speaking just 10 days ahead of Italy's national elections,
lashed out against same-sex marriage and abortion on
Thursday and said the church has the right to speak
out on thorny political issues. Opposition center-left
politicians who advocate some legal recognition of the
rights of unmarried straight and gay couples accused the
pope of meddling in politics.
lawmakers from the European People's Party, Benedict said
the church's position on such issues is
"nonnegotiable." He said the church has a right and
duty to defend "the recognition and promotion of the
natural structure of the family as a union between a man and
a woman based on marriage." It would oppose "attempts
to make it juridically equivalent to radically
different forms of union which in reality harm it and
contribute to its destabilization," he added.
politicians slammed the pope's words on abortion and
same-sex marriage as political interference. "It is
ever more clear the church hierarchy have decided to
jump in to the election campaign," said Daniele
Capezzone of the leftist Rose in the Fist party, part of a
coalition led by former European Commission president Romano
"It is people who
decide whether their relationships constitute a
family.... Not everyone shares the pope's point of view,"
said Franco Grillini, a gay parliamentarian of the
Democrats of the Left, Italy's largest leftist party.
The pope said the
church is not interfering but "enlightening
consciences." He asked lawmakers to defend its right to
proclaim what he said are principles "inscribed in
human nature itself and therefore...common to all
humanity. Your support for Christian heritage...can
contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that
is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates
[religion] to the private and subjective sphere."
A survey released
earlier this year cast doubt on how much influence the
church will have on the elections, with a majority of
Italian Catholics disagreeing with papal doctrine on
some moral and social issues. But last summer a
referendum on easing Italy's restrictions on artificial
fertility failed when too few people turned out to
vote--a victory for the church, which had called
on people to abstain in a campaign explicitly
supported by the pope.
Berlusconi's coalition, which sees itself as the natural
home for Roman Catholic voters, defended the pope.
"This controversy is unfounded and out of place," said
Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini. "Who can argue
with the Holy Father's moral and religious authority
to defend values and concepts that are fundamental to church