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The Prince of Liechtenstein is upholding natural justice in his threat to veto a law legalising abortion

Hereditary Prince Alois has said he is prepared to abdicate. His power of veto may not last much longer

By on Monday, 7 May 2012

Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein (PA photo)

Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein (PA photo)

We live in a constitutional monarchy where the actual powers of the monarch are very limited: to listen, to advise, and to warn, as Bagehot says. This is not the case in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein (population: 36,000 with a land area of 62 square miles) where the constitution gives the hereditary prince the right of veto. Tim Tindal-Robertson of the World Apostolate of Fatima in the UK has emailed me to say that this right of veto has resulted in a difficulty: Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein, who assumed his constitutional powers in 2004, has stated that he is prepared to abdicate his position if the principality carries out a referendum this Thursday, May 10, to approve a new abortion law.

Political activists want to revoke the Prince’s right of veto and have formed a citizens’ committee for this purpose. The Prince, a devout Catholic, told the parliament on March 1 that if the population wants to change the constitution, effectively removing the princely family’s power, a power it has exercised for over 200 years and which has given the principality its identity, he would not be able to undertake his political responsibilities and would “completely withdraw from political life”.

This seeming impasse began in 2011 when Prince Alois threatened to veto a referendum legalising abortion if it were passed. That attempt at a referendum failed because of his threat and the current campaign has developed as a result. Under the Liechtenstein constitution, it has to gather 1,500 signatures by May 10 in order to call the referendum. Currently the Prince still retains his power of veto; it is thought this might not last for much longer.

Many commentators will think, “Quite right too.” How can a modern democracy develop when one person, by the caprice of birth, still retains seemingly feudal powers? But the Prince is not exercising this power arbitrarily. Within recent memory, unborn children were protected by law as a matter of course in every European country, a law that stated they had “the right to life”. Prince Alois, as a practising Catholic – and unlike some American high-profile, supposedly Catholic politicians who I have blogged about recently – does not believe he can separate his faith from his public duties over a matter of such fundamental importance. I think he is right. He is exercising his right of veto, not because of a personal whim but to uphold natural justice against the threat of an unjust law. As the custodian of justice towards unborn future citizens of Liechtenstein, he is acting more responsibly than the activists.

In 1990 a somewhat similar crisis occurred in Belgium. The government wanted to bring in a new law permitting abortion. Such a law, constitutionally, had to be signed in by the King of Belgium, Baudouin I. Not having the power of veto, he stated that as a Catholic, he could not, in good conscience, sign the proposed law. The Cabinet declared the King “unable to govern”; he abdicated, and the law was passed. Yet 44 hours after his abdication, the Belgian parliament reinstated him. It was a compromise solution to a potential constitutional crisis. No compromise is being talked about in Liechtenstein.

  • robertgwirth

    God bless Prince Alois!

  • Agnieszka

    Wow, he is my (new) hero!

  • Damiano

    We will be praying for him here in Italy. God Bless and Save Prince Alois! 

  • ms Catholic state

    The people of Liechtenstein have an unseemly desire for the blood of their youngest, like the rest of our very unatural and grotesque European societies.  How horrible.  Surely a sign of the demonic.

    Pity the Prince doesn’t have more power.  We need good men like him in power.  God Willing

  • Rick DeLano

    The best argument in favor of monarchy I have read in a long time.

    God bless this faithful son of the Church.

  • Lavras Resiste

    God bless Prince Alois!

  • Edmund Burke

    It is a pity that Her Majesty the Queen, good lady that she undoubtedly is, did not exercise a subtle right to warn, by letting David Steel know that she would not, as a matter of Christian conscience and principle, be able to sign the 1967 Abortion Bill into law. Unlike Belgium, where the state could continue to function while the monarch abdicated for a day, Britain would have risked the greatest constitutional crisis since 1936. The Queen could not have abdicated for a day, leaving the throne vacant and the constitution moribund. A great moment for moral action was unfortunately – for the millions aborted since – lost.

  • Apostolic

    I feel sure that men in grey suits at that time would have quietly advised the young David Steel to desist, but we shall never know.

  • Scyptical Chymist

     I think you are taking a more optimistic view of this matter than is justified by later events. Even at that time the “liberal” view on most matters was that if anything interfered with individual pleasure it should be scrutinisd. As having a baby was often “inconvenient” for many then the right to have an abortion had to be investigated. Since these “liberals” convinced themselves that a foetus had no rights, while going through with the birth was seen as “detrimental” to lifestyle, there was no contest. Now abortion has become a “right” and is industrialised, and the original perpetrator of this act has shown no remorse. Now, of course, the individual pleasure principle is seen by “liberals” to reign supreme in many aspects of life. As humans we are easily seduced into pleasure and often this is innocent but the emphasis these days is on lowering all barriers which at least helped our self-control. Some will remember the novelist Dennis Wheatley’s satanists and their “Do what thou wilt be the whole of the law”.

  • http://twitter.com/thatswisspaddy patrick

    Your article is factually incorrect. Very much so. The current gathering of signatures must be completed by May 10th – this has nothing to do with the referendum date. The referendum itself has nothing to do with abortion; this took place in 2011 and was defeated by the people.
    The current question is whether or not the Prince can exercise his veto regardless of the peoples’ wishes. In the case of the abortion referendum, while the people voted as a majority against it, there was a weakened sense of belonging among citizens, as Alois said that regardless of how people voted that he would ignore their wishes. Had he been pro-bad or anti-good in some or another case, this “vetorecht” still applies.

    Please get your facts straight.

  • theroadmaster

    The Prince of Liechtenstein is demonstrating his sacred duty in the sight of God, to uphold the legal protections in place for the most vulnerable citizen of our world, namely the growing child in the womb. He laudably does not consign his Faith principles to the private sphere and thus will not let threats of constitutional constraints prevent him from living them out in public.

  • JByrne24

    Ms Phillips article is a total travesty of the facts.
    It seems to me to have been written for the usual gullible, fundamentalist audience to lap up.

    Still it was good to hear from “Edmund Burke”, above, that although HM The Queen “is [still] undoubtedly a good lady” she agreed to sign the Act.

  • tz

    This is like the (usa) Supreme Court, but getting it right.  There must be an institution upholding the rignts of the voiceless and powerless against the will of the mob.  We have the technology to personally vote on every issue, and gridlock would be the optimal result.  

  • South Saxon

    Quite right, Patrick. Also, Alois is not the Prince of Liechtenstein: he is the regent for his father, Hans Adam Ii, who remains sovereign. If Alois refuses to accept the situation he would not ‘abdicate’ – he is not the sovereign. He would relinquish the regency.

  • theroadmaster

    Yeah, the usual “fundamentalist” audience who respects someone in authority who stands by his pro-life Catholic principles and will not relent in the face of  emotional blackmail or constitutional threats.

  • http://twitter.com/emanuelinternet Emanuel Mikaelsson

    I’ve read “The state in the third millennium” by the prince’s father. At least, Prince Hans-Adam II does not seem to be a practising catholic. Maybe they’re exaggerating about his son?

  • Parasum

    Kudos to *him*.

    But, in that case, why did *the Queen* not do so, in 1966 ? And what the Pope’s Nuncio doing, *congratulating* a woman who has consistently helped the “culture of death” ? I forgot – morality is elastic or disposable, when the Vatican needs it to be.

    Why is the Pope’s Nuncio not being severely criticised for praising someone who has presided over the legalisation of many practices contrary to Catholic teaching ? By praising instead of criticising her, the Nuncio has put himself squarely in the camp of the “culture of death”. That is what US Catholics would say about US bishops who did not criticise Obama – if the argument holds there, it must hold here too.

    “We live in a constitutional monarchy where the actual powers of the monarch are very limited: to listen, to advise, and to warn, as Bagehot says.”## IOW, greetings, moral relativism. Gotcha.

  • Parasum

    “It is a pity that Her Majesty the Queen, good lady that she undoubtedly is…”

    ## If abortion is murder, the Queen cannot be a good lady – one can be
    good as a murderer only in the sense that one is efficient in
    murdering. 

    By the usual natalist logic, she is as much a murderer as any politician – much more so. But as she’s the Queen, that’s OK; & she is to be congratulated by Abp. Mennini, for no better reason than that she has reigned 60 years. Pathetic. By the usual natalist logic, the Queen is a major architect & abettor of the “culture of death”. Apparently the bishops inhabit a different planet, since they seem to be “cool” with this fact.

    To blazes with the constitution, the monarchy, & this country: what became of not doing evil that good may come ? When push comes to shove, & despite all the fine words, Christian morality goes out of window; to honour it “would have risked the greatest constitutional crisis since 1936″. Nice to know that abdication is too high a price to pay for the lives of the unborn. Or is the Queen not subject to the law of Christ ? More so than anyone else in this country.

  • Franz Jahner

    God bless and protect Prince Alois and his wife Princess Sophie von Bayern and their catholic family’s

  • Apostolic

    One can suppose that the Queen was not as fortunate in her religious formation as Prince Alois or King Baudouin. And it would appear that she could not rely on her own bishops or chaplains for guidance. I stated that she was a “good woman” only in the sense that she possesses a sense of duty as a constitutional monarch which in this case was misguided. Ultimately, of course, only Almighty God can properly judge her goodness.

  • nytor

    Of course Princess Sophie is the heiress to the Jacobite claim to the throne of this country, after her uncle King Franz and father Prince Max, so one day Prince Alois’ eldest son will be the rightful king of this country too.

  • MJCarroll

    Those on twitter should support by adding hashtag #NoToAbortionInLiechtenstein 

  • nytor

    If he relinquishes the regency, who will take it?

  • Thomas’ Son

    It’s good to know that as some parts of religion have nothing to do on any level with subjectivism, they apply to all of “reality.” If a truth is accepted as a truth, then for those who accept it, it is retains the nature of objectivity, which cannot be erased by the fiat of 200 billion planets. HM choice seems not a merely religious one, but a logical one. Politics by mob rule, with no grounding in the principles that establish things like the state and society and preserving the rights of the same cannot be justified as lawful democracy. It is also good to know that HM understands that something as fundamental as this cannot be ignored in “reality.” Inasmuch as his real and political power can be exercised, his belief of the real and objective right of entire innocent unborn human population in his care to live must be commended.  Our concomitant obligation to uphold the rights of others (as the state and as societies) does not vanish when those rights, biologically and logically grounded, simultaneously bear some justification in religious thought. 

  • bart_0117

    Must you bring up jacobite business when people are witnessing a Monarchy with Common Good in the Heart?

  • South Saxon

    Good question. One of his brothers?

  • http://twitter.com/thatswisspaddy patrick

    Why? If you read my comment above you will realise that the people already rejected it in a democratic referendum last year. This issue is now about one person ignoring the will of the people. 
    A pro-abortion prince could turn around and veto a referendum which approved abortion. The people of Liechtenstein deserve to have their voices heard, and not to be silenced. 

    Would you like it if every referendum or vote you had was subject to one person’s whim?

  • http://twitter.com/thatswisspaddy patrick

    Alois’s views on abortion are not necessarily forged by his religion, and that is fair enough.
    Liechtenstein is in the middle of transition to a lesser church-influenced state. The bishop disapproved of the introduction of same-sex civil partnerships, and refused to say the annual mass in the castle garden on Liechenstein’s national day in 2011. Alois made no efforts to overturn the bishop’s tantrum, and the day went without mass. 

    And the people were happy.

  • JByrne24

    “And the people were happy.” – Good for them.Liechtenstein is in the process of growing-up.

  • JByrne24

    Yes, our Queen (UK), the Papal Nuncio and US Bishops know they are living in the real world.

    The real world well-knows that a foetus is not always a Human Being. The broader Church once held this (correct) view – and one day will do so again.

  • JByrne24

    “…. who respects someone in authority….” – pray be careful when respecting authority figures! (We have been well warned by history)

    “….who stands by his pro-life Catholic principles….” – Translation: “who stubbornly refuses to face facts and to consider an alternative view and argument”.

    “….not relent in the face of  emotional blackmail or constitutional threats.” Translation: “someone who is not prepared to accept democratic opinion and who sticks his head in the sands of ignorance”.

  • Lee Lovelock

    I will be praying for him. May Our Lady have him in her prayers and the prayers of The Church Militant ring aloud against this assault !

  • Lee Lovelock

    Or just been influenced by the demonic forces throughout Europe, with the first being the EU and its Commission.

  • JByrne24

    “…the first being the EU and its Commission.”
    Oh no. There were lots of Demons about before that. I’m sure some of our fellow posters could mention quite a few!

  • theroadmaster

    This prince is someone in authority who knows how to exercise it on behalf of the most vulnerable of his brethren and despite your ridiculous argument to the contrary, is only too well aware of the horrific nature of the plague of abortion in society.  His well-informed conscience is his ultimate guide before God and no constitutional niceties will prevent him from acting according to it.

  • daclamat

    He is an absolute monarch. Natural justice is when he agrees with you? The people recently held a referendum to abolish his power of veto. He vetoed the result. This is democracy? His duty is to safeguard the will of the people, not thwart it.Your description of the Belgian king’s action is simplistic. He took time out for eight days so that the bill could be passed, and then picked up his crown again. People are amnesic or too forgiving over his forbear’s spoliation and horrendous massacres in the Belgian Congo: the crown’s lucky dip. The Congo stills suffers. It’s a nice point as to whether having a tender conscience over abortion absolves perpetrators of massacres on a quasi industrial scale. Alois Josef Maria Marko d’Aviano Pius von und zu Liechtenstein is no Genghis Khan, but he does embarass his Swiss cousins with the way he wields his absolute power. If he does decide to pick up his ball and go home he won’t be missed, and he is unlike to himself in the dole queue

  • majorcalamity

    No issue, no matter how strongly any one individual holds an opinion upon it, should ever be determined by them alone, or by anyone other than a majority of elected representatives. To accept such a proposition leads to anarchy. What might be as important as abortion is to you could, to someone else, be something really dangerous.   

  • daclamat

    Check out Bishop Wolfgang Haas – makes Obrien seem a dangerous lefty. Opionated,self righteous, some of the nicer ways to describe him!

  • Thoomas

     What are you talking about? The referendum about the princely veto is going to be held on July 1, and it’s very likely that the people are going to vote down the initiative.

  • Carol

    In answer to ‘Major Calamity’ who asks “what issue…Individual….alone”.   As an individual, deciding alone, would you seek the opinion of the murderer who is beside you and wants to kill you in the same manner as babies in the womb are killed in early abortions, i.e. dismembered? The depravity of deliberately killing an innocent unborn child, and subjecting the mother to a lifetime of regret and trauma, is something that no individual should ever approve of, especially a public leader, no matter what his beliefs are.

  • Paul Rain

     Aww… how sad for mob rule.