Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Fighting Fundamentalism. The sad case of Rocco Buttiglione.

“Fight the Taliban in Brussels” the giant poster urged, in the grounds of the Catholic University of Milan, in reaction to the Rocco Buttiglione case that dominated the headlines this week. The poster was put up, in support of Mr Buttiglione, by the Comunione e Liberazione movement (CL), which advocates active participation in politics on the part of Italy’s majority Catholic population. The opposition to Buttiglione’s candidature for the Justice, Freedom and Security Commission by members of the European Parliament has brought out a stream of Euro-scepticism and paranoia rarely seen outside certain British Conservative circles.

Buttiglione’s own position, as reported by La Repubblica, was that he was a victim of an “anti-Berlusconi” lobby, that “considers Berlusconi’s ministers unsuitable to work in the area of Justice”[1]. Not such a strange postition to hold, this Monkey would contend, considering Berlusconi’s Government’s continuous manipulation of the law, and attacks on the independence of the Judiciary in Italy.

Berlusconi meanwhile was confused and hurt that his proposed Commisioner could be seen as incapable. In one of his trademark soundbites, perfectly crafted to confuse the issue, he said that the whole affair smacked to him of “fundamentalism”[2].

Buttiglione’s position on Gays (“A moral disorder”)[3] has certainly been one of the reasons that his candidature has been frowned upon. His admission that “I may think morally that homosexuality is wrong, but this has no effect on politics, unless I say homosexuality is a crime”[4], failed to impress many, particularly when it’s taken into account that Buttiglione argued strongly to remove an amendment to the European Constitution’s charter of rights protecting citizens from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Buttiglione, who is considered a close friend of Pope John Paul II, has received support from, amongst others, Mirko Tremaglia of Alleanza Nazionale, who commented “Buttiglione has lost. Poor Europe, the queers are in the majority”[5]. Tremaglia is a Government Minister.

While Buttiglione’s Catholic outlook has grabbed the headlines, there are a number of other significant reasons for his rejection by a coalition of Greens, Communists and Socialists (Mr Berlusconi’s nightmare!), not least of which is a firm rebuke to Berlusconi for his removal of the widely respected Competition Commisioner, Mario Monti. Berlusconi had initially asked Monti to relinquish his post to become Finance Minister in the current government. Monti declined, and allegedly received a verbal agreement from Berlusconi that he would be put forward for the new Commission in order to continue work that has seen him investigate and censure corporate giants such as Microsoft*. Instead, Buttiglione, to appease one of the Government coalition partners, the UDC party, has been put forward.

There have been question marks over Buttiglione’s capabilities from a practical point of view, as well as from an ethical standpoint. Baroness Sarah Lundford, MEP said “Not only does he lack enthusiasm and knowledge for the job, but he also failed to convince that he could be a champion of fundamental freedoms or civil liberties or even effective security cooperation.”[6]

So, what is this securedly secular Monkey’s view on the sad case of Rocco Buttiglione? Are we facing discrimination and anti-catholic fundamentalism? Or, as Comunione e Liberazione suggests on its website in relation to this crisis, have “we arrived at a point where, on the pretext of defending the possibility of all to express their own relative truth, a cultural totalitarianism is being introduced that denies the freedom of conscience, thought and opinion”[7]?

It’s refreshing to see the Catholic Church strongly coming out in favour of freedom of conscience, thought and opinion but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What is being discussed here is Mr Buttiglione’s right to hold an office where he can make choices that actively discriminate against citizens of Europe, whose sexual preferences he disagrees with. If Buttiglione were heavily bearded and clutching a Koran instead of a Bible, we’d see a very different attitude. CL supporters got it right when they talked about the dangers of a Talibanic Fundamentalism in Brussels, and that is precisely why this Monkey thinks that Mr Buttiglione is unfit for office.

[1]”lobby che considera indegni i ministri di Berlusconi di occuparsi di giustizia” – La Repubblica Tuesday 12th October