Friday, June 17, 2005
The fight leading up to two days of voting on Sunday and Monday mobilized the nation's political and religious establishments like few others, as the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church - including the new pope, Benedict XVI - urged Italians to boycott the referendum.
In the end, the outcome was not even close. Only 26 percent of as many as 50 million eligible Italians voted, meaning that the referendum automatically failed, with the votes uncounted, in its attempt to repeal four crucial sections of a restrictive fertility law passed last year. For the referendum to be valid, 50 percent of eligible voters had to take part.
The results would seem an immediate victory for the church and for the young papacy of Benedict, in a Europe where church influence has declined significantly in recent decades. Similar referendums in Italy on divorce and abortion in the 1970's and 80's passed overwhelmingly despite church opposition, and Italians now seem likely to debate whether apathy or a reverse in secularism in the home of the Roman Catholic Church defeated this referendum.
My favorite quote from the story, "The results of today mean that Italy is maybe more similar to Texas than to Massachusetts," said Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's culture minister and a friend of Pope Benedict. "Italians want a democracy with values - that values human life - and that is why they rejected this referendum." Mmmm - perhaps they don't know about Texas and the death penalty . . . [bm]