Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

53
Belgian Constitution (Extract) February 7, 1831

The brief religious provisions of the Belgian Constitution were significant as evidence of the first practical success of Catholic liberalism. During the late 1820s the political teachings of Félicité de Lamennais, the prophet of French Catholic liberalism, gained a hearing in Belgium.

The political situation after 1815 -- the forced union with the Netherlands and the reactionary and Protestant policy of William I -- suggested a national resistance, liberal and Catholic. Alliance between Catholics and Liberals made possible the 1830 Revolution, independence, and a constitution based on mutual compromise. Despite the breakdown of the alliance in the 1840s due to conflicts over education and the questionable validity of the Constitution from the standpoint of later papal pronounceLments, the Belgian example encouraged Catholic liberalism elsewhere.

14. Religious liberty and freedom of public worship, as well as liberty to express opinions in all matters, are guaranteed, except for the suppression of offenses committed in the usage of these liberties.

15. No one shall be constrained to conform in any manner whatsoever to the forms or ceremonies of any religion, nor to observe its days of rest.

16. The state shall not interfere either in the appointment or the installation of ministers of any religion whatsoever, nor shall it forbid them to correspond with their superiors or to publish their proceedings, subject, in the latter case, to the ordinary responsibilities governing the press and publication.

Civil marriage ought always to precede the religious rite, subject to exceptions to be established by law if found necessary.

17. Instruction is free [of restraint]; every restrictive measure is forbidden; the suppression of offenses shall be regulated only by law. Public education at the cost of the state is likewise regulated by law.

Source: F.-R. and P. Dareste, Les constitutions modernes ( Paris, 1928), I, 349-369.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

R. Aubert et al., The Church between Revolution and Restoration ( New York, 1981), pp. 271-282.

Cambridge Modern History ( New York, 1903- 1912), I, 517-544.

H. Haag, Les origines du catholicisme libéral en Belgique ( 1788- 1839) ( Louvain, 1950).

K. S. Latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age ( New York, 1958- 1962), I, 426-429.

A. Simon, L'Église catholique et les débuts de la Belgique indépendante (Wetteren, 1949).

-130-

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