§ LORD BERNERS
presented a petition from 3,560 householders of Camberwell, 696 complaining of the evils they are suffering from the law of sequestration for debt as applied to benefices, and praying a remedy for the same. The noble Lord stated that the living of Camberwell was formerly possessed by the Rev. J. II. Story, who contracted debts, as was shown when he appeared before the Insolvent Court in 1851, amounting to 51,376l. The consequence had been that the living was sequestrated and was without an incumbent, the only spiritual ministration being that of some curates attached to the different districts, who received a very small stipend. This was a very discreditable state of things, and he trusted that some remedy would be applied to so crying an evil.
The ARCHBISHOP of CANTERBURY
said, that the right rev. Prelate in whose diocese the parish in question was situate, had already that evening, with reference to this petition, expressed his opinion that it would be a great boon to the Church and the clergy if some remedy was applied to the evils which the noble Lord had pointed out. That, however, could not be done without an entire alteration in the law relating to Church property. He hoped, however, that cases of this sort were merely exceptional. With regard to the parish in question it should be remembered that it was divided into ten districts, each of which was provided with clergymen.
The BISHOP of LONDON
said, that no one would be more anxious than the bench of Bishops to remedy the evil complained of; and on more than one occasion they had tried to do so; but the moment they proposed any plan for a better provision for the spiritual wants of parishes, they were met by their noble and legal friends on the ground that they were interfering with the property of the Church. No doubt there were great difficulties in dealing with the question; but he could assure their Lordships that no one could be more aware of the evils attending the sequestration of livings than the Bishops were, and the subject should meet with their attention; they could not hope to succeed unless they had the assistance of the noble and learned Lords who were acquainted with the law.
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS
said, the evil complained of required a remedy, and the subject was one well worthy the attention of Government. With regard to the remarks of the right rev. Prelate who had just spoken, as to objections taken to any 697 alteration of the law by noble and learned Lords, on the ground that there would be an interference with the rights of property, he would say that if you made a retrospective law with regard to sequestration, you interfered with the rights of property. But the right rev. Prelate seemed rather to think it would affect the rights of the patron, which was not the case, as all his rights of property in a living ceased on presentation; and the question then really was between the incumbent and the parishioners. The sequestration of livings was clearly a perversion of funds which ought to be applied to religious purposes; and if creditors possessed this right, the effect was to deprive the parish of the incumbent, and leave its ministration entirely to curates with very small stipends. The law also wanted amendment in the case of clergymen suspended for misconduct, when the effect was the same. If any measure on this subject was brought forward by the right rev. Bench. he was sure it would meet with no opposition from the law Lords, and he would give it all the assistance in his power.
thought the greatest evil resulted from the sequestration of the wages of the actual working clergy of the country, and being exceedingly anxious to see the law on the subject altered, would be happy to co-operate with the noble and learned Lord (Lord St. Leonards) in rendering to the Government any assistance in his power.
The EARL of WICKLOW
felt very strongly the evil of the system. He could state that in the part of Ireland in which he lived since he had been a boy, the successive deans of a certain deanery had been unable to perform the duties of their office in consequence of debts they had contracted, although they possessed large revenues. He hoped there would be some amendment of the law.
§ Petition ordered to lie on the table.