Cardinal Mercier's Own Story

by His Eminence D. J. Cardinal Mercier. New York: George H. Doran Co. 1920. 8vo, 441 pp. Portrait. $4.00.
‘You are in our estimation the incarnation of occupied Belgium,of which you are the venerated and trusted pastor. For this reason it is to you the Governor General and my government also have commissioned me to come, and to announce that, when we evacuate your soil, we wish to hand over to you unasked and of our own free will the political prisoners serving their time either in Belgium or in Germany, as well as those who have been deported.’
No greater earthly reward can be conceived than, after four years of struggle, to have received a letter like this. Surely the reader will not be able to drive from his mind the picture of Cardinal Mercier stooping over its page, seeing its message through his tears.
Many persons will read, and be glad that they have read, this book. In a few words they may be told what they are to expect.
The title is accurate, ‘Cardinal Mercier’s Own Story’; yet it might mislead a few into thinking that Cardinal Mercier has, during the past year, been employed in setting down his personal reminiscences of his heroic struggle and final victory.
Truly he is too busy a man for that. What the book contains is the correspondence that passed between the Cardinal and the German authorities—von Bissing, the Governor General, Baron von Lancken of the Political Department, and, finally, Baron von Falkenhausen, who succeeded von Bissing at his decease.
A few explanations are added. They are scarcely needed. The letters themselves tell the story. There were the controversies, first, over atrocities; then over the Cardinal’s pastorals, and the freedom of the clergy; then over the deportation of Belgian civilians. Through them all stand forth manifest the nervousness, the helplessness, of the invader, who, starting with a wrong, could not set himself right, and the moral confidence of the Cardinal, who, personifying Belgium, asserted her rights, and, by the justice of her cause, could and did speak with assurance against the evildoer.
The story will interest priest and layman, believer and non-believer, Frenchman and German, historian and jurist, those who are looking to the past and those with their eyes on the future. Possibly it will interest least the man who wishes to animate himself with the war and its sensations, with any special hatred. For the letters provide a study in international law, in history, even in philosophy — for time and again, particularly in the correspondence with Baron von Lancken, Kant and German philosophy play their part. Yet be assured that the letters are not of an abstract nature. They tell a story dramatically. They stir by noble example. Diverse conclusions will be drawn from them, but to all minds one truth at least will be evident, namely, that there must exist principles above and beyond the interests of individuals or of nations. D. S.