HL Deb 08 May 1874 vol 218 cc1921-5

inquired whether the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury is prepared to communicate to the House any information he may have received in reference to a statement made by him on the introduction of the Public Worship Regulation Bill to the following effect:—"I am told by a clergyman, in whose veracity I have complete confidence, that while on one of these (altar) cards there is one prayer in accordance with the ritual of the Church of England lucre are several others which consist of invocations to the Virgin Mary and the Twelve Apostles." He put this Question in no spirit of hostility, but merely with the view of removing any misunderstanding that might exist on the subject. He could assure the House that in only three of the prayers on these altar cards was the name of the Holy Virgin and of the Saints referred to, and then by no means in the way of invocation.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Earl for having given me an opportunity of making the explanation which he asks. The statement I made, on the authority of another person, may, perhaps, be regarded as not strictly accurate if the word "invocation" is understood in its technical and theological sense. But I wish to call attention to what I believe to be the real state of the case. The noble Earl seems to be possessed of more of these altar-cards than it has been my good fortune to obtain. One only has fallen into my hands, but I have received letters from various persons with regard to the whole subject. Among others I have received a letter from a most respectable firm who call themselves "Church furnishers," and who apologize for sending me one of these altar-cards, which they state are much approved by the clergy, and have a great sale. I may venture to say that my informant, though he might have been technically wrong, is substantially right, and that it is impossible for clergymen of the Church of England to use the words which are on the altar-card lying before me without justly incurring the very grave censure which I ventured to express when I addressed your Lordships formerly on this subject. The words which I find on this altar-card are— We offer to Thee this Sacrifice for the hope of those persons' salvation and safety who pay their vows to Thee, the Eternal, Living, and True God, joining communion with and reverencing the memory-firstly, of the Glorious and Ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and also Thy Blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter, Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Philip, Bartholomew, Simon, Thadeus, Linus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Laurence, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and all the Saints through whose merits and prayers vouchsafe that we may in all things he protected by Thy safeguard. If this is not a desire expressed to God that the prayers of the Saints may be heard for the benefit of those who thus address the Almighty, I do not understand the meaning of language. The other case to which the noble Earl has alluded I think I ought also to read in full— Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation which we unworthy sinners offer Thee for Thine honour and the honour of Blessed Mary and of all Thy Saints. Here is an act in which a clergyman of the Church of England, officiating in a congregation of the Church of England, desires that he and those who are with him may be aided by the merits and prayers of the Saints, and joins the Blessed Virgin with the Holy Trinity, as offering up the sacrifice of the mass in their honour. Now, my Lords, of course there are minute distinctions, which are well known to members of another communion as to the degrees of reverence and worship which are paid to Almighty God, to the Blessed Virgin, and to the Saints; but we in the Church of England do not generally enter into these minute distinctions, and when we have such expressions as these in prayers which are used privately by clergymen in our churches at the celebration of Holy Communion, I have reason to think that the words which. I used a few nights ago are not too strong to express our condemnation of these practices. My Lords, the gist of the correspondence which has been addressed to me on the subject has been this—It cannot be that there is any invocation of the Blessed Virgin in these cards because they are all taken from the Roman Mass, and in the Ordinary and in the Canon of the Mass there is no invocation of the Blessed Virgin. Technically. I grant that that is true. Practically. I do not allow it; and the instances I have adduced as taken from the Roman Service seem to me fully to justify what I have said. But one of my correspondents sends me a book to prove that the statement which I made is not correct. This book is The Ritual of the Altar, published in the year 1870. I do not mention the name of the author. The author, addressing me, says that all these altar-cards are taken from his book, and his book is this—an edition of the Communion Service of the Church of England dovetailed into the service of the Mass; and his object in publishing the book, as I understand, is this—that clergymen while officiating before their congregations, according to the Ritual of the Church of England, shall use these prayers from the Mass—privately I suppose and not publicly, before their congregations. And this gentleman thinks I must be mistaken as to the altar-cards, because he says that in his book, which is so fully taken from the Roman Service, there are no prayers to the Blessed Virgin. Now, I find in the close of this book directions to the clergy, of the Church of England—be it remarked—as to the mode in which they are to use the prayers in this book. In page 193 is the following passage:— The clergyman joining his hands and humbly bending forward says—I confess to Almighty God, &c., as in the ordinary of the Mass, and continues standing and bending forward until the servers or ministers have said certain other words, and when the confession is begun by the minister he stands upright. I then turn from that to the prayer which he directs to be said, and which most unwillingly, but obliged by the circumstances, I shall now read to your Lordships— I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin, to Blessed Michael the Archangel, to Blessed John the Baptist, to the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, and to all the Saints, and to yon my brethren that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, [here he shall strike upon his breast] by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault. And then he proceeds— Therefore I beg the Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin, Blessed Michael the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the Saints, and you my brethren, to pray to the Lord our trod for me. If that is not an ora pro nobis, I do not understand the meaning of the English language or the Latin words which are on the other side. These are books and these are altar-cards which are used by members of the Church of England. I put it to your Lordships whether the statement to which attention has been drawn was not fully warranted, and whether I was not justified in expressing a hope that the members of the Church of England—those more especially who are called Anglican and who are among her most devoted adherents—would rise against this introduction of the Mass into her service. I should be sorry to speak with harshness of any clergyman of the Church of England. We have heard a good deal about the desirableness of addressing paternal remonstrances. It certainly does seem to me that those who have been deceived into these practices have been led away by some unwise, and to me unintelligible desire of uniting Christendom by adopting the worst errors of one branch of the Christian Church, from which our Church is separated. But I would most earnestly call upon them, with whatever paternal authority my office vests in me, to think seriously of what they are doing when, in the face of congregations of the Church of England, they venture to use the service of the Roman Mass, and give no security that when they are speaking in a low tone to themselves they are not directly addressing the Blessed Virgin Mary and invoking her prayers on behalf of the worshippers present—who, I believe, if they knew what the minister was saying, would rise and leave the Church.