HL Deb 11 August 1881 vol 264 cc1501-8

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


said, he wished to make a few remarks at that stage of the Bill. He did not from its title know the nature of it, and therefore he was not in the House when it was read a second time; but, as he was a member of the body through whom Mr. Green was now in prison, he desired to make a few remarks. In bringing forward the Bill, the noble Earl in charge of it (Earl Beauchamp) begged the whole question by calling in question the legal action and authority of the Courts that dealt with the case. When a case went against a person, he was always inclined to think the law was bad and badly carried out; and in Ireland, where at present lawlessness prevailed, the lawless parties felt exactly the same thing. They said they did not like the law, and therefore would not obey it. The plea was one he certainly should not have expected from anyone in the position of the noble Earl. There might be reasons for changing the constitution of a Court or of the law; but, while they existed, every good subject of the Queen should consider that he ought to be bound by the law, and to obey the Court. The most rev. Primate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had again and again stated that the Courts having arrived at a decision, it was necessary to enforce the law; but when, after a struggle of years, it was enforced, he moved for a Commission which had been treated as calling in question the authority of the Courts that administered the law, and now he would send back Mr. Green to carry on without check his illegal proceedings. Under the circumstances, it was not surprising that it was said that indirectly the most rev. Primate and the right rev. Bench had given encouragement to the lawlessness that existed in the Church. The noble Earl wanted to know why did the Church Association select a poor parish, and attack Mr. Green, the clergyman of that poor congregation, and his friends in their illegal practices, instead of attacking a rich one? The answer was plain. The Church Association were obliged to take up cases in defence of poor congregations. The poor could not defend themselves. They could not choose their Church, but were obliged to attend the one in their own neighbourhood; the rich could do so, backed as Ritualistic clergymen were by the funds of the Church Union. The most rev. Primate asked that Mr. Green should be allowed to return to his cure of souls and carry on illegal practices. Did the most rev. Primate consider that this was a matter of no importance? It was of far greater importance than the inconvenience Mr. Green suffered from his own contumacy. It was to prevent this wrong that Mr. Green was kept in prison. The most rev. Primate the other evening grieved that a conscientious man like Mr. Green should be put in prison. Now, conscience was a very varying thing, and in some countries while the men went out to rob, the women stayed at home to pray. Every man's conscience was hurt when he had to do that which he did not like to do. There were two kinds of conscientious clergymen—those who, like Cardinal Manning, conscientiously held views contrary to the Church of England and conscientiously left it. Mr. Green, on the contrary, held views, or, at any rate, carried out practices, contrary to the law of the Church of England while remaining in it. He would hardly become a Cardinal; but probably he could become a priest of the Church of Rome, or, indeed, any other Church to whose laws he would yield obedience. What hardship was inflicted on Mr. Green when, if he would give up the emoluments of the Church, he could free himself and act according to what his conscience dictated? If he were liberated unconditionally, he would go back to his congregation, and continue to encourage his parishioners to practice doctrines that were foreign to the Church of England, and which the Courts of Law had decided to be illegal and contrary to the covenant by which Mr. Green held his position in the Church of England. Did the most rev. Primate think that that would be desirable? Was it not most important to the people, and more important than whether Mr. Green should wait a little more or less in prison? Surely the welfare of the congregation should be as much thought of as that of the clergyman. If he could be prevented from committing these offences again, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne), no more than any of their Lordships, wished that the rev. gentleman should be retained in prison. They must remember that Mr. Green was one of those clergymen who refused obedience as much to Bishops as to the Civil Courts; they owned no authority but their own consciences; they were bound by no contracts and no promises. Each was an infallible Pope to himself and his followers. There was no law against that; each of them was free to stand, on that ground but he was not free to enter on a contract to receive all the advantages accruing under it, and to repudiate the obligations, as decided, with the exception of the Court of Arches, by the same Courts which interpreted contracts in all other cases. He hoped there was no doubt that Englishmen would support the rights of free contract, and no doubt either that the Civil Courts would preserve the right of interpreting the legal bearing of such contracts. As to the analogy with the case of Mr. Thorogood, as was shown by the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack the other evening, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) could see none. It was of little importance that he did not pay 5s. 6d. church rates; while it was of the greatest importance that a clergyman of the Church of England should be bound to fulfil the legal obligations he had undertaken. But the fact was that Mr. Thorogood was released directly he complied with the law, and the fine was paid. The most rev. Primate stated how impossible it was, if Mr. Green were released, to enforce the obligations. But whose action had made it so? When the Royal Commission was proposed, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) had expressed the opinion that it would be highly undesirable, as it could arrive at but one conclusion. He was informed that the right rev. Bench had, for the future, unanimously resolved not to allow any clergyman to be prosecuted, though his ministrations were undeniably contrary to law, pending the Report of the Royal Commission.


There is no foundation whatever for that statement.


said, of course he accepted that denial, as far as regarded the most rev. Primate himself; but there were cases in which Members of the right rev. Bench had said plainly and distinctly what he had stated, and they were Bishops who did not in the least favour the High Church party; and he knew this, that no action had since been taken by the members of the Church Association. He had been under the impression that the resolution he had referred to had been passed, and he was glad to hear it denied, because he hoped they would be able to enforce the law against recalcitrant mem- bers of the Church of England. Circumstances had prevented his calling attention to the constitution of the Commission; but had he time he could show that it was a wholly one-sided Commission.


said, the noble Lord was evidently not aware of the Amendment which it was proposed to make in Committee.


said, that was so. He must, however, complain that there had not been a member of the Church Commission appointed by the Prime Minister. The right rev. Bench had often condemned both the Church Association and the Church Union; but while the former was not represented on the Commission, there were two Members of the latter upon it, and results had shown that the former society was fighting in support of, and the latter against the laws of the Church of England. As to the wish that Mr. Green should be released from prison, he heartily desired that Mr. Green should be released, if he would either fulfil the obligations he had undertaken as a clergyman of the Church of England, or, if he could not do so conscientiously, no longer continue to retain a false and injurious position. The statement they had heard the other day from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, which was to the effect that it was important that the law should be carried out, was most satisfactory. The noble and learned Lord put forward these views with the weight of his high position and free from all taint of partizanship; and he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) had no doubt that he would support those views in no undecided tone.


said, he regretted very much that the noble Lord (Lord Oranmore and Browne) was not in the House on Tuesday when the Bill was read a second time. He (Earl Beauchamp) had never said that the decision of the Law Courts should not be obeyed; what he did say was that it was not right that the decisions of the Law Courts should be pressed home with a savage rigour as they had been. The noble Lord stated that the reason why the Church Association had taken up the case against Mr. Green was because a poor congregation was not able to defend itself. But that was not a reason worthy of the noble Lord, because the congregation of Miles Platting only wished to be left alone. The noble Lord had also alluded to the fact of their being unable to attend other churches; but it was evident that they did not desire to do so, as Mr. Green was much respected by them. The Church Association had been unable to get any of the parishioners to take part in the proceedings against Mr. Green, and it had been necessary for the prosecutors to qualify strangers as parishioners by obtaining for them a residence, and the cost of this proceeding Mr. Green had been obliged to pay. It was a matter of notoriety that Mr. Green enjoyed the confidence of his flock and the whole of his parish in a most remarkable manner.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 (Repeal of part of 3 & 4 Vict, c. 93).

On the Motion of The Earl BEAUCHAMP, the following Amendment made:—In page 1, line 8, leave out ("first recited,") and insert ("said.")

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 severally agreed to.

Clause 4 (Party not to be released from further observance of justice).

On the Motion of The Earl BEAUCHAMP, the following Amendment made:—In page 1, line 17, after ("such") insert ("party or"), and after ("person") insert ("or party.")

Moved, at end of Clause to add— Provided always, that if such suit he one brought under the Public Worship Regulation Act, 1874, no further proceedings shall he taken in such suit unless the bishop of the diocese certify in writing under his hand that the party or person has since his release from custody had an opportunity of submitting to his godly administrations and has failed to submit to the same. Provided further, that upon such certificate being filed in the registry of the Court by which such party or person has been pronounced in contempt, such party or person being an incumbent within the meaning of the said Public Worship Regulation Act, shall be liable to the same penalty as an incumbent against whom a second inhibition in regard to the same monition has been issued within the provisions of section 13 of the said Act, and his benefice or other ecclesiastical preferment shall thenceforth become void as provided in the said section."—(The Earl Beauchamp.)


moved to amend the Proviso by extending it, not only to suits under the Act of 1874, but to all ecclesiastical suits: and also by following, as nearly as possible, the procedure pointed out by the clause in the Act of 1874, to which reference was made, by the introduction of certain words with the view of giving fuller effect to the provisions of the Public Worship Regulation Act.

Amendment, as amended, agreed, to.


asked, if the Proviso was adopted, what means would be left to bring clergymen who offended against the law before the Court?


, in reply, said, that the object of the proposal was that the responsibility should be thrown on the Bishop. The reason which recommended that course to their Lordships was that they were dealing with the case of persons whose minds were peculiarly constituted; and who, though they had not thought it consistent with their duty to obey the admonitions of the Courts, might think it right to obey an admonition coming from an authority which they acknowledged.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Power to prolong imprisonment for a further period of three months).

On the Motion of The Earl BEAU-CHAMP, Clause omitted.

Moved, To add the following Clause:—"This Act may be cited as the Discharge of Contumacious Prisoners Act, 1881."—(The Earl Beauchamp.)


said, he was glad to hear that the Bill was to be passed under a more accurate but less ambitious title than the "Ecclesiastical Courts Regulation Bill." There could be little difference of opinion with respect to the limited purpose of the Bill; but its original title was entirely misleading, and conveyed the idea that an attempt had been made at a very late period of the Session to deal with a far more difficult question.


was understood to say that he did not find any fault with the Judge of the Court or with the Church Association. He thought that the punishment for contumacy was too long. There should be a fixed period, say six months, and then, if the clergyman was still disobedient and totally disregarded the law, he should be got rid of altogether from the Church.

Motion agreed to; Clause added accordingly.

House resumed.

The Report of Amendments to be received To-morrow;and Standing Order No. XXXV. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with: Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 198.)