Concordat by country

Member States, where a concordat is in force with the Holy See which includes a provision on religious conscientious objection:

Italy, in Latvia and in Portugal. In these States however, the clause on religious conscientious objection only concerns exemption from armed military service.

The agreement applicable in Italy only exempted the members of the clergy, deacons and religious leaders from compulsory military service, before the abolishment of compulsory military service in 2005.

In Latvia, an agreement was concluded on 8 November 2000 and entered into force as a statutory law after its ratification by the Saeima (the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia) on 25 September 2002 (likums «Par Latvijas Republikas un Sv_t_ Kr_sla l_gumu»), but the only provision relating to conscientious religious objection is Article 26 which provides – in line with the Alternative Service Law which is in force since 1 July 2002 – that students of the Major Seminary of Riga and novices of religious congregations shall be exempted from military service and may be assigned to a community service instead. In times of general mobilization, such students and novices will be assigned to operations which do not involve the use of weapons.

In Portugal, while there was no reference to conscientious objection in the 1940 Concordat, the 2004 Concordat between the Holy See and Portugal refers in Art. 17(4) to the right to conscientious objection only in relation to military service; moreover, this clause has now lost its practical impact, as military service has ceased to be mandatory.

In other Member States, the existing concordats do not include a provision relating to religious conscientious objection.

This is the case in Austria, where the existing bilateral agreement with the Vatican of 1933 and its later amendments do not refer to the issue of conscientious objection.

It is the case also in Lithuania, where the agreement ‘Concerning Juridical Aspects of the Relations between the Catholic Church and the State’ passed between the Holy See and the Republic of Lithuania on 5 May 2000 – which seeks to establish the juridical framework of the relationship between the Catholic Church and Lithuania, where there is no State religion – does not explicitly refer to religious conscientious objection.9

Similarly in Luxembourg, the convention of 1997 between the Government and the Archbishop, replacing the previously existing concordat, contains no provision on the right to religious conscientious objection.10

In Malta, none of the numerous agreeements currently in force between the Holy See and Malta or of the protocols to those agreements contain a clause relating to religious conscientious objection – which may be explained, in this case, by the status of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion as the religion of Malta,11 and by the fact that the legislation is generally compliant with the prescriptions of that faith : in Malta, for instance, abortion remains a criminal offence ; divorce is unavailable (although the status of a divorced person when one of the spouses is a foreign national or a foreign resident); and marriage is reserved to two persons of a different biological sex.

In Slovenia, the Agreement Between the Republic of Slovenia and The Holy See On Legal Questions, signed in Ljubljana on 14 December 2001 (Official Gazette RS – International Agreements, No. 4/2004) contains no provision on the right to religious conscientious objection.12

In Spain, three agreements were concluded on 3 January 1979 with the Holy See (BOE, 15.12.1979), succeeding to the Concordat of 1953. These agreements concern respectively the economic relationships between Spain and the Catholic Church, teaching and cultural affairs, and legal affairs. They are silent, however, on the question of religious conscientious objection.

In still other Member States (such as, for instance, in the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, and Greece), there exists no concordat between the Holy See and the Member State.


9 However, Article 1 of the Agreement mentions (al. 2) that ‘The competent authorities of the Republic of Lithuania and the competent authorities of the Catholic Church shall cooperate in ways acceptable to both Parties on educational, cultural, family and social issues and, in particular, in the field of protecting public morals and human dignity’.
10 Loi du 10 juillet 1998 portant approbation de la Convention du 31 octobre 1997 entre le Gouvernement, d’une part, et l’Archevéché, d’autre part, portant refixation des cadres du culte catholique et règlant certaines matières connexes, Mém., 20.8.1998.
11 Indeed, under Section 2 of the Constitution of Malta, ‘The authorities of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong’.
12 The Slovenian Constitutional Court has reviewed the compatibility of the Agreement with the Constitution, in a preliminary review of a treaty during the proceedings of ratification. In its opinion of 19 November 2003 (Rm-1/02), the Constitutional Court concluded that no incompatibility arose between the Agreement and the Constitution.



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