HC Deb 07 July 1873 vol 216 cc1851-4

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called to the public admission by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York that there is "a real danger" of "a considerable minority of the clergy and laity of the Church of England desiring to subvert the principles of the Reformation," and to their assertion in the same document that "the very existence of our national institutions for the maintenance of religion is imperilled;" and further to the fact, that 480 clergymen of the Church of England have petitioned Convocation in favour of the revival in the Established Church of Sacramental Confession, of an order of Confessors, and of many other services and ceremonies abolished at the Reformation; and, whether he will be prepared to introduce a Bill next Session, in accordance with the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Ritual, passed by a large majority of the Commissioners, whereby "a speedy and inexpensive remedy shall be provided for parishioners," against the introduction into their parish churches of certain practices at variance with the usages and principles of the Established Church, and "the bishop shall be bound to inquire into" the formal complaints of parishioners, and "to enforce summarily the discontinuance" of all such illegal practices?


Of course, Sir, the Government has obtained the same information en the subject referred to as has the rest of the public, through the medium of the public journals. But we have obtained officially no information, and we do not think that the subject conies before us in a manner connected with our public responsibilities. In regard to the noble Lord's second Question, which no doubt refers to the Report of the Commissioners on Ritual, dated in the year 1868, in that Report the Commissioners offered certain recommendations in regard to the relations of the Church, and the regulations in respect to the introduction of vestments, lights, and incense. As I understand, I do not imagine that that particular question has any connection with the subject-matter of the noble Lord's first inquiry. But when the noble Lord asks me whether the Government will be prepared to bring in a Bill next Session, in accordance with the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Ritual, I am bound to say that the Government have not taken into their consideration what Bills they may or may not introduce next Session. In respect to the subject itself—namely, that of protecting members of the congregation of the Church of England against any alteration in regard to matters of ceremonial —that, I admit, is a sound principle. That is the principle on which I understand the recommendations of the Commissioners were based. Probably the noble Lord's information is as good as mine when I state that neither the present nor any former Government has ever moved to bring in any Bill on the subject. As I understand, the reason given for not doing so was that it was supposed that the questions which were pending in the Ecclesiastical Courts would lead to a settlement of these matters; but upon neither of the subject-matters of these Questions has the Government received any communication from the leading Prelates or heads of the Church.


Sir, in consequence of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply which has just been made by the First Minister of the Crown, I beg to give Notice that, unless at the opening of next Session a Bill on this subject is brought forward, either by the Government or by some hon. Member who is more experienced than myself, I shall, at the very beginning of the Session, move for leave to introduce a Bill to give a speedy and inexpensive remedy against the introduction and continuance of practices contrary to law in churches belonging to the Church of England as by law established.


said, he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the attention of the Government had not been drawn to this subject. ["Order!"] It would, however, be in the recollection of the House that he himself introduced a Bill for that very purpose. ["Order!"]


intimated that the hon. Gentleman, although he might make an explanation, if he thought it necessary, could not say anything which might give rise to a debate.


said, he only wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether, if the Bill were again brought forward, he would give it his support? Its object was to restore to the laity the power of prosecuting, instead of leaving it in the hands of the Bishops.


I am sorry, Sir, to be obliged to state that my attention was never drawn to the hon. Member's Bill. The Question of the hon. Gentleman appears to be quite different from that of the noble Lord opposite. I con- fined my reply to the matters to which the noble Lord directed my attention, and if the hon. Gentleman will place on the Paper, in such a manner as I can understand it, any Question he may wish to put to me, I will take care to answer it.

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