.- Rocco Buttiglione, Italian Minister of European Affairs, explained this week the reasons for withdrawing himself as a candidate for the European Justice Commission, and said that in his case "a Christian has been excluded because of his religious beliefs and his freedom of conscience has not been respected."
In an interview with the COPE Radio network in Spain, Buttiglione, a close personal friend of John Paul II, said that given the choice between a position on the Commission and following his conscience, he chose the latter.
Asked about his statements regarding the rights of homosexuals, Buttiglione said they were "the least I could say without betraying my faith; perhaps I am not a very courageous Catholic, because I only said the minimum, but it was not enough. They wanted me to say that homosexuality has no negative moral component, and that is a violation of my conscience."
Buttiglione said he did not imply that a person should be discriminated against because he or she is homosexual, adding that "to believe that homosexuality is a sin does not mean one is better than homosexuals." "I may be a bigger sinner in other aspects, and in reality all of us are sinners," he emphasized.
He also called it ridiculous that some have tried to say he made discriminatory statements against single mothers. He clarified that the context of this statements was international politics involving Europe and the United States. "Reporters said I was against single mothers, when everyone knows I have always defended all mothers and single mothers as well," he stated.
Speaking about his situation, Buttiglione asked, "Do I have to think there is a certain hostility against me? A conspiracy? I don't know, but this proves it is possible."
Although he stated he was not at all certain that there was a conspiracy, he did say he had three questions about the matter. "Do we have a Europe in which Adenauer, Schuman and De Gasperi could not be commissioners? I hope not, I hope my case was just a mistake and that in the future this will not happen. But in this case what has happened is a Christian has been excluded because of his religious beliefs and his freedom of conscience has not been respected."
"The case of the United States is a curious one. It is a country that is modern in all fields and yet is the most religious country. So it is not true what some people say, that the future demands modernity without religion. Somebody said George W. Bush could not be a European commissioner today. And that is true. But neither could Kerry, because he also says that in his conscience he considers homosexuality and abortion to be morally negative. He thinks that way morally but not politically. Therefore Kerry would not be able to breeze by a committee such as the one I faced."
Lastly, Buttiglione left open the possibility that the attack against him was due to the fact that he is "a good target because it is well known that I am a Christian. If the idea is to kill one person to educate a thousand, as the Maoists say, I was a good target, although I am not a very courageous man and I only said the minimum in order not to betray my faith."