HL Deb 12 June 1888 vol 326 cc1818-20

asked the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London, Whether the Reverend Mr. Dale, Curate of Chiswick, in the diocese of London, who joined the Church of Rome in February last, still held the Bishop's licence to officiate as Curate of Chiswick in the Church of England; and, if so, whether the Bishop considered this consistent with the doctrine and discipline of the Established Church?


said, that he did not think this was a matter of grave importance; but he would tell their Lordships how it stood, and he hoped his statement would satisfy the noble Viscount. On the 21st of February he received a letter from the gentleman in question stating that it was not possible for him any longer to minister at Chiswick as he had ceased to be a member of the Church of England, and, therefore, he could no longer help in a Church in which he had ceased to believe. He (the Bishop of London) desired his chaplain to reply, expressing regret that the rev. gentleman had thought it necessary to take such a step, but commending him for having at once given up his duty as a curate in the Church of England. The next day he received a letter from a relative of Mr. Dale, stating that that gentleman was hardly in his senses, that he had been much overworked and did not quite know what he was doing, but expressing a belief that he had not been received into the Church of Rome. That turned out to be a mistake, for he had actually been received. The young man wrote to him about a fortnight afterwards to say that he did not know what he had been about, and could not give any account of himself at all. He sent for the young man, and on examination it appeared very plain that he had no real reason for leaving the Church of England. It was a sort of mad impulse. He told the young man that in the circumstances, having caused a scandal, he could not be allowed to officiate any more without an express renewal of permission, and that, before permission were granted, he would be required to make a public recantation as some satisfaction to the Church for the scandal he had caused. At the time the young man was quite unable, from ill-health, to officiate at all, and nothing more passed between them. He told the young man that if ever he wished to officiate again he must apply to him, and he would tell him the precise conditions on which he would be allowed to do so. He had since seen the young man, who was not permitted by his medical adviser to undertake any duty. He did not withdraw the licence of the young man on receiving notice that he had left the Church of England; it was not usual to do so in such a case, for it was generally understood that such an action voided the licence ipso facto. Certainly he had treated the licence as void, because he had told him that he must not officiate without renewed permission from the Bishop of whatever diocese he happened to be in. There the matter stood. Earnest appeals had been made to him by the people of the parish to allow the curate to return to his duties in the parish, because, although he might not be a very wise or clear-headed man, nevertheless he bad worked hard and endeared himself to a great many people, especially among the poor. However, he had given a negative answer to all those applications, stating plainly that, at any rate for the present, he could not allow him to officiate in the parish of Chiswick, and the future must be left in his hands when the time came to decide what was to be done; but he would certainly not allow the young man to officiate without such a recantation as would be, in his judgment, a satisfaction to the Church of England. Their Lordships would see that the matter was really a very simple one, and that there was no reason for any disturbance or discomfort about it.


said, he must protest against their Lordships' House being made a Court for the review of the various decisions of the Bishops in England and Wales. He sincerely trusted it would not be understood from this incident that whenever there was a case of satisfaction or dissatisfaction on the part of a Bishop it was any part of the duty of their Lordships to put Questions to the right rev. Prelates in regard to matters of ordinary episcopal administration.