“In a vote of 132-126, members of Parliament passed the law removing all restrictions on abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy and extending legal abortion to 22 weeks of gestation if the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus shows signs of serious malformations.”
In discussing why the King will not be sanctioned by the bishops, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino of Madrid, conference general secretary stated:
“‘That his majesty the king must sanction this law with his signature is a unique situation. No other citizen would encounter this,’ and so ‘general principles’ cannot be applied.”
Is this really so? Why the imperative, “must sanction this law”, which he eventually did? It seems we’ve been down this road before.
In the early 1960’s Yale Psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted his infamous experiment where ordinary people, upon the insistence of an authority figure in gray lab coat, delivered what they thought were electric shocks in excess of 450 volts to another participant in the experiment for giving incorrect answers to questions. Unbeknownst to the subjects, the other person howling in agony and begging for mercy was a paid actor. Milgram summarized the experiment in his 1974 article, “The Perils of Obedience” writing:
“The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”
Indeed. No greater argument could be made for the Magisterium.
There comes a time in the lives of individuals and of nations when one must stand on the rock-solid Thomistic principle that no person is morally obliged to obey an unjust law. In the case of kings and presidents it is all the more certain that none is obliged to sign into law legislation which consigns innocent human beings to their deaths.
Were King Juan Carlos to refuse his signature, what would have happened? Certainly a crisis of state. But if the King’s role is nothing more than a rubber stamp, there seems to be little dignity in being King. Such a mentality mocks the Spanish Constitution’s description of the Monarch’s role as the personification and embodiment of the Spanish nation.
Liberalizing abortion law is ignoble, and tears at the dignity of both the Crown and the Spanish nation’s soul. It is surrender to narcissism, which is the base alloy of all evil.
The shame of the King in signing this new law into existence is only exceeded by the Spanish Bishops, who seem to value the present system of government more than they do the soul of their nation, or the lives of millions of Spanish babies who will meet with a gruesome ending. For them there is no excuse. As spiritual fathers, as Apostolic successors, theirs is the job of exhorting men and women to holiness, and not that of constitutional apologists.
The Spanish Bishops understand the truth of personhood being intrinsic to all humans from conception, personhood being a moral status entitling the individual to the full protection of the law. In that light, the only sound advice for King Juan Carlos was to refuse his endorsement and force the issue, or abdicate with honor, which would force the issue. In either of these two actions, the King could have claimed that he was acting in accord with the Constitutional description of his role as the personification of the Spanish nation, recalling his people to their dignity.
In speaking as they have, absolving the King by proclaiming that the King’s hands are bound, the Spanish Bishops have guided the hand that signed this abhorrent law; and in so doing have crawled away. In this, it is they who have abdicated their thrones, the Cathedras, from which all future exhortations to holiness will ring hollow. In this they are not altogether different from the English Bishops who went along with their King in the 1500’s. The Church in England never recovered.
Beyond their betrayal of the Spanish people, the Spanish Bishops have betrayed their Pope, as Benedict’s papacy has been characterized by his efforts to save Europe from the corrosive, faith-draining influences of socialism, and narcissistic materialism. For Catholic Spain to do what they have done sounds the death knell for European Catholicism.
We are witnessing the passing of the torch to the Southern Hemisphere, which is now entrusted with carrying the light of faith into the Third Millennium of Christianity. While Europe holds no right of preeminence within the Body of Christ, it is nonetheless imperative that her Bishops be supported in prayer at this critical hour in the history of the European Church and the Civilization she has built through two millennia of faith.
Perhaps it’s time for an African Pope.