Feature

The limits of our deference to the pope.

The week's news at a glance.

Italy

Eugenio ScalfariLa Repubblica

Pope Benedict XVI is getting a bit meddlesome, said Eugenio Scalfari in Rome’s La Repubblica. It’s not surprising that he opposes Italy’s proposed law legalizing civil unions for cohabiting straight or gay couples. But this draft law—which has yet to be approved in parliament—doesn’t go as far in extending gay rights as already-enacted laws in the Netherlands, Germany, and even Spain. Yet the pope reserved his fury for Italy, declaring last week that “no law made by man can subvert the law made by the Creator without damaging society in its very foundations.” Then he sicced his bishops on the Cabinet in some of the most aggressive lobbying this government has seen. Benedict seems to hold Italy to a stricter standard than other countries. But while it’s true that the concordat between the Roman Catholic Church and the Italian state is written into Italy’s constitution, that doesn’t mean church doctrine is the law of the land. Prime Minister Romano Prodi is “a good Catholic who attends Mass and takes communion weekly,” but he legislates for all citizens, not just for good Catholics. Faith may adhere to dogma, but democracy works by compromise. An Italian leader does not have to follow the pope. He has only to obey the constitution—and “his own Catholic conscience.”

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