ROME, October 19, 2004 ( – While Italian minister Rocco Buttiglione continues to struggle in the European Parliament for the right to hold his Catholic views on marriage and homosexuality, a senior Vatican diplomat has called the crisis an example of anti-Catholic bigotry.

Cardinal Martino, the head of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, in an interview with Reuters on Monday said, “It looks like a new inquisition.”

A 200-member socialist bloc of MEPs – out of the 731-member Parliament – are moving against the senior Italian politician’s appointment as civil liberties and home affairs commissioner at the EP. The 200 are now being joined by a loose confederation of communists, Greens and leftist independents to defeat Buttiglione who is a devout Catholic and a friend and confidante of Pope John Paul II.

Buttiglione says that he is the victim of a “hate campaign” and an anti-Christian “inquisition”. His comments were backed up by the former head of the Vatican’s delegation to the United Nations, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Congregation for Justice and Peace. Martino said that there is prevailing in the European Parliament, a “new anti-Catholicism” in which “you can freely insult Catholics and nobody will tell you anything”.

“Regrettably” said the Cardinal, “the voices of the Pope and the Catholic Church are little heeded today, especially in the continental circles of rich and well-off countries—when, that is, these voices are not deliberately made to disappear, by drowning them out with the uproar and noise orchestrated by powerful cultural, economic and political lobbies that are inspired mainly by anti-Christian prejudices.” Citing the Pope’s tireless efforts to defend human rights beginning with the right to life, Martino said, “these lobbies promote confusion over the role of gender identity, mock marriage between a man and a women, and take aim against life itself which is made the object of absurd forms of experimentation.”  On Thursday October 14th, Buttiglione said that he would consider stepping down rather than retract his statements. “I have enough faith to give up a job in the Commission if need be,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.  Previous coverage:   ph