The case of Rocco Buttiglione

Antoni Szwed

In relation to Prof. Rocco Buttiglione's visit to Poland in January 2005, let us call to mind the recent facts, which led to some temporary crisis in the European Parliament. And all of this was caused by this outstanding Professor.

He was to become EU commissioner

At the end of October 2004 the composition of the European Commission was ready to be voted by the Parliament in Strasbourg. However, its President Jose Manuel Barroso, from Portugal, withdrew his commissioners at the last moment. He knew that if he had not done so he would have lost. What was the reason? As it occurred later the reason for the fierce reactions of the left-wing MEPs (Socialists, Communists, Liberals and Green) was the Italian politician, philosopher, friend and counsellor of John Paul II Rocco Buttiglione. He was to become the commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security but during the three-day hearing by members of the parliamentarian committee he was asked first of all about his point of view.
The Left Mps did their best to eliminate the Italy's candidature. Answering their question what the European-American relationships should look like, Rocco Buttiglione used a 'family' comparison. He compared American to a father and Europe to a mother who has many children to bring up. He said that it was difficult for a mother to raise her children when their father did not help and protect her. The next day Buttiglione was said to be a follower of a very non-modern, patriarchal model of family. Nobody remembered the European-American relationships. When Buttiglione was asked about homosexualism he said, 'I may think that homosexuality is a sin, and this has no effect on politics, unless I say that homosexuality is a crime.' He admitted that it was his conscience that dictated him such an answer but no political conclusions should be drawn from this. He declared that as a commissioner he would not aim at changing the obligatory law concerning this issue.
But his explanation was by no means successful. The left MEPs were outraged by the word 'sin', which the Italian politician used. Therefore, Buttiglione, in spite of his knowledge of seven foreign languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish, which he learnt to read the Pope's works in original) and knowledge law, philosophy, politics, social ethics and economy, was considered not to be fit for the position of European commissioner.

Who is Rocco Buttiglione?

He was born in 1948 in Gallipoli (southern Italy). He is a Professor of political sciences at the Pius V University of Rome. Before that he was vice-rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein. He collaborated with the American Enterprise Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, the Religion and Public Life in New York and Lord Acton Institute in Michigan. He has been a counsellor of John Paul II for many years. He had a considerable influence on the encyclical Centesimus annus. In 1995 he became secretary of Christian Democrats, and in 1999 was elected to the European Parliament. At present he is Italy's European Affairs Minister. In July 2004 Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi designated him as commissioner of the European Commission. Rocco Buttiglione has also visited Poland. He was awarded honorary doctorate at the Catholic University of Lublin in 1994.

Why was he not wanted in the European Commission?

Buttiglione has not hidden his Catholic views for years. Moreover, he witnesses in public that he fully approves the teaching of John Paul II in religious, moral and social issues. Because of that the secular press calls him 'Catholic integrist' and 'fundamentalist'. Daniel Cohn Bendit, representative of the Green Party in the European Parliament, treated him with greatest aversion, saying that he could have been nominated 'a papal commissioner'. 'He would be wonderful. He would receive a commissioner's post; receive a salary and every morning he would be able to discuss with the Pope about the differences between politics and philosophy. And then he could try to solve problems concerning homosexualism in the Catholic Church'. (I am quoting the Danish TV AVISEN, 21 October 2004, at 9.00 p.m.)
The case of Buttiglione shows how Catholic politicians are really treated in Western Europe. Professor Buttiglone did not say anything new about homosexualism what an ordinary Catholic could not read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church himself. Therefore, if he was called 'fundamentalist' (i.e. narrow, impractical dogmatist) for such a belief, this term may well refer to several million Catholics in Europe who have as deep faith as him. Le us say it frankly: freedom of speech and religious liberty were violated in the European Parliament. The politician who expressed his Catholic conviction was not allowed to hold an office. Millions of people in Europe lost their representative in the EU authorities. True, in this case secular, fundamentalism won. This fundamentalism, together with the omission of the Christian roots in the preamble of the European Constitution, portends very badly for the future. The right to reveal one's Catholic identity was officially questioned. This is an obvious example to limit Catholics' rights in Europe and push them off from politics into the sphere of deep privacy. As you can see secular Europe wants to have such Catholics whom nobody would know about that they are Catholics. The thing is that they would not hamper promotion of the only right 'progressive' secular views. Recently Michel Rocard, French socialist, said openly: 'part of our heritage comes from the Enlightenment and was the result of a long struggle for the triumph of reason. If we deepen this set of values and check to which extent they are actually common values, we will have the indispensable condition to create new values and to give the Union cohesion and identity, without which we will not be able to propose the entire world to accept secular European values' (Gazeta Wyborcza, 12 June 2003). Therefore, it is obvious that there is no place for God in the preamble and for Christianity in such understanding of Europe. This one-sided secular vision of Europe is not a vision of agreement but vision of conflict and exclusion. The case of Rocco Buttiglione shows why it was sheer stubbornness not to allow the word 'God' be put in the draft of the European Constitution. Now we know the reason and we know that is was not an accident. And that's why it is worth remembering about it in the future referendum.

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: