A senior Vatican cardinal says there is an anti-Catholic "inquisition" in Europe, evidenced in the controversy over the remarks of Rocco Buttiglione.
Buttiglione incurred the wrath of socialist MEPs
"It is a lay inquisition but it is so nasty," Cardinal Renato Martino told the news agency Reuters.
Mr Buttiglione's comments on marriage and women prompted a committee of the European Parliament to vote against his candidacy as EU commissioner.
Mr Buttiglione said on Sunday he was the victim of a "hate campaign".
The row comes ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote on 27 October on whether to accept the proposed new EU Commission.
During a confirmation hearing last week, Mr Buttiglione said he regarded homosexuality a "sin", and that marriage existed to allow women to have children and the protection of a male.
On Friday Mr Buttiglione was reported as having said single mothers were not very good people. He later said he had been quoted out of context.
The political science professor, considered to be one of the closest friends and counsellors of Pope John Paul II, labelled this campaign an "inquisition".
This word was echoed by Cardinal Martino, the head of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, in his interview with Reuters on Monday.
"It looks like a new inquisition," he said.
He said there was a "new anti-Catholicism" in which "you can freely insult Catholics and nobody will tell you anything".
The row over Mr Buttiglione's appointment has made life difficult for incoming Commission President Jose Barroso, who is tasked with putting together a new executive team.
In the past Mr Barroso has played down Mr Buttiglione's remarks.
But on Monday Mr Barroso's spokeswoman refused explicitly to endorse the candidacy of Mr Buttiglione, saying only that Mr Barroso remained confident that the EU Parliament would endorse his proposed team at the 27 October vote.
Socialist MEPs - who are 200 of the 731-member Parliament - have already threatened to use their power of veto if Mr Buttiglione's portfolio is not reduced.
At present, many of the duties of the role relate to civil liberties.
The assembly has no right to veto individual members of the Commission. It can only decide to veto the whole team.
Mr Barroso will meet EU Parliament leaders for talks on the proposed make-up of the new Commission on Thursday.