Friday, December 16, 2005

News round-up: dialogue and a sales tax

As CNS reports, on the 15th, a committee chaired by Cardinal Kasper and a representative of the Patriarch of Constantinople met to prepare for the first meeting of the International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The last meeting of the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue was held in 2000 to discuss the role and theological implications of the agreements that led to the formation of the Eastern Catholic churches. That meeting ended without any conclusions or decisions agreeable to Orthodox and Catholics.

Fifteen autonomous Orthodox churches, meeting at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey, agreed in September that the dialogue should be restarted.

Encroachment on Orthodox territory by the Catholic Church is a long-running sticking point (cf. the Russian patriarch's almost-militant hostility) along with Roman primacy. However, the more they talk, the more they can figure each other out and work on some kind of joint statement with the needed nuance so that each side can keep the traditions its held for millennia while still agreeing.

Ireland Online reports that the European Union is asking Spain to begin charging the Catholic Church in Spain sales tax.

Spain says a 1979 agreement with the Vatican obliges it to give the church an exemption from value added tax for the goods it buys.

But the EU’s executive Commission said EU rules do not allow such a tax break, threatening to take Spain to court unless it took action within two months.

However, the EU said Spain could charge the sales tax and then compensate the church for some or all of the tax that it has to pay to the tax authorities.

It costs money to collect a tax and it costs money to account for and return tax money. So basically the EU's suggestion means that Spain gets to lose money rather than simply not bothering with the tax in the first place.

Of course, Spain could go to court, but the socialists in power probably aren't all that interested in battling on behalf of the agreement with the Holy See. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Spain just started charging the Church and keeping the money.

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