The Spanish press is highlighting the dilemma faced by Juan Carlos, king of Spain, a Catholic, who may be called upon to sign into law a bill that, if passed, would further liberalize abortion.
On November 25th, Spain’s Catholic bishops warned that those politicians who vote in favor of the law will have excommunicated themselves, having put themselves in an “objective state of sin.” The bishops wrote that “while the situation lasts,” politicians who vote in favor of the law “may not be admitted to Holy Communion.”
However, the Spanish Constitution of 1978 stipulates that new laws must be promulgated by the king, who is head of state, but who now faces possible excommunication if he gives royal assent to the bill.
Prominent Spanish Catholics are calling on the king to refuse to sign the law. In an article appearing on the website Religion en Libertad, titled, “The King should not sign the abortion law,” the head of the lobby group HazteOir, Nacho Arsuaga, said the country could be heading for a constitutional crisis over the bill.
“The king of a democratic state under the law cannot sign a law approving the right of a few to kill other human beings. With this law, the government is de facto destroying the validity of the Spanish constitution, which stipulates in its Article 15 the right to life.” Arsuaga called on the king either to refuse to sign or to abdicate.
Javier Maria Perez-Roldan, president of the Thomas More Law Center, said that the law would “contradict the principle of monarchy,” which “loses all authority if it is exercised against the common good.”
Arsuaga’s article quotes politicians and the heads of a number of Catholic organizations who have called on the king to abdicate in imitation of King Baudouin of Belgium, who in 1990 temporarily renounced his throne rather than sign his country’s law liberalizing abortion. They also cited the more recent case of Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, who refused last year to sign the duchy’s law legalizing euthanasia and who may be stripped of his constitutional powers as a result.
Milian Manuel Mestre, a businessman and politician and Member of the Congress of Deputies, called it “incomprehensible from the ethical point of view,” that the government could pass a law that establishes abortion as a right.
“As a believer and a citizen of this country it does not seem appropriate for the King to sign into law the Act … Neither the king nor the government nor the Spanish Courts may violate principles of fundamental ethics,” Mestre said.
But the editor of the weekly Alba, Gonzalo Altozano, warned not to expect heroics from Juan Carlos. When, in 2005, the Zapatero government created “gay marriage,” the king responded, “I’m not the king of Belgium” and displayed no hesitation in signing the bill. Altozano writes, “He was right: Juan Carlos is not Baldwin [Baudouin]. It is, simply, Juan Carlos. Do not expect any heroics from him. No longer.”
Juan Carlos was born in Rome, where the Spanish royal family had settled following the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931. He succeeded the dictator Franco as head of state and was enthroned as king in 1975. The family’s close connection to the Catholic Church is a tradition dating back centuries, and Juan Carlos’ wife, Queen Sofia, in an authorized biography, recently denounced abortion, saying she was “absolutely against” it as well as euthanasia, and “gay marriage.”
Nevertheless, it was King Juan Carlos himself who instituted the “liberal” political and social reforms in Spain following the death of Franco. Under his rule, leftist groups and movements, such as the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and the Communist Party of Spain, which had been defeated in the Spanish Civil War, were legalized and legitimized.