by our Rome correspondent IN mass definance, Italy's religious orders, congregations, convents and monasteries are refusing to pay state social security taxes, demanded in 1983 and now beyond the "red notice" stage.
The Italian National Institute for Social Security (INPS) has threatened to seize church property as credit and summons the heads of an initial 1,500 orders to appear in court on tax evasion charges.
Court injunctions have already been served on two convents at the famous Loreto sanctuary and on a third religious institute in Turin, in alleged debt to the state for about £300,000.
Italian employers are required to make INPS payments for their staffs as contributions to future pensions. INPS claims members of religious orders are employees of their orders and therefore must be covered by contributions. It consequently issued them with tax demands in 1983 at about the same time as the Vatican signed its revised cohabitation pact, the Concordat, with Italy.
Last week, in blunt press appeals to orders to defy the demands, however pressing, the Association of Directors of Institutes Dependent on Ecclesiastical Authority (AGIDAE) urged non-payment of such taxes on the grounds that they are not justifiable under Italy's constitutional law.