HL Deb 24 July 1855 vol 139 cc1336-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, after expressing his reluctance to bring on the discussion on the Bill in the absence of all the Members of the right rev. Bench, stated its object. He said that when a person had taken holy orders, those orders were indelible, and no temporal power existed which could reduce such a man to the condition of a layman, and he was liable to all the secular disqualifications which attached to holy orders. When, therefore, a person in holy orders conscientiously dissented from the Church he remained liable to all the penalties which would be incurred by a clergyman for certain acts, and he remained under the superintendence of the Bishop in the same manner as if he had not become a Dissenter. Many instances of this kind had occurred; and it happened that many persons in holy orders had become Dissenters and Dissenting ministers, and if in the exercise of that function they taught or preached they were liable to be prosecuted in the Ecclesiastical Courts for schism and heresy. They were liable to all the disqualifications which holy orders carried with them in secular matters. For instance, such a person could not be called to the Bar, of which particular case the late Mr. Horne Tooke was a remarkable instance. The noble Lord, urging that the Church of England needed no such support as was to be obtained from penalties and disqualifications, said that this Bill would remove all those defects in that respect which existed in the present system.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


could not pretend, at a moment's notice, to enter into a subject of so much importance, and to agree to the principle of a measure affecting episcopal authority, in the absence of every Member of the episcopal Bench. The Bill permitted a clergyman of the Church of England, claiming to be a Dissenter, to be absolved from all episcopal authority. But suppose a clergyman had committed grave misconduct, which rendered him liable to ecclesiastical censure, was he, by claiming to dissent from the doctrines of the Church, to release himself from the penalties of his iniquities? The Bill proposed to permit such a person to take his seat in the House of Commons, or to go to the Bar. But suppose, after professing himself a Dissenter for three months, he came back to the Church, was he to retain his seat in the House of Commons, or would he regain his clerical character. The Bill proposed an entire alteration in the system of the Church of England, and he would oppose its second reading, if he stood alone. He did not bind himself to oppose the principle of the Bill in a future Session; but he protested against a Bill of so much importance being brought in in this hasty and hurried manner, and he should accordingly move that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months.


had been most reluctant, in the absence of the episcopal Bench, to explain his measure, and should have been content that the discussion should he reserved until the next stage. No doubt he should find it difficult to pass his Bill this Session, even if their Lordships gave their assent to it. But his Bill did not take away the clerical character, and there was no inconsistency between the indelible nature of holy orders and the provisions of his Bill. The clergyman would remain a priest, but he would not be liable to the secular penalties for schism, &c., attached to that office. On the other hand, the Bill took away all the immunities and benefits incident to his clerical character.


said, it was for his noble and learned Friend to consider whether he would press the second reading; but, if the Bill should be read a second time, he hoped ample time would be afforded for its consideration before the Committee upon it was moved.


said, some of the most distinguished Members of the episcopal Bench felt the propriety of passing a measure of this kind; but at the present inauspicious period of the Session he would not press the second reading.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn: Then the said Bill was (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.

House adjourned to Thursday next.