Saturday, December 11, 2004

Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione, a conservative Catholic and confidant of Pope John Paul II who was recently denied a position in the European Union’s Cabinet for having called homosexuality a sin, found a receptive audience in Washington last week.

“In Europe, it is fashionable to be anti-Christian,” Mr. Buttiglione told the American Enterprise Institute.

Mr. Buttiglione, Italy’s minister for relations with the European Union, recently led an unsuccessful effort to have the Continent’s new constitution include an acknowledgment that Christianity played a role in the development of Western democracy.

“I wanted to add the Christian roots in the constitution in order to make it clear that this Europe is the Europe that has arisen out of Solidarnosc,” he said.

He was referring to the Vatican-backed trade union Solidarity, which in the early 1980s inspired the collapse of communism in Poland and began a revolution that spread throughout Eastern Europe.

“This is the spirit of Europe [that constitution writers] did not want to recognize. They wanted a Europe that goes back to the anti-clericalism of the Third French Republic,” Mr. Buttiglione said.

While in Washington, Mr. Buttiglione received the “Faith and Freedom” award from the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

The Italian minister had to withdraw his nomination for the EU post of justice minister after calling homosexuality a sin during his confirmation hearings.

He also said marriage exists to allow women to have children and has expressed doubts on whether single mothers would raise fully adjusted children.

“I was ready to resign, but not to change my position,” Mr. Buttiglione said. “It is easier to separate my bottom from my chair than my heart from my Lord.”

Mr. Buttiglione, a conservative Catholic, has been described as one of Pope John Paul Il’s closest friends and advisers.

“I think if we better organize ourselves, we can win the upcoming battles,” he said, alluding to the role of values in President Bush’s re-election.

“You cannot imagine the impact of the result of the American election in Europe,” Mr. Buttiglione said. “Because America is modernity and what takes place in America today will take place in Europe in 10, 15 or 20 years.”

“The Europeans, all of a sudden, had to discover that America is religious, that ethical issues are relevant to politics.”

In an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal last month, Mr. Buttiglione wrote: “This is difficult to accept in Europe because our intellectuals were always convinced that modernity brings with itself the extinction of religious faith.

“Now America, the most advanced country in the world, shows us that religion may be and indeed is a fundamental element of a free society and of a modern economy.”

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