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Vatican 'interference' on gay rights angers Italian left
by Gina Doggett
Sun Dec 10, 6:23 AM ET
Harsh words from the Vatican over plans to grant legal status to gay couples have drawn an angry reaction from Italy's left wing, which bristled over "interference" in the nation's political affairs.
"It's unacceptable that a measure aimed at ending discrimination should be threatened and condemned," Health Minister Livia Turco told Corriere della Sera after L'Osservatore Romano Sunday, the Vatican mouthpiece, accused the Italian government in an editorial of making a priority of "eradicating the family".
"Too often here in Italy the Church mistakes itself for the state," Mercedes Bresso of the Democrats of the Left told the daily L'Unita.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi's center-left government, which came to power in April, is to draft legislation on civil unions, regardless of sexual orientation, in the Catholic-majority and socially conservative country by January 31.
L'Osservatore Romano's editorial Saturday said: "Eradicating the family is the priority of Italian politics." If the government insists it is defending "individual rights" and that "nothing intends to endanger the traditional family, it will be lying."
Italy's press Saturday carried banner headlines reading "The Vatican on the Attack" and "The Vatican Says Halt".
Although most Italians are at least nominally Roman Catholics, the country is officially secular, and the Vatican is a foreign power that is not supposed to interfere in Italy's internal affairs.
However, the Vatican broadside on civil unions coincided with remarks by Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday urging that religious symbols be allowed in public places.
"Hostility to ... the presence of any religious symbols in public institutions ... is not a sign of healthy secularism, but the degeneration of secularism," he told a group of Italian Catholic jurists.
While acknowledging that "any direct intervention by the Church in this area would be illegitimate interference," the pope defended the Church's right to "affirm and defend great values that give meaning to a person's life and safeguard its dignity."
The Church, which fiercely opposes euthanasia, has also weighed in on the case of a man suffering from muscular dystrophy who wants to be removed from life support.
The Vatican's top official for health issues, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, deferred to experts studying the question of whether 60-year-old Piergiorgio Welby is receiving "excessive care" justifying an end to his suffering.
"Euthanasia is still equivalent to killing, and the Church cannot accept it," he told the daily La Repubblica, while adding: "The use of disproportionate, absolutely useless, means to treat a terminally ill patient is a useless and cruel practice that only prolongs agony, pain and suffering."
The new legislation on "de facto" couples would grant them inheritance rights, joint medical insurance and visiting rights in prisons and hospitals, among others, but stop short of allowing them to adopt children.
The Italian opposition, led by Forza Italia of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, also blasted the plan, while doubting whether Prodi's motley coalition -- ranging from communists, Greens and radicals to centrist and traditional Catholics -- will be able to unite behind the initiative.
However the bill -- part of Prodi's Union coalition's election manifesto ahead of the April polls -- is expected to be enacted by the Senate, even though the center-left enjoys only a one-seat majority there.
Vatican criticises Italy plans on gay, unwed couples
Sun Dec 10, 2006 3:34 AM GMT
By Phil Stewart
ROME (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Saturday Italy's left sought to "eradicate" the traditional family by adding to its Christmas wish-list legislation that would give legal rights to unwed couples, including homosexual ones.
The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial that politicians in the ruling centre-left coalition were embarking on a "senseless battle". They aim to put forward a bill by the end of January.
"Fifteen days to Christmas. And there are those making other calculations, thinking of other deadlines," it wrote in its weekend edition.
The headline read: "Christmas 2006: To eradicate the family is the priority of Italian politics."
Prime Minister Romano Prodi was elected in April on a campaign platform that included some sort of legal recognition of unwed couples. But he has so far stopped short of openly supporting gay marriage, a divisive issue in Catholic Italy.
He greeted a Senate motion on Thursday urging some recognition of heterosexual and homosexual couples as a "step forward". Equal Opportunity Minister Barbara Pollastrini said she would start working on a draft law in the coming days so it would be ready by the Senate's requested January deadline.
This outraged centre-right politicians. But the motion, partly a compromise after lawmakers dropped a measure about unwed couples' inheritance, has also stirred up controversy within Prodi's cabinet.
Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, who is also a senator, said in comments published by Italia media on Saturday that he was ready to cast his first vote against the ruling majority unless the traditional family was fully protected.
Prodi's coalition governs with a narrow one-seat majority in the Senate and Mastella warned the "Catholic part of the centre left" could be swayed to side with the centre right.
The uproar also came just days after the city of Padua, in northern Italy's Catholic heartland, became the first in the country to allow unmarried heterosexuals and homosexuals to register formally as couples.
L'Osservatore Romano said it was "hypocrisy" for politicians to say they will safeguard the family and at the same time allow unwed couples equal footing.
"Even this is -- and we don't know how unknowingly -- a lie," it said.