The royal news has not been very pleasant this week. Starting in the Far East, HM the Emperor is today undergoing heart bypass surgery at the University of Tokyo after a recent exam showed further narrowing in an artery which has been giving the 78-year old monarch trouble since last year. He had already been on medication to treat the problem artery, which carries oxygen to the heart, and this has set off increased worries about the health and longevity of the world’s last Emperor. It is also the latest in a string of health problems which have worried the people of Japan. In 2003 the Emperor underwent surgery to deal with prostate cancer and in 2008 he had to deal with a stress-induced bleeding ulcer and last year was hospitalized during a bout with pneumonia. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the “Heavenly Sovereign” of Japan for a swift and complete recovery. Tenno Haika Banzai!
In Europe the most immediately troubling royal news was when HRH Prince Johan Friso of the Netherlands was buried alive in an avalanche in Austria on Friday. The Prince and a group of friends were skiing off the marked path (they are marked for a reason people!) when the avalanche struck. The second-son of HM Queen Beatrix was buried for 15-20 minutes before a rescue team extricated him and had to immediately work to resuscitate him before flying him by emergency helicopter to Innsbruck hospital where he remains in critical condition. The Queen, Princess Mabel (the Prince’s wife) and other members of the Royal Family rushed to Austria to be at the side of the 43-year old prince who renounced his rights to the Dutch throne after marrying Princess Mabel without parliamentary approval. Reports from the hospital have said that the Prince is stable but remains in critical condition. Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to Prince Johan Friso and his family, the House of Orange and all the people of the Netherlands in this difficult time.
The often over-looked Principality of Liechtenstein is embroiled in another controversy over the powers of their monarch. The Princely Family is threatening to veto the results of a referendum meant to curtail the authority of the Sovereign Prince if the vote goes against them. On Thursday the Princely Family announced via their website that they are “astonished” by this attempt to take from the Prince his ability to veto pending legislation. In 2003 a constitutional referendum gave the Prince veto powers, the authority to dismiss ministers and so on, without which HSH Prince Hans-Adam II threatened to leave the country and retire to his estates in Austria. This may be driven by sour grapes over a recent vote to legalize abortion in Liechtenstein which the Prince-Regent threatened to veto. Thankfully this was not necessary as the people voted down the change in the referendum but I think most countries have seen how relentless pro-abortion campaigners can be. I would not be a bit surprised to find out that was the real motivation behind all of this. It is also worth pointing out that any woman anywhere in Liechtenstein desiring an abortion is only a few minutes drive from several countries in which it is entirely legal.
Up in Scandinavia there is ‘allegedly’ some consternation over HRH Princess Madeleine of Sweden ‘allegedly’ moving in with her American boyfriend, society playboy Christopher O’Neill, in New York City. The Royal Court has already been upset by the Princess bringing O’Neill along to official events. If reports are true HM Queen Silvia is particularly upset as she had hoped the Princess would return to Sweden as the birth of Crown Princess Victoria’s first child approaches so that Princess Madeleine could take over some of the duties of her big sister. However, again, if reports are to be believed, Princess Madeleine is not looking to return to Sweden at all saying that she “…had a life and friends in New York…” and that is where she wishes to stay. The Swedish monarchy has been hard-hit by scandal in recent months due to investigations into the activities and unsavory ties of HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and supposedly there was a great deal of hurt feelings in the family over this with many trying to keep their distance. However, recent major royal events saw the Crown Princess, Prince Carl Philip and the King and Queen all together again. Princess Madeleine remains absent and it seems that is not about to change.
In the United States, tensions remain between the Obama administration and the Roman Catholic Church over mandatory funding of contraception and abortion. HH Pope Benedict XVI has expressed “particular concern” over the issue of religious freedom in the United States. After an uproar by conservatives and numerous Catholic bishops President Obama issued what he called a “compromise” which would force health care companies to pay for contraceptives and abortion-drugs rather than the religious institutions. Many, however, asserted that this was a meaningless compromise as it simply inserts a middle-man into the process. However, numerous Catholic organizations have spoken up in total support of the Obama healthcare plan and the recent compromise, most notably the Catholic Health Association, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (which claims to represent 90% of American women in religious orders) and the Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities. Supporters of the administration are quick to point out that some 98% of Catholic women already use contraceptives, contrary to official Catholic teaching, even though this would suggest (one would think) that if so many are already using birth control there would seem to be little need for the government to compel that it be provided.