§ On the Order for the consideration of this Bill as amended by the Standing Committee,
§ * MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk,Lowestoft)
moved—That the Bill be considered this day six months.He said: In rising to move the Motion that stands in my name, I ought, perhaps, in the first instance, to submit to the House the reasons why I have taken this course, which, though in order, is somewhat unusual. I will remind the House that this Bill is a Government Measure, to which I believe the Government attach some importance; yet up to the present moment it has not occupied more than a couple of hours of the time of the House on the Second Reading; on the First Reading there was no discussion, and its consideration in Committee was confined to about five per cent. of 456 the Members of this House. Therefore there is some excuse in my asking the House, before considering the Bill in detail, to consider more carefully than they have hitherto done the principle on which the Bill is founded. The Bill, in the first instance, proposes—and it is remarkable, as coming from the present Government—to confiscate private rights—I do not hesitate to use that word—without compensation; and the House is aware that neither in the Committee stage nor in the Report stage is it competent for any private Member to move that compensation be inserted. I am told that that would involve a grant of public money, and that it can only be done by a Money Bill. Therefore it will not be open to move, if private rights are injuriously affected or destroyed, that compensation, be given. That is another reason why the House should carefully consider the Bill now. The third point is that by this Bill the civil rights of a great many of Her Majesty's subjects are largely interfered with. I do not think I am overstating the case, because the right of the clergy to appeal to the Crown in certain cases is to be withheld in this Bill, notwithstanding the fact that at least one Royal Commission—I believe two Royal Commissions 457 —referred to the right of appeal to the Crown as an indefeasible right. In the fourth place, the Bill is no less remarkable for what it omit to do than for what it does. To begin with, the Bill does not propose to deal with the rights of any dignitary of the Church: episcopal rights of patronage and the rights of patronage of the Crown are left untouched. I shall endeavour to show the House that what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. The Bill is brought forward on the attractive plea that it will remove alleged abuses connected with the cure of souls. Legislation on that, subject has been passed at a not very remote date, and that legislation is working with satisfaction and good results to the Church. Only six years ago an Act was passed, at the instance of the late Archbishop—the Clergy Discipline Act—which has undoubtedly purged the Church of many unfit clergy. That Act gave power to parishioners to bring a suit against an immoral clergyman in the Consistory Court, and the bishop had power, on conviction, to deprive the delinquent of his living, and unfrock him. At present, therefore, large powers exist for dealing with immoral clergy. By the 1885 Act—curiously misnamed the Pluralities Act Amendment Act, for it had nothing to do with pluralities—large powers were given to the bishop to suspend an incumbent neglectful of his duties. Still, it may be said these Acts have not prevented unfit men from appointment to livings, and criticism has been in vain directed to obtain specific statement of grounds of unfitness other than those covered by the existing law. I ventured, on the Second Reading of this Bill, to draw the attention of the House to the very ill-defined grounds of unfitness which it is proposed to insert in the Bill, and, in reply, the First Lord of the Treasury said—I am quite ready, if discussion should show it to be necessary and desirable, to make it as clear as possible, on the face of the Bill, what are the kind of offences, what are the kind of shortcomings, for which the bishop is to be justified in refusing presentation.That was an exceedingly fair offer on the part of the right honourable Gentleman; but the pressure of business due to his work at the Foreign Office in the absence of Lord Salisbury deprived us of his 458 presence at the Grand Committee, or I feel sure we should have had his help in the fulfilment of that promise, Now, Sir, I say that there are very recent Parliamentary enactments for the purpose of preventing unfit men from either being instituted, or remaining in office if negligent in the performance of their duties. With the object of preventing unfit persons being instituted into livings every Member of this House will sympathise; but how does the Government propose to do it? I venture to think that they have proceeded under a confusion of ideas for which they are not originally responsible. This is the first, time the Government, as a Government, have attempted to deal with this matter, but there have, as the House knows, been various proposals, Session after Session, in the hands of private Members. These proposals have proceeded on a confusion of ideas as to the way in which unfit men should be prevented from being instituted, and the Government have apparently taken these private Bills as a model, and have, therefore, fallen into the same confusion of ideas. They have adopted two roads for approaching the subject, while one would have been sufficient. They proceed, first of all, by putting restrictions upon the exercise of the rights of patrons, and they increase the power of the bishop to deal with unfit persons presented, while they also propose to increase the number of offences for which a bishop may find a person unfit and remove him. Here arises the confusion of ideas. The Church of England has never measured the fitness of the presentee by the standard of the patron nominating. The right of the patron, as the House well knows, is not the right of institution; the bishop is the sole judge of fitness. The Church has never depended on the character of the patron; patronage is a form of transferable property which might be bought and sold, and pass by demise or, on bankruptcy, in a trustee. The patron may be an absentee; he may be an atheist. To attempt to argue that the character of the presentee depends upon the character of the patron is to condemn wholesale that system of private patronage which has existed for centuries in this country. The safeguard the Church has always looked 459 to for the fitness of the presentee is the bishop. The bishop holds the key of ordination and of institution. The right of private patronage was not created by Parliament. It arose in the nature of an arrangement between the Church and private donors, by which private donors, in consideration of giving the money for the building of the church and for endowing the church, received the right of nominating to the bishop and the ordinary a clerk in holy orders for the purpose of ministering to the cure of souls. The patron cannot admit the individual to the spiritualities of the office. He has only the right of nomination, and the bishop is the only person who can admit or reject. That being so, how is it logically suggested that you are going to get a better class of presentee by imposing restrictions upon the exercise of the right of nomination if the power be with the bishop? I can understand the argument that the bishop has not sufficient power in a matter of this kind, and I can understand the proposal to give the bishop more power, and that there are certain grounds upon which the bishop cannot at present exercise this power, and so long as the offences are clearly defined, and so long as a clear opportunity is given to the presentee of repudiating the accusations made against him, I for one will heartily support any such proposals. But I submit that to restrict the right of private patronage for the purpose of securing more fit men to administer the cure of souls in the Church will not secure any such result; proposals to interfere with the right of private patronage, apart from their injustice, are altogether unnecessary. They are an encumbrance to the Bill, and they will not attain any of the objects which it is alleged they have in view. And, then, Sir, we have had no definite statement, except a general one, that there are abuses, and I would ask the Government to state in detail what are the abuses which they seek to cure by the proposals in this Bill. It will not do 460 to simply state to the House that there are abuses, and that there are scandals; and I think that the Government should condescend to detail and tell us precisely what are the abuses and evils which they have in their mind which they desire by this Bill to remedy. Of course, I know that every member of the Committee, who has spent laborious days upstairs examining this Bill, knows that again and again the statement was made that it had been proved that there was something corrupt, and something wrong, in the idea of a man purchasing an advowson with a view to an early presentation. For the life of me I cannot see what there is in it. Take, for example, the case of Church Patronage Trustees. Why, almost every time they get a chance of acquiring a living they desire to do it because they want to put into that living men representing their own particular views, and the sooner the vacancy occurs the sooner they can exercise the right of patronage, and the sooner they can exercise that right, the better pleased they are. Under this Bill now introduced it is provided that the owner of the right of patronage, if a vacancy arises within 12 months after he has acquired that right, has, forsooth, to go before my lord bishop and assure him that he had not the faintest notion that there was going to be a vacancy, and, unless he can assure the bishop of that to the bishop's own satisfaction, mark the extraordinary result. Why, the presentee, however good a man he may be, is to be rejected by the bishop because the patron of the living acquired the right when he had a notion that there was going to be a vacancy. Now, how is that going to assure a better man being put into the living? The Government will, no doubt, tell us by whom that right of patronage is going to be exercised, for that does not appear in the Bill as it stands. A. B. may acquire nine months or three months ago a right of patronage. A vacancy arising, A. B. thereupon exercises the right of patronage, and presents a 461 fit and proper person to the bishop. The question of selection is not to be brought into account by the bishop at all, but the patron is to satisfy his lordship that at the time he bought the advowson he had not any notion that there was going to be a vacancy. If he does not satisfy the bishop what is going to happen in the nine months?
§ * MR. H. S. FOSTER
I have no desire in any way to mislead the House, but they have the Bill before them, and since I am challenged upon it I will refer honourable Members to the exact words in the clause of the Bill, and then I think the House will say that I am in no way misrepresenting the case. Clause 2 provides that—A bishop may refuse to institute or admit a presentee to a benefice (a) if at the date of his presentation not more than one year has elapsed since a transfer, as defined by the first section of this Act, of the right of patronage of the benefice, unless it be proved that the transfer was not effected in view of the probability of a vacancy within such year.Now I say, Sir, having read that, those words fully justify the statement I made, and the Bill bears out my contention that if a man acquires a right to a presentation, and three months after he has acquired it a vacancy arises, and he seeks to present a fit and proper person, the bishop may refuse his presentee unless the patron can satisfy the bishop by practically proving a negative and showing that at the time he acquired the advowson three months ago he had not any idea that there was going to be a vacancy; otherwise, the bishop can refuse to appoint. I ask again, who is going to exercise the right in the remaining nine months? Is the parish to be left without an incumbent, or is the right to revert back again to the transferor Upon what principle is it that you are going to elect a better man and choose a more fit person than the man presented by the patron who acquired it three months ago? Is the right to lapse to the bishop? If so, you are going first of all to have a great increase of episcopal patronage at the expense of private patronage, and that is 462 a matter which the First Lord of the Treasury has already expressed himself against. If you do that you are going to put a strong temptation into the hands of the bishop not to be satisfied, because the patronage is going to fall to himself if he refuses a nominee of the patron. That is one of the extraordinary proposals which I venture to describe, and which I think I describe rightly, as an invasion of the right of private patronage. A curious and somewhat euphonious argument has been used in defence of this right. It is said by people who have always stood up for full compensation, if private rights are injured, if there is any detriment of private property, that in this case we are not taking away the right, but we are only introducing regulations and restrictions for governing the exercise of that right. That is a very euphonious argument, and Dick Turpin might have used a similar argument when he presented a pistol to the heads of those persons whom he unfortunately waylaid, and he might have said that he was only regulating and restricting the enjoyment of their property. It seems to me that the argument is just about as just and honest in the one case as it is in the other. Sir, I find in the discussions in this House for many years past—for centuries past —the principle of according just treatment to those who have been deprived of their rights of property by Act of Parliament, has always been defended, and generally with success. I find that Mr. Gladstone, in the first speech he ever delivered in this House on the 3rd of June, 1832, when he was advocating the just treatment of a class which is regarded with abhorrence to-day—that is, the owners of slaves—claimed just treatment for them for the loss of their property—a treatment from which we should almost shrink, in connection with flesh and blood, to-day. He defended the slaveowners, and contended that they had honestly and legally acquired property, and he pointed out that the Legislature had created property in slaves. Sir, this House has created property in advowsons, and this House, by enactment, has recognised the existence of that property, and has passed more than one Act with that object. The Act of Lord West bury was passed for the purpose of directly encouraging the sale of Crown livings. 463 Under that Act I am informed that no less than half a, million sterling has been realised by the sale of Crown livings. It may be that many persons in this House, on both sides, desire to see the trafficking in livings abolished. That may be desirable, but let no one vote for this Bill under the impression that it is going to do anything of the kind. It is a false cry, and if it is used in any sense by the supporters of the Bill it is to get the votes of those who are in favour of the abolition of that right of sale, which is not provided for in this Bill at all. The First Lord of the Treasury some time ago pointed out the extreme difficulty of a proposal of that kind, and whatever it may be thought desirable to do to-day, in the way of abolishing the right of sale, at present enjoyed under the direct sanction of Parliament, this Bill will not do it. I submit, however unfashionable the doctrine may be to-day, that this House has no business to associate itself with any proposal for cutting down and abridging private rights of property without honest compensation. If I may venture to prophesy, I would, say that that Party which associates itself with doctrines which do not protect these rights, will be sowing the wind to-day and reaping the whirlwind tomorrow. It is said in defence of the abridgment of these rights that they are only being restricted and regulated, and the argument put forward is that this is not the ordinary kind of property, but is a trust, and that Parliament has power to interfere in the exercise of that trust. Now, Sir, what is the trust? It is quite true that there is a trust involved, but the terms of that trust have been laid down by Act of Parliament, and it is that a patron is bound to present to the bishop a clerk in Holy Orders for institution, and if the patron neglects within six months, if he fails to discharge that trust, and it is the only legal trust imposed upon him, it is safeguarded by a power given to the bishop. If the patron fails to discharge his trust in six months, Parliament says that in that case the right of patronage shall be vested in the bishop, and the bishop then has the right, by lapse of filling up the incumbency, because the patron has neglected the duty and the trust imposed upon him by Parliament. The appointment of a presentee is not a trust which the Church or Par- 464 liament has bestowed on the patron, though happily we have a large number of patrons who exercised such care in the choice of the man whom they present that he is invariably accepted. But, although that undoubtedly is the case, the duty and responsibility is on the bishop and not on the patron. In illustration of my argument I may mention that, in accordance with a proposition moved by the honourable Member for Gloucester, a Return was presented to this House on February 17th last giving not only the form of institution to benefices, but also the form of testimonials required in Canterbury, York, and London prior to admission to benefices; and the House will remember that in the diocese of York, for instance, the practice is that, by whomsoever a man may be presented, the archbishop, before instituting him, requires the testimony of three beneficed clergymen in regard to his fitness if he lives within the diocese; while, if he be not resident within the diocese of York, the archbishop requires the endorsement of the bishop of the diocese from which he comes. I think that sufficiently shows that the bishops do not depend, and have never depended, on the patrons with regard to the fitness of the men who have been presented. Under this Bill, in order to secure the greater fitness of presentees, the Government propose to exercise a certain restraint upon private patronage, and these forms of restraint are somewhat singular. I have called the attention of the House to one of them, but there are two other restrictions to which I would also draw attention. A patron must not in future sell, the right of next presentation; that is to say, that if he sells at all he must sell his full interest. I would ask again upon what ground that is sought for. A general statement is made, but without detail. "Oh," it is said, "the greater part of these scandals are in connection with the sale of next presentations"; but I very respectfully ask whoever is going to speak for the Government to tell the House what are the precise scandals in the sale of next presentations which it is desired by this Bill to stop. The only object to be kept in view is the fitness of the person presented. It is said, "Oh, a man will buy the next presentation with a view to presenting some 465 particular person." Again, I ask the House, in the name or common sense, why that should not be done if the person designated be a fit person. The exercise of private patronage has again and again been described in this House by one honourable Member as the salt of the Church of England, and by another as preserving that catholicity and broadness which are among her glories. Under the Clergy Discipline Act of 1892, in the diocese of York, there have been three cases of immoral clergymen who have been deprived of their livings, and of those three clergymen two were episcopal nominees, while the third was a nominee of the Lord Chancellor. Thus, if you take the cases of these unfit men, you find that the Crown and the bishops make at least as many mistakes as private patrons, and therefore I ask why you should deal under this Bill with the rights of a particular class of persons who have exercised their patronage well, while you do nothing to interfere with episcopal rights or those of the Crown. Before I pass from that subject I should say that on the Second Reading I was under the impression that the rights of private patrons would not be injuriously affected so far as this restriction goes, but I am now convinced that that is not the case, and that by taking away the right of next presentation, and by providing that unless a man registers his transfer within two months, or such time as the bishop may permit under special circumstances, the transfer is absolutely invalid, you do destroy part of the value of advowsons. These restrictions are most injuriously affecting the right of patronage, and I may, perhaps, be permitted to put before the House a few remarks on this subject from the pen of Mr. Chancellor Dibden, who was the reputed draughtsman of the Bill of 1896, and who is also the editor of the Record newspaper. Writing in the Contemporary Review in February, 1893, he speaks as follows with regard to the effect of such Measures on private rights and private interests—How far it is permissible to apply new checks which in their operation will depreciate advowson property without giving compensation is a question of degree. I am bound to admit that not only this but every fresh obstacle put in the way of the sale must detract from the market value of advowsons. Even 466 the public discussion of the subject, and still more the introduction of Patronage Bills into Parliament, has this effect.That is a notable admission coming from one who was the author of a private patronage Bill. He admits what must be obvious to any fair-minded man—that if these checks are sanctioned by Parliament they must cause detriment to private rights; and I believe the House will agree with me that if Parliament takes away private rights it is the duty of Parliament to give compensation for the injury. The second line upon which the Government proceed is to enlarge the grounds upon which the bishop may refuse presentees, and for that purpose a number of grounds are enumerated. But these grounds are so vague and ill-defined that I think Parliament may be relied on not to accept them, since it is difficult to say what some of them really mean. Practically they remain as on the First Reading, with one exception. That exception is with regard to neglect of duty. We strove in vain some time ago to get a definition of that, but by pressing the Government to accept the definition which had been previously rejected—that of the Act of 1885—I am glad to say that the Government did accept that definition; the other ill-defined phrases still remain. We still have "physical or mental incapacity," "pecuniary embarrassment," and "grave misconduct," as to which I may say that on the Committee stage we asked the Solicitor General what the meaning of "grave misconduct" was, and the honourable and learned Gentleman replied that it was more than he could say. The object of putting in these words was to enlarge the power of the bishop; but what is the bishop going to declare to be grave misconduct if no standard is laid down for it? I venture to any that the House will be most unwise, and will be passing legislation based on very unwise principles, if it sets out in the manner suggested something which no man can define, and leaves it to someone else to say what shall or shall not constitute "grave misconduct." The argument is that the net shall be wide enough to catch the offender, and that is quite true, but it should not be wide enough to catch the innocent as well. With regard to the tribunal which this Bill proposes to set up, it is provided 467 that the bishop shall be the tribunal in the first instance, and there is no judicial hearing before him. The First Lord said very fairly that if you have a right to appeal you must put the bishop out of the position of being the judge in the first instance and at the same time a party in the Court of Appeal, and that is perfectly true. There is already a very efficient tribunal under the Clergy Discipline Act of 1892. It is rather unkind to cast these unpleasant duties upon the bishops, and I suggest that you should relieve them of those duties, and adopt the course taken by Parliament in 1892 and use the Consistory Court set up by the Bill of that year. Observe what, under the present arrangement, the Government are doing. Having given the bishop such large powers in the first instance, they are obliged to make him responsible for what he is doing, although he is only acting in a judicial capacity. First you embark the bishop upon an inquiry on the question of misconduct or pecuniary embarrassment or evil life. You give him the sole responsibility of deciding upon that point, and then, if he decides wrongly, you are obliged to make him a party to the suit which may follow, and he may be cast in costs. Is that course going to secure fitter men for the Church of England, or to secure the better exercise by the bishops of the powers entrusted to them? I believe that if the First Lord had been present in Committee when the Bill was being discussed that part of it would have been amended, for, speaking on the Second Reading, he said—There is a considerable weight of authority against the view which the Government have taken.He proceeded to point out the inconvenience of making the bishops sit as judges in the first instance, and then making them parties to a possible rehearing of the case, and added—This is not an essential point of the Bill, and in any case it is not vital.In view of that statement I hope very strongly that the Measure may be amended in this particular point. One other matter on which I would say a few words is with regard to the omissions from the Bill. I have pointed out 468 that it does not propose to restrict in any way the right of episcopal or Crown presentations, although if any restriction is to be imposed at all it is as necessary that it should be imposed in the case of episcopal nominees or Crown nominees as in the case of private presentations. Everyone in this House sees from time to time pressure exercised to bring about the return of Crown nominees, and I am bound to say I do not think those men bear favourable comparison with those presented by private patrons. The Bill expressly excludes questions of doctrine and ritual, though I suppose that if we are to deal in this House with the reform of abuses in the Church of England we ought to deal with them by this Measure. It is not pretended that the evils with which the Bill does seek to deal are in any way prevalent in the Church. The danger to the Church is not in the existence of immoral men, for they are known to all. The Bishop of London, in his last charge to his clergy, pointed out that the danger they had to face was not that arising from men of evil life, whose influence was discounted. In my judgment the real danger is from men who are not keeping their ordination vows—men who by their conduct are alienating some of the best and truest sons of the Church of England. The Bill does nothing in this matter, and I cannot help reminding the House of a statement by one whose words will be received with respect on all sides. Lord Beaconsfield once said—The battle of the Reformation will have to be fought over again in England.There never was a truer statement. These are the real abuses which require remedying in the Church of England. A solemn charge was delivered a few weeks ago by the Bishop of Sodor and Man to the Manx Church congregation, and I believe, with that right reverend prelate, that these petty reforms sink into insignificance beside what is the real danger. I thank the House most sincerely for the indulgence it has granted me. It has been an unpleasant task for me and many who sit on this side of the House to pass these criticisms on this proposal—it is unpleasant to any supporter of the Government to take the position I do in connection with such a Measure. It has never been suggested in this House, but 469 it has not been thought unfair in some quarters outside to suggest that some of us are influenced by personal motives. Perhaps the House will allow me to say that I have no interest, direct or indirect, in the question of private patronage, and that I have only been actuated by a sense of public duty in the course I took with the Bill two years ago and the course I take with it to-day. It is because I feel that an unjust slur is cast by the Bill upon the clergy of the Church of England, and because I feel that while the Measure will do very little good it will do infinite harm, I take the course of moving that it be read this day six months.
§ * MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
I beg to second the Amendment, though I do it on different grounds from those on which it has been moved by my honourable Friend. He spoke mainly in the interest of patrons; I am more interested in the parishioners, though I fully agreed with his last remarks to the effect that the abuses with which the Bill deals are insignificant as compared with those which it does not touch. I appeal to the Government to take into consideration these heavier abuses with which the country is ringing at the present time, and to find some place in the Bill to deal with them. It is not a pleasant duty which I have to perform to-night, but it is a duty—I have to refer to the rapid and alarming spread of Roman Catholicism in the Church of England. I have received from all parts of the country numbers of letters urging me to go on; and I believe there is throughout the country, seething under the surface, a mass of discontent of which the Government has but little knowledge. We may pass several years without getting another opportunity of giving expression to this deep feeling of discontent, and I hope I may be allowed to lay before the House my reasons for objecting to this Bill, and asking the Government to consider whether it cannot introduce one of larger scope. I am not one of those naturally inclined to ask Parliament to interfere in the affairs of the Church. I am a Free Churchman. I believe it is much better for a spiritual 470 body to govern its own affairs. I do not do this from choice—I do it from compulsion; because we have "the Protestant Reformed Religion, established by law," in which every minister gives a solemn pledge of fidelity to its doctrines and formularies. It being an established Church, there is no court except Parliament to come to, and surely it is a fit topic for consideration whether the time has not come to create machinery which, in some way or another, will preserve the Protestant character of the Church. I say the country is stirred, at the present time, to its very depths with regard to the revelations which have been made on the subject of the most daring, the most open, and the most flagrant violation of the Articles and the Prayer Book of the Church. The fact is that a large section of the clergy seem to lay themselves out to show their contempt for their ordination vows. They treat with defiance the mast solemn obligation which a man can enter into. Will you allow me, Mr. Speaker, just to read this solemn declaration which every clergyman has to subscribe at his ordination—I,—, clerk, do solemnly make the following declaration:—I assent to the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. I believe the doctrine of the Church of England as therein set forth to be agreeable to the Word of God, and in prayer and administration of the sacraments I will use the form in the said Book prescribed and none other, except so far as shall be ordered by legal authority.I ask the House, how many clergymen are keeping that vow, and how many are breaking it? I say there are thousands who are breaking that vow, and treating it as a thing of no importance. The action of Mr. Kensit was a very small thing in itself, but small things are often the beginning of great revolutions, and I believe this is the beginning of a great revolution. The action of Mr. Kensit has called the attention of the House to the kind of service going on in many of the London churches at this day. I do not know whether the House will allow me to read just a few lines from a letter which I have received from him. That may bring before, the House what is now going on, not only in one church, but 471 in scores of churches. Here is what happened on Good Friday at St. Cuthbert's. Mr. Kensit Writes to me—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! This is a Bill relating to the transfer of benefices only. The honourable Member may argue that defects in doctrine or ritual should be included among the cases which justify a bishop in refusing to institute an incumbent; but if the honourable Member is going to argue that the whole question of doctrine and ritual ought to be included in this Bill, and to urge the necessity of some machinery for dealing with this question generally in the Church, that, I think, would be outside the scope of the Bill.
§ * MR. S. SMITH
May I not be allowed, at least in a general way, to point to existing abuses which require the agency of a Bill like this to deal with them? Without going into minute details, may I not be allowed to describe them, in a general way at least, because, unless I do that, it is quite impossible to present to the House an argument in favour of that enlargement of the Bill which, in common with many Members of this House, I think desirable. I will be very careful—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I think the honourable Member has misunderstood me. He is entitled to go into the question of doctrine as bearing upon institution, but not to argue as if this Bill was not merely a Benefices Bill but also a Bill for the regulation and discipline of the clergy.
§ * MR. S. SMITH
Well, Mr. Speaker, the argument which I will lay before the House is this: I think these clergymen and these curates who carry on such services as the veneration of the cross, which the Articles and Homilies of the Church of England pronounce to be idolatry, should be incapable of institution. This Bill, Mr. Speaker, includes among the cases where clergymen shall not be instituted those guilty of gross misconduct. Now, I hold that the veneration of the cross, which the Church of England describes as idolatry should be considered gross misconduct under this Bill. The bishops
§ SIR. J. FERGUSSON
I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honour- 472 able Member has given notice of an Amendment to this Bill to extend its scope to illegal practices in the Church. Is it in order for him to second a Motion for the rejection of the Bill altogether—to put off its Second Reading for six months—on the ground he has now stated, he having that Amendment on the Paper?
§ * MR. S. SMITH
Well, Mr. Speaker, bowing to your previous ruling, I just wish to state, generally, that no doubt many Members of this House have, in the last few months, read the accounts which appeared week by week in the Daily Chronicle of the Romish services going on in many of the London churches. I would simply say this: that in many cases the Mass is celebrated precisely the same as in any Roman Catholic church. The Roman Missal is used, Adoration of the Host, and the reservation of the Sacrament for worship take place exactly the same as in any Roman Catholic church. And those clergy have, one and all of them, signed the Article of the Church which declares that these Masses are blasphemous fables. I wish to address this argument to the House, that the clergy who break their solemn ordination vows in so shameful a manner should not be capable of institution to benefices. These clergy who perform Masses have all subscribed to the Thirty-first Article, which states—Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the form which it was commonly said, that the priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain and guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits."— Art. 31.And yet these very men are teaching precisely the doctrines which they themselves have repudiated at the most solemn moment of their lives. Now, I wish to ask this House, or any assembly of Englishmen, what do they think of the honesty of men like those? What would they think of an officer of the Army or Navy who swore allegiance to Her Majesty and then joined the enemy? What do they say of a clergyman who swears allegiance to the Articles of the Established Church of England, and 473 then practically gives allegiance to the Church of Rome? Only one name can be given, and ought to be given, to such conduct, and I will not utter it. I say that the law of truth is equally binding on all men, and that this anarchy in the Church of England is demoralising. It is teaching men to tamper with truth, and is lowering the whole standard of morals. These men who ought to be setting an example to the nation are, in the most shameless way, disregarding their duty, and I say this state of things is doing unspeakable harm to the country. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am well aware that when anyone takes this line he is accused at once of trying to initiate persecution. The cry of persecution is at once raised if you try in any way to restrain these men who dare to disregard their vows. Is it right to call it persecution? These men have voluntarily entered into these vows. They have received a valuable consideration for them. Is there anything wrong in calling upon them to fulfil them? Is it called persecution when the law enforces upon a poor clerk fulfilment of his contract, or when obligations are enforced upon any person in a humble station of life? Why should it be called persecution when the law requires a minister of religion to perform duties which he has solemnly promised to do? The English people are poor judges of a great number of these technical questions which are constantly thrown in our faces. These men are masters of the art of saying a thing so as to confuse the sense. You may read through elaborate accounts of what is going or in these Romish churches, but I defy any man, unless he has had a special training in ecclesiastical language, to under stand what it means. It is all expressed in language foreign to the public, and for a long time I believe the public hardly knew what was going on. They were given long lists of strange vestments, and a number of attitudes and genuflexions, expressed in, a strange jargon, and they scarce knew what it meant, and thought the whole thing was tomfcolery, and not worthy of attention. But they are gradually be ginning to understand that it means a revolution: it means a revolution in those vital doctrines which lie at the 474 foundation of all religion. They are beginning to find out that these albs and birettas and chasubles, and all the rest of it, which I call man-millinery, mean something more important, mean a revolution in the doctrine of the Church of England—in fact, the introduction of the Mass, transubstantiation, and all the Romish dogmas which we thought the Reformation had swept away, and to which certainly the Thirty-nine Articles afford no quarter. We are beginning to find out it is not a mere question of millinery; it is a question of fundamental doctrine. I say further, there is nothing which the English people detest more than the Confessional, and my belief is the rapid progress of Confession in the Church of England is one of the things which will sooner or later rouse the people of this country and cause a religious revolution. And I think there ought to be provision in this Bill to save boys and girls when at confirmation from being required to go to Confession, because distressing cases have come before me in the past few months. Parents have come to me and told me how their little girl went to confirmation, and was told that she could not be confirmed unless she went to the priest for Confession and Absolution. Parents have told me with the deepest emotion that they were grieved and offended at the demands made upon their children. This is a question which goes to the very root of family life in this country. And let me tell the House it has been my lot to read some of the catechisms prepared for these children by clergymen of late years, and I have been astounded at the things little children are required to learn, which sap the foundations of independence—I would almost say, of moral character. Here is one of them. Perhaps the House will let me read it, because I have met the substance of this time after time in other catechisms. I quote from a book prepared by clergy for children of from six and a-half to seven years of age; and here is what a child is taught—It is to the priest, and to the priest only, that a child must acknowledge his sins, if he desires that God should forgive him. Do you know why? It is because God, when on earth, gave to His priests, and to them alone, the divine power of forgiving men their sins.475Go to the priest, who is the doctor of your soul, and who cures it in the name of God.I have known poor children who concealed their sins in Confession for years. They were very unhappy, were tormented with remorse, and if they had died in that state, they would certainly have gone to the everlasting fires of hell.Now, I say these awful doctrines are being taught to-day to tens of thousands of young children, often unknown to their parents, and I say that clergy who do this ought not to be capable of institution to benefices. I say those Confessional books which are circulated about the country are a disgrace to any church. I believe that the notorious book, "The Priest in Absolution," is still in use, though it was denounced strongly by all the bishops in Convocation and in the House of Lords. That book is still in use, poisoning the minds of children in this country.
§ * MR. S. SMITH
By a Committee of the Clergy of the Holy Cross Society. Now, I am going to ask the House to listen to the opinion of the present Prime Minister, which I hope will be of some use to the House in guiding honourable Members as to the action which they will take upon the Bill. The Prime Minister used these words—Among the English people generally, among thinking men, there is no difference of opinion upon this question of habitual confession. We have seen it tried in other countries. It was tried in olden time in our own. We know that besides its being unfavourable to that which we believe to be Christian truth, in its result it has been injurious to the independence and virility of nations to an extent to which probably it has been given to no other institution to affect the character of mankind. I believe that if there are men in this country who think they will ever persuade the English people to adopt the practice of habitual confession, they are proposing the most chimerical and the wildest scheme that ever entered into the heads of any men. No doubt our Church does not encourage habitual confession, and that practice is opposed to the religious convictions of the English people. But it is not only a religious question. It so happens that this practice is deeply opposed to the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies which have been developed among the English people ever since they became a free people. The English people are specially jealous of putting unrestricted power into the hands of a single 476 man. More than any other system the practice of habitual confession does put unrestricted and irresponsible power into the hands of a single man. An Englishman values and cherishes the private independence of his family life; he looks with abhorrence upon any system that introduces another power into that family life, that introduces a third person between father and daughter and husband and wife. I believe that these reasons, apart from religious doctrine, have such powerful influence upon the English, people that it would require the very strongest conviction of a positive revelation to induce them to conform to a practice which is so utterly opposed to their habits and feelings.That was the opinion of Lord Salisbury in 1873, and I have no reason to doubt that it is the opinion of the Government of the day, of which he is head. If that is so, why do not the Government enlarge this Bill, or bring in another Bill to deal with this state of things. No one can tell how many persons have been demoralised by this practice. The people of this country are very practical in character; they are but little interested in metaphysical doctrines, but their common sense and moral instincts revolt at the practice of auricular confession; and if any one thing will cause the downfall of the National Church it will be the habitual use of confession. The English people do not want this country to become a second Spain. How has she become what she is? It is through 300 years of the rule of the Holy Inquisition and the confessional. It is through 300 years of the domination of priests, through 300 years of the stamping out of the freedom of the people. A large section of our clergy, if they had the power, would make this country a second Spain; they recommend nearly all the doctrines which have made Spain what she is. I am not surprised at the disinclination of some of the bishops to repress these illegal practices when they themselves are among the chief conspirators. They control most of the theological colleges where candidates ministry are indoctrinated with Romish and sacerable period of their lives. There is a small minority of the bishops who do their duty, but, I am afraid, only a small minority. These evils have arisen from the fact that the guidance of reforms in the Church of England is left in the hands of the bishops, who are in many cases the 477 men who are conspiring to Romanise the Church. They have stood in the way of all reform. The Public Worship Act of 1874 provided a drastic method of dealing with evils of this kind. Why was it not put into force? Because a veto on all proceedings under it was given to the bishops. The very first thing which has to be done if the House wishes to deal with this question thoroughly is to take away this power of veto from the bishops, and so allow reform to proceed from the laity themselves. I say it is a shame that there should be such abuses tolerated at this time of day. There are a number of secret societies in the Church of England pledged by solemn vows to restore Catholic and Roman doctrine. I must say that I was not fully aware of this until recent years. I did not think such a state of things was possible. The necessity for prompt action was never so great as now. The country has become alive to the existence of a widespread conspiracy to Romanise the Church of England. That remarkable book, "The Secret History of the Oxford Movement," has laid bare the conspiracy. It shows from authentic documents how many secret societies exist in the Church, the common object of which is to undermine the Thirty-nine Articles, to destroy the Protestant character of the Church, and to prepare for its reunion with the Church of Rome. This is the avowed object of the "Order of Corporate Reunion." It has bishops secretly consecrated, who are prepared to give reordination to such of the clergy as will submit to it. Dr. F. G. Lee, Vicar of All Saints, Lambeth, is believed to be one of these bishops who possess orders which Roman priests have acknowledged to be valid, and he is believed to have secretly reordained several hundred Anglican clergy. He has never denied this charge. He has publicly stated—As I am personally challenged on this point, I hold, and have always held (mere rough contradictions have no effect upon me), that the Pope is the Archbishop's (of Canterbury) direct spiritual superior both in rank and authority.To show how this movement is regarded by the Vatican, I quote from a letter from the English correspondent in 1878 478 of the Civilita Cattolica, the organ of the Jesuits at Rome—The Order of Corporate Reunion actively pursues its labours, and its officers have sent forth a pastoral letter, containing an exposition of its views and ends. It is known that several Anglican ministers in connection with tins society have induced a Greek bishop— whose name, however, it has not as yet been possible to ascertain—to ordain them under certain conditions, in order that the doubt to which Anglican Orders are subject may not be alleged as a reason for taking exception to the validity of their operations. The three leading officers of the Order have received episcopal consecration from the same quarter—a quarter which, according to what is said, is of such a character as to completely exclude any question as to the validity of the Orders so conferred, when once the time shall come for submitting the matter for examination to the Holy See. So soon as a sufficient number of the Anglican clergy shall have in this way removed the difficulty which arise from their ordination, the Order hopes to be able to present its petition for Corporate Reunion with the Catholic Church, signed by a number of members so imposing as to render it impossible for the Holy See not to recognise the gravity and importance of the movement.I only make one more quotation from the Roman Catholic Standard and Ransomer in 1894, edited by a priest who was formerly an advanced Ritualistic clergyman—We have heard just lately that there are now 800 clergymen of the Church of England who have been validly ordained by Dr. Lee and his co-bishops of the Order of Corporate Reunion. If so, Dr. Lee's dream of providing a body with which the Pope could deal seems likely to be realised.Surely it is not too much to ask the House to affirm that the members of this Papal society should be ineligible to hold a benefice in the Church of England. Now, is it not extraordinary that this House cannot devise some means of driving these things out of the Church of England? Is it not extraordinary that while it concerns itself with a great many minor details of a trumpery character, which nobody in the country cares any thing about, it should allow this flagrant and abominable dereliction of duty to go on and provide no means whatever to remedy it? Nero fiddling, when Rome was burning, is nothing to it. I trust I have said sufficient to show how deep and widespread is the conspiracy to Romanise the Church of 479 England. A large body of the clergy belong to the societies that aim at a reunion with Rome. About 4,000 clergy belong to the English Church Union, including several Colonial bishops. One object of the Union, of which Lord Halifax is the head, is to get Anglican Orders recognised by the Pope. Lord Halifax has said—Is there a single instructed Christian who would not prefer Leo XIII. to the Privy Council?…Do not let us be afraid to speak plainly of the possibility, of the desirability of a union with Rome; let us say boldly we desire peace with Rome with all our hearts.There can be little doubt that some of the bishops sympathise with this movement, hence their extraordinary feebleness and apathy; and nothing will be done by the bishops unless forced on by public opinion. For a long time past nearly all the principal offices have been conferred on High Churchmen. To be a Protestant is to be boycotted. To be faithful to his ordination vows excludes a clergyman from any chance of preferment. Meanwhile there is the deepest indignation among a large body of the laity. I have received a great many letters, from all parts of the country, urging me to go on with this matter. These letters are from Churchmen, who complain that they are driven out of their parish churches by unblushing Romanism. In some cases the whole congregation have been driven out. I know of such cases myself. I am sure that the Government is quite unaware what a storm is brewing. England is fast working up into a condition like that which preceded the Long Parliament. If I am not mistaken we are approaching troublous times. The vast bulk of the population of this country is still Protestant and utterly opposed to Rome; it will find some way of enforcing its convictions. It is true this Bill is not well adapted for restraining Romish practices, though I have put down an Amendment which will tend strongly in that direction. But the machinery of the Bill can only be put in force by a bishop; there lies the fatal defect. The Public Worship Regulation Act was practically neutralised by the veto of the bishop; if this veto were removed, and the penalty of deprivation were enforced, that 480 Act could be made effective. We need to give the laity the rights that justly belong to them, as has been done in the Irish Episcopal Church; and if the Government cannot graft such provisions on this Bill let them promise to bring in one that will effect this end. If this is not done, this agitation will grow to a tempest which will sweep away some, things which we should be sorry to see disappear from the life of the nation.
§ * SIR J. MOWBRAY (Oxford University)
said he thought the House was nearly of one mind, and prepared to proceed to the immediate consideration of this Bill. The Member for Suffolk, who moved postponement, stated at the same time that the object merited our sympathies; that the Bill had been very carefully considered in Committee; that the only fault he found was that the First Lord of the Treasury had been absent from many meetings of the Committee. The First Lord of the Treasury, who was present to-night, could give them the benefit of his criticism and his guidance to make the Bill perfect. But the honourable Member for Flintshire had invited the House to consider a series of questions which were most appalling. What was this Bill? A Bill whose short title was the Benefices Act, a Bill scarcely objected to by any Member, limited in its scope, sent upstairs to a Grand Committee with general assent, and now only waiting its final stages. The objects of the Member for Flintshire, as disclosed not only in his long and desultory speech, but still more in his notice of Motion, which appeared on the Orders of the Day, were to restrain the Roman Catholic doctrines and practices so prevalent among the clergy, and to provide for the upholding of the Protestant constitution of the Church of England as defined by its Articles and Formularies and by the Coronation Oath: so that this little Benefices Bill, which expressly exempted doctrine and ritual, would have to be described as a Bill for putting down ritualism, for upholding the Protestant constitution of the Church of England, for defining and strengthening its Articles, which the honourable Member 481 had told the House were really very well drawn, and for maintaining the Coronation Oath. The honourable Member began by suggesting that he could put these far-reaching provisions in this little Bill. Why, the additional provisions of the honourable Member would swallow up this little Bill. He [Sir John Mowbray] knew his right honourable Friend opposite, the Member for West Monmouth [Sir W. Harcourt] would recollect as well as he did the storm and tempest which raged in the House of Commons in 1874 when they were engaged in passing the Public Worship Act. He [Sir John Mowbray] hardly thought such legislation necessary at the present moment; he believed that latterly a more hopeful view prevailed, and that means would be found to put a stop, without further legislation, to some of these practices, the introduction of which he [Sir John Mowbray] so much deprecated. There had been two remarkable documents put forth in May this year. One was passed by a conference between the two wings of the advanced school in the Church, of which that venerable and holy man, Canon Carter, was the chairman. They recognised the authority of bishops to prohibit any service not contained in the Book of Common Prayer, and to prohibit any omission from, or addition to, services contained in that book. The other was a memorandum put forth by nearly 40 representative men, including such well-known men as the Dean of St. Paul's; Mr. Scott Holland, Canon of St. Paul's; and Mr. Charles Gore, Canon of Westminster; and they pledged themselves to the use of the rites and ceremonies prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer as the positive and sufficient rule and order of the administration of the Church; and those two documents have been followed up by important utterances by archbishops and bishops in the Convocations both of Canterbury and York. He maintained, therefore, that the period of apathy, if there had been such, and the period of inaction on the part of the episcopate had passed away. The churches where these unauthorised services and ceremonies had been introduced were comparatively few, and were likely to become fewer. There was a fixed determination to uphold the Book of 482 Common Prayer. That book was the proud inheritance of the English Church, coming down to us from remote antiquity, and providing such a manual for public worship as scarcely any other church possessed. He would tell the honourable Member for Flintshire how he approached these questions; he had found nothing so admirable as the expression of his old friend Lord Cranbrook, well known in this House; he described himself as a Protestant-Catholic-Anglican-Churchman. He [Sir John Mowbray] was Protestant as protesting against the errors of the Church of Rome, Catholic in upholding all that came down to us from the Apostolic time, and a member of the National Church, not of the Roman, Gallican, or Greek Churches, but of the Church of England. Such, he believed, was the spirit that animated the mass of English Churchmen, and, so long as that prevailed, he believed there was no real foundation for the apprehensions which filled the mind of the honourable Member for Flintshire.
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I cannot agree with my right honourable Friend [Sir J. Mowbray] that my honourable Friend behind me [Mr. S. Smith] has introduced matter which is not germane to this discussion. On the contrary, I think it lies at the very root of the whole matter. What is this Bill? It is a Bill which professes to define the grounds upon which a bishop is authorised, and upon which it becomes his duty, to refuse institution to benefices in the Church.
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
That interruption is not very courteous in its form, nor is it, I believe, accurate in its substance. What is the meaning of the allusion to doctrine and ritual? Can it be said that considerations of that, character are not to be included in the grounds upon which institution is to be refused? What is the allegation made by my honourable Friend—an allegation which I believe to be thoroughly well founded? His allegation is that there is at the present moment in the 483 Church of England a conspiracy to overthrow the principles of the English Reformation; a conspiracy widely spread and deeply rooted. To become aware that that conspiracy exists you have only to read the statements made in Convocation the other day. I think one of the bishops used the expression that he was aware that there were secret societies in the Church of England for the purpose of overthrowing the principles of the English Reformation. Now that you are going to deal with the question of institution to benefices, is there, I ask, any ground upon which institution to a benefice in the Church of England ought to be refused stronger than that of perjury on the part of the clergyman? What is to be thought of a perjured priest who has taken an oath, which he is violating, publicly or secretly, that he would pursue the practices authorised by the Church of England, and none other? Is it true that the clergy as a body do observe that declaration? We have the statements of the bishops themselves that they know that that is not the case. "Oh," it is said, "but there is now a disposition to restrain these law-breakers." Well, Sir, I hope there is, but I must say that that disposition has not been conspicuous of recent years. I have seen no disposition to discourage the appointment and promotion of clergymen by whom those objectionable practices are usually carried on. But, even if there is such a disposition, is the House of Commons not to be allowed to take part in discussing a Bill which raises these important issues? We have the evidence before us of the certificate which the honourable Member who made this Motion read to the House from the Archbishop of York, that there should be a certificate, given by three beneficed clergymen or by the bishop of the diocese from which the nominee came, that he was a man who had observed his ordination oath, and that he had not departed in his practice or his conduct from that which was implied in his declaration. Why, Sir, that ought to be, in my opinion, one of the very first declarations, and quite as binding on the nominee as any declaration with reference to his private character or his moral conduct. There 484 is one reason, above all, why, in my opinion, this matter ought to be dealt with. Who are these men? They are the men who in every parish in England are practically the conductors of the voluntary schools. These are the men into whose schools you force the children—the children of people who have not abjured the principles of the English Reformation—who are to be taught by these men to follow these practices; and is the House of Commons, which has compelled and is compelling the children of Protestant Churchmen and Protestant Nonconformists to go into these schools, to have no protection against the authors of practices of this character? This is not a question of religious opinion. If these men do not conscientiously hold the opinions of the Church of England, let them leave her and join the Church with which their opinions are in sympathy. But for these men to remain in the Church of England and in secret societies, of which I have heard a great deal, and have the control of the education of the children in the parishes of England, is a state of things which, in my opinion, Parliament ought not to tolerate. When I was in office and the bishops came to me expressing a wish for certain legislation, I gave them what I thought was very sound advice. I said: "I think the less the bishops and the Church come to the House of Commons the better for them"; but if they do come here for more powers the House of Commons ought to put upon them conditions which are consistent and necessary, and there should be some security against the principles on which the Established Church of this country is founded being deliberately violated in this secret and—I agree with my honourable Friend—in this dishonourable manner, and against a conspiracy to subvert the true principles of the Church of England. I, for one at all events, will not give a vote in favour of this Bill. I shall vote against the Bill as absolutely inadequate unless we have some understanding on the part of the Government that this Measure, in addition to what it professes to do, shall give to the bishops the power, and shall impose on them the duty, of not instituting to benefices clergy who are 485 deliberately violating the conditions upon which they hold those benefices.
§ MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan)
I beg to call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.
A count was ordered, and the requisite number of Members attended.
§ * MR GEDGE
Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to follow the honourable Member for Flintshire in the statements which he made regarding the state of the Church of England, with regard to the number of clergymen in her ranks who are taking part in what the late Archbishop Tait called "a conspiracy to restore the Church of England to the Church of Rome." I associate myself generally with the statements of the honourable Member, but I think that here and there he was guilty of some exaggeration in what he stated. I do not mean particular isolated facts, but as regards the number of clergymen who are taking part in that conspiracy the House must not suppose that they are the rule rather than the exception. Of course, I know there are men in the Church of England who deserve everything that has been said of them as to their tendency towards Rome. It was only last week that I was assured by a dean that a clergyman began his sermon by invoking the blessing of the Virgin Marr on what he was going to say, on the express ground that without it his words would do no good. Now, it is clear that such a man has no place in the Church of England, but it does not follow that the Government are to blame because they have not included in this Bill a clause providing that a man holding such views and preaching 486 such doctrines should be removed from the Church of England. There are several reasons why they should not hare done so. In the first place, the bishops can now deprive a man of his living for heresy, and one reason why they have been so slow to exercise that power is the expensive character of the proceedings. One bishop spent almost the whole of his income in depriving a clergyman of his living for heresy. Bishops have to live, like other men. Each bishop has to subscribe to new churches, and other things throughout the diocese, and I know that, as a rule, bishops are decidedly poor men; and therefore, as the law at present stands, it imposes heavy penalties upon them, and you cannot wonder that they are slow to take advantage of that law. There are other things besides heresy for which a clergyman may be deprived of his living. The Bill deals mainly with institution. Everything which is a ground for deprivation is a lawful cause for refusing to institute a clergyman, and this Bill enlarges the grounds on which the bishop may refuse to institute. These are simple matters of fact with which the court provided by the Bill will be fully competent to deal, and every care has been taken that full justice will be rendered to the presentee who appeals to it. Then there is a clause dealing with grave misconduct or neglect of duty in an ecclesiastical office, and although "grave misconduct" is not defined, "neglect of duty" is very carefully defined. Another ground for deprivation will be that the clergyman, by his conduct, has caused "grave scandal." As I pointed out, under the existing law, the process is a most expensive one. I think it must be patent to everyone that the charges which are introduced into this clause, and which may be dealt with under this Bill, are matters of comparative simplicity. You can very soon discover whether a man is unfit for the discharge of his duties by reason of physical or mental incapacity; whether he is in pecuniary embarrassment of such a nature that he cannot adequately discharge his duties; whether there has been grave misconduct or neglect of duty in an ecclesiastical office; whether his life has been evil; whether he has by his conduct caused great scandal concerning his moral character; all of these 487 are things which any of the judges is qualified to determine. The course which the Bill takes is this: the bishop has heard that the presentee whom he is asked to institute to a living has been guilty of some of these offences which are by this Bill made disqualifications. He will tell the presentee that grave charges have been made against him; he will tell him the nature of the charges which have been made, and the result will be that the presentee will say, if conscious of his guilt: "My Lord, I will not trouble you further; I refuse this presentation." But suppose there is room for doubt as to the truth of these charges—suppose that the clergyman considers that he has been maligned, and that the bishop has too readily lent an ear to a calumnious statement, then, if the bishop determines to institute him, there is no appeal; but in the event of his being convinced by insufficient reasons—by giving too great credit to gossip—then a court, consisting of the archbishop of the province and a lay judge, is created by this Bill to which the clergyman may appeal. All questions of fact and law are to be decided by the judge, and the archbishop has to act upon his decision. But, even if the lay judge thinks that technically the clergyman has brought himself within the law, and that the bishop would be justified in refusing to institute him, the archbishop is not bound to refuse him institution, and will not do so if he is of opinion that, though technically the clergyman has brought himself within the operation of the law, yet, nevertheless, the circumstances are of such a nature that he may very fairly condone the offence. Every care is taken that the court shall do full justice to the clergyman who is being presented for institution; but I put it to the sense of the House that this court is not one to which you can properly refer the questions which the right honourable Gentleman wishes to be referred to it. Is this a court to which you could refer, for instance, the intricate question of heresy? Surely questions of heresy cannot be tried in this simple way by such a court. It is for that reason that those matters 488 are not touched in this Bill at all. The next clause says—Where a bishop on any ground, except a doctrine of ritual, refuses to institute or admit a presentee to a benefice.The right honourable Gentleman fell very foul indeed of that, and thought that grounds of doctrine and ritual ought to be included. I contend it would not be at all proper to include those grounds in a Bill of this description. By this Bill you are erecting a tribunal of a totally different character—a tribunal which is well qualified to deal with the particular offences which are made reasons for which the bishop may refuse to institute. There can be no doubt as to physical or mental infirmity, incapacity, pecuniary embarrassment, grave misconduct, neglect of duty in a previous ecclesiastical office, evil life, grave scandal, or offences of that kind. But, when you come to questions of heresy you come to questions upon which there exists the greatest variety of opinion. The Church of England is wide and catholic, but there are certain limits beyond which it is not safe or proper to go, and there is a considerable number of clergy in the Church of England who go far beyond those limits; but the tribunal created by this Bill is not a tribunal which could decide questions of doctrine and ritual involving long and learned references to bishops and other high ecclesiastical authorities, and to their writings dating right back to the Reformation. This tribunal would not be competent to decide such questions. That being so, the question comes to this: it being agreed, I think, on all sides, that the tribunal set up by this Bill is not a fit tribunal for the decision of such questions, is that any reason why the tribunal should not be allowed to try other questions? Should it not deal with that with which it is competent to deal, and leave matters which are of necessity outside and altogether beyond its scope? There is a very old proverb which says, "The best is the enemy of the good"; and I do not know any artifice which is more familiar to most Members of this House than this, that when Members dislike a Bill they oppose it, not because it does something, but because it does 489 not do something else. It is admitted, I think, that this Bill will cure certain evils which we know to exist, and it is opposed because it does not at the same time attempt to cure some other evils. I do not say for one moment that it would not be possible to create some tribunal which would be competent to try offences of heresy at much less expense and without the same delay and trouble which exist under the present law, but I do maintain that the fact that this Bill does not attempt to do anything of the kind is no reason why we should not pass it into law, that the great good may be done which I thoroughly believe this Bill will do. Is there any honourable Member who intends to vote with the honourable Member for Suffolk, who has thought what his vote will mean if this Bill is not passed into law this Session? It will mean that for another year men who are suffering from physical and mental infirmity, incapacity, pecuniary embarrassment, who have been guilty of grave misconduct and neglect of duty in an ecclesiastical office, men of evil life, men who have by their conduct caused grave scandal concerning their moral character, may be forced upon parishes. Do honourable Members wish that for another year, or even for another day, such men should be allowed to be presented to livings, and be instituted by the bishop, either because the law does not at present permit him to refuse institution, or else because to do so would take so long a time and cause so much expense as almost to ruin the parish by the delay, and ruin the bishop by reason of the cost? Let us do the good that lies within our reach, rather than throw out this Bill, which admittedly will do good work, because it does not do some other work that may very well be done at some other time. A number of Bills have been introduced into this House during the last two or three years founded upon reports of Committees and Commissions which have been considering this subject, and they have all decided that there are a number of reasons quite outside matters of ritual and doctrine which would justify a bishop in refusing to institute, and they all desired that the law should be so altered that the bishop should have this power. And I do implore honour- 490 able Gentlemen, especially my honourable Friend opposite, with whose views I sympathise—at least, I sympathise with nine-tenths of them, excluding, of course, anything connected with the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England—not to take a course which will imperil the possibility of this great and necessary reform being accomplished during the present Session. I know that the danger of disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England arises, not so much from her external foes, as from those who are traitors within the camp. I appeal to my honourable Friend, whom I know to be a God-fearing man, and I am not afraid to appeal to other honourable Members for the same reason, not to attempt to postpone the consideration and the passing of this useful Measure because it does not go the full length to which they would like it to go, and because it does not deal with a number of offences which are of a totally different character from, and of a distinctly separate nature from, the offences which are included in this Bill. I will detain the House no longer beyond expressing the very earnest hope that the few words I have said may be successful in doing something to stop opposition to a Bill the necessity for which is admitted on all hands.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea, District)
I think there is considerable force in many of the observations of a general character which have been urged upon the House by the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down. But I confess when I think of the action which he took in the Standing Committee, and of the general mode of agreement which existed between him and some other Members of the Committee in regard to the amendment of the Bill, and when I hear him say to-night that at his stage of the Session we ought to proceed to the immediate consideration if the Report of the Committee, I do not think that the honourable Gentleman has quite appreciated the force of the arguments which have been urged by my honourable Friend the Member for Flintshire. In general terms I desire to associate myself with the line of argument urged by the honourable Member 491 for Flintshire, and the way in which that line of argument becomes relevant to the discussions which took place in Committee, and the way in which it becomes relevant to the question now before the House is this: is it or is it not expedient to give, as this Bill proposes to give, further powers to the bishops of the Church of England? That is the real, the practical point, and it is a point which I ventured to urge upon the consideration of the House when I moved the rejection of the Bill on the Second Reading. It was the point which was my first principle—my first postulate—in regard to the Amendments which I moved in Committee, and also in regard to some of those which I have set down for the Report stage. This Bill was not introduced this Session alone, because a Bill, not quite the same Bill, but a similar Bill, was introduced in a former Session, and there was another Bill introduced this Session—a somewhat modest Bill—which was intended to put down certain admitted abuses in regard to the rights of patronage existing in the Church of England. This Bill is for the same purpose, but I have noticed that if anyone says anything against it on this side of the House, we have been met with the expression of opinion, or rather with the suggestion, that we are actuated by some feeling of enmity to the Church of England, and that our real object is to attain some coign of vantage with reference to disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England. I have said before, and I repeat it now, that in the action I have taken I am not actuated by any spirit of the kind whatsoever. The Leader of the House characterised it as a modest Bill intended to put down simony and simoniacal practices, and it is only by a minute consideration of the Bill, by a close consideration of it, clause by clause and line by line, a close consideration which it receives in Committee, that the true character and effects of the Bill can be appreciated. It is not a modest little Bill, it is not a Bill designed simply to put down simony and simoniacal practices. It is a Bill which enlarges to an extraordinary degree the power of the bishops of the Church of England. It is a Bill that alters the law of the land. It is a Bill that affects 492 property rights, and is designed to confer upon men who are undoubtedly adopting as their fundamental principles opinions alien to the Reformation settlement larger and more extensive powers than they already possess. I do not want to trespass upon the time of the House by going minutely into these very large considerations, but I will point out what are, in my opinion, grave and far-reaching objections to the Measure—objections of a kind which I think ought to lead the Government to consider whether they will not postpone the consideration of the Bill till next Session. The opinion of my honourable Friend is that the consideration of the Committee Report should be deferred till this day six months—that, of course, means next Session. My honourable Friend has referred to the case of the ordinary lay patron, and in that connection it would be well for us to reflect what an inequality, and therefore injustice, the Bill would create. The lay patron, when he represents some person whom he thinks fit to be appointed to a benefice with a living, has to submit to the jurisdiction of the bishop. But how about the position of the bishop himself? Under this Bill the bishop retains the right which he now has, according to the ecclesiastical law, and I believe according to the common law, in connection with presentations. I commend that consideration to my honourable Friend the Member for Stroud, whom I now see in his place. This Bill preserves to the bishop whatever rights as patron he now possesses. If the bishop appoints anybody he likes to a benefice, there is no authority which can in any way control that appointment, excepting, of course, the general power and jurisdiction of the Crown exercised by honourable Gentlemen and right honourable Gentlemen sitting on the Government Benches. Is it not a gross inequality? Surely, if you are going to introduce great changes in the law relating to the Church, ought you not to consider the whole question? This is no question in the air. We have got this very question in regard to dioceses in Wales. We find the bishop making appointments to livings of which he is the patron of persons who are not in accordance with the general sentiment of the Church people in the diocese; 493 men who—I am not going to mention particular instances to the House—cannot even speak the Welsh language. I will not mention particular cases because we shall have an opportunity of going into that when we come to the detailed consideration of this Bill on the Report stage. I merely mention that as a general consideration which the Solicitor-General, and, I think, the Government as a whole, ought to consider in regard to the question as to whether this Bill should be pressed forward now. Take another example—take the case of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. If this Bill passes, these colleges in which exists the right of patronage, which belongs to them as corporate bodies, will have to submit their nominations for the approval, or otherwise, of the bishop; but I must confess I would myself as soon accept the opinion of any college of Oxford or Cambridge taken collectively, as to the fitness or unfitness for institution of any person, as I would the opinion of the bishop. I do not mean to say that colleges have not made mistakes; neither do I mean to say that bishops are always wrong, but, speaking practically, I should say that a college of Oxford or Cambridge is, in its corporate capacity, quite as good a judge of the sort of person who ought to be appointed to a benefice as a bishop. Yet, under this Bill, as I understand it, if one of the colleges of Oxford or Cambridge presents a man for institution, the bishop may refuse institution, and these colleges are in exactly the same position as the lay-patron. Again, take the case of the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor has large patronage—he has many benefices at his disposal; and yet, if I understand the Bill aright, the Lord Chancellor, who is a man of light and leading, is, in this respect, to be subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop, or subject to the opinion of the bishop, call it what you will. Supposing the bishop refuses to institute, then, is it seriously meant by the Government that the appeal in that matter is to be to a court constituted first of the archbishop, and secondly of a judge appointed by the Lord Chancellor? Take the case of the First Lord of the Treasury, who also exercises, patronage. I am not at all 494 sure that I would not as willingly accept the opinion of the present First Lord of the Treasury as to the fitness of a person for a benefice as I would the opinion of a bishop. Now, I invite the attention of the Government and of honourable Gentlemen opposite, to what is really being done by this Bill. Do they want this grave inequality to exist? Is it really intended that you should, by the operation of this so-called modest Bill, really enormously increase the powers of the ecclesiastical bench? I do not think that that is at all the wish of either that side of the House or this side. I do not think that our principal objections have been fully met. We did our best in Committee, and I am sure that the Solicitor General will agree with me that we were fertile in suggestion and fertile in argument. Suggestions made on our side were met very cleverly and very adroitly by the right honourable Gentleman, but, notwithstanding that his replies were clever and adroit, I cannot say that they were always satisfactory. There is no provision whatever in this Bill for allowing the parishioners or the congregation to be fairly heard before the Court of Appeal which is constituted by this Bill. You are going to reform the Church; you are going to put down abuses. Is it not one of the greatest abuses that you can conceive in connection with the Church—and I am speaking with distinct reference to a particular church—that after a man has raised in a church a great congregation, after he has been promoted to high, honourable, and important office, should he happen to die, somebody outside, knowing nothing about the views, and perhaps caring nothing about the views, of the congregation, presents the living to somebody who is totally out of sympathy with the general views of the congregation, and that somebody is ultimately instituted? I know of such cases. If you want to reform abuses, if you want to put down simoniacal practices, I should have thought there might have been some provision in the Bill for allowing parishioners, as such, or, at any rate, if not parishioners, those members of the parish who are also members of the Church of England—and if not that, then merely the congregation—to be heard at 495 some stage or another in regard to tine questions which, so directly concern them. But under this Bill they cannot. Then there is another omission in this Bill. There is no opportunity for a person who is excluded from institution under clause 2 being heard before the bishop. I am not going to read that clause, which is, I think, the most material clause in this Bill. It is drawn up in very general language—general language of which we complain—and it gives the grounds upon which the bishop may pronounce a man to be unfit for institution. According to the machinery of the Bill, if a patron presents to a benefice, the bishop, on certain grounds, can refuse institution and admission; while the person aggrieved, according to law, is, of course, the patron who is exercising the right, and I think I am correct in saying that, as the law now stands, the presentee has no right to go to the High Court of Justice. His only remedy is in a spiritual court. But the patron has the right to go to a High Court of Justice, and have the whole matter threshed out in his own interests, and in the interests of the person who has been alleged by the bishop to be unfit. In substance, under the present law, if the presentee is objected to, the patron can get the whole matter threshed out before a judge and jury, and, according to the practice of the courts, the bishop is bound to give reasons for his refusal—he is bound to give particulars of the acts of either commission or omission which are charged against the presentee as being sufficiently good and reasonable grounds for refusal to institution. If you are going to alter the law, surely an elementary sense of justice would have entitled the presentee to go to the High Court upon a matter upon which his whole career rests, and by which his whole future may be wrecked. Take the law as it stands. Supposing a bishop—say the Bishop of St. Asaph—refuses institution, the presentee can go before a judge and jury and get the matter threshed out fairly and squarely, but under this Bill he cannot, because the jurisdiction of the High Court is ousted. The next objection that we take to this Bill is the grounds of refusal to institute are so vague as practically to transfer the 496 patronage from the patron to the bishop. I will not go over the whole of the clause now, because I have not the slightest doubt that the House will have to consider these grounds of unfitness word by word. In my view, and I believe in the view of many others, the clause is wrongly worded, and the vague and general language in which it is framed ought to have been eliminated, so that the clause could be put into a form which virtually would comply with the established regulations issued in these cases by the High Court of Justice. Certain specified acts of neglect and omission ought to be put in, and there should not be words like "pecuniary embarrassment, grave misconduct, or neglect of duty in an ecclesiastical office, evil life, having by his conduct caused grave scandal concerning his moral character." These words are far too general, and the whole Bill ought to be recast if the Government are really serious in impressing this matter upon Parliament. This Bill sets up an extraordinary court. It ousts the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice, and in place of that it sets up a court—not the court suggested by my honourable Friend the Member for Suffolk, but a new court, the like of which has never been known to our law—a court in which the Archbishop of Canterbury, or else some bishop in substitution for him, is the presiding officer, and a court in which a judge of the High Court of Justice is actually subordinate to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES
My honourable Friend the Member for Walsall says "No," but I say that is so. Who delivers the judgment? Is not the presiding judge the judge that delivers the judgment? If that is so, and if honourable Members will look at clause 3 of the Bill, they will find these words—If the judge finds that no such fact sufficient in law exists, direct institution, or admission, or if the judge finds that any such fact sufficient in law exists, decide, if necessary, whether by reason thereof the presentee is unfit for the discharge of the duties of the benefice, and determine whether institution or admission ought, under the circumstances, to be refused, and in either case the archbishop shall give judgment accordingly, and that judgment shall be final.497 The archbishop is the judge. I am not quibbling about words, but I say that you are putting a judge of the High Court in the position of a mere assessor, and you are taking away from every lay patron—like the Lord Chancellor—from the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, the right to bring an action in the High Court against the bishop who, in their judgment, may have behaved improperly. These are main and broad points which strike me as being worthy of consideration, because I do not think that the Government have really considered all these matters, and it is for that reason that I ask the House to accept the Motion of my honourable Friend the Member for Suffolk, and postpone the consideration of this Bill until such time as public opinion shall have ripened upon this question. If the Government are really desirous of remedying the abuses which now exist, they will wait till they can do so in a comprehensive form and bring in a Bill which, without doing the detriment that this Measure would do to the Church of England and the country, would remedy the particular abuses which I understood this Bill was brought in to remedy.
§ * MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I claim the indulgence of the House to intervene in this Debate, because, as a member of what was the United Church of England and Ireland, and occupying a position in the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, I venture to take an interest in the sister Church—one which we claim to be associated with spiritually and actually. I think that the Protestants of this great kingdom will be, and ought to be, greatly indebted to the honourable Member for Flintshire, for the ground which he has taken to-night, and for the statements which he so clearly proved on the floor of this House. When he made statements, and when interruptions were offered to him, the honourable Gentleman was prepared with his authority, and I think that the country to morrow will be thoroughly in accord with the manner in which he has dealt with this subject. I am one of the few Members at present in this House who recollect the attitude and the line of 498 argument taken by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Monmouthshire in 1874, when the Public Worship Regulation Bill was before the country; and I think that the right honourable Gentleman, whose speech in this House to-night will, I am sure, awaken sympathy throughout the country to-morrow, is to be again congratulated upon the line he has taken up, and I offer the right honourable Gentleman my congratulations upon his attitude to-night, if so humble an individual as myself may be permitted to offer my congratulations. Sir, the line taken by the right honourable Gentleman was not a new line. It was the line that he took in 1874, and I appeal to his recollection if he then did not give sanction to the sentiment that he was pleased to see that the country was sound in support of the Protestant Reformation, and that there might yet be a new combination of parties having for its object the maintenance of the Protestant cause. Speaking from this side of the House, I feel that the majority of Gentlemen who occupy seats on this side are thoroughly at one with me in their attachment to the Protestant cause. I feel that they desire to see the great Church of England as by law established, maintaining the principles of the Reformation upon which it was established, and they do not desire to see any insidious changes made in its doctrines or tenets which would undo and destroy the principles of the great Reformation. I am sure, Sir, that the great majority of gentlemen who sit upon this side of the House are not ashamed of the word Protestant; but there are a great many people in the Church of England at the present time in high ecclesiastical positions who seem to think that the use of the word Protestant should be tabooed. The Bishop of Liverpool, however, I am glad to say, is sound on this point, for in his pamphlet, "What do we owe to the Reformation?" he uses these words—I cannot agree with those who now tell us that the Reformation was a blunder—that the Reformers are overpraised—that Protestantism has done this country no good—and that it would matter little if England placed her neck once more under the foot of the Pope of Rome. Against these new-fangled opinions I enter my solemn protest. I want no departure from the old Protestant paths which were cast 499 up by Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer three hundred years ago. In short, about the value of the English Reformation I want no new views. I unhesitatingly maintain that 'the old are better.'Holding these views, it was no wonder that at the Convocation of York the right reverend prelate moved the following resolution:—That in the opinion of this House the increase of lawlessness on the part of many of the clergy in the conduct of Divine worship in their churches, in the introduction of unauthorised services and practices, especially in the celebration of the Holy Communion, and the growing dissatisfaction of the laity in consequence of such lawlessness, demands the special attention of the bishops; and therefore this House considers it necessary at the present juncture that the clergy of our respective dioceses should be called upon to remember the solemn declarations, subscriptions and oaths made and taken by them at their ordination, licensing, or institution, and in particular their legal and moral obligations to use the form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, and none other, except so far as shall be ordered by lawful authority.And after a speech the Bishop of Wake-field moved an amendment, which was in no way in opposition to the general spirit of the singularly unanimous debate, or to the main principles which underlay the resolution. He moved, in effect—That in the opinion of this House there is a serious danger from wide divergence of Liturgical practice and the use of unauthorised services alien to the principles of the Church of England, as also by the omission of or addition to the regular services, and that those practices need wise restraint and guidance, with due regard to modern needs and reasonable liberty.That amendment was put, and the voting was as follows:—For: the President, the Bishop of Durham, the Bishop of Chester, and the Bishop of Wake-field. Against: the Bishop of Liverpool, the Bishop of Manchester, and the Bishop of Sodor and Man. The House will be gratified to see that the bishops have at last awakened, but how much of the Protestant movement is due to one whose name probably is well known to this House—I mean Mr. John Kensit—it is impossible to say. I do not mean that in all respects I sympathise with Mr. John Kensit's action, but I cannot help noticing that with his objects even the Bishop of London has shown 500 sympathy, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has himself presented Mr. Kensit's petition to Convocation. Having referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury, may I quote to the House some words of his uttered in Convocation on the 11th of May? He said thatHe thought the time had come when they ought to be prepared to deal with that matter, and to deal with it, not in the way of prosecution—he thought that was a long way off—but in the way of personal command. Every clergyman had made a distinct promise to use the forms prescribed in the Prayer Book: they should remind men of that very solemn promise, and call upon them to observe it.I have other extracts, but the case has been so thoroughly proved that to contend any further would be a work of supererogation; but I should like for a moment to quote to this House the words of a famous Tory periodical, a publication which has done much for the maintenance of Tory views in this country year after year—I refer to Blackwood's Magazine. In that magazine for June, page 869, are the following words—The Primate had in view the kind of clergymen who, if the Bishop of London be right, oppose themselves to the principles they should maintain; who, if the Bishop of Winchester be right, act as aliens and foreigners in the Church, performing the kind of services which brought about the Reformation—who, according to the Bishop of Southwell, seem to belong, some of them, to secret societies for undermining the teaching of the Church.…Their offences are so far from being merely formal, though illegal, like wearing the biretta or the chasuble, that they include the suggestion of the most pronounced Roman Catholic doctrine, and the practice of its most distinctive ritual. Transubstantiation is brought in for acceptance; pictures of the Virgin Mary are hung where the congregation may dip the knee; Masses are said in tones that the people may not hear; Latin is in use at the altar; there are Adorations of the Cross, the Roman office of the Asperges, and the like.Those are the utterances of the most Tory of Tory magazines, and I commend them to the careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government. A great opportunity lies before the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who has attained an almost unexampled position of popularity in the country, and I ask him to place himself at the head of the Protestant Party. I know that the right honourable Gentleman thoroughly sympathises with 501 Protestantism when its case is presented by a less eccentric individual than myself, but I implore him to consider the position of the Church in this country—to remember that Her Most Gracious Majesty took an oath to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion, as established by law, and I ask the right honourable Gentleman to assist Her Most Gracious Majesty in maintaining the Protestantism of this Church of England which is still by law established. The right honourable Gentleman leads a magnificent majority, but that majority was not returned to Parliament to destroy the Protestantism of the Church, and the moment that the maintenance of the Protestantism of the Church of England ceases to be one of the principal objects of Her Majesty's Government, that moment would that magnificent majority be scattered to the winds of Heaven, because it had failed in doing that which it had been sent to Parliament to do—namely, to maintain a Protestant Constitution and a united Empire.
§ * MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Hereford)
I am glad to find that the gentleman who wrote what appeared to be an inspired paragraph in the Standard newspaper to the effect that if the honourable Member for Flintshire stopped the progress of this Bill by a speech on Protestantism, an attempt would be made to curtail his remarks, has proved to be a false prophet; and I hope that the gentleman who, a few days ago, sent a paragraph to the political columns of the Times newspaper, to the effect that whatever the Government intended to do—whether they intended to abandon the Municipality of London Bill, whether they abandoned all idea of doing anything with an Old Age Pension Bill, whether they shunted the Secondary Education Bill—whatever they did or did not do, at all events they were determined that the Benefices Bill should be placed on the Statute Book—will turn out an equally false prophet. To me, knowing as I do a little about the House, as I have sat in it for some years, it appeared to me that the speech of the honourable Member for 502 Flintshire, excellent as it was, was not by any means germane to this inquiry, and that if on any other subject a Member of this House had made such a speech he would have been very properly called to order; but I think, with all due respect to the opinion of the House, it is quite clear that on this occasion the House wanted to hear something on the subject. The House wanted to listen to the honourable Member for Flintshire, and when the House wants to listen to an honourable Member it generally signifies its intention in a very marked manner. My honourable Friend the Member for Oxford University commended his Bill to us and suggested that we should stop this discussion in order to carry the Bill, because he said the bishops were beginning to restrain the vagaries of the extreme Ritualistic party in the Church. When did the bishops begin to restrain the vagaries of the Ritualists? Why, after the gentleman named by my honourable Friend the Member for Belfast had, metaphorically speaking, broken a window. It was not until Mr. Kensit had taken action, not until he had acted with the determination which I myself should not have had the boldness to imitate, that the Ritualistic party began to cave in, and the bishops took the matter to a slight extent into their own hands. I hope that the Leader of the House has perceived, from the spirit in which the House has received the remarks on Protestantism, that all the evils that we have to fear from the Church itself and the reforms which we ought to institute in the Church are not those which are dealt with by this Bill, and that the reason why the House is not particularly interested in this Benefices Bill is that honourable Members, generally speaking, have no particular desire that this Bill should be placed on the Statute Book this Session. That is because this Bill does not deal with the real matters at issue. Although I do not suppose for a moment that the right honourable Gentleman will adopt the suggestion of the Member for Flintshire, and bring in a Bill dealing with ritualism this Session, I agree with him in thinking that the Government will be extremely foolish to push forward this Bill, thereby leaving people to suppose that they are reforming 503 abuses upon which the people want reform, whereas they are really reforming abuses which, to a great extent, do not exist at all. Sir, some honourable Members seem to think that the evils dealt with in this Bill are of great moment to the Church. It is the people called Churchmen who lay such great stress upon these evils. If one listens to the speeches made by Churchmen on recent public occasions at diocesan conferences and the like one would suppose that the Church was in a very flourishing condition and did not contain all these black sheep. Looking over a bundle of these speeches, I noticed that it was said that there was an enormous quickening of Church life—an immense development of spiritual and ecclesiastical fervour, and that there was a very decided increase of public interest in Church work. Why should all these immoral people, whose misconduct we desire to put an end to, be so numerous in the Church? One would hardly suppose, if so, that the good works of the Church would be so spoken of as they have been spoken of by Churchmen. During the reign of the Queen we have seen the rise of the Oxford movement. I know that the Oxford movement is in great favour with some people, but my own view of the result of that movement has been this, that it has taught the English parson how to lie. We have been told by Lord Halifax that the Church has, during the reign of the Queen, been transformed and was daily enlarging her borders. How can a Church daily enlarge her borders if there are such an immense number of immoral clergymen with whom we are bound to deal? My honourable Friend the Member for Walsall dealt very forcibly with the subject. He asked, "How can we allow these scandals to continue so long in the Church?" We are not in favour of them, so long as they do exist, but we dislike the form in which this Bill endeavours to put an end to them. We say that the real result of this Bill is to give additional powers to the bishops, and although there are bishops—the bishop of my own diocese in particular, and the Bishop of Sodor and Man—who are sound as regards the Protestant religion, we believe that, the vast majority of the bishops of the 504 Church of England are not so sound, and that if they are not actually in league with those who are Romanising the Church of England, they are afraid to put a stop to their practices; and we think that people of that character—of that way of thinking—are not fit people to put as judges over the Queen's subjects. After all, the case is this. Here you have, under the existing law, a bishop who can refuse to institute a clergyman for want of learning, for age—I suppose for want of age, though I do not know whether that is the case—and for misbehaviour. If he so refuses to institute, and the presentee thinks that he has made a mistake, and the patron agrees with the presentee, the patron can bring an action, as has already been said by the honourable Member for Swansea, before a jury of his own countrymen, and the man who has been given the living, but whom the bishop has refused to institute, and, by so doing, has not only cast a slur upon his character, but whose life has been practically ruined by that refusal, can appeal, like any other subject of the Queen, to a jury of his fellow-countrymen, and, if he is innocent, it can be so stated by that jury and his character can be redeemed. Now you propose to change all that. By this Bill you propose to give the bishop additional powers in this respect of refusal to institute. That is to say, that the right of the patron acting for the presentee to go to a jury is taken away, although the offences mentioned in clause 2 of this Bill are all of a kindred nature to those which now entitle the bishop to refuse to institute a presentee. They are substantially of the same character, and therefore at present, when a bishop refuses, the question can be placed before a jury, and, as it is a question of fact, it is a question which a jury is perfectly competent to decide. As my honourable Friend the Member for Swansea says, this Bill deprives the patron of his right. The reason why a great many actions are not brought by patrons is because, as my honourable Friend the Member for Stroud might say, these actions are obsolete, and perhaps because parties do not like to undergo the costs connected with them. What is proposed now? The action by 505 the jury is not absolutely done away with, but it is provided by this Bill that if steps are taken under this Bill—if the bishop refuses to institute—then the patron is deprived of his right to have his case tried by a jury. If steps are taken under this Bill, his right is at an end. The position of a clergyman whom a bishop refuses to institute is something of this nature—it is something of the same nature as that of a man who is in the employment of a commercial firm. Somebody says that the employee has been guilty of misconduct. The first step is for the principal of the firm, or some leading member of the firm, to inquire into the matter. He does so, just as the bishop inquires into the character of the presentee, and if he believes that the misconduct is proved—that he is not fit, to be a servant of the firm, he dismisses him. What happens? If the man thinks he has been wrongfully dismissed, he has a conversation with his employers of what I may term a domestic character. The inquiries before the bishop are of a domestic character. But after that, when the servant who is dismissed feels that his character is at stake, the whole thing becomes at once a matter of public interest, because subjects of the Queen should not have their characters taken away wrongfully—should not have their means of living and their rights to live taken away by anybody. The man dismissed from service brings an action for libel, or for wrongful dismissal. But does the master sit in judgment on that tribunal? Certainly not. He is tried in an ordinary manner in a court of law, and before a jury of his own countrymen; and what is the difference between the master who wrongfully dismisses his servant and the bishop who wrongfully refuses to institute? Does the spiritual character of the clergyman alter the matter at all? No. The position of the clergyman who is refused institution by the bishop is just the same as that of the man who is dismissed from commercial employment. He loses his place—the place he expected to get. He will not get another place—he is ruined in his profession. He says: I aim ruined in my character; I am a subject of the Queen; I have rights, and I will go before a court 506 of law, and I will clear myself. But that is exactly what he will not be able to do if this Bill becomes law. For this reason, and for many other reasons which it would be quits out of place for me to state now, but which, will probably have to be mentioned if this Bill reaches a further stage, I shall vote with the honourable Member for Lowestoft. I hope also that, although I am only a mere mediocrity in this House, the observations which I have made will induce the Government to refrain from pressing this matter forward against the wishes of a great many of their supporters. I hope that the observations I have ventured to give expression to will not be entirely thrown away upon the First Lord of the Treasury, and that he will not endeavour to rush this Bill through the Report stage by using any of those drastic measures which his enormous majority would enable him to adopt.
* MR. NEWDIGATE (Warwickshire, Nuneaton)
I feel a very great diffidence in addressing the House upon this question, especially after the speeches which have been delivered by the honourable Member for Flintshire, with a great deal of which I entirely agree, and the speeches of several other Members. But I cannot say that I agree with the speech of the honourable Member for Hereford. I consider myself in every way as good a Protestant as he is, and yet I consider that in the Bill now before the House there are a great many provisions which would be of benefit if passed into law. I must also say that I do not agree with everything that he has said about the bishops, and let me say that I am speaking from a far more back bench than the bench from which the honourable Member spoke. I would venture to say that I do most sincerely hope that, possibly, in this Bill or in some future Bill, something may be done to, at all events, restrain the ritualistic practices which now take place in so very many churches connected with the established religion of this country. I can only say that if the Government would bring forward a Bill in this spirit I for one would support them, and I believe that many of my honourable 507 Friends would support them in every way they possibly could. Sir, the fact of ritualism is nothing in itself. People are at liberty to hold what opinions they like, and nobody cares what they do as long as they do not express their views in public. But as long as the Church of England is the established religion of this country, so long must the Church of England conform to the doctrines and ceremonies laid down in the Prayer Book. I am not speaking myself from any great personal knowledge of these High Church ceremonies, for whenever I am a witness of them I come away with a feeling of the utmost irritation, and under those circumstances I feel it is far better not to attend places of worship of that sort. But in the newspapers I see that all sorts of services unknown—utterly unknown—to the Prayer Book take place, such as the Tenebræ, the Veneration or Adoration, that is the crawling to and kissing of the Cross; the Feast of Corpus Christi; processions with movable images, and crucifixes marched about with these processions. Then there is another strange ceremony, called by a name which is spelt in the same way as the French for asparagus, that is the Asperges, the pronunciation of which I do not know whether it is two syllables, asp-erges, or three syllables, asp-er-ges, which is a sprinkling with salt-and-water by water brushes. I speak with very great diffidence, and to a certain extent with a great deal of discomfort, of these things, because I believe there are Members of this House who are as loyal Churchmen as myself who are perhaps supporters of services such as I have mentioned; but what I do feel most strongly is that services which are not in the Prayer Book ought not to be allowed in the public worship of this country. We have heard a great deal said about Mr. Kensit. People have found very great fault with him for what they call brawling in churches. Like my honourable Friend the Member for Hereford, brawling in churches would be about the last thing I should like to do myself, but for years past these ceremonies and services have been going on, and the bishops of this country as a rule have taken no steps whatever to prevent them. In saying this I should like very much to except the bishop of the diocese in which I live—the Bishop of Worcester. 508 He has had very hard usage from people who disagreed with him, and he has done everything he can to uphold the Protestant character of the Church of England. What struck me was that when these services and ceremonies were brought before the knowledge of the public, owing to the action of Mr. Kensit, on May 2nd of this year, a number of clergymen banded themselves together, and made a resolution that they would conform to the dictum of the bishops in this respect. What I read was this, that they considered that the ceremonies and rites laid down in the Prayer Book wanted a certain amount of alteration. Those ceremonies and rites might have been good enough two or three centuries ago when the Prayer Book was first introduced in its present state, but in their opinion those rites and ceremonies would not do for the present time—in point of fact that the Prayer Book was not equal to the exigencies of the present time. I was very much struck with a letter which I saw in the Times on May 17th. It was written by a Roman Catholic, who signed himself "B." We all of us can understand the Roman Catholic religion, and though we may not sympathise with it, we respect the opinions held by the Roman Catholic body; but Roman Catholicism is one thing and the Protestant religion is another, and these High Church ritualistic practices are neither one nor the other—they are neither bird, nor beast, nor fish, nor feathered fowl. It used to call itself the Protestant religion, but now I believe it is not called by that name, and it has introduced into it all sorts of Roman Catholic rites and ceremonies, which have been engrafted on it. I do not propose to read the whole of that letter to the House.
* MR. NEWDIGATE
The honourable Gentleman says "Hear, hear," but I may as well tell him that, although I do not propose to read the whole letter, I shall read extracts from it. We do not want to unduly lengthen this discussion, but there are certain points which require elucidation. If the honourable Member who cheered will allow me, I should like to read certain extracts out of this letter, and I shall be very much surprised if, after he hears these extracts, his cheer 509 is renewed. This Roman Catholic layman visited, in company with a genuine Church of England man, the church of St. Cuthbert, Earl's Court. On entering he found a holy-water stoup in exactly the same position as where he should look for one in his own churches, and he began to think that he had made a mistake. The decorations, he said, were of a thoroughly devotional, and not merely ornamental, character; and, but for the absence of "Confessionals," and of a "Tabernacle" over the high altar, he would have been, puzzled to note any distinction between that and the interior of a Roman Catholic church. There were two altars—the high altar, and one in a side chapel, with all the appurtenances essential to the saying of Mass. On each altar was placed a, crucifix, just in the game position as it is with the Roman Catholics, the box below it, or the stand, doing duty—in appearance, at all events—for what would have been with the Catholics the tabernacle for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. At St. Cuthbert's there were no lights burning before the high altar, but at the church of St. Mathias, which he also visited, there was as goodly a show of red lamps burning as proportionately there as at St. Gudule, in Brussels, before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. At St. Mathias, also, there is a high altar and two side altars, with a crucifix on each. At St. Cuthbert's there was a confessional chair fitted with a grille as on Roman Catholic confessionals, through which the penitent addresses the priest. The "station; of the Cross" are painted on the walls decoratively whereas, in Roman Catholic churches they are generally pictures in frames, sometimes sculptured. At St. Mathias there was a notice up requesting persons to communicate only at the early celebrations, and to come fasting if possible. These are all the extracts which I shall read. Although I do not agree with everything that my honourable Friend the Member for Hertford has said about the bishops, I do consider that the bishops should stop such ceremonies as these from going on in the Church. Perhaps my honourable Friend will not mind if I quote another letter from the Times which appeared on May the 28th. On that day a letter appeared from Mr. Miller, in which he states that the Bishop 510 of London was publicy censed in St. Augustine's, Kilburn, some time after the pronunciamento which the High Church clergy made that they intended to support the authority of the bishops. I give these extracts because I feel that as long as these practices go on in the Church of England, so long will the Church of England be undermined. There are a number of men who are loyal churchmen—people like myself—who have fought this battle on public platforms in two General Elections, who have been willing to spend our money in supporting the Church of our forefathers, who are utterly and entirely opposed to these practices which I have alleged exist; and I say again, in all sincerity and all humility, that I get up now in this House of Commons and say these few words because I believe that if these practices—these extreme ritualistic practices—are allowed to go on in the Church of England the power of the Church will be undermined, and the time will come when people like myself, who at present are loyal to the Church, and loyal to the traditions of the Church, and who recognise the great work which the Church is doing, if these things are not altered, will have to vote with honourable Members opposite when they bring forward some motion censuring the Church in these matters. As long as I sit here I should strongly object to taking any course of that sort, and I only hope that, Members who, like myself, have the true interests of the Church at heart will do all they possibly can to restrain these ultra-ritualistic practices in the Church of England.
* MR. J. COMPTON RICKETT (Scarborough)
May I suggest to the House that we are not an assembly of Protestants, we are representatives of the religious views of the people of the three, kingdoms. It must be somewhat unpleasant, and indeed must grate on the ears of Catholics and members of other religions, to have their personal views discussed in terms of reprobation. We, Sir, are in the difficulty of being compelled, some of us especially against our will, to discuss matters belonging to one church in this country, but we are not in a position here, representing as we do 511 different theological schools, holding different theological opinions, and some holding no theological opinions at all, to discuss questions so delicate, yet of so much interest to those from whom we dissent. I object altogether to make sport of the opinions of those from whom I differ, opinions which are equally dear to them as mine are to me, opinions to which they attach an importance which I cannot accept. The difficulty lies in our endeavouring in Parliament to fix upon the English Church that yoke of uniformity, and compelling us to debate a ritual and a dogma imposed upon that Church some two hundred years ago. May I also remind those gentlemen who protest strongly against change of ritual that exception might equally be taken to many of the doctrines now taught in the direction of Liberal thought which are not in accordance with the Calvinistic Articles of the Church of England. We have fixed a burden on the Anglican Church which she has to bear as well as she can. It is practically impossible for her to obtain relief and to come to this House for the discussion of innumerable details. The only remedy is to give the Church of England her proper freedom. Until that event takes place, and Disestablishment, I am sure, is within a measurable distance of time, I feel a responsibility—a responsibility shared, I believe, by some other Members on this side of the House—in refusing to that Church some assistance in curing acknowledged evils. If there are open and serious scandals calling for a remedy I will be no party to the principle of bidding the Church continue to poison herself in order that she may the sooner be disestablished. My vote will go in the direction of any reasonable reform.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I think that everybody who has heard the statement of the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down will feel that it is one which does him credit. We cannot expect that every Member of this House shall be either a member of the Church of England or especially interested in that great ecclesiastical body, but what we do ask is, and what we can ask honourable Gentleman with confidence is, that in every effort to 512 reform any acknowledged and recognised abuse in that Church, we shall have the support of every man, be his theological opinions what they may, in carrying out the intentions which we have in view. I wish I could think that honourable Gentlemen who have spoken to-night felt that the considerations which have weighed with the honourable Member for Scarborough have weighed with themselves. I have listened to almost every speech, but I must confess that I have heard with regret that some honourable Gentlemen are prepared to sacrifice—for it amounts to that—certain reforms which this Bill contains in the hope, not that we shall have this Session, but that we shall have at some future time a Measure carrying out other objects which, however desirable in themselves, must be distinctly separated from the object which this Bill seeks to carry out. I have heard to-night two entirely different sets of arguments against the consideration of the Report stage. Sir, after all this is a belated Second Reading debate, and I cannot help feeling—I will not say that the Committee of the House have been abused—that a somewhat excessive advantage has been taken of the forms of the House to bring before it considerations which would be perfectly relevant to a Second Reading debate, but which are somewhat belated after the Second Reading has been passed by an overwhelming majority, and after the Measure itself has stood the fierce investigation and critical discussion in the Grand Committee to which it has been referred. The first set of arguments is strictly relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. The criticisms advanced by my honourable Friends the Members for Lowestoft and Hereford were directed to the Bill and what it contained. They objected to the Bill; they desired to reject it at this stage, and their ambition would be entirely satisfied if the Government were to declare the Bill now withdrawn. The other set of arguments was of an entirely different character. They were advanced by gentlemen who have on previous occasions indicated their friendship to the Bill, and who are now apparently prepared to sacrifice it and the reforms it embodies in order to raise 513 other and more burning controversies the importance of which I am the last to deny, but whose strict relevancy to the question before us I confess I individually cannot see. As regards the criticisms directed against the Bill by my honourable Friend the Member for Lowestoft, I do not think that I need detain the House very long. My honourable Friend's doctrine goes the length of stating, unless I misunderstood him, that no amount of traffic in the sale of next presentations was a matter with which this Legislature need concern itself. Indeed, he went almost the length of saying that the patron of the living was not responsible for the character, ability, or capacity of the person he appointed, but that the whole responsibility of seeing that fit persons were appointed to livings under our existing system of patronage lay, not with the patron, but with the bishop. I thought that a very extravagant and a very unsustainable doctrine; but it became more extravagant and more unsustainable when my honourable Friend went on, in the second part of his speech, to say that the responsibilities thrown upon the bishop by the existing law, as I understood him—certainly by the law as it would be if this Bill pass—were already too severe, that the bishop's powers were too great, and the responsibility which he had to support was too weighty. Sir, I cannot reconcile those two arguments. The whole responsibility of appointing fit persons in the Church of England rests, not with the patrons, but with the bishops. Surely, the corollary of that thesis is that the power of the bishops cannot be too much increased, and that the instruments given them by law for dealing with the responsibilities thrown upon them by law cannot be made too effective. My honourable Friend went on to say that the Bill was injurious to the clergy and a slur on the Church of England. All I can say is that if the Bill is injurious to the clergy, the clergy have taken a very strange way of expressing their injury; and if the Bill is a slur on the Church of England the Church of England has shown itself singularly insensitive to the insult. There is not a body representing the clergy or the men interested in the welfare of the Church 514 of England which has not in the course of the last few months passed a resolution strongly in favour of the Bill. I think, perhaps, I need not labour this point more elaborately, because in this respect, at all events, I think the great majority of the House are in agreement with the sentiments I have expressed. I am sure my honourable Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill, and my honourable Friend the Member for Hereford, expressed their own views with great ability, but I do not think they are entertained by any considerable body of opinion on either side of the House. I therefore pass on to the second, more important and by far the most striking and impressive, but also the more irrelevant, discussion which was initiated in the speech of the honourable Member for Flintshire. The honourable Member has taken the occasion which the forms of the House afford him to raise burning controversies associated with recent discussions connected with ritual in certain churches in London—I think almost, if not entirely, confined to London.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Not all over the country; but my present point is that the honourable Gentleman has taken the opportunity, as undoubtedly the forms of the House allowed him, of raising a question not touched on in the Bill, but in which he takes a deep interest, and in which he rightly thinks the public of this country at the present moment take a deep interest. I do not blame the honourable Gentleman for taking the opportunity, but I do blame him for making the opportunity of a discussion upon certain questions of ritual a ground for rejecting a Bill which is intended to deal with an entirely different class of grievances. I make criticisms upon him on that score, but while I certainly agree with a great deal that fell from him, I think he was not altogether free from the defect which is apt to attach to all who rush into these burning controversies, namely, the error of exaggerating the number of facts which make for his case. 515 He not only told us what I am afraid is perfectly true, that there are a certain number of churches in this country where services are conducted quite differently from the services contemplated by the English Church service, and where doctrines are adumbrated which have little connection with the doctrines of the Church of England—he was not content with that statement but went on to make a general attack on the bishops, and to give us certain statements which I confess I cannot help thinking were legends, with regard to occult, dark schemes of general conversion to the Church of Rome—of Orders regarded as valid in the Church of Rome being given by clergymen of the Church of England, and other matters of that kind. I confess that with regard to these latter stories I have not had the opportunity of seeing the evidence the honourable Gentleman might be able to bring forward, but in the light of such knowledge as is open to all or us, not of the views of the Church of England, but of the theological doctrines of the Church of Rome, I cannot believe that ever, if there were a clergyman of the Church of England so perverted as to desire to be given episcopal Orders in the Church of Rome in order to ordain clergymen in the Church of England, if there were a man who had such wishes or desires—I cannot believe he would find in the Church of Rome anyone who would favour his aspirations. But as regards the Church of England, the honourable Gentleman told the House that, no less than 13 bishops belonged to the English Church Union.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have not had time since the honourable Gentleman spoke to make critical inquiry into this matter, but I am informed that not a single diocesan bishop in England or Wales belongs to the English Church Union. If that is a specimen of the accuracy with which the honourable Gentleman has got up his facts, I think the House will feel that, however sound his arguments may be against the ritualistic practices of certain clergymen, his general 516 indictment of the authorities of the Church is one that deserves very little confidence. But the honourable Gentleman found a powerful supporter—I do, not know whether he was an unexpected supporter—in the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable Member for Flintshire is justly open to the accusation, that he somewhat rashly stated facts, and was guilty of a certain amount of unintentional exaggeration. It is, indeed, not necessary that I should state to the House, who are acquainted with the right honourable Gentleman's methods, that he far surpassed the honourable Member in both these peculiarities. The right honourable Member has never been able to restrain himself, on this topic. One of my very earliest, recollections, indeed I may say my earliest recollection, in this House, now going back 24 years, is that of the controversy between the right honourable Gentleman and Mr. Gladstone upon the Public Worship Regulation Bill, which, was almost the first Measure introduced after I became a Member of this House; and I shall never forget the admirable speech in which Mr. Gladstone attacked, and, as I think, demolished the right honourable Gentleman on that occasion, and, if I have not forgotten, I am sure the victim of the speech will still less have forgotten it. I was so interested in the right honourable Gentleman's speech that I sent, in order to revive my recollection, for the volume of "Hansard" which contains the accounts of this great duel. I observe that Mr. Gladstone then said—The fact is that my right honourable and learned Friend is still in his Parliamentary youth, and has not yet sown his Parliamentary wild oats.He went on to say—If it is desired to maintain that establishment of religion—the English Church—then I say that moderation in act and temper and mildness in language are absolutely necessary for those who undertake to guide the House in that difficult and perilous question.I think it will be admitted by all those who had the advantage of hearing the speech of the right honourable Gentleman to-night that that advice so given by Mr. Gladstone 24 years ago has, as 517 far as those topics are concerned, not vet been followed by the right honourable Gentleman, and that, as far as matters ecclesiastical are concerned, he is still in his Parliamentary youth, and has not yet sown his Parliamentary wild oats. What did the right honourable Gentleman tell us? He told us that in every parish of this country—I think that was his phrase—we drove the children of Nonconformist and Churchman alike, the Protestant children into the schools and compelled them to hear the doctrines enunciated in certain catechisms to which the honourable Member for Flintshire made reference. What relation has that statement to the facts of the case? In how many of the 14,000 parishes of this country does the clergyman of the parish teach doctrines which, even in the view of the honourable Member for Flintshire, are inconsistent with the Protestant religion, the Thirty-nine Articles and the Prayer Book?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I entirely dissent from the right honourable Gentleman. If I should say that the statement is erroneous to the amount of 99 per cent. I should have done more than justice to the right honourable Gentleman; and I think you might go through the parochial schools of this country, go to the parish services of this country, one by one, and you would find that the number of parish services which are open to the criticism of the honourable Member for Flintshire, and still more of the Leader of the Opposition, is almost infinitesimal. I do not deny that the great majority of the House share the views of those who have expressed their regret at the practices in ritual of which we have heard enough, and more than enough, to-night. It matters very little what an individual Member's opinion may be, but my own opinion agrees with the view that has been expressed. I hold an opinion, shared I believe not by one party in the Church of England but by every party in the Church of England—every party without exception in the Church of England—and I share the 518 feelings of regret that those practices have gone on, productive as they are of much scandal, and open as they are to objection of the most serious kind from every point of view. But, Sir, that is not the question before the House. The question before the House is: Are we to turn a Bill intended to deal with a certain class of evil into another and different Bill intended to deal with a different class of evil? It is vain for any man to pretend that he is in favour of this Bill if, at the present stage, after it has passed through Committee, he proposes to revolutionise its character. The thing cannot be done; it cannot even be done on the honourable Member's own principle. What was his principle? His principle was—the whole view underlying his speech was—that you cannot trust the bishops of the Church of England in matters of doctrine and ritual.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Well, this Measure, which does not deal with matters of doctrine and ritual, does trust the bishops; and it would be absolutely impossible so to modify this Bill as to meet the views of those who wish it to be, not a Bill dealing with certain abuses connected with patronage, but a Bill dealing with doctrine and ritual. The necessity of any Bill dealing with such matters, though such necessity may arise, is a necessity which I should regard as of tragic import to all the best interests of the Church. I remember the discussions on the Bill to which I have already referred—the Public Worship Regulation Bill of 1874—and I cannot believe that any repetition of those discussions would be otherwise than a misfortune—a misfortune which might indeed be the less of two evils, but which would be in itself one of the greatest evils which could befall the community. But, Sir, I do not think we need discuss that question now. The question before the House is the question whether you will destroy a measure of reform, not for the purpose of bringing in another measure of reform, but for the purpose—I really do not quite know what—of emphasising 519 those beliefs in the Protestantism of the country which I do not think are in question at the present time. The honourable Member will hardly maintain that the safety of the Protestant religion consists in permitting the sale of next presentations. I cannot believe that he, who is, I believe, genuinely interested in the health and welfare of every religious organisation in this country, is seriously desirous to prevent us from carrying out the reforms which he admits to be desirable, simply because we did not draft at the last hour a new Bill—a Bill which it would be quite impossible, if it could be drafted, to deal with in the course of the present Session, and of the necessity for which I do not think the House is as yet convinced. I do not know whether the honourable Member intends to proceed to a Division. If he does proceed to a Division with any hope of carrying the Amendment, I cannot imagine how he reconciles such a course with his conscience.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Why not? I will tell the right honourable Gentleman. The right honourable Gentleman has never in his life desired a reform except so far as he could turn it into political capital. ["Oh, oh!" Cheers, and cries, of "Shame!" and "Withdraw!" followed by prolonged interruption..]
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The right honourable Gentleman has not exceeded the rules of order. If he had I should have called him to order.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have not exceeded the bounds of order; I may have exceeded the bounds of courtesy. Let me modify my observation, and say that the right honourable Gentleman has never desired a reform which did not happen to fit in with the popular clamour. I will modify my expression again—with the popular feeling of the moment. I think now I have at once made my meaning clear and saved 520 the feelings of the right honourable Gentleman. Now, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman is extremely anxious not to pass a reform which does not cause great popular excitement, but he is anxious to have a discussion which will create great popular excitement—hence the difference of opinion between us. I confess that I am anxious to pass a reform which is admitted to be a reform by almost everybody in this House, although it has not those elements of popular excitement so dear to the heart of the right honourable Gentleman. I trust that the House will not consent to allow a useful reform to be killed merely for the purpose of enabling the right, honourable Gentleman to repeat in 1898 the speeches he made in 1874, because the amount of gain would not be worth the sacrifice. The gain would be great, no doubt, but it would not be worth the sacrifice. I think that, put in that way, it does not hurt the feelings of the right honourable Gentleman. Well, Sir, I do not believe that the honourable Member for Flintshire takes the same view as the right honourable Gentleman. I think he will recognise that the rejection of this Bill would not help his cause in the least. He must have seen by the reception accorded to his speech that the cause he has at heart is one which has an immense body of public sympathy behind it. We all recognise that. The cause will not, however, be aided by the rejection of this Bill. On the other hand, its rejection this Session would put off a reform which has long been desired by all who are interested in the Church, of England, which has been recommended by Commission after Commission, which was approved at the stage of Second Reading without a Division, and which the honourable Member for Flintshire, I believe, himself desires in his heart. Let him not disguise from himself that, by taking the course he has taken, he is not helping the cause of Church reform, but is deferring for an indefinite period a change which he desires as much as I do. If we are to mix this subject up with those other burning controversies which have already caused such difficulties and divisions in the community generally, 521 and in this House, an injury will be done to a Church of which the honourable Member is not a member but of which he desires to promote the welfare and utility. I trust, therefore, that all who share the views of the honourable Member upon the question of Church reform will abstain from following him into the Lobby, and will obey his principles, rather than endeavour to carry out the Amendment he has placed on the Paper. Sir, I do not know that I need add anything to what I have said except this: the House has not only travelled beyond a Second Reading debate at this stage, but has travelled into one of the most thorny and difficult controversies in which it could be involved. If this controversy is to be seriously taken up by the House, it cannot be in connection with a Bill which has passed through three-fourths of its course. It cannot be dealt with at the end of a Session, when the whole time of the House is already allotted. Let the House, therefore, not be misled by the great mass of truth which is contained in the statement of the honourable Gentleman, however exaggerated that statement may have been in particulars or erroneous in details. Let it rather set itself to work at the task which is appointed for it, and endeavour, by passing this Bill, to carry out once for all a long-needed and much-needed reform in the Church of England.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
I should not have interposed in this Debate but for the fact that my position is a somewhat peculiar one, and that I wish to explain why I cannot follow the advice of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, which advice I have heard with very great regret. Mr. Speaker, if the House will allow me to say so, I am bound to remark that the impression on my mind is that there has been great extravagance on both sides in matters arising on the Debate upon this Bill. In the first place I think the promoters of this Bill very much exaggerate the evils existing in the Church of England. On the whole, there is no body of men more free from suspicion and from impurity than the clergymen of the Church of England. I do therefore protest against the idea that this Bill is being brought in because the Church is in such a bad condition and 522 requires these steps to improve it. I also regret the introduction of the Bill on the ground that it will in the public mind give a false impression as to the state of the Church of England. On the other hand, I must say that there has been distinct exaggeration in the remarks of the honourable Member for Flintshire. The evils to which he alludes, and of which the House is almost unanimous in disapproving, do not exist to anything like the extent that the honourable Gentleman thinks. Travel from London to Manchester, for example, and probably in the whole journey of 200 miles you would not pass within sight of one single church where those evils exist. Because nobody hears anything about those cases, because they do not get into the newspapers, you do not allow for them, and the few cases that do get into the newspapers often exaggerate and misrepresent the actual state of affairs. My own impression is that the tide of Romanism is receding, and that the evils are nothing like so great as the honourable Member for Flintshire would lead the House to imagine. But I must come to the Bill itself. The Bill is opposed by two sets of people, if I may say so, in this House—those who say that the Bill does too much, and those who say that the Bill does not do enough. Some honourable Members think that the Bill does too much—that it interferes with the rights of property and the right of patronage. With those objections I have not myself the slightest sympathy, and I do not think this (the Opposition) side of the House at any rate will sympathise with any such antiquated and worn-out notions. But there is one reason, which is a sufficient reason in my mind, for passing this Bill, and that is that it will teach the public and the Church a lesson that livings are no longer to be regarded as property to be trafficked in. If for no other reason than this I should be inclined to support the Bill. We are told it does not do enough. That is the objection raised by the honourable Member for Flint, and accentuated by the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. But, Mr. Speaker, are we to throw out Bills in this House be cause they do not do enough? What Bill would pass if such a principle were to be adopted? I myself desire certain reforms 523 in regard to this Bill. Should I therefore oppose it because it does not include the reforms I desire? No; that would be a distinctly illogical position. My honourable Friend the Member for Flint has no right to oppose this Bill because it does not include the reforms he desires. But does it include any reforms at all? I think it does. It does something, however little, and I take that something in the expectation of getting more. I say it would be a violation of logic—it would be a violation of fairness and of common sense—to refuse to pass a Bill because it does not do all that you desire. There has been a tendency to-night to meddle with other matters in connection with this question. The advice which I would venture to give in regard to the Bill is that which once fell from the lips of Lord Melbourne—"Leave it alone." To drag in at the tail of the Bill big controversial questions would be the height of absurdity, and it could only tend to wreck the Measure. In that sense I protest against it. I have only one other word to say in conclusion. May I appeal to honourable Members to support this Bill, first, as a public, and, secondly, as a Christian, duty? We must remember that it is not the Church that has put herself under Parliament, but Parliament that has put itself over the Church. As long as you maintain that position you have duties following from that position, and the first is that you should behave with fairness and honour to the Church for which you have assumed the responsibility. But there should be a higher motive still, Mr. Speaker, that I would touch, if only for a moment. We all recognise—I know my honourable Friend the Member for Flint does—whether we agree with the Church of England or not, that she is doing a great religious work in this country. Other churches are doing a great work, but no one can deny that the Church of England is doing a great work. Shall we, therefore, not feel, as Christian men, if called upon to do all we can to help that work, apart from Party politics, that we are bound to remove from this Church everything which hinders it in its great religious work? Therefore we are bound to support this Bill, which does something to make that work more pure and effective.
§ * MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN (Montgomery)
Mr. Speaker, I desire to dis- 524 claim, as I have disclaimed before, any intention whatever of retaining the evils in the Church of England with the view of carrying out that which I have at heart, namely, disestablishment and disendowment. I oppose this Bill because I consider it a thoroughly insincere Bill. It professes to remedy certain apparently small abuses, but its real aim is the placing the whole clergy, and consequently the whole of the laity, of the Church more under the power of the bishop than they are at the present time. Some friends of ours who belong to free churches take the line of argument that has been adopted by my honourable Friend who has just sat down, and ask why it is this House should not do everything in its power to aid the Church to reform itself. But the House ought to be, and must be, the judge of what is right or wrong in ecclesiastical matters? We have, as Members of this House, a grave responsibility to the laity and to the clergy of the Church, and it is right that we should protect the clergy against evils many of them feel so acutely. The First Lord of the Treasury said that he believed the Bill would be welcomed by all parties and sections of the Church. That may be so as far as regards the manifestations which get into the newspapers, but I can assure him that if the letters which we receive from the clergy could only be brought before the House they would tell a very different tale. I think I may be forgiven for reading a few sentences from one of those letters. Some of them are from men who are known personally to me, and others by reputation, as earnest and devoted clergy, and I therefore think they are the least likely to fall under ecclesiastical censure. These are a few lines from one of the letters—I beg to thank you sincerely for your efforts to safeguard the clergy in the Benefices Bill. The Bill is intended as a panacea for Welsh Church troubles, but nowhere is it so much dreaded and resisted as in Wales.Now, I do not propose to give the House the name of the writer, but if honourable Members desire to see the letter I shall be glad to show it under the same seal of confidence as it has been sent under to me. The letter is only typical of many letters which I have received, and Wales is a special case of the evils attendant on the power of the bishops. Everybody knows that in past times—I am happy to 525 say there are very few of them now—there were great clerical scandals in Wales, jet in no part of the country is there less lay or more episcopal patronage. Many of the parochial clergy feel themselves to be under the iron government and caprice of a single man, and are convinced that any addition to the power of the bishops would work injury to the Church. The Bill professes to deal with one class of evils, but it does so by setting up another class, and though we have unquestionably done a great deal to modify it in Committee, still, it seems to me as so utterly unsuitable for the purpose for which it is to be carried that I most cordially support the Motion for reading it again this day six months. The Bill is uncalled for and unnecessary. What is wanted is, as has been said, some method of dealing with those who have violated their ordination vows by Romanising practices. The First Lord of the Trea-
§ sury said that the number of cases where this was done were very few, and on that point he contradicted my right honourable Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I daresay, Sir, that the number of churches in which there is extremely high ritual is comparatively few, but the whole root of the evil is the claim of the priest to have special power over the conscience of his flock, and everybody knows that this claim is advanced by almost every clergyman. The result in other countries has been that the men are sceptics, and the women fanatics. It is because we are anxious to prevent such a state of things arising in England that the supporters of the Amendment oppose this Hill, as they will everything that tends to encourage these spiritual pretensions and to deprive the parochial clergy of the protection of lay tribunals in their temporal rights.
§ The House divided—Ayes 220; Noes 75.—(Division List No. 140.)527
§ The House then proceeded with the consideration of the Bill.
Page 2, after clause 2, insert the following clause—
'In case the bishop proposes to collate or institute on his own nomination to a benefice
situate in a parish in Wales in which the Welsh language is spoken, it shall be lawful within the said period for three parishioners of full age who have resided in the parish for one year, or for two beneficed clergymen in Wales, having given security for costs in the prescribed manner, to apply to the court to restrain the bishop from collating or instituting on the ground that the person proposed
to be collated or instituted has not a thorough and familiar knowledge of the Welsh language, and the court shall have jurisdiction to grant an injunction on such ground, and from its decision there shall be no appeal.'"—(Mr. Bryn Roberts.)
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifon)
On this point I wish to point out that it is not a matter of favour or indulgence; it is a matter of law. It is absolutely necessary for all clergymen to understand the language. It is not only obligatory by Statute, but it is obligatory by canon law. It is laid down in "Phillimore's Ecclesiastical Law" that—Where there is a mixture of diverge languages the rule of the canon law is that the person presented do understand the several languages.On the other hand, not only is it dependent on canon law, but it is dependent on Statute law. The first Statute law of Elizabeth enacts that—The whole dyvyne service shall bee used and sayd by the curates and ministers throughout all the sayd dioceses where the Welsh tongue is commonly used in the British or Welsh tongue.Not only that, but in the Act of Uniformity it is provided that the Welsh Prayer Book shall be used throughout the whole of Wales where the Welsh tongue is generally spoken. I find it necessary to meet a sort of prejudice that exists among a great number of Englishmen on this question. They have ideas of spreading the English language in Wales. There is a sort of idea that the Welsh Members would not be supported by their fellow countrymen, for the reason that a knowledge of English has its commercial and social advantages. It must be borne in mind that the introduction of a strange language must necessarily be of a most slow character, and it is very difficult to drive that into the head of the ordinary Englishman. I say it is not right to prejudice and injure the interests of religion; the people are entitled to use the language which they understand. The deplorable condition of the Church in Wales is due to the denial by the Church of the principle which I advocate in my Amendment. I will quote the opinion of the late Dean of Bangor, one of the greatest Welshmen 530 and Churchmen of the age, and brother to the Bishop of St. Asaph. He said—Appointments, anti-national and unjust, made in obedience to the dictates of a false policy that has proved a failure, and in defiance of the wishes of the Welsh masses, has produced the Church's depression and created the anomaly that exists. Clergymen who have accepted Welsh preferment without any knowledge of the Welsh language, or with only that command of broken Welsh known as 'llediaith,' acquired by an adult, which is practically worthless for influencing the people, and serves only to enable the promotion-seeker to read himself in and to read his congregation out, are naturally desirous to persuade themselves and others that effective command of the Welsh language is not necessary for the highest service of the Welsh Church. This class have done the Welsh Church a deadly injury by misleading Church opinion in England concerning the Welsh Church.That is the opinion of the late Dean Edwards. In a speech delivered in the House of Commons, in opposition to Mr. Watkin Williams's Motion for the disestablishment of the Welsh Church, Mr. Gladstone said—It has been no question of National Establishments that has led to the growth of Welsh Dissent. In my opinion it is due to the cruelly anti-national policy that was pursued. So long as the national sympathies were cultivated, the Church of Wales was acceptable to the people of Wales. It is a fact of some interest that the people of Wales were the stoutest Churchmen in the country as long as the Church was administered in a spirit of sympathy and in accordance with the national feeling.The attempts which have been made to Angliciso Wales, through the medium of the Church, have not only completely failed, but have injured the growth of the Church in the Principality. I can point to the extent of the evil if I refer to one case that I discovered, that came within my own knowledge, in my own native county. In the latter part of last century—in 1773—in a parish in Angle-sea, there was the case of a parish with a population of 500, and out of that number only five persons could speak English. Nevertheless a clergyman was appointed who could not speak a word of Welsh. I do not wish myself to make this Amendment a stalking-horse for any by-object. I do not wish to make it the opportunity for a personal attack on any bishop, but it is necessary, in order to justify the Amendment, to show that the danger exists at the present day, and I must do that, although it may involve a certain amount of reflection on existing bishops. 531 But it is incontrovertible that there has been of late very considerable dissatisfaction among the beneficed and unbeneficed clergy of one of the dioceses of Wales. I am not going into the question as to whether that dissatisfaction was well-founded or not. It is sufficient for my purpose that it existed, and existed to a great extent, and that scores of the beneficed clergy of the diocese memorialised the bishop on the subject, and I venture to say that the immediate occasion of that memorial, if not the whole cause, was the appointment to an archdeaconry—many of the parishes in which were Welsh speaking—of a gentleman totally unable to speak Welsh, and therefore unable to perform his duties in these parishes. In fact, I have it on the authority of one of the memorialists that that clergyman himself said that he had made a mistake in accepting the preferment, after he had found that the Welsh language was more prevalent than he had thought, and that it interfered with his duties as parish priest. In Wrexham, again, another clergyman has been appointed who knows no Welsh. In Wrexham itself English is prevalent to a very great extent, but it is also true that the parish of Wrexham extends very considerably beyond the town, and that in the rural districts Welsh is commonly spoken. But a parish priest is not the priest of a small circle around the parish church, but of the whole parish, and it is his duty to extend his ministration over the whole parish, and it is necessary he should be able to do so in the language of the parishioners. There is also a large number of canons in the four cathedral towns utterly unable to preach in Welsh, which ought to be the language in the cathedral, as well as in the church, in districts where it is commonly spoken. I have been supplied by a clergyman of the Welsh Church with the names of 15 or 16 clergymen not knowing Welsh who have been appointed in recent times to parishes where Welsh, if not universal, was the general language of a great number, and the only language of not a few. I may be met with the objection that the Amendment is not necessary, as the bishops can be trusted in this matter, but I have shown that this is not the case. I may say that I have received a 532 great number of letters since I first moved a similar Amendment in the Grand Committee, and after I had given notice of this Amendment, from clergymen in Wales—north as well as south—wishing me God speed, and thanking me for taking the question up. One writes—The bishops have the power to refuse induction to clergymen ignorant of Welsh, but there is no check on the bishops themselves, who are the worst offenders.A Welsh rector writes—Where the patron is also a friend of the bishop there is no objection ever made to his nominee.Under those circumstances I ask what objection there is to accepting this Amendment. I am surprised that the honourable Member in charge of this Bill should have permitted me to go on so long in support of this Amendment. I repeat it—I am surprised, because I thought before I had uttered half-a-dozen sentences he would have sprung up to say that he was willing to accept the Amendment, and, by so doing, not only would he help the passage of the Bill by stopping a somewhat lengthy speech on my part, but he would also confer a very great benefit on the Welsh Church. I admit I am not a Welsh Churchman, and possibly I may be told that in moving this Amendment I have some illegitimate motive in view. If I were desirous of injuring the Church as a religious institution I would assist the opponents of this Amendment in trying to keep the Church as far as possible anti-national, and to increase the number of English clergymen, but I move the Amendment because I feel that, as a Welsh Member, I represent to a certain extent the Welsh Church to which many of my constituents, who have written to me on the subject, belong. It may be said that the Amendment is unnecessary because the law at present provides a remedy against this evil. I have taken counsel with an eminent ecclesiastical lawyer on this very question, and I am advised that it is very doubtful whether there is any remedy, but of this there is no doubt whatever, that if there is a remedy, it is only the common law or ecclesiastical law remedy.
It being midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.