Italian referendum fails; bishops' strategy successful

Nearly 3 out of 4 eligible Italian voters declined to participate in a nationwide referendum on June 12 and 13, according to early unofficial results. Because of the low voter turnout, the referendum results will not be legally binding, and the Italian bishops appear to have scored a significant political victory.

Catholic World News reports, the referendum was the result of a campaign to overturn restrictive aspects of Italy's "Law #40," which was passed in 2004 to regulate the practice of in vitro fertilization. The Italian bishops-- with the support of Pope Benedict XVI -- had encouraged Catholic voters to abstain from the vote.

The bishops argued that Law #40 is seriously flawed, allowing practices which the Church regards as gravely wrong. However, the referendum questions would have abolished restrictions on the practice, allowing still more abuses. Since the Italian constitution requires 50 percent of all registered voters to cast ballots in order to make a referendum valid, the bishops reasoned that by their abstentions, Italian Catholics could ensure the failure of the referendum campaign without giving their support to the existing law.

The Italian constitution allows a referendum for the full or partial repeal of new legislation, if opponents of the law can collect the signatures of 500,000 voters on a petition. After the parliamentary approval of Law #40 last year, opponents amassed 4 million signatures on a repeal petition. And on January 13, the country's constitutional court called for the national vote.

But late in the afternoon of June 13, as the two-day voting process came to an end, unofficial returns from the Italian interior ministry showed that 25.9 percent of the eligible voters had cast ballots.

Italian referendum fails; bishops' strategy successful (Catholic World News 13/6/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Italian Catholic Bishops Conference | Referendum Fecondazione

Italian bishops urge referendum boycott (CathNews 17/3/05)
Pope backs Italian embryo boycott (CathNews 31/5/05)

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15 Jun 2005