The Western Front

Establishing the Worst

My young German friend Karl-Peter Schwarz, a political correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, sent me an essay last month that was earmarked for his newspaper, about an Italian Christian Democrat and nominee for the post of E.U. commissioner of justice, Rocco Buttiglione.  In early October 2004, the Berlusconi government nominated Buttiglione as part of an executive list that was supposed to float through the assembly without incident.  In a publicized appearance before the European Parliament, however, the 65-year-old nominee expressed moral reservations about homosexuality.  As a believing Catholic and descendant of the Romans, Buttiglione could not quite rid himself of the notion that matrimony is about mothers and the maternal protection of offspring.  The nominee let it be known that he had no intention to impose his belief on others and protested that, once confirmed as an E.U. official, he would enforce the laws of his ultramodern institution.  As a Christian, he explained, he felt that, in a “multicultural society” properly understood, “one could believe that one is right and someone else is wrong but at the same time revere an erring human being as sacred.”  (Let us grant this counterfactual premise for the time being.)

Buttiglione’s protestations did not suffice to keep critics off his back; and the European Union, guided by a plurality of...

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