HL Deb 25 July 1833 vol 19 cc1220-34

The House resolved itself in to a Committee, on the Church Temporalities (Ireland) Bill.

On reading the 117th Clause,

Lord Plunkett proposed several verbal Amendments.

Lord Wynford

said, that he also had an Amendment, which would begin with the very first line. He was aware that, not in Ireland, but in England, there were many Churches continually vacant, and he was anxious to get rid of sinecures, wherever they were found. He, therefore, should have no objection to the proceeds of parishes, where there was no service performed, being vested in the persons who were to have the disposal of such property under the Bill. But his objection to the clause was, the Commissioners would exercise a judgment in matters purely ecclesiastical, in proposing the suspension of worship in any parish. The Amendment which he should propose, would go to give that power to the Ordinary. It was purely an ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and ought, undoubtedly, to be left in the hands of the Bishop. What he wished was, that, instead of the discretion being vested in the Commissioners, it should be vested in the Bishop. He objected to the unprecedented extent of power given to the Commissioners; who could not, in most points, exercise their duties without casting a slur upon the Hierarchy. What he would propose was, that wherever a church in any place should be proved to have been a complete sinecure for several years, such church should be declared vacant, and that the declaration of its being a sinecure should be left to the discretion of the Archbishop or Bishop of the Province or See, subject to an appeal to the Lord lieutenant in Council.

The Earl of Ripon

said, the objection of the noble and learned Lord to this clause, was not so much to the object which it was framed to carry into effect, as to the instruments by which it was to operate. The noble and learned Lord was willing that some competent authority should act as the provisions of the clause prescribed; but he objected to the authority pointed out by the clause. The noble and learned Lord wished that, instead of the decision, in the cases indicated by the clause, being left to the Commissioners, it should be left to the Ordinary or the Bishop, with a power of appeal on the part of the Commissioners, or of somebody else, to the Lord-lieutenant and Privy Council. Now, the same objection which the noble and learned Lord had made to the authority being given to the Commissioners, applied with even greater strength to the appeal to the Lord-lieutenant and the Privy Council, and the decision consequent thereupon. The noble and learned Lord objected to a decision by any body not ecclesiastical; therefore, so far as principle went, a decision by the Privy-Council was just as objectionable as that recognized by the original proposition, which declared, that the right of decision should be vested in the Commissioners. The noble and learned Lord had overlooked the nature and composition of that Commission. It would be chiefly composed of dignitaries of the Church, and he could not conceive any body of persons more competent to perform the duties which would devolve on them than those who were pointed out by the clause. They could not be actuated by any feeling against the interests of the Church; they could not be influenced by any prejudice against the Protestant establishment, because they were all intimately connected with it. He did not suppose that the Commissioners were likely to be called on for many decisions. The clause related to all livings where divine service had not been performed for three years before the 1st of February, 1833; and it appeared from the returns, that out of 1,453 livings there were only sixty-six to which this clause could apply.

Lord Wynford

said, what he objected to was, that the persons to whom this discretion was given were not all clergymen. He thought that the Church of Ireland was sufficiently degraded, by the general provisions of the Bill, and he only wished by his amendment to prevent that additional degradation which must follow from the adoption of his clause.

The Earl of Limerick

opposed the clause, and expressed his hostility to the entire Bill; which, in his conscience, he believed was calculated to effect the subversion of the Protestant religion in Ireland. They talked of divine service according to the Protestant faith not having been performed in certain parishes for three years. But why was that? He had seen the Protestants driven from their residences. He had in the county of Wexford, in a circuit of twenty miles, met with but one, Protestant; but the reason was, that they had been obliged to depart. It seemed that, in sixty-six parishes, divine service had not been performed, according to the Protestant service, for the last three years; but, if they looked at the return, they would find that this occurred in the most wild and uncivilized part of the country. The fact was, that the clergy were, from fear, from reasonable apprehension, driven from their residences. A noble Lord near him—and no man was more likely than was that noble Lord to be acquainted with the fact—said, that such had been the case. He reiterated the noble Lord's sentiment, and declared that he was confident of its perfect truth. Let this Bill be passed, and he would undertake to say, that no Protestant clergyman would dare hereafter to call for his tithes.

Lord Plunkett

did not think the Amendment at all necessary. In cases where intimidation had been the cause of a clergyman's absence, this would be taken into consideration by the Commissioners. This part of the measure was retrospective, inasmuch as the period of three years was made to terminate on the 1st of February, 1833. In those livings where divine service had not been performed for three years up to that period, such living would be declared vacant after the death of the present incumbent; but while he lived, the incumbent would have full liberty to return to his living. It was said, that the measure was calculated to prevent the propagation of the Protestant religion; but, on the contrary, its object was to diffuse it. It provided, that where circumstances had prevented the clergyman from attending his duties, the Commissioners should have the power of remedying it. The noble Lord objected to the constitution of the Commission, as being unecclesiastical. The meaning of the noble Lord's Amendment appeared to be—for though he was under some difficulty in making out the meaning, he knew that the noble Lord always had some meaning in what he said—that the Bishops should have the discretionary power of declaring a place vacant. [Lord Wynford: What he wished was, that the recommendation should proceed from the ordinary.] That was precisely what he had said; or, at least, the distinction was so fine, so metaphysical—if it might be so called—that, though he had applied his most comprehensive faculties, he could see no difference. The fact was, that the Bishops already had this power. As the law now stood, it was competent in the ordinary, whenever a parish had been neglected for three years, to enforce the performance of divine service there, and to punish the offender by spiritual censure. The object of the clause was to provide that this should be done where the ordinary had failed, from any cause, to interfere. It was not, however, intended to deprive the Bishops of any of this discretionary power; on the contrary, the Commissioners were prevented from interfering. If any Bishop directed the attention of the Commissioners to any satisfactory reasons why a parish should not be declared vacant, the Commissioners could have no object in, refusing attention to such recommendation. Then, as to saying the Commission was not ecclesiastical, surely the noble Earl had forgotten that the majority were ecclesiastics, and all might be so; for, out of the nine Commissioners, there were two Archbishops, and four Bishops, and one of the other three would be appointed by the Primate.

The Marquess of Salisbury

opposed the clause, and contended that, if the Commissioners had the power to discontinue the appointment of a Protestant incumbent in every parish in which there had not been service for three years, it would amount to a Bill of Pains and Penalties against the whole of the Irish clergy. He hoped that the noble Earl would withdraw the clause, or, at all events, allow it to be amended, so as to suit the views of all parties.

The Bishop of Exeter

said, that there would be no use in having Bishops established at all in Ireland, if matters of this kind were not intrusted to their care. The Bishops were, besides, the best calculated for the office, as the local circumstances of every parish would be better known to them, from annually becoming acquainted with the different parishes in their dioceses, in the course of their visitations. Having always felt a strong objection to the principles on which the Bill was founded—a feeling which he still had—he, nevertheless, had come down to the House with the wish to improve the Bill, and he had no intention of giving it any unnecessary or vexatious opposition; and he opposed this clause only because he thought it most important to the Irish Church that it should not be adopted. The main point was, who was to decide whether it was or was not fitting, that, in a parish where there had not been service for three years, a clerk should not be appointed, or, that the appointment of the clerk should be suspended for an indefinite period? He thought this strictly a part of episcopal duty, and he did not see why it should be placed in any other hands than those of the Bishops. In Ireland there was the strongest feeling among the Protestant inhabitants against this clause, and he believed, that nothing could soothe that feeling more than the voluntary abandonment of it by the Ministers. He objected also to this clause, because it gave a legislative sanction to pluralities. He found that by it, it was provided, that the clergyman of the neighbouring parish should do duty for the parish to which an incumbent was not appointed. Thus they were creating pluralities by an Act of Parliament, which professed to be a Bill of Reform. Did any one seriously suppose, if an incumbent was so grossly neglectful of his duty as not to perform divine service for three years, that the Bishop would be so forgetful of his duty as not to visit the incumbent, and lay him under spiritual censure? He believed that the omission of divine service had not occurred in one single instance owing to the misconduct of the incumbent. It had only occurred in parishes where there were no churches; and he would ask, if parishes should be visited with such a penalty as was inflicted on them by this clause, merely because they had not had a church? But his great objection to this clause was, that by it the Commissioners were to choose whether or not there should be an incumbent chosen hereafter. If this Bill had been in operation at the period of the Union, what would have been the effect? Since the Union, the parishes had been increased, in which divine service was performed by a number equal to all the parishes in which divine service was performed previous to that period. It had been contended, that this clause was drawn in the spirit of the Act of Union. But, did their Lordships believe, if this Bill had passed at that time, that Parliament would have granted such funds as would have enabled them to build seven hundred new churches, which was the number built since that period? He had in his hand a Return of the number of churches built in the diocese of Cork and Ross, from which he found, that the number of new churches built in situations where there were none before, and where there had formerly been no divine service, was no fewer than sixteen; and that the number of communicants, on an average, was thirty-three; besides which, there were seventeen parishes in which the service was performed in barns and other places, in which there were thirty-two communicants on an average from this he drew the inference, that every encouragement ought to be given to the extension of the Protestant divine service, and every care taken, that that exertion of the Protestant clergy should not be discouraged. He had been told that, on a late occasion, the Protestant inhabitants of the parish of Ballinamona had resolved to build a moderate plain place of worship, for the accommodation of 350 persons. The funds were to be raised by subscription, and several neighbouring noblemen and gentlemen had subscribed to it. Among others to whom application was made, was a great agitator in the neighbourhood; and his answer was, that he did not grudge the money, but that he objected to the building of a Protestant church at all. This showed that intimidation was used to put down the Protestant religion in that part of the country. The right reverend Prelate concluded, by saying he would oppose the clause.

Viscount Melbourne

was glad to find that the noble and learned Lord opposite approved of the principle of the clause. [Lord Wynford had not expressed any approbation of the principle of the clause.] He had understood the noble and learned Lord to admit the principle of the clause, which was to do away with such incumbences as were complete sinecures. He did not see how the clause could be taken as an insult upon the Bishops. He thought the discussion proved, that the duty would be much better in the Board of Commissioners than if it were placed in the hands of the Bishops, and that the performance of it would give more satisfaction when emanating from a Board, formed as this would be, than if it emanated from a single individual. It ought to be recollected, that the appointment to the benefice might perhaps be in the Bishop's own gift; in which case, it would not be proper that he should be the judge whether it should be suppressed or not. Another reason for the adoption of the clause was, that the business ought to be done on a regular plan, so as to take from it all possibility of being directed against individuals, which was provided by the clause. By the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, however, the business would be done by twelve persons, acting separately, and each guided by different reasons, and coming to different conclusions. The object of the whole Bill was to remove that which was a reproach to the Church; and in doing away with sinecures, they did something to improve the Church of Ireland. The question was, whether they were to suspend the appointment in parishes where there was no congregation; for he was sure that the Commissioners would never suspend the appointment where there was a congregation. He was willing to conciliate, but he could not sacrifice the usefulness of the measure. He thought it short-sighted policy to oppose the clause, and he hoped that the Protestants of Ireland would feel that the Bill was intended for their advantage.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

said, that the clause before the Committee was a very proper subject to be inquired into. He would not believe that benefices could be called sinecures, because divine service had not been performed in certain parish churches within the period of three years. He held in his hand an account of all the benefices in Ireland, and he found that there were only sixty-six in which divine service had not been performed for the last three years. It certainly was a melancholy thing, that in so many parishes divine service should not have been performed. But yet he would contend, that the non-performance of divine service, under the peculiar circumstances which had been alluded to in the course of this discussion, did not prove that such benefices were sinecures. There was a prejudice felt against this clause, which, as it was now framed, he did not think well founded. He admitted, that every Protestant should have access to a pastor, but he did not think the Protestant inhabitants would suffer by this clause. With some change the clause would be less objectionable. Protestants could not complain if inquiries were made into the circumstances of the benefice, which inquiries would probably be made through the Bishop, or with the assistance of a Bishop; and he thought he could venture to answer for every Bishop on the Irish Bench, that he would most willingly concur in promoting such inquiry, if it were considered necessary by the Commissioners, and that they lent their power to the Bishop to enable him to do what he otherwise could not do. Further, it would be but fair to the parish, if it appeared from accidental circumstances that there had been omission of divine service before a Protestant congregation, that the funds of the parish should be suffered to accumulate during the suspension of divine service, for the building of a church and glebe house in that particular parish. He thought the concurrence of the Bishop should be required for every purpose, and the amendments to that effect might be be beneficially introduced.

The Lord Chancellor

said, that the more he thought of the clause, the less cause he thought there was for alarm. Could there be a more episcopal body, not being altogether episcopal, than the one constituted by the clause? There were seven out of the eleven members of the Board, either strictly episcopal or appointed by the Bishops. The other four were, the two Archbishops, the Chancellor, and the Chief Justice, with two paid Commissioners, who might be either laymen or ecclesiastics. There need be no jealousy as to Episcopal Commissioners being in a minority, for it seemed to him beyond all doubt and exception that there would be a great majority of Bishops, or their nominees. He thought that it would be difficult to find a Board better constituted, or one more likely to remove all obstacles. The noble and learned Lord, had contended, that it would be more advisable to invest in the Bishop or Archbishop of the diocese, the power of dealing with the parishes in which no service had been performed for three years, previous to February, 1833. But it should be considered that giving such power would place the Bishops in a very invidious situation with the public, and the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord would be giving the Bishops a temptation to suspend or not suspend in the parishes of their dioceses. In there decisions they might be perfectly blameless, but he doubted whether the amendment would place them above suspicion. It would be far better to leave the power in the hands of men who could be suspected of no sinister motive in their exercise of it; the consequence of which must be, that the measure would be more satisfactory to the people. It was his opinion, that some such provisions as those contained in the clause were necessary for Ireland.

The Bishop of London

had extreme difficulty in making up his mind as to what could be done with the clause. He certainly objected to it, as it would not provide for the residence of the parochial clergy—an object he considered of the most vital importance. He agreed with the suggestions of his right reverend friend, that a restraint should be placed on the power of the Commissioners as to suspending the livings referred to in the clause.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that the object of the clause was not to do away with sinecures, for wherever there was a church, there could be no sinecure—but its object was, to prevent non-cures, and, as three right reverend Prelates had pointed out, the clause would not accomplish the object for which it was intended. There was no provision in it, (and such a provision he should like to see) to appoint persons to perform religious duties in parishes where they ought to be performed, and to enable them to perform those duties. Instead of taking, as the clause did, the livings in which no duty had been performed for three years previous to February, 1833, it would be better that the period should be three years from the first vacancy. He should like to see power given to the Commissioners to apply the revenues of such livings to proper purposes, so long as they remained sequestrated in their hands. If the noble Earl agreed to take the non-residence from the period he mentioned, and assured them that the revenues of the suspended livings should be applied to the building of churches and glebe-houses in places where they were wanted, he felt confident that their Lordships would support the clause, as there was not a noble Peer in that House who did not wish to give every support to the Church in Ireland.

The Earl of Suffolk

, in supporting the clause, contended that a sinecure really meant where there was no church, and a non-cure where there were no souls; and it was for places where there were no souls that the clause especially provided.

The Earl of Wicklow

came down to that House wishing that the whole clause should be expunged, as he at first did not see how it could be remedied. It would not apply a cure to the evils complained of, because it would not provide with churches and with religious instruction those parishes which were without them. It would be very difficult to ascertain what parishes would come under the operation of the clause, and those which would not. As he said, he thought that the clause could not be amended, but he was inclined to alter that opinion, since it appeared from what fell from the most reverend Prelate opposite, that the clause, if his suggestions were adopted, might be altered for the better. The returns showed that there were only sixty-six cases in which they would be warranted in suspending the benefices, and of these sixty-six there was a large majority in which the non-performance of the Protestant service was occasioned by circumstances over which the clergymen had no control. He objected, therefore, to the choice of those three years in which there had been the greatest agitation in the country, and the greatest obstacles to the residence of the clergy, and to the performance of the Church service. At the same time he did not think it well to leave, the suppression of benefices altogether to the discretion of the Bishop of the diocess; and bethought that if the clause were properly amended, so as to make any other three years than those of agitation the criterion of suspension, and to give the Bishop of the diocess a share of the discretion, but not the whole responsibility of the suspension, there would be very little of further opposition to the progress of the Bill through their Lordships' House.

Earl Grey

said, that all they proposed by the clause was, to take the revenues from those parishes in which divine service could not be performed, and to transfer the amount to that general fund which it was thought expedient to create for the maintenance of the Church Establishment and the promotion of religion. With respect to the causes which had been mentioned as producing that suspension of divine service, which was then the subject of their consideration, he had but to observe that the suspension in question arose sometimes from the want of a congregation, though not always; sometimes from there being no building lit for a place of worship; and occasionally from terror and intimidation; but all these matters would, of course, form subjects for inquiry with the Board, and to the hands of the Commissioners he felt assured that such subjects of inquiry could be most safely confided. As to the proposed record of places where Divine service had been suspended for three years, and an explanation of the causes which led to that suspension, it was a record to which there could, probably, be no objection, nor should he urge any. All such details might safely be intrusted to the Board. For, constituted as it would be, he felt assured that it could have no object in view but the good of the Church and the advancement of religion. To the Commissioners he was clear, the discretionary power must be given, of deciding when and where the erection of a new church was required. The noble Earl quoted the case of Bishop Boulton's Charity, as a precedent in favour of the operation of the particular provisions of the Bill, where the performance of divine service had been suspended in a parish for three years. In his judgment no arrangement could be more beneficial than that which the Bill provided. The clause in question was one of great importance, and he earnestly hoped that the House would agree to it.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

felt the same confidence in the Commission as that expressed by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) and the noble and learned Lord. He had no doubt that, with a Commission so constituted, the interests of the Church of Ireland would be in no danger. There was one point on which he differed from the noble Earl, but it was not one of great importance. He saw no reason why, in the case of a benefice to be suspended, the Bishop of the diocess should not interfere. It was most desirable that this respect should be shown to his authority, What he desired, therefore, was, that his consent should be necessary to the suspension of any benefices within his diocess. If it should appear that his assent was refused from any interested motives, then the matter might be submitted to the Lord Lieutenant in Council. He did not apprehend any difference of opinion between the Commission and the Bishop, unless the Commissioners should be in error When a benefice was suspended, ht thought it desirable that the funds of the benefice should be allowed to accumulate for the purpose of building in it a church and a glebe-house, in place of going to the general fund. If there was no Protestant inhabitant, then the income of the benefice might be handed over to the general fund. He wished it also to be left at the discretion of the Bishop whether a curate should be appointed, with a reasonable stipend, to perform the duties in a suspended parish, or whether they were to be performed by the clergyman of the neighbouring parish.

Lord Wynford

would withdraw his Amendment to make way for that of the most reverend Prelate.

Earl Grey

objected to the proposition, as leading to the creation of conflicting authorities in ecclesiastical affairs. It would place the individual Bishop in collision with the Board. He would readily agree, however, that whenever a case of suspension of the celebration of divine service came under the consideration of the Board, they should call to aid in their deliberations the Bishop in whose diocess the benefice in question was situate. He would say, that the Bishop of the diocess in which the benefice to be suspended was situated should, on that account, be a member of the Board.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

said, that such a modification would answer most of the purposes which he had in view. He regretted, however, as their Lordships had so nearly come to an agreement, that he could not withdraw that part of his Amendment which went to prescribe that the sequestered funds of any benefice should accumulate in the hands of the Commissioners for the purpose of building churches, and providing a glebe-house in that benefice.

Several alterations and verbal Amendments were made in the clause: after which the Archbishop of Canterbury's Amendment was put, which went to prescribe that the funds accruing from any suspended benefice should be applied to building a church and providing a glebe-house in that benefice before any part of it should be paid into the general fund.

Their Lordships divided on this Amendment—Contents 84; Not-Contents 82: Majority 2.

List of the CONTENTS.
DUKES. Ailesbury
Buckingham Bristol
Cumberland Bute
Dorset Camden
Gloucester Salisbury
Newcastle EARLS.
Wellington Abingdon
Abercorn Aylesford
Bathurst St. John
Belmore Canterbury
Beverley BISHOPS.
Brownlow Bath and Wells
Carnarvon Clonfert
Charleville Exeter
Chesterfield Gloucester
Dartmouth Hereford
De Grey Lincoln
Digby London
Doncaster (Duke of Buccleuch) Oxford
Eldon LORDS.
Falmouth Bayning
Home Bexley
Howe Calthorpe
Jersey Carbery
Limerick Colchester
Mansfield Colville
Orford Dufferin
Orkney Dynevor
Rosse Ellenborough
Rosslyn Forester
Sandwich Hay
Selkirk Kenyon
Shaftesbury Lyndhurst
Vane (Marquess of Londonderry) Maryborough
Verulam Melross
Westmoreland Montagu
Wicklow Ravensworth
Beresford Saltersford
Gordon (Earl of Aberdeen) Southampton
Stuart De Rothesay
Hereford Wharncliffe
Strathallan Wynford
Paired off
Marquess of Cholmondeley

Earl Grey moved, that the House should resume.

Lord Kenyon

complained of that course of proceeding. He had heard no satisfactory reason assigned why their Lordships should then not proceed with the Bill.

The Earl of Wicklow

said, it was quite unusual to resist a motion similar to that made by the noble Earl who had the charge of the Bill.

The Lord Chancellor

said, that his noble friend who had the conduct of the measure desired to have time to consider what other alterations might be necessary to make in the measure in consequence of the alteration which their Lordships had just made. If the noble Baron desired to take the conduct of the measure into his hands, he had no doubt that his noble friend would readily agree to place it in the hands of the noble Baron. But if that were not the case, it was necessary that the alteration should be considered.

The House resumed. The Committee to sit again.

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