On the morning of Nov. 16, the philosophy department held a panel discussion at the Gorman Faculty Lounge featuring Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein accompanied by his wife, Princess Margaretha, as well as the University of Dallas professors Dr. Bainard Cowan, Dr. Richard Dougherty and Dr. William Frank, and doctoral student Taylor Marshall.
The panelists discussed Pope Benedict XVI’s September address to the German Parliament, during which he considered whether it is possible to have legal institutions that lack a religious foundation.
The prince spoke about the role of religion in government and the pope’s comments on it.
“The majority principle is not always the foundation for political life,” he said. He argued that Christianity is an important part of a stable governing body. While some are concerned about the involvement of faith in politics or vice versa, Prince Nikolaus dismissed these worries.
“Christianity has never proposed a revealed law to either the state or the country,” he said. Rather, he explained that the Church’s teachings propose reason and justice as the main sources of civil law.
Speaking as a leader of a principality whose residents are overwhelmingly Catholic and as a non-resident Ambassador to the Holy See, the prince spoke decisively on the problems of an administration lacking in moral substance.
He especially criticized the idea of positivism – that is, the belief that no truth can exist that cannot be scientifically verified. This concept “cut[s] out the most important questions of human life,” he declared. It is “a most important dialogue of human reason, [but] it fails to capture the breadth of the human condition,” he added.
Prince Nikolaus implied that the best structure of government would take into account what is not quantifiable: religion, in other words.
He asserted that “the faculty of reason needs to be resuscitated. There is a deviation of the law from reason, and it scares me to think what man becomes when meaning has no meaning: We will indeed be in the dark.”
The prince advised Christians to work to “discover a form [of government] that is compatible with Christianity.” He lamented the modern “European culturelessness” and the “large-scale if not wholesale” dismissal of divine law in Western society.
“It is hard to believe always,” he said, but the secularism of today’s society and its “open hostility to the free exercise of religion” makes it more difficult for Christians.
Prince Nikolaus also commented on the movement to preserve the environment, which Pope Benedict praised. “The Earth has a dignity of its own,” the prince said. But he told the audience that “man is part of these natural processes and deserves at least the same respect” as the Earth does.
Nature is not simply a resource, he explained, but as Christians we are called to respect and take care of the Earth, which has dignity because of the dignity of its Creator.
The prince, who is the president of the International Academy of Philosophy, visited UD as part of his three-day visit along with his wife, Princess Margaretha, to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The royal couple came to Dallas to receive the 2011 Spirit of Thanks-Giving Award from the Thanks-Giving Foundation on Nov. 15.