Church officials at the Vatican are seeking more treaties with governments worldwide to reduce the hostility Christians are experiencing in multiple countries and regions.
"Right now the Holy See is engaging in many different levels with world
governments," reported Father Cuong M. Pham, an official at the
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the department that oversees
the Church's laws.
"We have a growing tension between world governments and the Church
because there's a lot of misunderstanding, and some see the Church as a
threat," said Fr. Pham, who is from the Diocese of Brooklyn and
currently resides in Rome.
There are many international agreements between the Holy See and local
governments, but Fr. Pham says his office hopes to help local
politicians and leaders "get to know the law of the Church better, to
see what can and cannot be done."
Among the hotspots for Christian persecution that he listed were Middle
Eastern, Asian and South American countries, as well as the United
Kingdom and the United States.
"Many countries who aren't friendly to Christianity are increasing
their level of supervision and control over freedom of religion," he
"Christians have a very hostile climate in the United States, 'the land of the free,'" he added.
But he hopes there will be a growing number of "concord acts" between
Church law and civil law around the world. The areas canon law covers
include the administration of the sacraments, the administration of the
material goods of the Church, religious way of life, pastoral duties
and Catholic education.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for
Legislative Texts, explained in a Jan. 28 interview that canon law is
different from civil law "because it pursues spiritual ends and not
economic ends or those of power."
"There are laws in the Church that cannot change because they were set
up by Christ. But society is constantly changing, and so we (the Church)
can introduce certain changes when appropriate," he said as he
explained why the Church updates its laws.
But even though the Church updates its laws, Fr. Pham noted that canon
law sometimes completely opposes civil law, leaving Catholics confused
about which one to follow.
"If I want to be a good Catholic, I have to disobey civil law. And if I
want to be a good citizen, I can't be a good Catholic," he said,
summarizing the predicament.
His comments come after the Church celebrated the 30th anniversary of the current code of canon law on Jan. 25.
Pope Benedict XVI recently met with a top communist leader of Vietnam
for the first time to cut down on the country's harassment of
"We need to show people that many of their laws are based on our system
and this isn't only the oldest system in the world, but also the most
cohesive," remarked Fr. Pham.
He believes that people with greater responsibility in the Church,
including bishops and Vatican organizations, need to be the ones