Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

found in the professed articles of the Allied programme, in the pronouncements of the American President.

The charge then brought by non-Catholics against the Modernist was one of inconsistency, not of error. His principles were all right, but he was upholding them in the wrong place. Acknowledging an autocratic government, he was endeavouring to live on democratic lines; acknowledging an infallible authority, he was pleading for liberty of thought.

Quite true the Modernist was inconsistent as the laws of life force us all to be inconsistent. We must live as we can while striving to live as we ought; we must not kill when we hope to cure. The ideas of Modernism were too wide for the frame of Ultramontanism; so are the ideals of democracy too wide for our social framework. We should not have had to repeat our creed so often during the course of this war if that creed had been an accepted commonplace; this war has been the outcome of conflicting and inconsistent theories.

There is nothing in Catholicism to menace the ideals of the Allied cause and programme, though there be much that is contrary to that programme in the creed of Ultramontanism. Yet Ultramontanism itself is, as we have seen in this war, a feeble thing when it comes in contact with the stronger force of patriotism. Its chief harm is to Catholicism itself, and not to civil life. In its extreme form it has lessened the spirituality of religion, it has hampered the individual soul, it has alienated noble and truthful minds from the creed it besets; but when it comes in conflict with the life of man in another sphere its weapons prove obsolete and useless. As we have seen in the history of English Catholicism, the life of the citizen asserted its rights against the undue claims of religion in a sphere that was not its own; when the layman found it was time to act, he did act, and he knew how to distinguish his duty as a Catholic from his rights as an Englishman.

In France and Belgium we have seen, too, that the light of Ultramontanism was as the flicker of a candle before the flame of patriotism; there, also, men have felt, when the emergency arose, that Catholicism was a greater, a deeper thing than Ultramontanism.

It is as the enemy of ideas that the latter is mostly to be feared; and the damage it does is, I will reiterate, chiefly to religion itself. It stands for the narrow and unprogressive

form of Catholicism, not for Catholicism itself. So, too, there is a sectarian nationalism which stands for the narrow and unprogressive form of patriotism, not for patriotism itself. Such nationalism has its votaries in England, and far too many votaries in Ireland. No country will be great till it faces its part in the wide world as well as its own, strictly national, duties.

True Catholicism, with its sense of universality and solidarity, should be the noblest expression, in the religious order, of a creed of international union and human brotherhood. It was for the supremacy of the Papal See as a bond of union throughout Christendom, and a pledge of its human character, that Sir Thomas More laid down his life; a strictly national Church was too narrow for his Catholic ideal. He would have died as readily for any infringement of the rights of his country by ecclesiastical authority.

Religious Ultramontanism has crumbled away before patriotism; so too must political sectarianism crumble before the summons of world-wide ideals. Ecclesiastical and political autocracy are kindred forces. So, too, is a free and human conception of political life the counterpart of a spontaneous and spiritual conception of religion.

M. D. PETRE.

THE NEED FOR LAW REFORM

OTWITHSTANDING the steady work of the Revision

N Committee the present state of our statute law

is disgraceful. Constant new enactments, partial repeals, references from one statute to others, bits of sections cut out of one Act and replaced by words only found by reference to others, make a chaos. Of recent years, moreover, its bulk has grown enormously in spite of numerous Consolidation Acts which have been passed from time to time. The work of consolidation ought to be speeded and extended. As regards this matter, it is improvement of form the expression and arrangement of the law-that should be aimed at. No question of policy arises. The machinery for doing the work might easily be provided, and the cost saved would be far greater than the cost incurred. Certain branches of the law, such as the criminal law, ought to be codified, but whether general codification is a good thing or not is very doubtful. Case law or common law is often a clearer guide and is more adaptable to new circumstances and altered conditions.

It is interesting to find that some continental jurists, living in countries where the law has been codified, have come to the opinion that common or case law has great advantages, being more capable of development and adaptation to new conditions and also really more scientific. Even where partial codification has been attempted, as in the Partnership Act, in spite of the draftsman's skill certain clauses have introduced new riddles of which the solution is extraordinarily difficult. Recent experience has shown how certain attempts to express detailed rules of international law on capture, blockade, and contraband have led to most unfortunate consequences, and how cases decided by applying the old principles established by the courts to new facts as they arise from time to time have been a better guide and led to much more satisfactory results.

Far more important however than the complete revision

of existing statute law is the need for certain specific changes in the substance of the law where it is in conflict with justice and creates evil instead of redressing wrongs. In such cases there is no excuse for postponing year after year the amendment of the law. There would be little difficulty in constituting small commissions of lawyers to put the required changes into proper form for submission to Parliament.

A few of the subjects most urgently demanding amendment may be stated as examples. The abolition of primo'geniture and entail' has long been a favourite phrase with certain reformers. The phrase is inaccurate, but it may be taken to cover two alterations in the law for which the time is ripe. The Fines and Recoveries Act of 1833 made the transfer of land easier by providing a method for dealing with estates tail. It might now be made easier still and the law simplified by abolishing estates tail altogether. This could be done by an Act of one section. A Bill for the purpose was introduced in the House of Commons by a private member in 1896 and backed by distinguished lawyers on both sides of the House, but owing to a steady block from one quarter it never got beyond a first reading. A private member's Bill seldom has the chance of becoming an Act however clear the case for it may be. A change advocated both by a lawyer like Blackstone, whose opinions are said to have commended him to 'the Tory government of the time,' and by an economist like Mill, might surely be made by a reformed parliament.

Shortly before the outbreak of the war Lord Haldane, in consultation with Sir Philip Gregory and other eminent authorities on real property, introduced two very long and comprehensive Bills dealing with a large number of questions affecting the law relating to land and its transfer. These Bills, afterwards consolidated into one Bill, were withdrawn for the time with the intention of being again presented; but that intention has not yet been fulfilled. We may go further and ask whether there is now any adequate reason for maintaining the distinction between the devolution of real and of personal estate in case of intestacy. When military or other service was an incident of land tenure there might be good ground for the rule that land should go to the eldest son only, and that daughters should be excluded

entirely in favour of male issue. The present law of inheritance is a real injustice to women, and perhaps the newly enfranchised women will help to insist on the alteration of a law by which the daughters of a rich landowner may be left penniless, if he dies intestate, leaving a son and no personal estate. In practice, however, it is in the case of small estates that the greater inconvenience is found. It is absurd that a house held on a lease for one thousand years at a nominal rent should pass in a different way from a house granted in fee subject to the kind of chief rent common in Lancashire. There are other changes called for which affect the question of personal status as well as the devolution of property, where the character of the change required is perfectly clear. One of these, viz., the legitimation of children by their parents' subsequent marriage, has been the subject of discussion for centuries, and the settlement of the question ought not to be further delayed.

Every one who has had much experience in what is called for convenience Chancery practice must from time to time have come across cases showing the flagrant injustice, the absurd consequences, and, incidentally, the injury to morality caused by the present state of the law. Families have been brought up together, educated in the same way with like expectations, the parents married and living happily together, and then if the father dies intestate it is discovered that perhaps only the youngest child is regarded in law as his. It alone inherits the whole property; the others are left penniless. A man leaves his property to his son for life with remainder to the son's children. The son is then living happily with his wife and several children. After the grandfather's death the son dies, and it is discovered that his elder children, though brought up and educated by him and acknowledged as his, were born before his marriage, and that the youngest alone alone can can take anything under the bequest. In the interests of morality it is a good thing that a man and a woman, who have been living together, and who have children, should be induced to marry. Six centuries ago the barons of England, suspecting with some reason the source from which a proposal to change the law on this point had come, rejected it with the celebrated formula 'nolumus

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »