Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/466

This page needs to be proofread.


JiELGIUM


406


BELGIUM


which says that a ci\-il marriage must always precede the religious ceremony, with such exceptions as may be established by law. The priest who, in fulfilling his duty, blesses a marriage in extremis under this article is in danger of prosecution and condemnation; the law which the Constitution provided for, and which would have protected such cases, has never been passed. With the exception of this and the law authorizing divorce, to which, however, recourse is seldom had, it may be said that the legislation of Belgium conforms to the Catholic standard of morality. Although the Church is independent in Belgium, and the country has no State religion, it does not follow that the governmental and the re- ligious authorities have no connexion with each other. Tradition and custom have produced numer- ous points of contact and relations of courtesy be- tween Church and State. The latter pays the stipends of the Catholic clergy as well as of the clergy of the Protestant and Jewish religions, very moderate salaries which have been slightly increased by a law passed in 1900. The State also assists in the expense of erecting buildings tor religious purposes and of keeping them in repair. Tlie parishes have been granted a civil existence and can hold property; each parish has a board of administration, of which the mayor of the town is a member by law, for the aid of the clergj' in the management of the finances of the Church. The Liberal party, it is true, has tried a number of times to get control of the church prop- ■erty, but the law of 1870 (a compromise law), con- cerning the temporalities of the different religions, only requires the supervision of the public authorities over e-xpenses concerning which tlie intervention of these authorities is requested. Students at the the- ological seminaries, who are to be parish priests, are exempted from military duty. Finally, the civil au- thorities are officially present at the "Te Deum" which is sung on the national anniversaries; and except during the period of 1880-84 (see above) the Covernment has maintained diplomatic relations ■with the Holy See.

VI. Education. — The most successful work of the Belgian Church has been done in the field of educa- tion, in spite of most violent opposition on the part of the Liberal party. Article 17 of the Constitution, says, concerning instruction: "Teaching is free; all preventive measures are forbidden; the repression of offences is reserved to the law. Public instruction given by the State is equally regulated by law." The Constitution, therefore, supposes at the same time a free instruction and an instruction by the State; it guarantees complete liberty to the first and sub- ordinates the latter to the enactments of the law. The Catholics alone have made use of this article of the Constitution to establish a flourishing series of schools and colleges leading up to a university. The Liberals have contented themselves with founding a university (subsidized by the city of Brussels and the province of Brabant) and an insignificant num- ber of schools, and are generally satisfied with State instruction for their children; this instruction they endeavour to make as neutral, that is, as irreligious as possible. They also favour in every way State in- struction to the detriment of the free teaching. There are two State universities, Ghent and Liege, which have, respectively, 1000 and 2000 students. There are also 20 State athena>ums with 6000 students, besides 7 communal colleges having about 1000 pupils; these institutions are for secondary education in its upper classes. The lower classes are taught in 112 intermediate schools, 78 of which are for boys and 34 for girls, with a total of 20,000 pupils. There are also 11 intermediate schools opened by the communes, 5 for boys and 6 for girls, with a total of 4000 pupils. The law of 1895 makes the communes responsible for primary instruction; each commune is


obliged to have at least one school, but it may be relieved of this responsibility if it is shown tliat private initiative has made sufficient provision for instruction. The State intervenes also in primarj- instruction by means of its normal schools for male and female teachers, by employing school inspectors whose business it is to see whether all the legal re- quirements are observed, and by the subsidies granted to communes which carrj- out the law.

Compared with these State institutions the schools established for free education are equal and in several respects superior. The Catholic L'niversity of Lou- vain, founded by the bishops, has 2200 students; it is surrounded by several institutes, one of the most famous of which is the "Institut philosophique", of which Monseigneur Mercier, now Cardinal Arch- bishop of Mechlin, was the founder and first president (until 1906). The Episcopal Institute of St. Louis at Brussels and the Jesuit College of Notre-Dame at Namur prepare pupils for the degrees of philosophy and letters. There are 90 free colleges for interme- diate instruction, most of them diocesan, others carried on by the different religious orders, among whom the Jesuits take the lead with 12 colleges, having 5500 pupils. The free colleges have a total of 18,000 pupils, which is more than three times that of corresponding State schools. The situation in the intermediate classes of the lower grade is not so satisfactory for Catholics and may be called the dark page of their school statistics.

Since 1879 the subject of primary education has been the real battle-field; during this struggle the Catholics almost attained the ideal, having at least one school in almost everj' commune. But this was done at the cost of great sacrifices, so that since the suppression of the "Law of Misfortune" (Loi de vialheur) of 1879, which had taken the Christian character from the primary schools. Catholics have accepted the communal schools in their renewed Christian form and have given up those which they had founded. The State, moreover, subsidizes the free schools when they give the guarantees neces- sary from a pedagogical point of view, and it au- thorizes the communes to adopt them as communal schools. Notwithstanding this, the legislation con- cerning primary teaching is far from being absolutely satisfactory; the large communes evade or even openly disregard the law, and it is only at long in- tervals that the Government interferes to check the most scandalous abuses. The law puts the State instruction and the free teaching on an absolute equality, and this equality is maintained by the Government; the diplomas granted by the free uni- \'ersities open the way to government positions just as do those granted by the State universities; the certificates given by the free institutes are equal to those of the State schools.

VII. Cemeteries. — It is only by the greatest exertions that the Catholics of Belgium have saved the Catholic schools. In regard to the question of cemeteries they have shown less vigour. The decree of Prairial of" the year XII (1804), by which the cemeteries of Belgium were regulated, stipulated that, in localities where several religions exist, each form of faith should have its own cemeterj-, and that where there was but one cemeterj' it should be divided into as many sections as there were different denomina- tions. The Catholic cemeteries, in conformity with the Ritual, had separate sections for those who had died in communion with the Church, for infants dying without baptism, for those to whom the Church had refused religious burial, and for free-thinkers who died outside of the Catholic communion. There was no conflict until 1862 when, obedient to the order of the Freemason lodges, the Liberals declared the law of 1804 to be unconstitutional. The Govern- ment, then carried on by the Liberals, left it to the