It is highly regrettable that the undue prominence given in the Press to the sad case of Maria Hertogh has thrown it out of its true perspective. Though we greatly deplore those sections of the Press that have exploited this topic for news, we are not without a good word for those others who see the problem in its true light by going to the heart of the matter.
Admittedly it is an exceptional case, and these hard cases make difficult law. However, without being dogmatic about it at the moment, as there are finer points still to be dealt with, we must accept the natural relationship which exists between the mother and her child.
Parents have first rights and authority over their offspring (at least till they are of age and able to look after themselves) to bring them up in their faith and in keeping with their station in life so that they may enjoy all the privileges of family and home life and receive an education according to their means with all necessary provision made for the future. Sometimes, it may happen that there is a disruption in the family life.
Poverty, sickness, the death of one or both of the parents, other circumstances beyond control may make it necessary, for the children's own benefit, to take them away from home to be put under the charge of relatives or other persons; but this does NOT deprive the parents of their RIGHT to direct the life of their children (and to have them educated according to the parents' own wishes) unless complete neglect on the part of the parents can be PROVED; then the Courts may intervene to see that the children are brought up to be useful and loyal citizens of the country to which they belong; or unless there has been a legal adoption. Yet the Government, that is those responsible for the administration of the law of the land, must bear in mind that its role is subsidiary and no authority on earth can give it the right to destroy the family cell, which is the unit of society.
LAW OF THE CHURCH QUITE CLEAR
The Church, by virtue of the Authority invested in her by Our Lord, has jurisdiction over all Catholics and will always stand firm in upholding the Law of God and will never allow any violation of human rights, whether of the family or the individual; and it is the duty of the State to protect its citizens and their rights against the assaults of sectional interests.
The law of the Church with regard to Matrimony holds that the marriage of a Catholic OUTSIDE the Church is NOT valid in the eyes of the Church.
Maria Hertogh is of Dutch nationality, born of Catholic parents and baptised a Catholic in Java. She is a minor. She is an unfortunate victim of the war. Brought up in a different environment and surroundings, her psychological make-up, her mentality, her whole outlook on life is not that of a normal Dutch girl of her age; but this does not mean that Maria Hertogh is without parents or has no country or that she has been entirely forgotten and neglected all this time. On the contrary, her parents, exercising their natural rights as parents and recognizing her as their legitimate daughter and filled with love for her, made investigations immediately after the war and carried out a thorough search for her in Java. Failing to trace her there, her father recently made an attempt to come to Singapore. Then the Dutch authorities stepped in and decided to come to the assistance of the sorrowing parents and spare them further trouble, anxiety, expense and worry by taking the matter in hand. Eventually Maria was found in Malaya, in all probability not knowing who she really was until she found herself so much in the news, one of the tragedies of the war.
LAW, NOT SENTIMENT, MUST RULE
Yes, it is a tragedy, a terrible tragedy, a most heart-rending affair. We are not without feeling or understanding. We deeply sympathise with all parties in their great distress, but we must not allow our feelings to get the better of us, to sway our judgment, to blind us to the truths of the case; WE CANNOT LET SENTIMENT RULE INSTEAD OF LAW. No doubt it may seem inhuman, yet however hard and difficult it may be, the Law of God must be upheld and parental rights and authority respected. We must face the issue bravely, calmly and with deliberation. It is a very delicate question, fraught with many dangers: but we must not allow any deviation from PRINCIPLE for any reason WHATSOEVER.
By A. R. G. D'Rose.
The Malayan Catholic Newsletter, August 27, 1950. page 3