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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: The Grand Duke Takes a Stand 
7th-Dec-2008 12:44 pm
Here We Stand
Shades of Aragorn!

Imagine having a royal who didn't see their position as merely a license to party and make their life meaningless! A constitutional monarchy that has the stones to take a moral stance and to slow down modernity's endless rush to fixate on their immediate desires as the chief of goods – I kinda gotta dig that. Case in point: he takes one stand, which is entirely his right by his legal position, and rather than slow down and take the matter as worth waiting on and thinking through as a nation and culture, his political opponent immediately moves toward altering the constitution and stripping the Grand Duke of his last political power. There's another reason to be thankful that our Founding Fathers recognized that even too much democracy wasn't necessarily a good thing, and that it's so difficult for us to alter our constitution: despite all the times such changes are proposed, it really doesn't lend itself to too many quick and fashionable changes. If our own constitution were a victim of our own last few decades of political polarization... yuck.

Der Spiegel reports on a conflict that caught my eye for both reasons of ethics and of constitutional law, as well as characterizing a cultural flaw in Modernity where ethics are simply reduced to questions of power. The fact that Der Spiegel doesn't even notice the latter problem – to which its own reporting seems to contribute – strikes me as characteristic of why the Grand Duke's veto – the power to slow down a process and provoke even more conversation – is especially important for democracy. Too bad.

Euthanasia Controversy: Grand Duke of Luxembourg Will Lose His Veto
Luxembourg's parliament looks ready to strip the Grand Duke of his last lawmaking power as a controversy over euthanasia comes to a head. One of Europe's last royals with political sway may lose his formal veto by taking a stand against a law legalizing euthanasia.

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg, who has said he would interfere with a decision by parliament, will likely be stripped of his veto in a historic decision after a heated showdown over a bill to legalize euthanasia.

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg protested the bill and threatened to kill it next week by refusing to sign it into law.

Since parliament is expected to pass the bill, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said the Grande Duke has overstepped his role. Juncker personally opposes the euthanasia bill but says he will propose a change to the constitution to deny the Grand Duke his veto. His role by the end of 2008 could be reduced to rubber-stamping parliamentary decisions, instead of deciding whether to approve them.

"That means he will only technically enact laws," Juncker said, according to Reuters.

The euthanasia bill passed a first vote by parliament in February. It looks set to pass a second and final vote next week, but the Catholic Grand Duke announced on Tuesday -- in a closed-door meeting with leaders of Juncker's ruling Christian Socialists -- that he would refuse to enact the law.

His position tipped the tiny nation into the worst constitutional crisis in its history. The Luxembourg royal house has tried to block a decision by parliament only once before, when the Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide refused to sign an education bill in 1912.

"I understand the Grand Duke's problems of conscience," said Juncker, "but I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force."

The euthanasia bill has been controversial since 2001. It would let patients with "grave and incurable" conditions die at the hands of a doctor if they ask repeatedly to be euthanized and earn the consent of two doctors and a panel of experts. Medical and physician groups have opposed the bill, though, and so have many citizens of this traditionally Catholic nation.

It follows similar laws in the Netherlands and Belgium, where King Baudouin -- Henri's uncle -- abdicated for a day in 1990 to avoid signing a Belgian abortion law. The current Belgian king, Albert II, has signed Belgium's recent euthanasia and homosexual-marriage laws over his private Catholic beliefs.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy, and the Grand Duke is its head of state. He has indicated that he won't stand in the way of any change to the constitution.
7th-Dec-2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
It reminds me a bit of Thomas More who gave up his office over his conscience. Of course that one cost him his life, not just losing a title. Still, it is wonderful to see people stand up for their beliefs.
7th-Dec-2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
Exactly why More is one of my favourite bad-asses. It's just a pity we tend to recognize and honour our prophets only after we have long since safely killed them.
8th-Dec-2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
I loved Thomas More ever since we had to read "A Man for All Seasons" in school. He is the flip side of the prophet Daniel, who defied the law, had miraculous intervention, and had the king declare that from now on he was going to worship the God of Daniel. The trouble is that when you are being faithful, you don't know if you are going to end up like Daniel or Thomas More.

I love the idea of More being described as a bad ass. :)
9th-Dec-2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
You might find interesting the contrast with the Illinois governor, which I posted today. Unbelievable.

But yes, although he might shudder at some literary level to be called a bad ass, More certainly is one. I adore both play and film of A Man For All Seasons, myself, and was amazed in reading the Peter Ackroyd biography of More to discover just how accurate those fabulous impromptu speeches during his trail actually are.
10th-Dec-2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
I loved the play. I didn't care for the movie so much (although Paul Scofield was awesome as More) because they turned it into a pageant production with the cast and the costumes. Bolt's character of the Common Man was what made it. There is always this tendency when watching biographies to say "Oh, I would have been just like Martin Luther King, or More, or Steven Biko, or Oskar Schindler" when the truth is that the vast majority of people would have done at best nothing and at worst been turning their neighbours in or opposing human rights. I thought the movie removed the most thought-provoking aspect of the play.
7th-Dec-2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
7th-Dec-2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
Worth watching and pondering, I thought.

Um... and don't I (yet again) have some months-overdue conversation I owe you? I always seem to say that I'll be available to discuss x with you and then never make that happen. A hundred thousand pardons.
7th-Dec-2008 11:32 pm (UTC)
Sheez loueez. Somewhere, Machiavelli is grinning like an idiot grin to himself.
8th-Dec-2008 01:33 am (UTC)
That one actually made me bust out laughing, not unlike Machiavelli.
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