Rocco Buttiglione acted in a more principled way than Larry Summers when he said the wrong thing, but was he principled enough? I don’t think Summers would have knuckled under to any pressure group whatever that threatened to make things difficult for him. At Stalin’s show trials the Old Bolsheviks didn’t confess simply because they were afraid of torture or wanted to protect their families but because they thought the Party really was necessarily right in the end, so there couldn’t possibly be good grounds for taking a stand against it. I think something of the same willingness to embrace fantasy in the interests of a higher good is at work in Summers’ case. It seems fundamental to his view of things that “discrimination” is a stupefying horror that has to be utterly rooted out no matter what the institutional or intellectual cost. So although he’s too confused to be principled, at least on these issues, I’m sure he’s not altogether lacking in the quality.
It appears that Buttiglione, who as someone who wants to be a respectable intellectual today opposes “discrimination”, has also absorbed more of the down-with-discrimination view than is good for the solidity of his thought. After all, thought is based on recognition of distinctions, while anti-discrimination insists on ignoring them. How can both survive in a single mind? Buttiglione claims it was simply not relevant to his candidacy for EU justice commissioner that he considers homosexual conduct a sin while the EU opposes, as a matter of its fundamental law, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The claim makes no sense. If God made the world then a man’s view on sin is his view on the ultimate reality of human life and conduct. In the case of homosexuality the Catholic view is that it’s wrong because it’s radically at odds with the right ordering of sexuality, something comprehensible through natural reason and absolutely fundamental to the well-being of the family and therefore society itself. How could such a thing possibly fail to influence a man’s attitudes toward others and what’s good for them, and thus the common good and the standards that are socially right?
Anti-discrimination is based on the belief that it is wrong to recognize certain distinctions, and thus right, in the activist and socially just society to which the EU aspires, to take effective action to eliminate the effect of those distinctions on social relations. If you truly believe homosexual conduct is a sin, and thus at odds with right human order, how could you support resolute attempts to prevent such a judgment, which discriminates between sexual orientations and calls some good and some bad, from ever affecting social relations? Why is Buttiglione’s claim that he is personally opposed to sodomy but would never let his position on the matter affect his public actions different in principle from the similar claim John Kerry and others make as to abortion?
(Also see previous Turnabout comments on Buttiglione.)