From Bruce Johnston in Rome THE POPE'S doctrinal chief has delivered a broadside against the new EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which had been hoped to be enshrined as law at the Nice summit this week.
Styling it "Europe's Constitution", Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger complained that the document approved at a recent EU meeting in Biarritz, and which is expected to become a source of inspiration for EU judges, was a "Godless" document.
He also claimed that it failed to provide "instruments of moral and juridical defence" of the values which it proclaimed.
Cardinal Ratzinger criticised the charter — which sets out 54 rights for Europeans — in Berlin almost on the eve of the Nice summit, and just after he and Archbishop Carlo Maria Martini of Milan became the first cardinals in history to be made honorary members of the
Pontifical Academy of Science. In his attack, the Bavarian-born Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith used the family as an example to illustrate his point.
This, he complained, had been "ensnared" by the progressive legalisation of homosexual marriages and meant that the charter "departed from the beaten track followed by the moral history of humanity".
He added: "What we are experiencing now is the destruction of the image which man has always had of himself."
The cardinal ended his attack by asking: "Would it not have been opportune if God, and the responsibility we have before God, had been anchored in the new European Constitution?"
His criticisms were echoed by the vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who said the charter failed to take account of the Christian roots of European history and culture. Christianity. he said, represented Europe's soul and could still "inspire Europe's mission and identity".
Britain's minister for Europe, Keith Vaz, a Catholic, has claimed that the charter will have no more legal standing before EU judges than a copy of the Beano.
But other commentators have said it could eventually provide inspiration for European judges to overturn British laws.
In October, the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community warned that the charter would open the way to the recognition of gay unions.
It said the charter's failure to distinguish between the right to marry and the right to form a family was "frankly unacceptable". It also lamented the absence of any reference to God.