Sunday, March 27, 2005


I have been trying to understand for a while why the Rocco Buttiglione affair has made me so uneasy.

Very briefly, towards the end of last year Rocco Buttiglione was nominated by the incoming president of the European Commission to be commissioner of justice, but his adherence to conventional Catholic teaching regarding, essentially, the morality of homosexual acts was deemed by Euro-parliamentarians to disqualify him from holding high office on the European Commission.

George Weigel's recent piece, Is Europe Dying? Notes on a Crisis of civilization's Morale introduced me to a new term that I think begins to help me to explain my discomfort.

The word in question, suggested incidentally by an Orthodox Jew born in South Africa, J. H. H. Weiler, professor of international law and director of the Jean Monnet Center at New York University, is Christophobia.

In general I think that the witch hunts for isms and phobias that disfigure contemporary public life and the related self censorship that so inhibits real debate is a phenomenon to be disparaged and discouraged, but the coinage christophobia - by putting the boot on the other foot - reveals how fragile the putative European consensus is.

Never mind Islamophobia, we cannot possibly imagine that we live in a viable multicultural society if upholding conventional Catholic dogma excludes citizens from playing a full role in the public life of that society and it is the word Christophobia that has helped me to understand that.

Should I clarify that I do not think that homophobia has anything to do with this at all? As a practicing Catholic, Mr Buttiglione's belief's about many things would mark him as out of step with Brussels' view of the world in all sorts of areas.

No one would suggest, by way of contrast, that a practicing Jew - or Moslem for that matter - who abjured pork would be unsuitable to take a farming portfolio.

The key issue is if the EU can afford to exclude Buttiglione and his sincere co-religionists on this basis. I suggest that it cannot.

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