HC Deb 07 May 1885 vol 297 cc1849-51

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Did he officially authorise the letter, published on the 22nd inst., signed by his secretary, apologising for having addressed the Protestant Synod as "the Synod of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland," and consenting to address that body as "the Synod of the Church of Ireland," if so can he state under what circumstances the latter title has been officially given, is he aware that the Government have always hitherto refused to the Disestablished Church the title it claims, that in the draft charter which the Government was asked to sanction they struck out the words "Church of Ireland," inserted by the representative body, that as in the Marriage Act of 1870, members and clergymen of this church are designated "Protestant Episcopalians," the Irish Registrar General, acting under the advice of the Law Adviser, Dublin Castle, directed clergymen of the disestablished religion to enter their church in the marriage register as the "Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland;" that the Lord Lieutenant, in the recent order as to precedence, published in The Dublin Gazette of April 3rd, styles its bishops "Protestant Episcopalians;" that at the last Census members of this denomination numbered only 639,574 as against 3,960,891 Catholics, 470,734 Presbyterians, and 103,107 persons of other persuasions, and do the Home Office intend officially to style the Disestablished Church by a title calculated to give offence to other religious bodies in Ireland, while the Irish Government avoids the title complained of?


I have not an intimate acquaintance with this matter—indeed, I never heard of it until I saw this Question on the Paper. This Question comes within the Heraldic Department of the Home Office, and, like all questions of nomenclature — especially ecclesiastic nomenclature—it is a very complicated question. However, I may tell the hon. and learned Member that I will consult the Irish Government as to the practice in the matter, as whatever is the practice of the Irish Government, it ought to be followed by the Home Office. The matter will be cleared up, so that in the Home Office and the Irish Office the Government might use some practice in the matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman, or the person in his Department who will consult the Irish Government, also look into the various Acts of Parliament relating to the matter, beginning with the Church Act, and see that they all recognize the title of "the Church of Ireland?"


What is the Heraldic Department of the Home Office? Who is the Head of it? I never heard of it.


These heraldic questions are extremely complicated questions, as are mostly all questions of changes of name when other people object to have the name changed. The question was dealt with by those of the Department having to do with the styles and titles, proceedings of which I am not very fond.


I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can state whether the letter signed by his Secretary, apologizing for calling this Body the "Protestant Episcopal Church," was written without his authority, because this was a matter that created a great sensation in Ireland?


I am not sure when the letter was written. I am aware of the importance attached to these matters, and I can assure the hon. and learned Member that this matter will be carefully considered.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that when a short Bill was passed after the Church Act, and when it was proposed to call the Church "The Church of Ireland," it was called "The Disestablished Episcopal Church in Ireland?"


I am not aware of that; but I see that I will have to get up this subject.


Would the right hon. Gentleman have any objection to consulting the Irish Government as to whether there could be any reason in calling a certain Church "The Church of Ireland," when everybody knows the Church of Ireland is another Church altogether?

[No reply.]