New breakthrough in church-state understanding

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jun 14, 2005

Barely 25% of the eligible Italian voters took part in a nationwide referendum on laws governing in vitro fertilization. What does that tell you?

Maybe it means that Italian voters wanted the referendum to fail (which it did). Maybe they were convinced by the arguments put forward by opponents, including the Catholic bishops. Maybe they just didn't care.

But Emma Bonino of the Radical Party, which had backed the referendum, has a different theory. She thinks Italian voters are becoming religious fanatics. The referendum's failure, she says, demonstrates "a problem of the climate, of the atmosphere in this country." She explained, "It is not secular, and it's very worrisome."

Class assignment: Write a 500-word essay explaining why the failure to cast a ballot in public elections is a religious act.

For extra credit: What religion are you practicing when, instead of voting, you stay home and watch TV?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jun. 15, 2005 8:51 AM ET USA

    As I wrote in my blog - a triumph for apathy, not for the Church. The population collapse taking place now in Europe exceeds any one war; in a decade it will decline at the rate of the Black Death of the 14th century.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 15, 2005 1:37 AM ET USA

    Since the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it is wrong to cast a ballot in public elections, I suppose that not voting could be a religious act. If one stays home and watches TV instead of voting (and not because a bishop recommends not voting), one is "practicing" apathy towards organized religion and government. I would not have called that apathy a religion, but if it were a religion, it would doubtless be one of the most popular throughout the world :-)

  • Posted by: - Jun. 14, 2005 6:35 PM ET USA

    My, what big teeth you have, what big ears you have, my, are you really grandma? Or are you a wolf in sheep's clothing? Are you our leader or our supressor?

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jun. 14, 2005 6:28 PM ET USA

    I cannot write a 500-word essay because I am limited to 500 characters. But for extra credit, it's easy: if you stayed home from this particular election and watched TV because your bishop told you to, the religion you are practicing is Roman Catholicism. And to Sra. Bonino, I'm sure anybody who practices Roman Catholicism qualifies as a religious fanatic. If only she were right.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 14, 2005 5:09 PM ET USA

    I completely empathize with Miss Bonino. I used to have the same concerns about the number of professional athletes, especially baseball batters and boxers, who would make the sign of the cross before swinging the bat or the starting the bout. It was a certain sign that soon athletes everywhere who become diehard Christians, never take steroids or drugs, and become shining examples of strong, gentle men to our youth. Fortunately, secularism prevailed and most became bums.

  • Posted by: Patrick461 - Jun. 14, 2005 4:51 PM ET USA

    I think Ms. Bonino's comments are wonderful news.