HL Deb 11 June 1868 vol 192 cc1385-93

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee."— (The Earl of Longford.)


said, he wished to make a few remarks, as, owing to a mistake, he had not been present on the occasion of the Bill being read a second time. The noble Earl (the Earl of Longford) then stated that the Bill had been submitted to him, and that he had intimated his general approval of it. Now, the main object of the measure undoubtedly had his entire approval; for it was highly inexpedient that the army chaplains should be subject to the control of the parochial clergy, and it was desirable that the army chaplains should be subject to some Bishop. Those two points were aimed at by the Bill, which, however, contained some provisions that called for very serious and careful consideration. One alteration which he had suggested in the 4th clause had not been introduced. That clause enacted that after any scheme for constituting a precinct or district had been laid before the Queen in Council, and there ratified— Such precinct or district shall thereafter be and be adjudged and taken to be a Royal Peculiar, and shall be for all ecclesiastical purposes under the immediate and exclusive jurisdiction of the Crown. What he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had suggested was the insertion after "jurisdiction" of the words "of an ecclesiastical authority appointed by the Crown." This would make a great difference, as it would place the jurisdiction in proper hands. As regards Royal peculiars, it was very doubtful what authority was to be exercised. These matters were of no slight importance, and he trusted, therefore, that they would be carefully considered in Committee.


thought very great inconvenience would arise from the establishment of Royal peculiars—indeed, all recent legislation, as far as he had observed, had been to diminish these exemptions from, regular ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It was very difficult even for ecclesiastical lawyers to define exactly what they were, and certainly the establishment of Royal peculiars in the way apparently contemplated by some of the clauses of the present measure was wholly unprecedented. He trusted therefore their Lordships would give their serious consideration to those provisions of the Bill. He was still unconvinced that the Bishop of the diocese in which these districts were situate was not the authority with whom the Crown ought to communicate when necessary. In his opinion, there was no need to go further in order to carry out the general principles of this Bill than to make the districts within which it was desired the chaplains should officiate extra-parochial, and to leave them subject to the general authority of the Bishop of the diocese. The 6th and 7th clauses provided for the appointment of army chaplains by the Secretary of State, and defined the limits within which they were to officiate. Thus far no one could object; but there was no reason why the Bishop of the diocese should not, in case of any offence being committed against the laws ecclesiastical, be invited by the authorities of the Crown to exercise the powers with which he was legally invested. Nay, more, the general authority of the Bishop of the diocese, especially in spiritual matters, ought clearly to be considered. In such a practical matter as confirmation, for example, it was surely desirable that the Bishop of the diocese, and not a Bishop coming from without should administer the rite to the persons who needed it in these districts. Thus, then, he saw no reason whatever why their Lordships should not be content to establish extra-parochial districts, reserving to the Crown the power of appointment under the 6th and 7th clauses, and leaving the Bishop of the diocese with his general episcopal powers to be called in when needful.


was understood to express a doubt that the position of the Presbyterian military chaplains might be unfavourably affected by the Bill.


said, the Bill applied only to consecrated not to unconsecrated buildings. The Bill was not intended to exempt military chaplains from episcopal jurisdiction; but on the contrary to provide for them more effectual superintendence. It was the privilege of every incumbent to have his own Bishop and his own diocese. But the case of the army chaplains was an exception; they were a moveable body, and they complained—as they had complained for years—that they were in the special care of no one; that there was no Bishop I to whom they could look up for advice and guidance. He did not think that that would be remedied by placing them under the jurisdiction of the several Bishops in whose diocese the stations might happen to be placed. His own suggestion had been that all the camps and barracks, should be made peculiars under the charge of one Bishop—of the Bishop of London, for instance. But a Bishop of London might find that a jurisdiction over so widely scattered a body might be too much in addition to his ordinary diocesan duties. He had, therefore, come to the conclusion that the plan proposed by the Bill was the best—namely, to make each district or precinct a Royal peculiar, leaving it to the Crown to appoint any Archbishop or Bishop to be dean of the peculiar to whom the Secretary of State might refer any matter that might arise touching the ministrations of the army chaplain within it.


desired to remind their Lordships that until recently we had not had in this country exten- sive military stations or camps. But in every other country, where there was a connection between the Church and State, an encampment in the field was exempted from the ordinary territorial jurisdiction of the episcopacy. Under the jurisdiction of the Crown, some Bishop, generally a suffragan, was appointed to perform episcopal duties in respect of the encampment. There were three sorts of "peculiars"—a Royal peculiar, an Archbishop's peculiar, and a Bishop's peculiar. The result of making the English encampments Royal peculiars would be that the peculiar jurisdiction would be exercised by a Bishop, whom the Crown would appoint dean of the Royal peculiar. Having a Bishop so appointed by the Crown would secure uniformity in the exercise of episcopal jurisdiction over the army chaplains. Besides, there would he the difficulty in vesting the jurisdiction in the Bishop of the diocese that an encampment, if extensive, might be in two dioceses. The Amendment on the 4th clause, suggested by the most rev. Primate, could be considered in Committee.


said, he was of opinion that the object of the measure was a good one; but, after listening to the explanation of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, it appeared to him that the fundamental conception of the Bill was at variance with the whole of the Church system in this country. He could not understand what were the difficulties this Bill was framed to meet, nor could he see what injury would be inflicted by having the army chaplains placed under the control of the Bishop in whose diocese they might happen to be stationed. It was said that they were liable to be removed from one diocese to another. The same might be said of all curates. It was suggested that great inconvenience would arise from the introduction of different rules. If, indeed, there was room for individual action on the part of the Bishops he could see that inconvenience might arise from different rules existing together. But this was not so. The only subject of appeal to the Bishop as against the clergyman would be some breach of ecclesiastical discipline; but the determination of such a question would be governed by ecclesiastical law, and would not depend upon rules made by any particular Bishop. There was, therefore, no gain in creating for this purpose a wholly new machinery. The object of the Bill was not that the chaplains should be removed from the power of the Ordinary, but that they should be removed from the power of the common Ordinary, and put under the jurisdiction of another. The system of peculiars was one which we had inherited from the days of the Papacy. The Pope claimed the right to remove the power of the Ordinary from the Bishop in whom it had been vested and to confer it on another authority—on religious houses in some instances; but it would be a new thing for Parliament to step in and exercise the semi-spiritual power of removing army chaplains from the power of their proper Bishop and putting them under the control of another—we should then have the spectacle of one of our Bishops exercising episcopal power in the diocese of another prelate. Let them take the case of the great camp at Aldershot. It was in the diocese of Winchester, and the Bishop of that diocese looked upon himself as the Bishop of the camp, confirmed the soldiers' children, and performed other episcopal functions there; and another Bishop could not be introduced without a grievous interruption to the whole system of the Church. And the only reason assigned for this interference was that given by his most rev. Friend (the Archbishop of York) that the army chaplains were not now in a position where they could look for the same amount of episcopal patronage as other curates. [The Archbishop of YORK: No, no!] said "advice and guidance."] As to the argument drawn from the fact that the chaplains were liable to be moved about from one station to another, that was no more than happened to the other curates of the Church. It was no uncommon thing for a curate to be in his diocese one week and in that of London on the week following. That being the case, he could not see that the fact that, like all curates, they were liable to removal should prevent the army chaplains from being placed under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of the diocese, to whom they might apply for advice and guidance. But it was said that the War Office, would be put to great difficulty in having to communicate with so many different persons. He did not see what it would have to communicate with them for. The War Office appointed the army chaplains, moved them from one encampment to another, and removed them from their appointments if necessary. These things were not in the hands of any Bishop; they were in the hands of the War Office, and the exigency of the case required that they should be so. Except the War Office meant to transfer its authority in these matters to the Bishop of the diocese, he did not see that there would be any communication between that Department and the Bishops unless in the rare case of a breach of ecclesiastical discipline being alleged, when the decision would be in accordance with settled ecclesiastical law. He knew that the Bishop of Winchester appreciated most highly the opportunity which the episcopal functions exercised by him in the camp at Aldershot gave him of doing good among Her Majesty's troops, and would be most sorry to be deprived of it. He repeated that he did not see why the army chaplains should not be placed under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of the diocese; but, at the same time, he thought they ought to be extra-parochial the clergyman of the parish should have no power to interfere with them in the discharge of their duty as chaplains to the army. He was satisfied that the Bill ought to be confined to that point alone—all the rest might more conveniently be done by the Bishop of the diocese than by any other authority.


said, he was glad this discussion had taken place, for the subject was an extremely difficult one; but he could not help thinking that there was another view of the matter than that which his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Oxford) had just put forward; and that if some of the parochial clergy could be present to look after their interests, they would be able to show as conclusively that it was improper for a place to be taken out of a parish as the Bishops had shown that it should not be taken out of a diocese. As to the evil of peculiars, in the system of the Church of England there were peculiars at the present moment. There was one very notable instance just over the way. Westminster Abbey was a peculiar, and a peculiar it was likely to remain to the end. His right rev. Friend would no doubt remember that there was a time when the Bishop of the diocese proposed to reduce it within his jurisdiction; but he was met by a certain formidable Dean of Westminster, who came forward and successfully defended the rights of his Chapter, and a peculiar it was allowed to remain. And that was not the only instance of a peculiar; for if he rightly read the law, every Bishop's house in which he resided as his see- house outside of his diocese was his peculiar, and was not under the control of the Bishop of the diocese; so that the Bishop of Winchester, who had a house opposite his in St. James's Square, lived in his own peculiar, and not under his (the Bishop of London's) jurisdiction. Then there were several Royal peculiars in London. His venerable predecessor when he resigned the see, still continued, by Her Majesty's request, to hold the office of Dean of the Chapels Royal, and continued to exercise his authority with great benefit to all connected with the Chapels Royal; and he had never heard any doubt expressed as to the legality of that course. No doubt, the tendency of recent legislation had been to diminish these peculiars, but that was only on the ground of their inconvenience; and if their Lordships found that, in the present instance, it would be a convenience to create peculiars, the same reason that was good for abolishing them would be good for sanctioning them. The question was—whether there was any other equally efficient way of attaining the proposed object? It might be said that the chaplains of prisons and workhouses were in the same position as array chaplains. But the cases were not parallel. From correspondence which he had held with army chaplains, he knew that they felt a great want of episcopal authority to whom they could refer; they considered themselves treated to some extent as civilians and wished to be recognized in their ecclesiastical status. Correspondence from one of these gentlemen leached him one day from Woolwich and another day from Hounslow; the very nature of their office rendering them liable to be moved continually from diocese to diocese. It was true that the clause did not in. terms refer to consultation with a Bishop; but the reference to the jurisdiction in case of offences carried with it the meaning that the dean of the peculiar was to be the Bishop to whom army chaplains were to have access upon all questions of difficulty. What they wanted was some one Bishop whom they could consult on all emergencies, and they would not have the same feelings if they were to be brought into relations with every Bishop in England. Neither did he see how the business of the War Office was to be conducted if a correspondence were to be carried on with the Bishops of all the dioceses in which army chaplains might happen to be placed for a few days.


, seeing that every speaker had differed from the other as to the precise manner in which an object upon which they were all agreed should be carried out, suggested that the Bill should be placed in the hands of a Select Committee, who would soon agree as to the best mode of rendering the details of a valuable measure generally acceptable.


said, he could not agree with his noble Friend. The differences of opinion to which expression had been given were confined to a single point, which he thought their Lordships could decide quite us well in the House as in a room up-stairs. The sole point was whether jurisdiction over these army chaplains should be reposed of necessity in the Bishop of the diocese where the camp was situated, or in a Bishop to be assigned by the Crown. With reference to the argument of his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of London), it had always seemed to him that a very strong case was capable of being made for the minister of the parish in which the camp was established, the army chaplain being well paid for his services among the military, while the parish clergyman, who received no extra pay, had thrown upon his hands the followers and off-scourings of the camp. But if the necessity of the case compelled them to disregard strict rights, and even inconvenience to the minister of the parish, the argument as to interference with the diocese could hardly be insisted upon. As to episcopal superintendence over a number of peculiars, that difficulty had to be met and surmounted already. He understood that in the province of Canterbury there were as many as 100 peculiars. [The Archbishop of CANTERBURY was understood to dissent.] Well, at all events, a considerable number. After all, the whole question resolved itself into one of work, and whether it was not better to subject all army chaplains to a common head.


said, he thought the matter was one which might be very conveniently considered in a Select Committee.


thought it was quite unnecessary to refer the Bill to a Select Committee; the point in dispute was fundamental and very narrow; their Lordships could express an opinion on it at a moment's notice without any inquiry whatever.


said, he did not think that any one of the episcopal Bench could possibly find time to supervise the military chaplains over the whole country. It would be quite a different thing if it were proposed to make the Chaplain General a Bishop, and give him episcopal jurisdiction over these chaplains.


urged that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.


suggested that the debate be adjourned. The Under Secretary for War (the Earl of Longford) had been compelled to be absent from sudden severe indisposition, and had asked him to take charge of the Bill; but it was evident his noble Friend was at the time unaware of the views of the Bishops on some portions of the measure. The points raised were very important, and as he had not ascertained the opinion of the War Department on them, he thought it best to suggest the postponement of the Order until to-morrow, when he hoped to be better furnished with the views of his noble Friend. Considerations of a legal nature, he believed, made it unadvisable to put off the Bill until Monday. He moved that the debate be adjourned.


suggested that all proposed Amendments be printed, that their Lordships might better understand the rather complex issues raised.

Further debate adjourned until To-morrow.