ROME -- Under attack for calling homosexuality sinful, Christian Democrat and papal confidant Rocco Buttiglione said yesterday he was abandoning efforts to become European Union justice commissioner, a bid that had kept the new EU Commission from taking office.
Buttiglione defended his religious beliefs, insisting they would not affect his work for the EU.
Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday that Buttiglione would remain as European affairs minister in his conservative government.
The new commission was virtually doomed to rejection by the European Parliament if Buttiglione was part of it. Earlier this week, the new EU top executive, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, withdrew all 25 nominees to gain time to find a solution.
The European Parliament must approve all nominees for the commission, which runs the EU's daily affairs, to begin work.
During a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Buttiglione told the justice and home affairs committee that he considered homosexuality "a sin" and that marriage existed "to allow women to have children and to have the protection of a male."
"I am ready to step aside, to resign [from the bid], to favor the path of the Barroso commission, which I wish every success," Buttiglione said yesterday at a news conference.
The controversy over Buttiglione was an embarrassing backdrop to EU ceremonies Friday in Rome for the signing of the union's proposed new constitution.
Hans-Gert Poettering, head of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament, greeted Buttiglione's decision with "great respect." Poettering had supported the bid. He warned that Buttiglione's stepping aside "did not signify that all difficulties with regard to the appointment of a new commission has been solved."
He singled out Laszlo Kovacs, Hungary's former foreign minister, tapped for energy commissioner; Dutch businesswoman Neelie Kroes, slated for competition commissioner; and Latvia's Igrida Udride, up for the budget post.
Poettering said they "lacked the necessary competence."
Buttiglione depicted himself as a victim of an "ably orchestrated campaign," but declined to elaborate.
"I have the right to think that homosexuality is a sin, but this has no effect on politics because in politics, the principle of nondiscrimination prevails, and the state has no right to stick its nose in these situations," Buttiglione said.