§ LORD LYTTELTON
presented a Petition of Clergymen of the Church of England in favour of the Disestablishment of the Established Church in Ireland. He did not propose to go into the merits of 1918 the question to which the Petition related; but still he thought it of sufficient importance to call their Lordships' attention to it. The prayer of the Petition was for the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, and it was certainly a subject worthy of attention that this Petition should be signed by such a number of beneficed clergymen, who were all residing and beneficed in England, with one exception. There was, indeed, one distinguished man who had otherwise taken an active part in this controversy—Dr. Maziere Brady, who was a beneficed clergyman in Ireland: but except him, all the subscribers to this Petition were resident and beneficed in England. It was obvious that it must have been a very painful and invidious task for them to put forward their opinions in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland. The signatories said that they felt that they placed themselves in an invidious position by petitioning to the effect they bad, but they also felt that no other course was open to them if they wished for justice to Ireland. The number of signatures did not adequately represent the clergymen who held the opinions embodied in the Petition, which be might remark had not been made in any way the subject of a canvass. The Petition was signed by 261 clergymen who desired to show that they did not in any way agree with the sentiments expressed at the meeting held some little time since at St. James's Hall. Having looked through the list of names, he was unable to say how many of those who had signed the Petition belonged to the "High Church," the "Low Church," or the "Broad Church." Some, however, he was able to recognize as belonging to the High Church party, but his belief was that the majority might be regarded as Broad, Among others who had appended their signatures to the Petition were Professors Kingsley, Maurice, and Jowett; the Head masters of Winchester, Harrow, Rugby, Haileybury, and the City of London School; while there were also the names of many Rural Deans, and Fellows and Tutors of Oxford and Cambridge.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD
said, he would remind the House that a great many Petitions had been presented lately by noble Lords against the proposed disestablishment of the Irish Church; and though the names appended to those Petitions did not perhaps stand so high as those whose signatures were presented by the noble Lord, they were yet much better able to judge 1919 of what was good for Ireland than any of those High, Low, or Broad Petitioners.
§ LORD REDESDALE
My Lords, it is impossible not to remember that the service to which the property of the Irish Church is devoted is a high and holy one, and not to regret that a Petition, asking that what has been devoted to God's service should be taken away and applied to other purposes, should have proceeded from the present Petitioners.
§ LORD REDESDALE
It moans that, or it means nothing; for it is impossible to separate the Petition from the Bill which will occupy your Lordships' attention on Thursday. Then I am justified in saying that it is simply a proposition to alienate what is devoted to God's service and apply it otherwise. [Lord LYTTELTON: No, no!] Then what is to be done with it? Is it desired that it should be applied to the support of the Roman Catholic Church, whose doctrines, in the opinions of those who signed this Petition, must be considered erroneous? The noble Lord has said that the signatures were nearly all those of beneficed clergymen in England. I must say that I think it ungenerous in them thus to come forward, and without regard to the feelings of their brethren connected with the Irish Church to say, that to maintain the Irish Church is an injustice legitimately offensive to the majority of the Irish people. How long has it been so? Forty years ago, when the Emancipation Act was passed, we were told that it was no offence to the Irish people, and that they did not desire its removal, and upon the strength of that assurance the Emancipation Act was passed. But now it appears that, for recent purposes, the Church has just been discovered to be a legitimate offence; but on the same ground, many other things may be described in the same manner—anything, in short, that is offensive to the religious opinions of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. My Lords, this is a question with respect to which a great number of people feel very deeply. I say for myself—and I say it with all possible earnestness and sincerity—that to deal with the property of the Church in the manner proposed "elsewhere" would be, in my opinion, an act of sacrifice. I should consider it to be not only impolitic, but sinful. Your Lordships must also consider that there are many persons who hold this opinion. I say that this is a 1920 question which requires very grave and delicate handling—much more so than I believe it has yet received from those who have taken it in hand; and we, who have to deliberate upon the question, should remember this—that supposing the attempt be successful, and a new Government were to come in and pass a Bill for the abolition of the Irish Church, and supposing also that the Sovereign were to hold the same opinion as I do, and were to say, "When you ask me to consent to this measure, I think you are asking me to do that which would be sinful and an act of sacrilege"—supposing this to be the case, I say that such a position would be one of the most delicate and dangerous character—that it cannot be lightly put aside—and we are under the necessity of reflecting seriously upon it before committing ourselves to such a possibility. Looking, too, at the Oath which the Sovereign has taken with regard to the maintenance of the Protestant religion and the Church as established by law it was difficult to say what difficulties and embarrassments might not ultimately arise. The question had been looked at as a way of pleasing the Roman Catholics by getting rid of the Protestant Church. But what was to be done with the Protestants? The proposal was nothing but to rob one class of people for the purpose of pleasing another. I believe the proposal to be most impolitic. It would work injustice in many cases. For example, a person may have gone over to Ireland very lately, and purchased property there, induced by the fact that there was an Established Church in the country, that there was a clergyman in the parish, and that the tithes would be devoted to the maintenance of the clergyman whose ministrations he expected to have the benefit of. Was it to be supposed that such a man would be content with the proposed change, or that the parishioners who would be deprived of the ministrations of the clergyman would be content? Sure I am you are about to raise in Ireland a far more bitter feeling than has hitherto existed; that, instead of peace you will introduce discord and dissension, and that the whole of these proceedings, whether regarded as a political move or otherwise, cannot fail to be most disastrous.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he did not think it was the wish of their Lordships that they should anticipate the debate which was fixed for Thursday next, and therefore he would not attempt to answer 1921 the argument of the noble Lord, He would content himself with pointing out that the noble Lord had most amply justified what his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton) had stated—that the persons who had signed the Petition had exposed themselves to much obloquy, because they had the courage to protest against what they believed to be an injustice. He could not sit down, however, without entering his protest against the charge of sacrilege which the noble Lord, by inference, had Drought against the Petitioners and those who supported the Bill.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
desired to make one remark with respect to the Petition. He had only had time to go through 111 names out of the 261 signed to the Petition, and of the 111 he could say that eighty-seven were not incumbents at all.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he had understood his noble Friend who had presented the Petition to read the names not only of incumbents, but of persons who are not incumbents—for example, Professors, and the heads of some of the greatest educational establishments in the country.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
wished to say that he had given to deans and others the benefit of being beneficed clergy; but there were some who could merely be regarded as clergymen unattached.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
said, that the Petitioners had not described themselves as incumbents at all. All that the Petitioners stated was that it was the Petition of "the undersigned Clergy of the Church of England."
§ Petition to be on the Table.