HL Deb 17 March 1885 vol 295 cc1407-18

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that it was intended to remove a disability which had existed for a long time affecting Roman Catholics, and which was not removed by the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, who were owners of advowsons of the Church of England, and had a right to make next presentations. In his humble judgment Roman Catholics suffered from a de-privation of right which was most unfair and unjust, and quite contrary to all those principles of liberty which were recognized in 1829. All other classes of Dissenters, and even Jews and Mahom-medans, could present to livings, and Roman Catholics alone were excluded. To allow this distinction to remain any longer would be most invidious. The present system, which in the case of livings in the gift of Roman Catholics led to a chance election by members of the Universities, was particularly objectionable. The Bill provided that the person nominated by a Roman Catholic patron should be submitted to the Bishop for approval, and thus safeguarded the interests of the Church. If their Lordships would give a second reading to the Bill he would be prepared to propose Amendments in Committee which he hoped would be satisfactory. As to the Amendment on the Paper, it appeared to him that it was intended to defeat his very small measure by a side wind, as he was not aware that it was proposed to bring in any general measure which would deal with the subject of Church patronage. All that he asked for was that even-handed justice should be meted out to all Her Majesty's subjects alike, and with that view he begged to move the second reading of the Bill.

Moved, " That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Viscount Barrington.)


in moving an Amendment of which he had given Notice, said it was short, and though it repealed parts of many Bills, its objects were simple—namely, to enable Roman Catholics who might have the patronage of livings in the Church of England to present to them. The reasons the noble Viscount (Viscount Barrington) gave to induce their Lordships to assent to his proposition were equally simple. All Dissenters, except Roman Catholics, having this patronage were permitted to present; why, then, were Roman Catholics excluded? There were several reasons. First, the whole system of Church patronage in the Church of England was anomalous, scandalous, and objectionable in the highest degree, and had been acknowledged by their Lordships' House to require amendment. When the Acts were passed preventing Roman Catholics from presenting to livings, they had the right of presenting to a large number of livings; while other Dissenters had few, and other Dissenters were not excluded on the principle, de minimis non curat Lex. He knew that many Roman Catholics possessing the right to present to livings had sold their rights. It was open to every Roman Catholic to do so; so that, so far as the value of property, they were in exactly the same position to realize as any other subject of Her Majesty. He might say for himself that he had accepted the principle of giving the same rights to Roman Catholics as to other subjects of the Queen; but not because they were Roman Catholics to give them extraordinary and exceptional privileges. If the noble Viscount would propose a Bill excluding all persons not members of the Church of England from presenting, he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) should be glad to support him; but as two wrongs did not make a right, if this Bill passed the evils of Church patronage would be increased, not diminished. That Roman Catholics had not the power of presenting was said to be a hardship. It was so, if it was a hardship for the Mahdi not to appoint officers in the British Army in Egypt. The Bill purported to remove Roman Catholic disabilities. Well, it seemed to him that the disability of Roman Catholics to appoint clergymen to livings in the English Church was a disability somewhat similar to that which the right rev. Bench of Bishops suffered from; for they could not attend the Councils of the Church of Borne, neither could the Pope bestow upon them dignities higher than any that the Crown could bestow on any of her subjects. The emptiness of the right rev. Bench might show how much they regretted these disabilities. But it seemed beyond dispute that Roman Catholics were, for many reasons, more objectionable as patrons of livings in England's Church than other Dissenters. The existence of the Church of England, the position of her clergymen, the possession of her vast possessions, began and continued on the ground that she repudiated the authority as well as the doctrines of the Church of Borne. In fact, the two Churches were hostile and antagonistic to one another. He had met some friends who disputed this. He need only refer them to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church. They might sympathize with the sophistry of the Prime Minister, who discovered that we were not at war in Egypt—but any person with common sense would agree with his (Lord Oranmore and Browne's) statement. Let him a minute claim their Lordships' attention to the view taken of the relations between the two Churches by Cardinal Manning. In addressing the third Provincial (Romish) Council of Westminster, Cardinal Manning said— This nineteenth century will make a great epoch in the history of the Church is good for us to he here in England. It is yours, right rev. Fathers, to subjugate and to subdue, to bend and to break the will of an Imperial race, the will which, as the will of Rome of old, rules our nations and people, invincible and inflexible … You have a great commission to fulfil, and great is the prize for which you strive. Surely a soldier's eye and a soldier's heart would choose by intuition this field of England for the warfare of faith. None ampler or nobler could be found. … It is the head of Protestantism, the centre of its movements, and the stronghold of its powers. Weakened in England, it is paralyzed, elsewhere; conquered in England, it is conquered throughout the world; once overthrown here, all is but a war of detail. All the roads of the whole world meet in one point; and this point reached, the whole world lies open to the Church's will. England is the key of the whole position of modern error. He made no complaint of this statement by the head of the Roman Catholic Church. It was as manly, as straightforward, as true to his Church, as it was aggressive against the Church of England. Would the members of that Church assist him? Now, one of the points most insisted on by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Peterborough) and other speakers on the Patronage Bill, when it was before that House, was that patronage was a pious trust. How would a good and obedient Roman Catholic exercise that trust, but to subjugate, to subdue, and overthrow their Church? For what reason could a Roman Catholic desire to exercise this patronage, save to appoint a minister of his Church, having a dispensation to a living in the Church of England? It would be said that could not be; he must pledge himself to agreement with the Thirty-nine Articles. If that was the only difficulty, a dispensation would get over it; but it was not necessary, for there were many advowsons in the English Church called "donative," in which no induction by the Bishop and no declaration was necessary! Their Lordships would remember that, in the debate on the Patronage Bill in that House, the right rev. Prelate he had just referred to declared that the patronage, as exercised, made the Church of England stink in the nostrils of persons who, otherwise, would be within her fold. Would the passing of this Bill make it smell sweeter? The congregations were sick enough already at being bought and sold; but now they would appoint as spiritual guides for them those who were here in this land declaring a deadly crusade against all they valued as most holy and most dear. In his mind, there was no blot so great on the nobility and gentry of England as the way they had used their Church patronage, and their wealth and influence, to set the laws of the land at defiance. For more than 30 years, through patronage, they had done so, in the pulpit and through the Church schools—setting at defiance the honest convictions of the congregation, taking advantage of their poverty to oblige them either to have no churches or no schools, or to attend at services distasteful and illegal, and their children to receive education in tenets of another and hostile faith. The Liberation Society were friends to the Church, compared to those who had pursued that course; and now, by this Bill, they would impose another and a heavier burden. He would only ask their Lordships one more question. First, let him ask Roman Catholics was there one of them who would consent to Protestants appointing their spiritual guides? He would ask members of the Church of England, who was he who would accept a pastor appointed by a Roman Catholic? If both sides answered that they would not, they must both join in throwing out this Bill. Again, one more question. Liberals and Conservatives feared losing the Roman Catholic vote. It was unduly large; but, mistake not, the new Franchise Bill would bring into action a still larger Protestant vote. Beware lest they lose that! Remember precedents. The Irish Church was now representative—no patrons—this was the work of Liberals. The Scotch Church was representative—rest assured ere long so would be the English. He asked them to reject the Bill and accept his Motion.

Amendment moved, To leave out all the words after ("That") and insert ("this House deems it unnecessary to pass this Bill, awaiting a measure being introduced dealing with the whole matter of church patronage.")—(Me Lord Oranmore and Browne.)


said, he could not pretend to follow the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment in all his arguments; but he believed that the course which the Amendment recommended was the right one to follow now. The question of the disposition of patronage in the Church of England required to be dealt with and adjusted as a whole; and he hoped that with the assistance of noble Lords he would be able to introduce a Bill which would be acceptable to their Lordships, and have some chance of passing the other House of Parliament—a Bill which would deal with all the rights of patronage, and provide a better system in respect of Roman Catholic patronage. He strongly deprecated the raising of small parts of a large question and introducing little Amendments, instead of dealing with the question in a comprehensive spirit. There had been no attempt to show that there was any real grievance, or that any persons entertained a sense of injury. If the Bill should be passed, it would place Roman Catholics in a remarkable position. He could not understand a Roman Catholic desiring to present to a living in the Church of England. If he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) were put into a similar position, and had to nominate to preferments in the Roman Catholic Church, he should be only too thankful to relieve himself of the duty, and should probably delegate it to a body of intelligent Roman Catholic laymen, just as at present a Roman Catholic patron could, and often did, delegate his power to members of the Church of England. The noble Viscount told them he had brought in the Bill entirely proprio motu, and on his own authority; and he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had not heard that Roman Catholic patrons desired the Bill; he therefore, saw no justification for it. He should entertain these objections to the Bill even if he were disposed to minimize the differences between the Church of England and that of Rome. But he was not by any means disposed to minimize those differences; they had left their mark on history, and were of a fundamental character. It was argued that the Bishops would have a check on the appointments, and though they would cheerfully discharge that responsibility if called upon to do so, yet it must be remembered that that responsibility stood greatly in need of definition. The Bill dealt with a large and historical matter; and he would ask the noble Viscount to withdraw his Bill and wait for the larger measure, which would deal with the question of Church patronage generally, and make more clear the responsibility of the Bishops. If the Bill were not withdrawn he must support the Amendment of the noble Lord.


said, he did not like to oppose his noble Friend; but he was extremely unwilling that the vote he was about to give should be misunderstood. He should be the last man to say one word against the privileges exercised by the Roman Catholics; he should wish that they had every privilege the same as other subjects of Her Majesty. But he looked at the subject from the point of view of the parishes of the Church of England, and not from the point of view of patronage. He thought it even possible that some of those belonging to the Roman Catholic Church would make a better choice of a minister than some Protestants would. But it was not a question between Roman Catholic and Protestant; it was a question of much wider scope. He would ask the House whether in any other Church in the world a state of things existed in which a Mahommedan or a Jew, or anybody else, would be able to appoint a minister to a Church of another faith? Was it possible that any other religious creed would allow a member of another faith to appoint ministers for them? Was that not in itself a monstrous and horrible thing? He would go further, and say it was not the intention of the English law. It was an accident of the time that gradually people had acquired landed property, and with it the presentation. But English legislation had not in any case committed itself to the course that persons who did not belong to the Church of England ought to appoint its ministers. And would it be tolerated that the Church of England should appoint ministers either of a tabernacle or a synagogue, or even a Roman Catholic place of worship? If they looked at it from that point of view it was really absurd. No doubt, abuses existed; but he was at a loss to understand why they were to take that very important step of legalizing what they would consider the abuse of appointing the ministers of one Church by the members of another faith. A clergyman of the Church of England had enormous powers in his hands. He could alter the whole conditions of the service. If there was a musical service he could sweep it away and substitute a simple one, or if there was a simple service he could abolish it and substitute a musical one. To a great extent, he was the educator of the young in the parish, and was supreme in many matters; and yet it was proposed to legalize the appointment of such an important person by a professor of another religion. It was impossible to rest such a change on the ground of fitness or justice. Then on what ground did it rest? Upon the rights of property? He must say they would be running foul of the whole current of modern public opinion if they stretched the rights of property to such an extent in regard to Church patronage. The whole question seemed to him to be one of the most delicate and difficult matters to deal with. But private patronage was a valuable inheritance, and one they ought to preserve. For himself, he believed the Church of England owed more to private patronage than to almost any other circumstances in her organization. But if they strained private right with regard to patronage too far, he was afraid they would soon make it so odious that the whole structure would break down. For his own part, he should be inclined to remedy present defects by giving power to the Bishop to refuse unsuitable persons. He trusted the noble Lord who had introduced the Bill with great thought and with a good object would consider the advice given him by the head of the English Church, who had just spoken, and would feel that it would be wise to withdraw it. Most of them would be extremely sorry to put themselves in a position of animosity to any projected reform in connection with Church patronage; but he, for one, could never consent to that proposal to strain the rights of property in a way which might be extremely prejudicial to the future reforms which they hoped to see carried out.


said, he should not have risen to speak in the debate had it not been for the remarks of the noble Lord, who had stated it as his opinion that the Bill would be availed of by Roman Catholics to undermine the Church of England.


said, he did not think he had used the word "undermine;" if he had used it it was unintentionally.


said, he could only repudiate the suggestion altogether. It would be the bounden duty of the gentlemen in whom the power would be vested to obtain the best man possible, and inquire into his antecedents. He had no property in this country, therefore he could speak freely; but if he took his own case he should consider it his duty to make the most strict and rigid inquiry; and if he were in the diocese of the most rev. Prelate who had addressed the House so admirably he should think it his duty to take the advice of the Archbishop on the sub- ject. Was it wiser and safer to distrust the Roman Catholics, who had the right of presentations, than to trust to their honour and their sense of duty? He thought it would be wiser to trust them.

A noble LORD

In this country?


The noble Lord said, "In this country;" if he alluded to Ireland, such a thing did not exist in that country. They were to trust in this matter the Turk, Jew, and Atheist, but not the Papist. "What could be more important to a man than to have a proper clergyman presiding over his district? Therefore, it would be his object, interest, and duty to select the best man possible. He did not support this Bill from any desire to undermine or destroy the Church of England; he would rather see her strong and vigorous, and he thought that this Bill would tend in that direction.


said, that if a division took place upon this Bill he should vote without a moment's hesitation against the second reading. He wished to protest against the representations of the noble and learned Lord who had just spoken that the question before the House was whether Roman Catholic gentlemen in possession of the right of presentation would or would not act in an honourable way towards the Church of England. That was not the question. He had the utmost confidence in the sincerity of the noble and learned Lord, and believed that he would exercise patronage, if he had any, in the most conscientious way. Among his own Roman Catholic friends he knew many who had exercised their patronage in the most admirable manner; but that was not the question they had to consider. Much deeper questions were involved in this matter, for, as the noble Earl opposite had said, there was no subject connected with the Church of England more delicate than the right of private patronage. The great question to be considered, with regard to patronage was whether it should be treated as a public trust or as a mere right of property. Historically it was considered a public trust, and most men exercised it in the spirit of a public trust. But in the course of centuries it had, unfortunately, come to be regarded as a mere right of property. He agreed that there was no more painful subject connected with the management and existing condition of the Church of England than the sale of advowsons and next presentations, for that system presented the right of patronage distinctly in the light of a mere right of property, and not of a public trust. If any change in the law were made at all patronage should be changed from its position of a mere right of property to a public trust. The change proposed by this Bill was in an opposite direction, for it treated patronage still more than at present as a mere right of property. They were going to place patronage in the hands of men who, whatever their feelings of personal honour, were not well-fitted trustees for the exercise of such a privilege. He agreed with the most rev. Prelate that no man could be placed in a more painful position than to have to exercise the right of patronage over the spiritual interests of those with whom he did not agree. The mere idea of an absolute right of patronage in the spiritual concerns of the people of a whole parish was to him a most odious conception. In his own country they had abolished patronage. At one time he had the honour and the misfortune to hold the patronage of no less than 30 parishes; but then he was a member of the Church in which he held them. In spite of that he always felt that it was a most difficult and onerous duty which he had to perform, and he was painfully conscious of many failures in exercising the right. In Scotland they had a system which gave the congregation a veto upon the appointment of a non-popular minister. The congregation appointed a committee, and were considered as having a veto upon any appointment. There was no such system in England; and if they made patronage more an absolute right of property than ever, they would drive a nail into the coffin of the Church of England. It might be said that it was impossible to deal with patronage, because there were so many opponents of the Church in "another place" who would fight against any measure, however just, if it would tend to strengthen the Church. But, in his opinion, there was no more urgent reform needed in the Church of England than some measure to modify the right of patronage and the sale of advowsons, and whenever that reform took place it must be in the direction of making it more a public trust and less a matter of mere abstract property. He could conceive that under certain circumstances private patronage might be the best mode of appointing clergy—if it was in the hands of a gentleman owning large property in the parish, belonging to the Church, and taking an interest in the spiritual concern of the people of the parish. But there ought to be some check on the absolute power now exercised. The fact that advowsons were now sold and bought by persons who were not even members of the Church in which they appointed clergymen constituted a most painful state of things which would not long be tolerated. He opposed this Bill, not because he distrusted the personal honour of any person of the Roman Catholic faith, but because it was contrary to the public interest to alter the right of private patronage distinctly in a wrong direction.


remarked that the issue raised by this Bill was part, and a small part only, of a very large question. They had been told by the most rev. Prelate that this whole question must before long come before Parliament for its consideration; and he had shown that it would be most unwise now, with the prospect of having to deal with the question as a whole, to come to any decision that night upon what was, after all, a very small fragment of a great question. There was another reason which made him unwilling to give a decision on that question at that time. This Bill presented the right of patronage in Church appointments in the most bald and naked form of a right of property. He trusted that his noble Friend would, by withdrawing the Bill, save the House the necessity of dividing upon it.


said, that after the discussion that had taken place, and especially after the assurance of the most rev. Prelate that in the proposed Bill dealing with Church Patronage the claims of the Roman Catholics would receive due consideration, he did not feel justified in putting their Lordships to the trouble of going to a division.


wished, before the debate closed, to state that the noble and learned Lord (Lord Fitzgerald) was mistaken in supposing that he attributed dishonest motives to Roman Catholics. He had as much faith in the honour and integrity of Roman Catholics as of other Members of the House.

Amendment, Original Motion, and Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.