provinces, regions, state, and different state agencies.

To counteract the secrecy surrounding the government’s financial support for the Catholic Church, the UAAR decided to publish the details of its research online in a format that encourages users to add new information. The site should therefore become more accurate and detailed over time, thanks to the contributions of researchers and ordinary citizens.

“We invite the Italian Episcopal Conference to launch a project like this, too,” Carcano concludes. “It would benefit transparency and dialogue. Even more, it would benefit citizens. And public finances.”

Go to the website www.icostidellachiesa.it to see, or contribute to, the full report.

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