Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

by then created within herself a new organism; to subject this creation to conditions in rank opposition to the divine constitution of the Church . . .; to transfer this property to third parties. . ., and finally to assert that in thus acting there was no spoliation of the Church but only a disposal of the property abandoned by her -- this is not merely argument of transparent sophistry but adding insult to the most cruel spoliation. . . . In any case it would have been easy for the state not to have subjected the formation of associations cultuelles to conditions in direct opposition to the divine constitution of the Church which they were supposed to serve.

* * *

As regards the annual declaration demanded for the exercise of worship, it did not offer the full legal security which one had a right to desire. Nevertheless . . . the Church could, in order to avoid greater evils, have brought herself to tolerate this declaration. But by providing that the "curé or officiating priest would no longer," in his church "be anything more than an occupier without any judicial title or power to perform any acts of administration," there has been imposed on ministers of religion in the very exercise of their ministry a situation so humiliating and vague that, under such conditions, it was impossible to accept the declaration.

There remains for consideration the law recently voted by the two Chambers. From the point of view of ecclesiastical property, this law is a law of spoliation and confiscation, and it has completed the stripping of the Church. . . . Her ownership, indisputable from every point of view, had been, moreover, officially sanctioned by the state, which could not consequently violate it. From the point of view of the exercise of worship, this law has organized anarchy; it is the consecration of uncertainty and caprice. Uncertainty [exists] whether places of worship, always liable to be diverted from their purpose, are meanwhile to be placed, or not placed, at the disposition of the clergy and faithful. . . . Public worship will be in as many diverse situations as there are parishes in France; in each parish the priest will be at the discretion of the municipal authority. And thus an opening for conflict has been organized from one end of the country to the other. On the other hand, there is an obligation to meet all sorts of heavy charges, whilst at the same time there are draconian restrictions upon the resources by which they are to be met. . . .

It is easy to see . . . that this law is an aggravation of the Law of Separation, and we can not therefore do otherwise than condemn it.

Source: The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XXXII ( 1907), pp. 138-142. Latin text in Acta Sanctae Sedis ( Rome, 1907), XL, 3-11.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

References for Documents 119, 120, and 121.

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