HL Deb 28 February 1911 vol 7 cc165-211

*THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE rose to call attention to the interference with the stability of the marriage tie caused by the conflict between the law of the United Kingdom and the Ordinances recently brought into force by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, and to the steps which have been taken to enforce the latter; and to move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, it is with considerable regret that I have felt it my duty to place on the Paper of your Lordships' House a Notice criticising in any way the heads of any religious denomination. I should have hoped that we should have all done our best to live in amity with our religious neighbours, and that Motions criticising the action of any denomination towards another denomination might have been absent from discussion in Parliament. I do not think the most bitter partisan can deny that during the past few years the Protestants in this country have shown increasing readiness to live in amity with their neighbours. During only the past few years Parliament passed a law by which the British taxpayers provided the funds for a sectarian University in Dublin. Why, my Lords? Simply and solely in order to satisfy the consciences of their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. Similarly last year your Lordships took your share in Parliament in passing the Royal Declaration Act—an Act which was passed, I believe, almost entirely from the belief that it is undesirable that there should be anything in any public document. offensive to any religious denomination.

Have there been any very powerful steps taken on behalf of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects to reciprocate the feelings winch we genuinely feel towards them? Speaking for Ireland, where I live, there has certainly of late years been a most satisfactory coming together of the various Protestant denominations in social matters, but I am sorry to say—and I do not think the statement will be contradicted—that our Roman Catholic friends continue to hold themselves aloof, working, obviously—and I hope it will not annoy them when I say so—towards what they seem to consider the ideal state of affairs which is best summed up in the expression, "Heads I win, tails you lose." This ambition is shown nowhere more clearly than in the recent ordinances promulgated not in Ireland only but in the British Isles, on the subject of marriage. They are contained in what is now known as the celebrated Ne Temere decree, which involves in these Islands an attempt at the enforcement of a marriage law which it has not been considered advisable to attempt to enforce for 350 years; and, as I think I shall be able to show before I sit down, this is only a part of a policy to enforce with greater strictness in these Islands portions of the canon law referring to the question of marriage which have been in force in these Islands for years past but have not been enforced as strictly as it is now desired to enforce them.

I wish to say, frankly and at once, that I should be the last person to maintain that any denomination had not the right to make ordinances or orders, or whatever you like to call them, for the conduct of the members of their particular profession. Every denomination would claim that right. I should certainly claim it for my own denomination, the Church of Ireland. But, my Lords, the Ne Temere decree goes a great deal further than that. It cannot be maintained, or at any rate proved, for an instant that the Ne Temere decree is purely a domestic matter. I know that this decree is published under the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to legislate for their own people. They have a perfect right to legislate for their own people. I should regret it extremely if any denomination legislated for their own people in opposition to the law of the land, but I do not think I should complain here in Parliament. I should regard it more as a domestic matter. But if a denomination legislated for its own subjects alone, but still contrary to the law of the land, I should regret it, and I should certainly expect the Executive to do three things. I should expect the Executive to see that no man or woman was deprived of his or her civil rights under the civil law; I should expect the Executive to see that public decency was not outraged; and I should expect the Executive to see that the subjects of no other denominations were affected, even indirectly, by the legislation of that particular church. If a religious denomination objects to the civil law, or to any part of it, the only honourable course for that denomination to follow is to come to Parliament and persuade Parliament to alter the civil law. It is not straightforward to attempt to get an alteration in the civil law by indirect means. But this evidently is not the view of the high Roman Catholic authorities, and this Ne Temere decree is an attempt to alter the marriage law of the country without coming to the only authority that has a right to alter the marriage law of the country as affecting the various denominations—namely, your Lordships' House and the House of Commons.

I said just now that it is claimed by our Roman Catholic friends that the Ne Temere decree is a purely domestic arrangement affecting only Roman Catholics. I have the decree here, but I am not going to trouble your Lordships by reading it. The most cursory perusal of it, however, will prove conclusively that not only is its whole effect to go outside the Roman Catholic denomination and affect other denominations, but it must have been drawn with that object and with that object alone. I need not trouble your Lordships with the history of the decree. A convenient starting point in its history is the Assembly of the Council of Trent, which met originally in the year 1543 and held a number of sessions, and which at one of its sessions declared all marriages null and void unless contracted in the presence of the parish priest., or some one deputed by him, and two or three other witnesses. This teaching was reaffirmed in the year 1864 in the Syllabus Errorum, the document which called forth Mr. Gladstone's two celebrated pamphlets, in which he declared the state of affairs set up in that document as dangerous to the morals of society, to the structure of the family, and to the peace of life. But, be it noticed, these decrees of the Council of Trent have been very seldom, if at all, applied in Protestant countries, although they have always been the law of the Roman Catholic Church. I only mention this in order to point out that the policy embodied in the Ne Temere decree is not a new law. It is rather the application of an old law to new countries, and amongst those countries we count the whole of the British Isles.

It is not necessary, I think, for me to quote the actual words of the decree. I am saved the trouble of doing that by the fact that when the decree was published in the Archdiocese of Dublin, Archbishop Walsh wrote a long covering letter which he ordered to he read in all the Roman Catholic Churches at the same time as the decree. I think that two paragraphs in that letter roughly tell the whole story. Here is the first— Hitherto in Ireland, by virtue of a rescript granted by Pope Pius VI in 1785, if a Catholic contracted a mixed marriage clandestinely—that is to say, in the presence of a priest not authorised for the purpose, or a minister of another religion, or of a merely civil official or without any witnesses—the marriage, grievously sinful as it would have been, would nevertheless have been a valid marriage constituting the contracting parties husband and wife. The second paragraph which I shall quote—it appears later in the letter—runs: All this, however, is now at an end. Henceforth in Ireland, as generally throughout the Church— I will allude to a notable exception before I sit down— no mixed marriage can be validly contracted except in the presence of the parish priest and two witnesses. I do not wish to go into the reasons why the Roman Catholic Church found it necessary to bring this into force; I need only say that whilst the Roman Catholic Church does very often allow mixed marriages, on terms, it is, of course, obviously to their interests that when those terms are settled they should be settled by the priest of their own church and not by the minister of any other.

That decree came into force here at Easter, 1908. As we have been told in some of the correspondence outside your Lordships' House that our protest is a little belated. I would mention that the General Synod of the Church of Ireland met within a fortnight of the publishing of the decree and protested against it, owing to its being fraught with danger to uninstructed Protestants. Experience has proved that that fear was amply justified, but, as usual, it needed a specific case to really call the public mind to this matter. The general publishing of the decree I do not think resulted in very much notice being taken. The case which has drawn the public mind and attention to this matter is what is known as the Belfast Marriage Case—the McCann case—a case in which a husband has deserted his wife, has taken away his children. has shut up his wife's house, sold all her belongings as well as his own, and. disappeared. The McCann case is by no means an isolated case. We know of a case in Edinburgh. I noticed that my friend the right rev. the Primate of Ireland has told us that of his own knowledge he knew of two other cases. In a letter which appeared in The Times on January 31 Mr. Herbert Pym spoke of another; and in London at this moment there is a man awaiting trial for bigamy. I do not wish to go into this case because it is sub judice, but the man is accused of having married a Roman Catholic wife having previously married a Protestant wife in the presence of a Protestant clergyman. But the McCann case is the most important of the cases that have come before us up to the present—cases which, I am afraid, are only the first crop of what will probably be a greater number; and as this case has caused a great deal of public interest, it is I obvious that it must be referred to in the course of a debate such as this.

I do not desire to go into the McCann case in detail myself, though I have plenty of material here with which to answer the defence that has been given by our Roman Catholic friends in another place, consisting as it did largely of gross attacks upon the personal character of the unhappy woman in the case. I am sorry to have to say it, but nobody has ever fallen foul of the high authorities of the Roman Catholic, Church without having his or her character instantly blackened, and this case has been no exception to the rule. My noble friend Lord Londonderry is in his place. He has recently been in Belfast, where interest in this case is very great indeed. I believe he intends to take part in this debate, and I therefore gladly say nothing about the case myself as I feel that the answer to what has been said in the House of Commons in defence of the action of the Roman Catholic authorities will come with much greater force from him than from me.

My Lords, I ask leave to touch on only two points, and then to refer for a moment to the case as far as it affects the general question. A fresh defence of the other side of the case was published only a couple of days ago for English consumption in the pages of Reynolds Newspaper, which I believe is one of the official organs of the Party opposite, by Mfr. John Redmond. This article, I think, appeared on Sunday. It also appeared in the Belfast papers last Friday, but they stated that they had been supplied with advance copies. In this article Mr. Redmond says— The facts of the case have not yet been established. We have an ex parte statement made on behalf of the wife. We have another ex parte statement of the husband contradicting the statement made by the wife. And then Mr. Redmond goes on to draw, as naturally he would from his point of view, the obvious conclusion. I ask your Lordships to keep that point very strongly in your mind. You have an ex parte statement by the wife and an ex parte statement by the husband. Whom are you going to believe? Regarding the statements as unsupported—and the wife's statement is not unsupported—but regarding them as unsupported, you have a wife who is anxious to take her place in a Court of law and to prove her right to her full rights, and you have a husband who has fled from justice, who is in hiding, and who, in the words of Father Power, a well-known Jesuit, written in one of the Scottish papers, is— far out of the range of the Ulster guns, and is not going to be extradited. Which is the most credible? The veracity of the woman, the wife, anxious to prove her rights before all, or the veracity of the coward who dare not face the music? I am content to let those two witnesses be judged against each other by your Lordships.

In the article to which I have referred Mr. Redmond, I will not say sneers at its, but at any rate makes the point that the whole of the agitation, the very considerable agitation, that is taking place and is growing on this subject, was only trumped up when we knew that a General Election was coming. It was trumped up on December 3, he says, just before the polling in Mr. Devlin's constituency in West Belfast. The facts are that this agitation really first attracted the public eye on November 13 owing to the preaching of a sermon by Mr. Corkey, the Presbyterian minister very largely concerned in this case—November 13, which, as your Lordships know, was two days before any one suspected that the General Election was coining. The noble Earl opposite made the announcement of the General Election in your Lordships' House a day or two later; but we had the official announcement of the General Election on November 15, in a letter which the Home Secretary wrote to a prominent supporter in Dundee. If the agitation, therefore, can fairly be said to have started, as I think it can be said to have started, by Mr. Corkey's sermon on November 13, when nobody outside the Cabinet knew that a General Election was coming, I think that is a sufficient answer to Mr. Redmond's charge that this agitation, which has been carried on by many men who have never been on a political platform in their lives, has really been raised for political purposes. But the real answer—and this is my reason for referring to this point—appears in the Dublin papers of yesterday, in Cardinal Logue's Lenten Pastoral, where he speaks of the agitation as— having been got up avowedly for the purpose of moving the civil authorities to fetter the action of the Church and block the execution of her laws. I do not know that I should have put it in exactly the same words as His Eminence, but at any rate there is no sign of the expression "political agitation" in that statement by the Cardinal, and I commend it to the notice of our Roman Catholic friends who are raising this political agitation cry.

That is all I desire to say with regard to the McCann case except so far as regards its bearing on the general question. The main facts of the case are these. Mr. and Mrs. McCann were married in a Presbyterian church in County Antrim in May, 1908. Their first child was born in June, 1909, and the second child in August, 1910. What is the claim of the Roman Catholic Church? The claim of the Roman Catholic Church is that because McCann was a Roman Catholic this marriage is null and void. There is no doubt whatever about the claim. The last number—and we are sorry to understand that it is the last number—of a publication which we have many of us read with much interest in Ireland, the New Ireland Review, contained an article by Father Finlay, the well-known Jesuit and a great educational expert. In that article Father Finlay lays clown clearly that— The marriage ceremony in the Presbyterian Church was wholly invalid. McCann was conscientiously bound to separate from the Presbyterian woman unless she consented to a revalidation of the marriage, and he is under the gravest obligation to see that his children are baptized and brought up Catholics. The marriage was wholly invalid, and McCann was conscientiously bound to separate from the Presbyterian woman That is the claim of the Roman Catholic Church.

Oh, but we are told that no member of the Roman Catholic Church can be charged with active action in this case. The wife's story is that a priest came and caused all the trouble. Show us the priest, we are asked. We do not know the priest. The woman does not know the name of the priest. But I pay my tribute to the ingenuity of the answer given in another place by Mr. Devlin. He produced statements by three priests, who all said they had not done what Mrs. McCann said had been done. Possibly none of those three men did. But there are 3,000 priests in Ireland, and unless you can produce a testimony from every one of the 3,000 you cannot prove the negative that some priest did not have to do with it. But, on the other hand, we have a state- ment from another leading Jesuit saying definitely that a priest did have to do with it. On January 14, in the Scotsman, Father Power makes no doubt whatever about this matter. Towards the end of his letter he says— The priest has done Ins duty as part administrator, not of the civil, but of the sacred law of matrimony The priest has done his duty! What was that duty? Father Power tells us earlier in the letter. He tells us what the Jewish Rabbis do in similar cases where there is a conflict between the law of the land and the law of Israel. In such a case they declare the marriage to be null and void. Then Father Power goes on— The authorised exponents of the Ne Temere law said the same thing to Mr. and Mrs. McCann. Does that prove that a priest had to do with it, or the contrary Then Father Power goes on— Sometimes the Rabbis and the Catholic priests are heeded and sometimes not. Over and over again I have made the same representations to couples similarly circumstanced. I was always listened to— then follows a sneer at some of the speakers at the Belfast meeting which I need not quote— but my advice was not always taken. I. had done my duty and bowed myself out, not to return to the charge till next time. We ought to be grateful to Father Power for his frankness. He describes quite definitely what the high Roman Catholic authorities did in this ease, what they always do in similar cases, and what they intend to do in future cases. I commend that letter from Father Power, which was published in the Scotsman on January 14 last, to our friends the defenders of the action taken in this miserable case in Belfast.

But, apart altogether from the particular case, look at the circumstances. A man and a woman are married in a place of worship in the presence of a Protestant clergyman, or a Presbyterian clergyman, or whatever you will, but that clergyman is, apart from his ministry, a recognised State official for the purpose. He has the same recognition for the purpose that a Roman Catholic priest has—no more and no less. Two things are done. There is the public plighting of the troth before the congregation and afterwards the signing of the register—a register specially provided by the State for the purpose, a copy of which, of course, must be sent to the proper official within a certain time. The contract is duly witnessed by the clergyman, who may be an Archbishop or a Bishop. and it is also witnessed by the friends of the parties, who may be of any rank from a Prime Minister downwards. Is that a legal marriage or is it not? Unquestionably, say all the Protestant denominations. Unquestionably, say the Roman Catholic Church if both parties are Protestants, but if one of the parties is a Roman Catholic that marriage is null and void. Why? Because the Roman Catholic Church say so, and for no other reason. The Pope has decreed that on and after Easter Sunday, 1908, that the marriage is an illegal marriage if one of the parties belongs to our denomination, and the Roman Catholic- is bound conscientiously to separate from such a union.

The worst side of the whole thing is the keen support that the Roman Catholic authorities give to their followers in this matter. I notice that my friend Lord Edmund Talbot, in another place, was good enough to say that he had no doubt that when the facts were established it would be found that at any rate the ecclesiastical authorities of his Church had no share in the gross and brutal conduct of this man. I am grateful to him for the use of the words "gross and brutal" conduct, although it is difficult to understand how the conduct was gross and brutal if his marriage to the woman was invalid. But surely Lord Edmund Talbot, is answered by Father Finlay and by Father Power. According to them the marriage was invalid, and the man was bound to treat his wife as he did. That claim is a most outrageous one upon the liberties of this country as enjoyed for centuries, and we are bound on every possible occasion to make our strongest possible protest against it.

Will your Lordships allow me to refer to one other point? I said just now that I believed that the publishing of this Ne Temere decree in these islands is part and parcel of a settled policy to stiffen up, if I may use the phrase with all respect, the enforcement of the marriage laws of the Roman Catholic Church, whether they are concerned with mixed marriages or any other part of the canon law. Late last night an account of a most astounding case—it is two years old, but I had not heard of it before—was placed in my hand, which certainly lends colour to the view I have advanced. It is the case of a trial in Wexford for bigamy, reported in the Freeman's Journal on July 5 last, and there was no doubt whatever about the facts. Two first cousins were married in the year 1892. It was a perfectly legal marriage by the law of the land, but an illegal marriage by the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church. The couple were married for sixteen years, and finally—this was proved up to the hilt, and I have the letters here and the final judgment of the Lord Chief Justice who tried the case—with the advice of their Bishop, they each married somebody else and were tried for bigamy. I will read the Lord Chief Justice's remarks in finishing the case. He said— No moral blame attached to the parties, having regard to the advice of the Bishop. Although they were guilty in point of law, he would discharge them without inflicting any punishment. I am not attacking the decision of the Lord Chief Justice. I have no doubt that his decision as to what to do in giving sentence, acting with all the facts before him, was perfectly right, for he is one of the most able and courageous men who ever sat on the Irish Bench. But surely it is time that some protest was made against the working of a system which after sixteen or seventeen years of married life enables subjects of His Majesty, with the advice of their Bishop, to marry again, just as if there had never been any marriage at all in the original case.

What is the position in which we find ourselves? Surely this is a case calling for action by the Government. I do not suppose that the keenest friends of the Government would maintain that they showed any very great energy in dealing with the McCann case. The Lord-Lieutenant, I have no doubt on Mr. Birrell's advice, refused to take any action last December. Why? Because the children, he understood, were in the father's keeping. Your Lordships, I am sure, will appreciate what would be the humour of the position if it were not so tragic. The father has deserted his wife because his marriage is invalid, but the children must be secured to him because his marriage is legal. I cannot imagine a more ridiculous position, or a more ridiculous decision. I sympathise with Mr. Birrell for having had to give it. But we understand now, from the debate that occurred in another place, that Mrs McCann is to receive the assistance of the police in finding her husband, although he is "out of the range of the Ulster guns," and in finding her children. I hope that some representative of His Majesty's Government on the Front Bench will be able to tell us that that search is proceeding in a satisfactory manner.

I have put down a Motion for Papers. I am quite certain that there must be a shoal of papers dealing with this subject, and I think we should see some of them. I notice in Hansard that on February 7 my friend Mr. Moore asked the Chief Secretary in another place whether he would write to the Bishop of Belfast to find out whether these children are in any school or institution in his diocese, and Mr. Birrell said he would do so. I should like to know whether any answer has been received to that letter. If the answer was favourable so much the better. If it was not favourable, I should like to know what further steps His Majesty's Government have taken. But, apart from this particular case, surely the whole matter is one calling for Government action. Surely the time has come when the Government might approach the high ecclesiastical authorities of the Roman Catholic Church in order to put an end to a state of things which is a scandal and is bound to remain a scandal. There is a ray of hope. The Roman Catholic authorities have made the first advance—at least I think they have made the first advance. In Mr. Redmond's article to which I have already referred I notice that he quotes an extract from this month's issue of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, which says on this mixed marriage question If it can be shown that the new law of the Church inflicts any serious grievance on Protestants— and I think we can show that is the case in this country— we are satisfied that due consideration will be given to any representations that may be made on that head. I should have paid no attention whatever to that paragraph if Mr. Redmond had not, metaphorically, given it his blessing. It is the first ray of hope. It is an invitation to the Government to do something, and I hope they will not neglect the opportunity.

At this moment the decree is not in force throughout the whole of the German Empire. Surely what is good enough for Germany is not too good for us. The parallel is encouraging. We all know that the German Government depends largely for its stability upon the support it receives from the Centre Party—the Roman Catholic party. We also know—and I hope I shall not annoy noble Lords opposite by saying so—that this Government very largely depends for its stability on the support it receives in the House of Commons from the Roman Catholic party. It would not, I think, be derogatory for His Majesty's Government to take a leaf out of the German Government's book, and approach the high ecclesiastical authorities of the Roman Catholic. Church in this matter. It really is not a great outrage on their feelings that we ask the Roman Catholic Church to permit. We ask them to restore a system which, after all. they tolerated in this country until Easter, 1908. They tolerate it still in Germany. It cannot be so desperately immoral that they cannot go on tolerating it here. I am encouraged by a letter I saw this afternoon on a kindred, though not a similar subject. Your Lordships are probably aware that there is some trouble going on in South Africa between the high authorities of the Roman Catholic Church and the Government there on the subject of the marriage laws. I noticed a letter that had been written by the Roman Catholic vicar apostolic of Kimberley, in which he said— It ought to be enough for the State to be satisfied that a marriage has been contracted according to the formula of any recognised religious body, and to afford it formal sanction. Is it unfair to paraphrase that, and to say that it ought to be enough for the high Roman Catholic authorities to be satisfied that a marriage has been contracted according to the formula of any recognised religious body?

Cannot we come to some agreement between all the denominations on this matter? Surely it ought to be done. Then let all the denominations agree to discourage mixed marriages. We know that the Roman Catholic Church dislikes mixed marriages. So do 1. So do all denominations. Let us discourage them all we can; but surely discouragement is the proper way to deal with them, and not tyranny. At present one cannot shut one's eyes to the position of affairs. The person who chiefly benefits—I am quite certain the Roman Catholic Church never desired that he should—the person who chiefly benefits is a RomanCatholic who would be seducer, who can now encourage a Protestant woman to marry him according to the form that he knows she would prefer, that is, in her own church, with the sure knowledge that he can—indeed that he must—subsequently repudiate that marriage under the orders of the authorities of his own church. Surely that is a wrong state of affairs. I am perfectly certain that the idea of making such a thing possible never entered the heads of the high authorities who have introduced this Ne Temere decree into this country. But it is one of the results of it, and it might be the most serious result. The matter does, I think, most urgently call for the attention of His Majesty's Government.

Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers respecting the interference with the stability of the marriage tie caused by the conflict between the law of the United Kingdom and the Ordinances recently brought into force by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church,—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)


My Lords, in replying to the noble Earl, I will take the various points with which he dealt more or less consecutively, and I hope to mollify, at all events partially, his statement with regard to the Ne Temere decree. As Lord Donoughmore said, this decree had not been active in the United Kingdom for a great number of years, and only became effective here in the year 1907. When it did become active here the Registrar-General for England approached Archbishop Bourne, and pointed out that the declaration, in his opinion, might lead to certain difficulties. A note was published in the Tablet which, I think, is important in that respect, and if your Lordships will permit me I will quote the two sections which deal with this question. Archbishop Bourne said, speaking of the Ne Temere decree, that it only referred to the canonical nullity or validity of marriages—that was to say, in the judgment of the Church and in the sight of God. He added— The Catholic Church, though she does not acknowledge that the State has any right to determine what marriages shall be null or valid, has no power— and these are important words— to change the civil law of marriage. The noble Earl will be the first to acknowledge—he said so in his opening remarks—that it would be a difficult thing to attempt to alter any particular tenets of any particular Church. If you attempted it you would be steering very near the question of interference with religious liberty. The civil law of the realm allows marriage with a deceased wife's sister, but there are a great many churchmen who very strongly object to that decree although it is the law of the land. Perhaps the noble Earl will permit me to refer to a speech which he delivered on Saturday, with several points of which I am in entire agreement. The noble Earl said the Ne Temere decree— went far beyond the rights that. any Church bad ever claimed to possess, but if it concerned Roman Catholics alone objection to it might be minimised. I do not quite understand how you can minimise it in one case and not in the other. Neither do I understand how you are going to maintain a civil objection to a certain tenet of a religious denomination. You may say you dislike it, but I do not see that any dislike on your part will prevent people from holding certain tenets of belief. The noble Earl went on to say— No one desires to encourage mixed marriages. I quite agree with the noble Earl, but as long as human nature is human nature I do not see that any discouragement will absolutely stop mixed marriages, and it is precisely on the question of mixed marriage that we come into conflict with the various religious denominations. The only laws which the people in this country recognise, said the noble Earl, were those made at Westminster—not those made in Rome. I think every one in this House will agree with that. Archbishop Bourne has said frankly that no law made by the Roman Catholic Church could interfere at all with the civil law of the land. The noble Earl passed on to the McCann case. I think everybody will allow that that case is not pleasant reading.


What was the date of the statement in the Tablet?


It appeared, I think, in the summer of 1907—I cannot give the noble and learned Lord the actual date. The Government is not concerned to defend this decree of Ne Temere; it is a domestic regulation of the Roman Catholic Church, declaring, inter alia, the laws under which marriages are valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. Marriages between Roman Catholics and persons of different denominations can only be valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church if the persons are married according to the regulations which have come into force in this Ne Temere decree. But there is reason to doubt whether rather more is not made of the actual decree as regards the validity of the marriage than the decree has called for. The noble Earl stated that in the debate which took place in the House of Commons a fortnight ago Mrs. McCann's character was a good deal blackened. I have read the whole of the debate, and, raking it all through, I confess that. there did not appear any particular wish to blacken Mrs. McCann's character. I think the general desire throughout was to hear both sides of the case. Though Mr. Devlin quoted an extract from the husband's statement of the affair I do not think he in any way desired to blacken the character of Mrs. McCann, even though he may not have agreed with the statements which she made. Until one can hear both sides it is a little hard for the noble Earl to say that during the debate Mrs. McCann's character was vilified or blackened. The noble Earl put the question as to whose word could be most believed—that of the husband, or that of the wife. At first sight I can only say that personally I thoroughly agree with what the noble Earl said as to the man being a mean sneak in going off as he did. but I do not think one can put the whole blame upon his shoulders before he has been heard. He has not been heard in a Court of law.


He won't be. He refuses to be.


We hope he will be.


Hear, hear.


As I said, it is rather hard to condemn a man before he has had a chance of being heard, whatever our view of the case may be. The noble Earl stated that there was no political point in this matter at all, that the agitation was not at all political. I do not wish to touch upon this, as the matter was gone into fully in the House of Commons, but I was glad to hear the noble Earl disavow any political intention in the case. The fact, however, remains that at a special meeting of the Presbytery of Belfast on December 2, on the eve of the General Election, two of the clergymen there expressed the opinion that the McCann case had been brought about by Divine Providence in order to enlighten the people of Great Britain. I am very glad that the noble Earl disavows that.


I am sure the noble Earl does not wish to misrepresent me. I quoted the accusation which is made—that it was the sole or primary object in raising the case. I do not think I put it furl her than that.


I quite agree. I have not seen the cutting to which the noble Earl referred containing Father Power's statement that a Roman Catholic priest had visited Mrs. McCann. I do not see that there is any reason to disbelieve the parish priests and their curates in the parish in which Mrs. McCann resided, who all deny having brought personal influence to bear in the case; but, as the noble Earl said, you can get people from anywhere and. it is difficult to say that no priest visited Mrs. McCann. but to the best of our knowledge that was the case. Reference was made by the noble Earl to the promise which Mr. Birrell gave to Mr. Moore in the House of Commons to the effect that he would write to the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese and ask whether these children were in any school or institution in his diocese. A letter to that effect was sent to the Bishop, who replied in the negative. I can only say that everything that is possible to be done in this case is being done. It would, however, have been impossible to have stepped in in the first case, and it would also have been impossible to have taken the children from their father. The police could not step in until a summons had been taken out by Mrs. McCann against her husband for desertion and consequently to obtain alimony, and so long as the husband had not committed a criminal offence he is by law entitled to the custody of the children. I am afraid I shall not convince the noble Earl on that point, but I am given to understand that that is the law on the matter. I have nothing further to say, except that I think the case has been somewhat overstated as regards the power of the Ne Tonere decree with relation to the alteration of the marriage laws. The Roman Catholics are, perhaps, more emphatic in their declarations than other denominations, but so long as the civil law of the land remains no decree from any religious denomination can nullify or invalidate a civil marriage.


My Lords, I trust your Lordships will extend your indulgence to me if I trespass on your attention for a few minutes. I do not propose to go into the facts of the McCann case. I will accept all that the noble Earl who brought, forward this Motion said about the husband, about-his desertion of his wife, about his improper and cruel treatment of her by removing her young children from her care. I accept all that. All I wish to bring before the House is the colour which the noble Earl put on the whole of this case, as indicating some deep design on the part of the authorities of the Church of Rome to impose their canon law on this country as against; the civil law of the land. I believe that to be an entirely mistaken view of the facts.

The noble Earl said, quite truly, that the Ne Temere decree was merely a reaffirmation of the decree of the Council of Trent of the Sixteenth Century. You cannot understand the merits and the motives of the decree of the Council of Trent unless you recall what was the state of the marriage law of Europe at that time. For centuries before the Council of Trent sat the whole of Christian. Europe had accepted as law that a legal as well as a sacramental marriage was constituted merely by the free interchange of words of present consent by the two parties, without the presence of a priest, without the presence of any State official, and without the need of any witnesses except for the purpose of evidence. That was a state of things that led to infinite disorders and mischief. I need not go into instances. In the first place, there was no record of those marriages; in the second place, there was the temptation to young persons to disregard the desires of parents. Scotland, as far as I know, is the only civilised country in which what I may call the old common law of marriage still prevails, and in which an interchange by present words of consent still constitute a legal as well as a religious marriage. All other countries have by degrees introduced various modifications in what they require for the validity of the contract of marriage: publicity, either in the shape of banns or in some other way, in order to discover hidden impediments that might hereafter render the marriage void; celebration in the presence of an official, either clerical or lay; and clue record of the marriage in some official register.

These things have been done by various stages in Europe. What was the Church to do? The Church is concerned only with the sacrament. In the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church marriage is a sacrament. She deals with it in that aspect, and in that aspect alone. She has nothing to do with the legal rights that arise from it, or that the State may choose to attach. She deals with marriage solely as a sacrament, and it was legitimate for her to safeguard the sacrament of marriage in the same way as the State safeguarded the civil contract of marriage. The course adopted by the decree of the Council of Trent was not to alter the form of the sacrament, but to require that the parties, who were members of her Communion, should be married in the presence of two witnesses and that of the parish priest of one of the parties. I do not know who else could have been chosen by the Church of Rome as the official witness and the official minister of the sacrament of marriage than the parish priest. He alone could properly inquire into the canonical impediments that might exist to the marriage; he alone could know the duties of the parties in respect to each other, and in respect to their parents, if any.

My Lords, did the Church of Rome attempt to override the civil law under the decree of the Council of Trent? Nothing of the kind. The decree of the Council of Trent applied to Catholics only; non-Catholics were not affected in any degree by its canon. It had no effect until it was promulgated, and, even after it had been promulgated, in certain districts if the country was overwhelmingly non-Catholic in character the decree of the Council of Trent did not bind even its Catholic subjects. An historial instance of that will be present to the minds of most of your Lordships—I mean the case of the marriage of Jerome Bonaparte. Pius VI was called upon by the master of many legions to declare the marriage void. It had been celebrated not in accord- ance with the decree of Trent, in America, and Pius VII refused to declare that marriage void. The noble Earl referred to what Pius VI had done in 1795—not 1895, as he said. Pius VI issued a rescript of propaganda that the decrees of the Council of Trent did not apply to mixed marriages celebrated in that country not according to the decree of the Council of Trent. That certainly was not attempting to impose the decree where the laws differed. In England up to the reign of William IV Catholics could not legally be married except by a clergyman of the Church of England, who had to publish the banns, celebrate the marriage, enter it in his register, and keep the record of it. What was the action of the Church of Rome? In order to facilitate as far as possible harmony between the canon law and the law of the land the Church of Rome during all those years never promulgated the decree of the Council of Trent in this country. The consequence was that while Catholics received the privilege and benefit. of a legal marriage by the action of a clergyman of the Church of England, they also received the privilege and benefit of a sacramental marriage by the interchange of consent, all that was required by the canon laws before the decree of the Council of Trent was published. That was an honest endeavour to bring the law of the land and the canon law into harmony by enabling the same ceremony to satisfy both.

What is the state of things at present in Ireland? Since the Marriage Acts of William IV great advances have been made, as the noble Earl very truly said, to conciliate and meet the wishes of different denominations in this country. At the time the decree was issued a marriage by a priest in the Catholic Church was a legal marriage, and it was intended to be the law for Catholics. It was for Catholics that the change in the law was introduced with regard to this marriage by a priest in a Catholic church. What is the effect of the decree Ne Temere? The whole effect of the decree is that if you choose to step beyond what the canon law allows you to do, if you choose to go and be married in a Presbyterian Chapel or in a Church of England church not according to the Ne Temere decree, you will have a legal marriage without doubt; all the legal rights that flow from the marriage ceremony will follow; but you will not receive the sacrament, and, moreover, you will be disobedient to the law and the direction of your own Church. I fail to see how it can be pretended that that is forcing canon law on the law of the land when all that the decree of Ne Temere does is to prescribe for Catholic subjects, and none others. All non-Catholics are specially excepted.

Then the noble Earl read passages from a letter by Father Power and somebody else speaking of these marriages as null and void. Father Power was referring to the sacramental marriage, which is the only thing that concerns him. He is not so silly as to suppose that the marriage is legally invalid. No human being in his sane senses ever contended such a thing as that. The legality of the marriage, the rights of the wife, are all untouched and unaltered. What Father Power, and everybody else who has written in the same sense; means is that the sacramental marriage has not taken place. That is the only marriage with which the Church is concerned; that is the only marriage about which she interests herself; and if Father Power is silly enough to suppose that Mrs. McCann is not entitled to the rights of a wife just the same as every other wife in the kingdom I feel sorry for Father Power. That cannot be his meaning. Indeed, so far as I could catch what the noble Earl on the Front Bench opposite said, it is explained in the sense that the invalidity meant is the invalidity of the sacramental marriage and not the in-validity of the legal marriage. What has the Church to say to one of her subjects who has chosen to disregard her commands and contract an insufficient marriage, although he has contracted a marriage which is sufficient according to the law but insufficient as a sacramental marriage? She says to him, "You can remedy this if you please. You are legally a husband, but you have not received the sacrament. You are, therefore, living in a state of sin. In that sense your marriage is void and illegal. It is void in the eyes of conscience, though not in the eyes of the law. The remedy is that you should be married again in the way that the law allows you, by a priest in the Catholic Church." His wife will not do that. She is an obstinate Presbyterian, like Mrs. McCann, and refuses to be married again in accordance with the Church. It then comes to what Lord Edmund Talbot said in another place, and I find that it is so on ample authority. It is then the priest's duty to report to his Bishop the state of things, and the Bishop either by a general authority or a special authority granted to him by the Holy See, may ratify the marriage and declare it valid as from the date that he believes both parties concurred in consenting to the matrimonial union. To read that as an attempt to set the canon law above the law of the land seems to me a most extravagant conclusion to draw.

What the Church by the Ne Tonere decree has enjoined is simply a choice of one of the several legal modes of contracting marriage that the law affords, such mode being satisfactory to the conscience of her own subjects and members. She certainly does her utmost to provide means for remedying anything spiritually wrong although not legally wrong in the marriage, and cases of that sort occur on many other occasions besides marriage. Take, for example, the case of a bequest to a legatee with no legal trust expressed, but with the knowledge of the legatee that the money was left to him to be devoted to some particular purpose, and, in spite of that knowledge, he keeps the money in his own pocket. In a case of that kind he is legally justified, but he is morally wrong. In the same manner Mr. McCann was a perfectly legal husband, but he was in a state of sin because of his disregarding the legal means at his command and at his disposal. Allusion has been made to the difficulties which arise in all countries when the law of the Church and the law of the land conflict. The Church of England herself has had recent experience of that. I can only say that it seems to me that the best way of dealing with those unhappy differences which do and must arise in course of time is to do as the Church of Rome has done in this case—namely, to recognise to the full the legal effects of the Acts which are against the law of the Church and to treat the offence only as a moral one.


My Lords, if I might detain the House for a few moments it appears to me that a reference to a few facts would tend to clear up the discussion which has taken place on this very interesting question. The noble Viscount, who has done so much to clear the question up, has not completely exhausted the question, because the real difficulty at the present time is why the decree of the Council of Trent should be promulgated now with regard to England and Ireland. The difficulty really arises in consequence of the promulgation of the decree. The decree of the Council of Trent, in point of fact, as the noble Viscount has said, was simply legislation in order to prevent the abuses arising from clandestine marriages, It was not in its object different from Lord Hardwicke's Act with regard to England for the purpose of preventing clandestine marriages and was a step towards remedying other abuses, as the noble Viscount has said, which attached to the then marriage law. For all practical purposes the object of Lord Hardwicke's Act and the object of the decree of the Council of Trent were very much the same.

But, my Lords, the real point at the present time is why the decree of the Council of Trent should have been promulgated in England and Ireland, affecting, as it does, in an injurious way, any country where mixed marriages are likely to prevail. The decree of the Council of Trent was for the purpose of preventing girls being deceived with regard to marriage, and stopping the kind of abuses which the noble Viscount has mentioned; but it appears to me that the promulgation of the decree in England and Ireland under existing circumstances really leads back to the very mischiefs which it was the object of the decree to prevent. Where the ' decree has been promulgated, it is quite possible, as Lord Donoughmore has said, for a man to go through a form of marriage with a girl which she conceives to be perfectly valid, which may be legal, but which he at the same time knows is not binding on his own conscience. That is the result of the promulgation of the decree of the Council of Trent in a country like England, where Roman Catholics are in the minority, and the question one would like to have answered is, Why, if the decree of the Council of Trent has not been promulgated in Germany, it should be promulgated in England? That is the real question to which we should like an answer.

In regard to a great deal that fell from Lord Donoughmore I am not in the least in agreement with him. Each religious community must enforce its own laws on its own people with regard to marriage; and if you talk of the anomalies of the law, I should like to refer your Lordships to the anomalies of the marriage law with regard to members of the Church of England, which was only reported the other day in the papers, which is a reductio ad absurdum, with reference to what happens in the present state of our marriage law. A man died leaving so many hundreds a year to his widow on condition that she did not marry again. Some time after her husband's death the lady married her deceased sister's husband—her brother-in-law. That was before the passing of the Deceased Wife's Sister Act. The executors of her husband's will went on paying her the jointure left her by her husband on the ground that, it being an illegal marriage, she was still a widow. When the Deceased Wife's Sister Act passed they stopped paying her jointure on the ground that, being legally married, she had ceased to be a widow. The lady brought an action against the executors to get her jointure still paid to her. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will correct me if I am stating the case incorrectly, but I believe the decision of the Law Courts was to the effect that, inasmuch as the Deceased Wife's Sister Act had expressly provided that the passing of the Act was not to affect in any way legal arrangements as to property previously made, the lady was entitled to her jointure—that is to say, she was still a widow, While, owing to the Act, she was in fact a wife.

I should like to impress upon His Majesty's Government that they should take the question of the marriage law into consideration and deal with it. We have one law for Scotland, another law for Ireland, and another law for England, and we have all the contradictions and difficulties which arise out of the extremely difficult and complicated law of domicile. The whole marriage law is in a state of complete confusion, and I would suggest to His Majesty's Government that they should take the whole matter into consideration with a view to doing what. I believe, in the circumstances would be the best thing—I quite admit it is not ideal, but in cases of this sort you very often have to take the line of least difficulty—that is, to insist upon a civil marriage in all cases. It is the case abroad, and it might well be insisted on in England. Since the Divorce Commission much has come out showing the advisability of enforcing a civil marriage on every one. The Government might then leave the Churches to enforce their own law in regard to marriage on their own members. We should then have an intelligible basis to act upon, and we should go a long way towards avoiding the extreme difficulties that do arise and are certain to arise between the Churches and the State as long as things remain as they are at present, and we should be doing something which, I am satisfied, would be extremely beneficial in the interests of the country generally.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Donoughmore, in the course of his extremely clear speech, alluded to me as being so closely connected with the North of Ireland, and especially with Belfast, where feeling runs so high with regard to what is called the McCann case, that he virtually handed over to me the dealing with this part of this most important question. There is very strong feeling in Ireland, not only amongst Protestants but also amongst a large number of Catholics, against the principle which has been brought so prominently forward by this now famous case. Meetings have been held in Dublin, and I see by a leading North of Ireland organ yesterday that the Archbishops, Bishops, and clergy have solemnly warned their flocks of the dangers likely to ensue if this state of things is allowed to continue. From protracted experience 1 know that that is the case, and I offer no apology in rising to-night to deal, so far as I can, with this question.

My noble friend very wisely divided this question into two parts—the local question, if I may use that expression, which is raised in the cruelty and injustice dealt out to Mrs. McCann; and the principle which is involved, inasmuch as if this state of affairs is allowed to continue we cannot fail to recognise that the Papal decree is overriding the law of our land. I turn first of all to the question of Mrs. McCann. My noble friend behind me (Lord Donoughmore) very briefly epitomised the admirable speech of the late Unionist Attorney-General for Ireland, Mr. Campbell, when discussing this measure in the House of Commons recently on the occasion of the Debate on the Address. I will epitomise it still more shortly. A Protestant girl married a Catholic in the Presbyterian Church; they lived happily for some years; they had children born to them, and then one sad day the priest appeared and told the woman that her marriage was not legal and that she was bound to be re-married. This woman, whom my noble friend on the Cross Benches, I think, called a stern unbending Protestant. to my mind rightly declined. Had she permitted herself to -be persuaded to take this course she would have been admitting that she had been living in sin for some years and that her children were bastards. and to my mind no right-thinking woman would countenance such a state of things. I listened very attentively to the noble and learned Viscount on the Cross Benches (Viscount Llandaff), who of course speaks with authority, and I confess it was strange to me to hear that a marriage was illegal unless the sacraments were given by the Church to those married people. But what I cannot understand is what would be the offspring of these two people, who, we think, are legally married, but who are not legally married according to the noble and learned Viscount. Are they or are they not legitimate? That is a question which I should like to have heard him explain at greater length. But this I do know from the statement of Mrs. McCann, that she was assured by the priest who visited her that her children were bastards, and, so far as our law goes, would naturally be bastards even if she had been foolish enough to comply with the dictates of that priest.

I have deviated a little from what I was saying about the recent discussion of this question in the other House in order to deal with what had fallen from the noble and learned Viscount, who speaks with great authority on Roman Catholic matters. The statements so ably and fully made by Mr. Campbell in the House of. Commons were never controverted for one moment, and, sitting in the Gallery of the other House, I saw that the whole atmosphere of the House was in favour of that unfortunate woman who had suffered wrongs, wrongs that I am sure no woman, particularly a mother, could fail to resent. Mr. Devlin, the Nationalist Roman Catholic Member for West Belfast, at once put a different complexion on the situation. My noble friend behind me stated that Mr. Devlin, in order to prove his point, had blackened the character of Mrs. McCann, and I was extremely sorry to hear extenuating circumstances afterwards put forward. That Mr. Devlin did endeavour to blacken the character of Mrs. McCann no one who heard his speech could fail to recognise. Until that speech was made never had one word been suggested against the character of Mrs. McCann, not even by any of the priests themselves. Mr. Devlin read statements by certain priests from which he tried to prove that the life of the McCanns was an unhappy one. He said the police were frequently called in, and that Mrs. McCann left her husband. But he did more. He went on to read a letter from Mr. McCann to an unnamed—although I cannot imagine to the Government unknown—correspondent, complaining of the conduct of Mrs. McCann and of the way in which she treated him owing to his Roman Catholic views. From that letter it would appear that Mrs. McCann would put back the clock and so make him late for Mass, and that she would have meat ready for him on Fridays—in fact, the gist of the letter was that his life was made a burden to him by Mrs. McCann because he was a Roman Catholic. Those are the extracts which Mr. Devlin read purporting to be from a letter written by Mr. McCann to a person whose name was not given.

I consider it to be the duty of the Government to ascertain from Mr. Devlin the name of the recipient of this letter. Mr. Devlin must know the recipient, and the recipient must know where McCann is, and on the discovery of McCann's whereabouts Mrs. McCann could take the necessary steps to recover her legal rights. I therefore ask, Will the Government do that; or, if not, what steps will they take in order to discover where McCann is? As to the statement that the police were frequently called in to the McCanns', the police undoubtedly were called in on one occasion—because the husband was very drunk. Mrs. McCann, who was in an interesting condition, had considered it her duty in the interests of herself and the unborn child to leave the house and go to her mother's, where she remained, and McCann the following day, having come to his senses, visited the house and begged her to come back. Mr. Devlin endeavoured to prove that their domestic life was extremely unhappy. I have a bundle of letters here written by Mr. McCann to his wife. I will not weary your Lordships with them all, but I think if I read a few extracts you will allow that Mr. Devlin has, to say the least of it, drawn the long bow in the House of Commons in his statement. Here is one. Mrs. McCann went in July last to her mother's in the country to be confined, and on the 17th of that month—you will mark this was in July last—the husband wrote to her— I got the train alright, thanks to you dear showing me the near cut. I hope you are none the worse for the sharp little walk across the fields on Saturday morning. Mind Agnes, dear, and don't be so silly as to attempt to ride Lizzie's bike, or you might be sorry for it. I feel a bit lonely and wish you were back home again…I pray God that you may get safely over your confinement and be restored to your loving husband safe and sound. With love from your loving husband. Then follow a number of crosses representing kisses, and a postscript, "Write soon, soon, soon." This is from the man whom Mr. Devlin represents as the husband of an unhappy household. There is only one other paragraph that I should like to read to your Lordships. It is from another letter. The husband went regularly-to the country to see his wife, and on August 10 he wrote again— I'm sure you'll wonder at me not writing sooner but I was very tired on Monday night, then I was at church on Tuesday…I'll likely be clown on Saturday week. Write soon Agnes, and let me know how yourself and the children are. From your loving husband. Then follow eleven crosses representing kisses "for Agnes," and eleven more for "the children." I ask your Lordships as fair men whether that is the class of letter that would be written to a wife by an aggrieved husband. So much for that part of the case in which Mr. Devlin tried to blacken her character by making out that the household was au unhappy one.

As my noble friend told the House, Mr. Devlin declared that the whole of the McCann case was got up as a political dodge. "A scandalous political job." Mr. Devlin called it, and in his speech he read a letter that he had got access to somehow. An hon. Member ejaculated that it had been stolen, but of that I know nothing. He read a letter from Mr. McDowell, a solicitor in Belfast, to Mr. Kerr-Smiley, the Member for North Antrim, and from that letter Mr. Devlin, who was dealing, of course, entirely with the McCann case, read this passage— I have found a tit-bit at last which will raise all the dormant enthusiasm for the Unionist cause and for the banner which you carry. My Lords, I have a copy of that letter' here, and not a single word of that para- graph appears in it; yet Mr. Devlin gave it amidst. cheers, and led the House of Commons to believe that this McCann case was raised by Mr. McDowell for a. political purpose. Then, again, it was stated by Mr. Devlin that it was a political dodge brought forward only just before the General Election. As was pointed out by my noble friend, the date of the General Election was only notified by the Prime Minister on November 18, whereas the children disappeared in October.

What happened after that? Mrs. McCann did all she could to effect a settlement. She saw the priest and her husband with no avail. When the question was raised in the other House the Chief Secretary asked why Mrs. McCann had not moved in the matter. But she had moved in the matter. Three sets of summonses had been taken out three weeks running, and to ensure proper service, her solicitor engaged a special bailiff. But McCann could not be found! Then, at last, in her distress this poor woman appealed to the Lord Lieutenant for the assistance of the police. When we remember the assistance given by the Government of dozens of policemen to attend cattle-driving—not to arrest the cattle-drivers but to drive the cattle back when the drivers thought they had driven them far enough—it might have been expected that some assistance would have been given to this unfortunate woman to find her husband and children. I gather that the answer of the Lord Lieutenant in refusing to accede to her appeal was that the case was a civil one. Unless I am mistaken the Chief Secretary, in reply to a question of Mr. Campbell in the House of Commons during the recent debate, stated that if they had ascertained that the man could not be found they would have granted the assistance of the police. If I am correct, that is a most extraordinary statement, for the main object in appealing to the Lord Lieutenant was that the whereabouts of the man and the children could not be ascertained. In the meantime, on November 13, five days before the Prime Minister declared the Dissolution, this case was brought forward for the first time by the Rev. Mr Corkey preaching in his pulpit in Belfast. How can Mr. Devlin, in these circumstances, declare that the whole of this McCann case was a political job got up in order to help the Unionist Party at the General Election?

There was another point which Mr. Devlin made. He challenged the Unionist Members from Ireland to give the name of the priest who had used his influence with Mrs. McCann. Their answer was a very simple one. It was this "Mrs. McCann does not know the man's name, but she is certain of this, that if the Government would produce the priest she could identify him." Mr. Devlin read out in the House of Commons declarations from three priests. One of those declarations gave fair ground for considering that the priest whose statement it was alleged to be was the priest referred to by Mrs. McCann in her appeal to the Lord Lieutenant. Mrs. McCann stated that a certain priest visited her on several occasions. In the declarations read out by Mr. Devlin only one priest admits calling more than once upon her. His statement runs— In my capacity as priest in charge of the district in which the McCann's lived, I visited them for the first time in January, 1910. And he goes on to say that neither then, "nor on ally subsequent occasion," did he enter into conversation with her with regard to her marriage. It is clear from that statement that that priest called more than once, and therefore I ask the Government to request Mr. Devlin to produce that priest and bring him face to face with Mrs. McCann in order that she may have an opportunity of saying whether she can identify him as the priest referred to in her Memorial. If she can, then the mystery is solved.

I maintain that if the Government desire to solve this mystery and bring this scandalous case to an end, they will take the step I have suggested, and give Mrs. McCann the opportunity of bringing her husband before a Court of law in pursuance of her own rights. What, after all, is this McCann case? It is only an instance of what will again occur unless some steps are taken by the Government to prevent this condition of affairs taking place with regard to mixed marriages. If the Government continue to permit this state of affairs, then I ask them how they can reconcile their action with regard to the Act known as the Act of Supremacy, the Act in which occurs the celebrated and enduring passage— No foreign Prince, person, prelate, State, or potentate, spiritual or temporal, shall at any time after the last day of this session of Parliament use, enjoy, or exercise any manner of power, jurisdie- tion, superiority, authority, pre-eminence, or privilege, spiritual or ecclesiastical, within this realm.'' Unless the Government propose to take some steps I hope the noble Earl will tell me how they reconcile their action of passive activity with the Act of Supremacy. Protestants in Ireland, particularly those of Ulster, feel very strongly that this state of affairs should be allowed under an Imperial Parliament, and they regard with the greatest apprehension what their position will be if a Home Rule Parliament is granted and they are handed over to the Nationalist Roman Catholic majority. Their apprehensions were not allayed by the action of Mr. Gladstone on the Home Rule Bill of 1893, when he refused an Amendment excluding the marriage law from the powers of the Irish Parliament. They remember that quite well, and they now see what would happen to them if an Irish Parliament—which God forbid!—were ever in power on College Green. Mr. Redmond, in all probability, would endeavour to assure the English people that there would be no danger if that were the case. But the Irish people know Mr. Redmond too well; they know that he has three voices, one for England, one for Ireland, and one for his American friends; and they know what a promise in England of toleration from Mr. Redmond means. When the Irish Local Government Bill wits first put into force Mr. Redmond declared that the Unionist Protestant party should have fair treatment in Ireland. My Lords, how did that work out At the present time, outside Ulster, out of something like 684 councillors, there are only fifteen Unionists in the three Provinces. What was Mr. Redmond's opinion on that state of affairs when that was worked out Mr. Redmond in 1902 said that the county councils formed a network of Nationalist organisations all over Ireland. That is one of the instances of Mr. Redmond's toleration.

My Lords, I have endeavoured to prove that the statements made by Mr. Devlin with regard to this unfortunate woman were absolutely incorrect, but before I sit down may I say that I do hope His Majesty's Government will carefully consider the opinion of the North of Ireland at the present moment with regard to this question. I have been associated with the North of Ireland during the whole of my political life. I was first returned as Member for County Down thirty-two years ago, and with the exception of three years, which I spent at the Viceregal Lodge, I have been closely identified with these people. Therefore I believe I know the people of Ulster well, and I can assure His Majesty's Government that if they think those people are going quietly to allow their Protestant necks to be put under the Roman Catholic yoke, they are making the greatest mistake they have ever made, and their awakening will be one of the rudest they have ever experienced.


My Lords, I do not want to go into this question at length, but I should like to express a hope that before the debate is finished we shall have an answer to what appeared to me to be the most vital portion of the noble Earl's speech. It seems to me that, leaving alone the McCann episode, the most important thing to know is whether anything can be done to prevent such a case occurring again. I have no doubt that the best thing would be, if the Vatican authorities could be prevailed upon to do it, to revert to the status quo ante before the issue of the Ne Tentere decree. I hope we shall hear that His Majesty's Government have considered this proposal, or that they will consider it, and see whether they cannot enter into friendly negotiations with the Roman Catholic authorities with a view to attaining that object. From my own experience I do not know that I am very sanguine as to the success of diploma tic negotiations of this nature, but as the decree has not been issued in Germany there is a strong case for its not being issued in this country, and I hope that point will be noticed by His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate, but as there seems to be a certain confusion of thought running through it which it appears to me would militate against the calm consideration which is necessary of this question, I hope I may be pardoned for taking part in it. I think the situation is one from which difficulties will undoubtedly arise. 1 do not want to go into the McCann case, because it seems to be surrounded with mystery and difficulty, but I will say, quite frankly, that the publication of the Ne Temere decree in Ireland or in any country must inevitably be followed by incidents of a painful character. That applies, I think, to any question dealing with the marriage law, and also with many other laws. I need not say that it is not specially under this decree that such cases as have been alluded to will arise. We all know that a Catholic cannot enter into a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church with a divorced person. In a case of that kind he might marry without revealing the fact that he was divorced; he might know all along that at any moment he could shield himself behind what he was pleased to call his conscience, and say, "I am not validly married, and I can break the marriage tie." That is one of the conditions in which a scandal of this kind might arise.

We have to consider what are the reasons which have induced the Church of Rome at this particular time to promulgate this decree in certain places and to abstain from promulgating it in other places, but without knowing the dangers which the Church of Rome saw which called for that action and the reasons why one district should require the promulgation of the decree and another district not, we are quite unable to approach this question with that calm judgment and knowledge necessary to adequately discuss it. But what I regret is that a question of this kind, which obviously must have a great deal to be said as to it on both sides, should be brought forward with any heat, either politically or from sectarian feelings of animosity. From many points of view I admired the speech of the noble Earl who brought forward this Motion. It was an admirable display of discretion and clear statement, but it was a pity that he appeared to be labouring under an impression that there was some dark design underlying the promulgation of this decree, and that it was an attempt by the Catholic Church to evade the law of the State. I have the more reason to think that that thought has engendered some rancorous spirit in the mind of the noble Earl from a speech of his at a public meeting lately in which he stated that not only was the decree itself offensive in its results, but that it used language of, I think he called it, an insulting kind; that it spoke of people who contracted marriages of this sort as living in a state of concubinage.


My point was that that was the result of the decree. I do not think implied that that word was used in the decree. It certainly is not.


Perhaps the noble Earl was misreported, but in the report in The Times it was set out in inverted commas. I merely mention that because it does show that there seems to be an attempt not to meet this step on the part. of Rome, dealing with this intensely difficult problem of the marriage law, in a spirit of understanding the difficulties that surround it, but to dub it at once as an attack on the part of the Church of Rome on the law of the land. As I have already said, these are problems which are necessarily attended with great difficulty, and the Holy See, whenever she determines to promulgate a decree of this kind, must know the enormous difficulty that exists on both sides, and the steps she takes she undoubtedly believes to be the best. A great many people, no doubt, will not agree with her. In Germany the decree is not enforced. I do not know whether that is because of the representations of the German bishops, but I believe it is very much owing to the fact that the arrangements with regard to these questions in Germany have very recently been put on a new footing, and that, so soon after that had been done, it would have been unwise to disturb matters again by the promulgation of this decree there. I do not know what our own Bishops in England think. I have carefully abstained from asking. But I have no doubt whatever, knowing what I do of human nature and the natural results that follow, that there are many Bishops in England who think it is time that this decree was published, and, on the other hand, that theme are many, no doubt, who think it unfortunate that it has been published and who would be glad to see it removed. But, my Lords, we have the fact of the great difficulties that exist in connection with the marriage law, and the fact that the Church of Rome, acting as the noble Viscount, Lord Llandaff, pointed out, has thought it wise to take this step of promulgating the decree. It appears to me, therefore, that it would be most proper that any representations tending to show objections to that course ought to receive full consideration in order to be temperately and properly brought before the authorities.

I cannot help remarking on that point that in Germany steps have been taken for many years now which in this country have not been taken—that is, to have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. For very many years I have hoped that that might be done, and I could weary your Lordships with a recital of the number of illustrious English statesmen who have told me in confidence that they entirely shared my view. But for some reason, and I am not, perhaps, wrong in thinking because of some of the spirit suggested in this debate, they have hesitated from coming forward to propose a way out of the difficulty. I cannot help thinking, if you are disposed to regard Germany as more fortunate than England in that respect, that steps of the kind might be taken on our part with good results. My Lords, all I wish to point out is that there seems to me to be a confusion of thought running through these matters by way of trying to represent that the decree is attacking the law of the land, and I venture to suggest that this question ought not to he viewed from the standpoint of an acrimonious controversy as to the facts of a particular case which it is not unnatural should have happened, and which may happen again, but ought to be viewed from the broader standpoint of the whole difficulty relating to the marriage law, and that when these questions have to be considered they ought to be considered with large minds and with every wish to bring before those who have the power and the authority the closest knowledge of the real needs of the districts concerned.


My Lords, I am very thankful indeed that the noble Duke has raised this debate to a higher level, for it would be an evil thing if a disproportionate view of this debate went forth to the world. Scandalous things, no doubt, have taken place, but I am quite sure that we should treat these difficulties as passing details and strike at something positive and definite. I must say that I think the position in which the noble Viscount, Lord Llanclaff, left the matter was so hopelessly illogical that it is practically almost impossible to leave it so. I hold in my hand a document entitled "Bulla Apostolica "—provida sapientique curs; and it is prefaced by a statement that, in respect of the decree of which your Lordships have heard so much, all Catholic marriages in Germany are subject to it, but mixed marriages and the marriages of Protestants are excepted from that decree. I commend that point to the best consideration of His Majesty's Government. When this unfortunate Mr. McCann is found, let the Civil Courts deal with him, but do not let the House of Lords go away on that point. Let it be seen what is the main thing that has been under discussion here this afternoon. Let the decree apply to the United Kingdom and to the whole of the Empire so far as Catholic marriages are concerned, but let there be the same exception with regard to mixed marriages and Protestant marriages throughout the British Empire as exists throughout the German Empire.


My Lords, I will not at this late hour occupy your Lordships more than two minutes. The noble Duke referred to one or two points which I think need the consideration of His Majesty's Government. If he does not know why the present was chosen as the time for introducing this Ne Temere decree into Great Britain—for your Lordships will remember that it is introduced not only in Ireland but throughout Great Britain—I shall not venture to make any surmise because that would be too rash and too unwise. Some people, however, have hinted that possibly after the concessions which have been made to the Roman Catholic Church this might be a favourable time to gain further advantages. I venture to believe, however, that our Government should demand that we should be placed in the same position as Germany in this matter. Germany, and I am given to understand Hungary also, has protested against being put under this Ne Temere decree, and has not been put under it. Whether that is the case with regard to Hungary or not I have not. been able in the short time at my disposal to verify.

But what we complain of in this case is not only with reference to the marriage law, but with reference to this poor woman's property, and why it was not considered right by the Executive in Ireland that her property should be protected. I understand that her own wardrobe and the little trinkets which naturally she valued very much have all been taken and sold, and apparently, from some reference here, it is known by certain ecclesiastical authorities where the husband is and where the children are—at any rate it is so far known that they are not within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop in Belfast. I venture to think that in the circumstances the Irish Executive might have done something to find out where the property of the woman was. But, of course, to her mind the children are of far more interest to her than her property. Some legal difficulty has been raised in another place—namely, that the father is entitled to the. children—and therefore I understand it is argued that he can pass on his rights to the priests, and hand over the children, who equally belong to a Protestant mother, to some Roman Catholic institution that they may be brought up in. I venture to press upon His Majesty's Government that that side of the question has not been satisfactorily answered. I hold in my hand quotations from text books which are taught from at present in Maynooth and other Roman Catholic Colleges, and which show that the priests are still brought up with the idea that any marriage of men and women not married according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church and made on the strength of no matter what law is nothing else but a shameful concubinage condemned by the Church. So that apparently this teaching is riot a dead letter.

Then, my Lords, there is the question, which is a far harder one, with regard to our soldiers in Malta. There is no civil marriage there, and every marriage not solemnised in a Roman Catholic church according to the law is invalid. I venture to hope that His Majesty's Government will, if they look into the whole matter, not consider Malta as being unworthy of consideration, and also that this question of the sacrament of marriage will not be looked at as a Party question. Throughout the length and breadth of the Empire many are hoping for some solution of this question, and, as Lord Halifax suggested, the solution might lie in the civil marriage being set up as the legal contract, which could be followed by the religious service settled by the different Churches. At any rate, I cannot but hope that the result of this debate will be to bring us nearer to some settlement which will prevent the recurrence of many of these heartburnings and hardships.


My Lords, I only wish to make a few remarks on this occasion. My noble and learned friend on the Cross Benches (Viscount Llandaff), who always speaks with such authority on this question, gave us some reasons why in the decree of the Council of Trent the marriage law was dealt with. I can quite follow that. But what I do not understand is why, after leaving it for three and a-half centuries where it was, this decree should have been introduced into the United Kingdom four years ago. I do not see any reason for that. The noble Duke who spoke so calmly on the subject did not express himself with any great knowledge as to what had been done, and I am unable to bind anywhere in his speech, or anywhere in the speech of the noble Earl who replied for the Government, any reason why this "bolt from the blue" should have occurred, and why this decree should have been introduced in 1907 after having lain practically dormant so far as we are concerned for three centuries and a-half.

No one wants to use intemperate or acrimonious language, but the words of the decree cannot be explained away. It says in absolutely clear terms that a marriage not celebrated before a priest in the way it indicates, shall not be open to question and discipline, but shall be null and void. It is as clear and strong a statement as can be made. The noble Viscount said that it expressly excluded non-Catholics. I cannot find that. The words are Iabsolute and unqualified.. It applies to every one, at all events, who takes part in a mixed marriage. This decree was not introduced in 1907 in order to remain a dead letter. It was intended that something should be done under it, and the importance of the McCann case is that it affords a concrete instance of what was done and how it was done, and that I cannot but think is extremely material. My noble friend on the Cross Benches pointed with great force to what had been done in Germany, and asked whether a similar withdrawal could not take place with reference to this country. I do not know how that may be, but it certainly is significant that in Germany this was appreciated to be such a grievance that it was withdrawn. A separate decree was issued especially to meet the case of Germany exempting mixed marriages in that country from the operation of this decree, and I believe the same thing also happened in Hungary, where the decree was suspended for six or twelve months. I do not know what its present position may be.

If this were merely an academic question of the revival of a decree and then leaving it where it was before, I would not be very much concerned to discuss it, or say anything about it; but the importance of the McCann case is that it shows how it is intended to be worked, and how it has worked as a matter of fact. The facts of the case have been presented so clearly by my noble friend behind me that I do not deem it necessary to go through them again. They are significant and painful. A blameless woman of unblemished character belonging to the Presbyterian Church married a Roman Catholic, lived with him for two years, and had two children. Then, owing to the intervention of a clergyman—it is not denied, it has not been suggested that she did not tell the truth—her home was broken up, and her happiness wrecked. Her children have been removed and she herself has had to leave the place destitute and homeless, with neither children nor husband. Even her clothes and articles of personal property were taken away from her. It is, I suppose, about as painful and grave an incident as could well take place.

It has been pointed out that the Church has some duty. Surely the State has some duty, too. Surely the State is bound to look after its subjects when they are treated in this way? It has been asked, What could the Government do? They could certainly have done something. No one knows better than the noble Earl opposite the powers of Dublin Castle. I also know a little about them. They could have found out the whereabouts of the husband; they could have found out the whereabouts of the children; and that would have been a reasonable thing to do. Have they done it? Where are the children now? Where is the husband now? Do they know the name of the priest? Have they tried to find out the name of the priest? Those are all obvious questions that we are entitled to ask. The circumstances of the case are so painful and so distressing that they cannot be brushed aside as being of no moment. The whole thing is not a dream. It is an absolute reality that this unfortunate woman's home has been broken up by the application of this Ne Temere decree, There is no suggestion of any other reason. If there had been no promulgation of this decree within the last three years this woman's home would have remained unbroken and unwrecked, the husband and wife living happily as before, and the poor woman would have been left with her children, one of whom was practically torn from her breast a month after birth.

My Lords, I am not concerned with the reasons that influenced the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church to pass originally three and a-half centuries ago the decree of the Council of Trent. Probably they had the best of reasons, but after three and a-half centuries they have now promulgated it in the United Kingdom. We are bound to see that the laws of our country are observed, and that when our subjects are married in a Protestant Church and what has taken place is legal and in accordance with our law, that marriage should not be set aside. I listened to the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches and to the noble Duke behind me explaining away, or seeking to explain away, what has been done, but they could not explain away the words themselves. I have them here before me. The words are as clear as crystal, not that a priest should invoke his bishop to get authority, but that unless the marriage is celebrated by the priest in the presence of two witnesses it shall be null and void. I suggest that what has been done in Germany and Hungary should be done in this country, and I trust that further consideration and further thought will induce those responsible for the promulgation of the decree to take care that it is safeguarded.


My Lords, the subject of this debate has, as has more than once been stated, divided itself into two distinct parts—first, the criticism which has been passed upon the Church of Rome for having promulgated the decree Ne Temere in these islands, and, secondly, the case of Mr. and Mrs. McCann which is stated to have arisen out of that promulgation. Like my noble friend opposite. I am in this position, that if the noble Duke, who speaks with so much authority, cannot say why the authorities at Rome chose this time for promulgating this decree in this country, it is certainly not for me to attempt to do so. But I think it is possible that one of the reasons which may have actuated the Church was that they believed that the promulgation would in itself operate as a distinct discouragement to mixed marriages, which they dislike; and I am confirmed in that statement by a sentence in the pastoral of Cardinal Logue recently published, from which the noble Earl opposite has already quoted. The Cardinal said— If the decree Ne Temere attains one object, which is no doubt among those chielly intended by the Holy Father, the cessation or a decrease of mixed marriages, it will confer au inestimable blessing on. Roman. Catholics. Be that as it may, there will undoubtedly remain, and I suspect not only among us of the. Church of England and others but among Roman Catholics also, grave doubts as to the practical wisdom of the step.

Then noble Lords opposite have asked whether it is possible for us to approach the Church of Rome with a view to getting the promulgation withdrawn. I am quite certain the House will not expect me to give anything like a definite answer to that question. The noble Duke spoke of the fact that we have no means of direct communication with the Vatican. I shall certainly not express an opinion as to whether it would be advantageous or not that we should have such means of communication, but I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl who introduced this Motion and the noble Marquess who spoke afterwards might think the remedy even worse than the disease, and that some of the hard things which have been said to-day about the Church of Rome might be repeated with even greater vigour. In any case, I hope that there will be no question of entrusting any negotiations or approaches either to the noble Earl or the noble Marquess, and I cannot help saying that if this question is to be settled, and ever can be settled, by friendly approaches, it is a misfortune that the tone of bitterness which, I am bound to say, was so marked through both the speeches of the noble Earl and the noble Marquess should have been used. The noble Marquess's tone, indeed, was one of direct defiance of Rome and all its works, and if that tone or anything like it is to be used it is hardly to be expected that the Roman authorities would meet us half-way.

As regards the effect of the Ne Temere decree, there is, of course, no real difference of opinion. We all know that the civil law cannot possibly be over-ridden, although it may conflict. We all remember that the Protestant Reformation in this country, so far as the State began to be interested in it, arose out of this very question, the question of a marriage and the conflict between the civil authority of that day and the authority of the Church, and, as has been pointed out in the course of the debate, even as matters now stand in this country the Church of England is not altogether free from this difficulty. We all remember the debates on the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, and the announcement that was made by many speaking on behalf of the clergy and by the clergy themselves, that they would not celebrate such marriages or regard them as valid marriages in the religious sense. It would be even more difficult in some ways, particularly in view of a possible extension of the facilities for divorce, having regard to the attitude which the Church of England takes up, and has a right as a Church to take up, with reference to the re-marriage of divorced persons. Those considerations, I think, may make us feel that, whether the action of the Church of Rome was right or wrong in this particular instance, the difficulty is not one which is only Roman, but is one which is liable to arise in all countries ill which the Church and the State are not concurrent authorities. All persons, therefore, however much they may be acting in accord with their conscience, who break the civil law in this respect become subject to the penalties which the law exacts. But I am bound to say it seems to me that a very grave responsibility rests upon the priests or ministers of any religion, who lead people to believe that they are not married in the religious sense, to make 'clear to them at the same time what their civil position is and what are the duties which the law imposes upon people who have gone through the civil ceremony of marriage. From the point of view, of course, of the Roman Catholic Church these people were only civilly married; they were not religiously married. No distinction was drawn, as has been attempted to be drawn in the course of this debate, between a marriage in a Protestant Church or Chapel and a marriage before a Registrar.

I pass to the case of Mr. and Mrs. McCann, and I am bound to say that, so far as I am able to discover from the papers that I have read, it is accurate to say that the facts of the case are not altogether established. The statement of the noble Marquess on the subject was, as I think he must himself admit, of a thoroughly ex parte character, and it is true that we have not heard all the facts on the other side.


I might remind the noble Earl that I took the line I did in order to controvert the effect of the statement made by Mr. Devlin in the House of Commons.


I quite understand that; but Mr. Devlin's speech was itself in reply to an ex parte statement which had made out that the faults were entirely on one side, that not only was the husband an undesirable person—and I think the evidence, so far as we have it, goes to show that he undoubtedly was—but that the wife was in all respects the injured party, and that there was, in fact, nothing whatever to be said on the other side of the case. To refer for one moment to a more general aspect of the case, we must not forget that, although in this particular instance the husband may or may not have acted conscientiously—I do not pretend to say whether he did or did not in the first instance—it cannot be disputed that he might have acted conscientiously so far as separation from his wife was concerned, but certainly not so far as his desertion of her was concerned. It is not an inconceivable case. In fact, we know that the most painful instances of the kind do happen in the case of people who have believed themselves to be properly married in the religious sense as well as in the legal sense, and who have, owing to coming under some religious influence, or for some other reason, come to the conclusion that their marriage is not valid in a religious sense. They are naturally torn in two between conflicting duties, their duty towards their religion and their duty towards the person, and a most agonising struggle must sometimes ensue. I only point that out because it seems to have been assumed all through this debate that the effect of the Ne Temere decree is only the indirect effect, or likely to be the indirect effect, of making unscrupulous people lure innocent girls and others into marriage under false pretences. But you cannot ignore the other aspect of the case in which people may think it right to separate from purely conscientious motives.

So far as regards McCann he, as I say, has apparently not taken that course, because, so far as one can judge, he has been guilty of the offence of deserting his wife. Whether it is true, as the noble Marquess said, that they had lived in undisturbed and almost Arcadian happiness up to the time when religious influences were brought to bear, I do not feel sure. The letters which the noble Marquess quoted are not, I think, in themselves conclusive evidence in a matter of this kind, because I believe it to he the fact—and it is a singular fact—that even in divorce cases in which the greatest. cruelty as well as infidelity has been proved, affectionate letters often have passed between the parties, written both by the injured and by the guilty party. However that may be, it is stated that the lives of these people were disturbed by quarrels, partly, perhaps, arising out of religious differences, and partly, possibly, from other causes. Both the noble Earl and the noble Marquess commented on the supposed evidence of the three priests, and the noble Earl said that it was no use to know that three priests did not tell the woman that she was not validly married, because there were 3,000 priests in Ireland any one of whom might have done it. That is true, but still these were the three priests of the district, and it seems in itself unlikely that a man should have taken the trouble to come from a distance in order to make this announcement.

Then we are asked why it was that the police did not take immediate action to discover the whereabouts of McCann and the children, and the noble Marquess said that if the police could be detailed in respect of cattle-drives they might at any rate be detailed for the purpose of assisting this poor woman. The police can only be detailed where a criminal offence has been committed. The mere fact that this woman was hardly treated, assuming for the moment that she was thoroughy hardly treated, would not of itself give the police a right to interfere, and it was only when the authorities became aware that there were grounds for supposing McCann to be guilty of a criminal offence that they felt called upon to move in the matter, and did move. The noble Marquess asks why we do not produce McCann and produce the priest, or take steps to discover them. The police are like other people in this country; they have to do the best they can by the ordinary methods of inquiry. We have no means of taking the priest and putting him to torture in order to discover where McCann is, or of adopting any Oriental method of the kind.


The point I made was this: Mr. Devlin quoted from a letter written by McCann to a correspondent of his, and therefore that correspondent could tell Mr. Devlin where McCann is.


That is a matter for Mr. Devlin. If Mr. Devlin is unwilling to state it we cannot compel him to do so, even supposing he knows, and that fact is not quite proved by the statement of the. noble Marquess, because McCann need not have put his address on the letter. But, as I say, even supposing Mr. Devlin knows, we have no means of making him divulge the address. It is really not fair to say that either the Irish Government or the police have been inactive in the matter. Neither is it at all fair to say that my noble friend the Viceroy acted in an unsympathetic manner in regard to this case. It is quite true that when Mrs. McCann wrote to Dublin Castle she received an officially-worded reply. As everybody knows, official replies, either from Dublin Castle or elsewhere, arc not as a rule effusively worded; but it is absurd to suppose that my noble friend the Viceroy would have been otherwise than sympathetic in this case, since, being as lie is a Scottish Presbyterian, his prejudices must necessarily have been on the side of. Mrs. McCann.

I am certainly not in the least surprised, knowing what 1 do of Ireland, that this lamentable case should have aroused very deep feeling there, and I do not complain that it should have done so; but I do not think it can be disputed that the incident has been used for what it is worth as a political engine. The noble Marquess himself would not, I think, dispute that, because at the close of his speech he did precisely what I have described. He said that this case is an instance of what will happen to most people, or to a large number of people, in Ireland if you give Home Rule. That is clearly using this story for a political object. Nor do I say that it is altogether an unnatural thing for the noble Marquess to do. The noble Marquess said that in the quotation of a letter in another place a sentence was read which did not appear in the letter. That was quite true. How the mis-quotation came to be made I do not know, but this sentence did appear in that letter, written by Mr. McDowell to Mr. Kerr-Smiley, the Member for North Antrim— I suppose you saw yesterday's Whig and News Letter in relation to the kidnapped children. It is having a tremendous effect here. I am told it will have the same tremendous effect in Scotland. It ought to he useful to you in the shape of stiffening the waverers. As I say, I should have been greatly surprised if some such use had not been made of it. Then my noble friend behind me quoted the case of the two Presbyterian clergymen who spoke on November 2, both of whom stated in different words that this event had been brought about by Divine Providence as a warning to the people of both countries and in order to give some slight impression of what might happen in certain circumstances. It seems to me that that was a little hard on Mrs. McCann. who for the moment must be supposed to have been ignored by Divine Providence, and it is an expression which, it seems to me, is a strange one for a minister of religion to have used. But it only shows what we know to be the case, that feeling in these matters does run very high.

I can assure noble Lords opposite that, so far as McCann can be shown to have been guilty of any offence against the law, every effort will be made to bring him to book for that offence; and if he is brought to book and it is shown that he has been guilty not merely of a technical offence against the law, but of heartless and cruel conduct, I sincerely hope he will receive such punishment as he deserves and as it is possible to inflict according to the law. I am sure the noble Duke opposite takes the same view


Hear, hear.


More than that we cannot say. I certainly do not admit for a moment that either my right hon. friend or the authorities in Ireland have been remiss or have fallen short of their duty in dealing with this case in all its unpleasant and deplorable aspects.


Might I remind the noble Earl that I moved for Papers?


I will inquire, but I doubt whether there are any Papers that would be of service to the noble Earl.


I would be glad to be supplied with them if there are any, and especially with a copy of the correspondence that took place with the. Bishop of Belfast. There is just one point that I would like to refer to by way of reply, to which I suppose I am entitled. The noble Earl, I think, assumed that I should object to any communication taking place between the Government and the Church of Rome. So far from that being so, such communications are going on almost every day. I see my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for War in his place, and unless times have changed the War Office are in constant communication with the Archbishop of Westminster, who I should be almost inclined to say must consider the Under-Secretary somewhat of an unmitigated nuisance in that respect. It would, therefore, be perfectly easy for the Government to negotiate directly with the Archbishop, and I am sure they would find him always ready to discuss any subject of the kind with them. I hope they will do so. I beg to withdraw my Motion.


Before the noble Earl withdraws his Motion, let me remind him that I was speaking of negotiations with the Vatican direct.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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