Much to the dismay of pro-life Roman Catholics, Spain's King Juan Carlos has signed the leftist Zapatero government's new law liberalizing abortion. While I oppose abortion and this law, unlike the internet's armchair warriors who are heaping abuse on His Majesty, I do not believe it is fair to blame the King. As I wrote on Facebook, the painful fact is that today's European monarchs do not govern their countries; their job is to act as symbols for all of their subjects, including the significant proportion who are now secular. That means they sign the laws the elected governments pass. I don't like it, but that's the way it is. The historical process that led to this was set in motion long before King Juan Carlos or any of his crowned counterparts were born. Don't like José Luis Zapatero's secularist, socialist laws? Blame Zapatero, blame the politicians, blame the people who voted for them, pray for their conversion (how many of these militant Catholics busily condemning King Juan Carlos have spared a moment for that, I wonder?), blame José Maria Aznar who stupidly identified Spanish conservatism with Bush's Iraq war. But not the King.
While many traditional Catholics--quite properly--opposed the Iraq war, no one blamed the King when his previous government committed Spanish troops to the invasion of Iraq. Zapatero is in power for one reason and one reason only, namely that in 2004 Spanish voters--quite understandably--repudiated the Aznar government for irresponsibly taking Spain into an unjust war that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both opposed and thus needlessly bringing terrorism home. If anyone has blood on his hands, it is Aznar. But if Aznar's policies are not his constitutional sovereign's fault, neither are Zapatero's.
I wish with all my heart that Europe were still ruled by Christian Monarchs who could actually govern their realms as their ancestors did. But it isn't. If King Juan Carlos, or any other monarch today, had tried to rule in the way that his right-wing Catholic critics would presumably like, the most probable result would have been not the triumph of Catholic values (since no one man can unilaterally impose such a thing) but another revolution or civil war and the fall of the monarchy. Perhaps that scenario is acceptable to some, but not to me. Already, I find the existence of so many dull republics occupying lands monarchical for centuries practically intolerable; every reminder of what nations such as France, Portugal, Austria, Germany, and Russia have lost is like a little knife in the heart of me and every other true monarchist. In those blessed ten European countries that have so far escaped (or reversed) that horrible fate, I would rather have a symbolic monarchy than no monarchy at all.
Unlike pure liberals I will not condemn the politically incorrect monarchs of the past for not having compromised, but unlike pure reactionaries neither will I condemn the monarchs of today for their prudence. Since Europe's commoners--whether they call themselves socialists, republicans, or constitutionalists--have taken political power away from kings, it is the responsibility of commoners first to use the power they have stolen wisely, and then for those of us who know better to attempt to persuade the public to allow it to return to the Crown where it belongs. It is not the place of commoners to arrogantly judge their sovereigns and dare to condemn them for failing to singlehandedly reverse the tide of more than two hundred years of history when we cannot know how we would act were we in their place. I am a monarchist and I support the real monarchs of real monarchies. That is what monarchists do. Long live the Kingdom of Spain and God Save King Juan Carlos!