HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco has been the source of mixed signals on the religious front lately. On the occasion of his last meeting with Pope Benedict XVI the headline put out was the reaffirmation of Monaco as a pro-life country with the Supreme Pontiff and the Sovereign Prince standing together for the defense of human life from conception to natural death. However, Albert II also attracted harsh criticism from the Catholics at The Royal American Institute for the Study of Monaco for a bill earlier this year, passed by the National Council of Monaco, which amended the law to allow for abortion in cases of rape, fetal illness or deformity or if the live of the mother is imperiled. Many Catholics regarded this as a betrayal on the part of Prince Albert who has final authority over all bills that are passed in Monaco.
Undoubtedly, Prince Albert II is held to a higher standard in this regard as he is effectively an absolute monarch in a country which has Roman Catholicism as the official state religion. For this reason some Catholics have also called upon Albert II to take religion more seriously even to the point of changing the Monegasque coat of arms to remove the two Grimaldi soldiers holding swords while dressed as monks; and outlawing gambling which has long been the backbone of the economy. However, the change in the abortion law attracted even harsher criticism with some referring to it as a “royal betrayal” of Monaco’s status as a Catholic principality.
However, it should be kept in mind that even with the recent changes Monaco still has more restrictions on abortion than most other European countries and the procedure is still, for the most part, illegal there. Furthermore, Prince Albert II has managed to tear himself away from environmental issues long enough to be the patron of the second International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research which was held in Monaco from November 26 to 28, 2009. The event was organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Bioethical Consultative Committee of Monaco and the Foundation Jerome Lejeune. The group met to discuss the use of adult stem cells which has shown far greater promise in research than the more well-known embryonic stem cells and does not involve the destruction of human life.
Considering all of that, a balanced view should be taken of the situation of life issues in Monaco. At the end of the day, Monaco is still a predominately pro-life country wherein abortion is mostly banned and where research is promoted which protects human life rather than destroying it for experimental purposes. It is not as pro-life as Malta but is about on the same level if not slightly more pro-life than the Principality of Liechtenstein and has far more restrictions on abortion than other traditionally if not officially Catholic monarchies such as Spain and Belgium. However, there is also some room for legitimate criticism since, unlike Spain or Belgium for instance, Monaco is in fact if not in name an absolute monarchy in which the Sovereign Prince could outlaw all abortions under any circumstances if he so wished, it is the only officially Catholic monarchy other than Liechtenstein and Vatican City and it also seems rather unnecessary considering that Monaco is such a tiny country, surrounded on three sides by France where abortion is available on demand.