Abortion is legal here and not much debated anymore. Yet religious sentiment runs deep enough that Friday night comes in Italy with the adventures of Don Matteo, handsome crime-solving priest. One study, in fact, showed that 27 percent of all protagonists on public television are priests, nuns or saints (though it is also hard to ignore that other large percentage on Italian television: near-naked women).
--Perhaps the most Catholic politician in Italy is not a conservative, as might be expected in America, but Romano Prodi, the former European Union chief and leader of the center-left.
--Italians routinely ignore the conservative Pope John Paul II in matters of private morality, like contraception, divorce or marriage (far fewer Italians are marrying, in the church or out), but admire him deeply for his stands on issues like caring for the poor or his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq, unpopular in Europe.
--Crucifixes may hang in public schools, but without the heavy political overtones that come with displays of, say, the Ten Commandments in public places in America.
I could live with that.