Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the outspoken Vatican Secretary of State, addressed the political figures who have questioned the tax advantages received by the Catholic Church.
Politicians have argued that Catholic institutions in Italy are receiving an exorbitant amount of tax breaks. However, the Church maintains that its work to assist society at all levels would be compromised if it was forced to pay full taxes.
According to ANSA, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said “critics were stoking ‘cheap’ polemics and ‘falsifying’ reality by presenting the tax breaks as undeserved and unjustifiable privileges.”
"If Catholic organizations stopped work, many tens of millions of people throughout the world would be deprived of the only support they can count on every day," he said.
Nevertheless, the cardinal reassured those tens of millions that the Church would never consider a “strike” to prove its point.
ANSA also reported that Bertone, “complained that the Church's opponents were taking advantage of this [investigation] to undermine the credibility of ‘institutions which are the most active in healing society's wounds.” The prelate was apparently referring to Italy's Rose in the Fist (RNP) party, a government ally made up of Socialists and libertarian free-market Radicals, which has been vocal in complaints about the Church's ‘privileges’. “Those that systematically stoke these polemics should review their strategy which damages not only Italy's public image but also the beneficiaries of the Church's charity and social work," Bertone said.
The controversy emerged last year when a complaint regarding the Church’s tax status was raised by a group of Italian businessmen supported by the Radical party. The accusations of unfair advantages are the result of recent investigations by the EU into whether or not the tax-exempt status of the Church’s social service organizations should be curtailed.