WE DEPLORE the action of the Romanist hierarchy in Ireland on the question of Conscription. We should think still more deplorable any support that might be given them from the Vatican. But equally deplorable are the comments of the English Press on the situation. The Times has hinted at a possible revival of the Penal Laws, with an unctuous disclaimer of responsibility for so melancholy an event. In the Observer Mr Garvin declares it “infinitely absurd” to suggest that “comments like these mean a revival of religious persecution,” but he adds that the bishops must be “seriously taught what civil sovereignty means”. What the bishops have done is this: they have taught their people that the Conscription law as applied to Ireland is so iniquitous, and so far beyond the competence of the British Parliament, that no Irishman is bound in conscience to obey it, but that he should rather resist. Therefore, says Mr Garvin, “there should be cool, unswerving, resourceful resolution in dealing once for all with the infatuated repudiation of the vital authority of the Imperial Parliament, which these ecclesiastical pretensions involve.” Mr Garvin’s style is his own, but his thoughts are those of most Englishmen. And here is, in plain truth, the old denial of religious liberty. If a religious leader, if Cardinal Logue or the Bishop of London or Mr Meyer or the Chief Rabbi, tells his flock that an Act of Parliament is iniquitous or ultra vires, and that they are bound in conscience to disobey it, he must, of course, be prepared to take the consequences of resistance to the law; but to abuse his “pretension” is to remove the basis of religious liberty. Forty years ago we were fighting hard for liberty to do this very thing, and we will not silently see it called in question now.
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