Paris Mayor Opposes New Cathedral

Bernard Delanoe, the Mayor of Paris, this week expressed his opposition to a proposed Russian Orthodox Cathedral on the banks of the Seine near the Eiffel Tower. According to Reuters’s FaithWorld blog, Delanoe’s opposition has nothing to do with religion. He simply thinks the proposed design of the cathedral, with onion-shaped domes and a wavy glass roof, lacks éclat. The design is “mediocre architecture conceived in haste,” he complains. France gave its approval for the project two years ago — “without the agreement of the city of Paris,” Delanoe notes — and Delanoe seems to lack authority to stop it now. In fact, he’s asking for UNESCO, the UN body that granted protected “World Heritage Site” status to the Seine riverbank,  to intervene “so that no permission” for construction “can be given without the endorsement of international experts.” Wonder if France has a version of RLUIPA.

More on Taxing the Church in Italy

Following up on an item we covered in December, a law clarifying the Catholic Church’s responsibility for property taxes is making its way through the Italian Parliament. Although media reports describe the law as controversial, it actually breaks little new ground, Time Magazine reports. Since 2005, the Church has had to pay tax on property it uses for commercial purposes; the Church does not object to that. Property used for non-commercial (religious and non-profit) purposes remains exempt; no one, except perhaps the Radical Party, seems to object to that. The only controversy is what to do with mixed-use property: property that is used for religious and commercial purposes, like a convent that contains a chapel as well as a few rooms for tourists. Under the new law, only those parts of mixed-use property that are used for commercial purposes would be subject to tax. Religious entities would be required to account for which parts of their property are in fact used for commercial purposes. The law’s opponents argue that this arrangement is susceptible to abuse; in a country where tax enforcement is so lax, they argue, no one is likely to check the accounting.

The Catholic Church’s Mediating Role in Cuba

Here’s a very interesting piece about the relations between Cuba and the Catholic Church (h/t John Barrett).  It highlights the mediating role that the Church has taken with the Castro regime, and how taking “the long view” seems to have been both shrewd and effective in various political and cultural ways.  A bit:

When Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba next month, he will once again reinforce a strategy that the Vatican has allowed the local Catholic Church there to pursue for more than three decades: diligently avoid any political confrontation with the Castro regime, collaborate with Havana to combat the U.S.-led embargo, and support the Cuban government’s incremental economic reforms. In exchange, the Church has been able to maintain a certain amount of autonomy on the island, allowing it to rebuild its presence and position for the possible post-Castro economic boom times to come.

It is a controversial balance. Cubans in the exile community vigorously criticize the Church because they think Church leadership on the island should challenge the dictatorship. But the Vatican takes the long view. Rather than overtly push for change, the Church has come to pursue a strategy of “reconciliation.” It has inserted itself as mediator between the regime and its most daring opponents, both those imprisoned and those out in the streets. The Church is present and persistent, but it is nonpartisan. The attitude harkens back to the ostpolitik it practiced during the Cold War — in most communist countries, especially in those where Catholics were a minority, clergy hunkered down, ministered to the faithful, and survived. Today, in countries ranging from Albania and Montenegro to Romania and Ukraine, Catholic communities are thriving.