§ "Page 2, line 30, leave out 'three,' and insert 'five.'"—(The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Winchester.)
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
When this Bill was first introduced in another place the period within which the bishop might refuse to institute was the cause of much discussion. This is really a very important clause. It would be possible, under this clause, that a patron might appoint, in one of the most important livings, say, in London, a man who had been only three years in orders. After all, the power exists with the bishop. I think, therefore, that the period should be extended to five years, which would be a safeguard against many of the evils 1163 which would arise if the lesser period were maintained.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment. This point was thrashed out in the House of Commons. I do not pretend to say, for this purpose, that three is right and five is wrong, any more than I pretend to say that five is right and three is wrong; but on general grounds of expediency, taking the balance of difficulty between the two, the decision was come to by Her Majesty's Government to make it three years instead of five. I would point out that the three years would not always in every case apply to very young men, because there are older men ordained to whom the five years might really amount to almost a hardship. At any rate, Her Majesty's Government have determined to adhere to the three years, and therefore I cannot accept the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 2, line 39, after 'Act' insert—
(c) If he is satisfied that the representations made by the churchwardens on behalf of the parishioners, in reply to the notice served upon the churchwardens under this Act, that the presentee is unsuitable for the benefice in question, are well founded."—(Earl Grey.)
§ EARL GREY
The object of the Amendment which I have the honour to move is to give to the bishops power to enable them to refuse to institute the presentee on the general ground of his unsuitability to the benefice in question, and I trust, my Lords, that you will grant me your kind indulgence while I endeavour to explain to you some of the reasons why it appears to me it is important that this House should either adopt this Amendment, or should, at any rate, support it with sufficient strength to convince people outside that there is a party in this House which does not consider any Measure dealing with Church patronage reform final or complete unless it contains provisions which will compel the owners of the right of presentation to exercise their right as a trust in the interests of the parishioners at large. What is the real evil in connection with this patronage system? 1164 It does not appear to me to be so much that the right of presentation is the subject of sale, but that, notwithstanding the fact, as the noble Earl in charge of the Bill pointed out, that the Statutes of Elizabeth and Anne, and subsequent legislation, show that the law had always intended that the right of presentation should be regarded as a trust, there is no legal obligation on owners of advowsons, either under the law in its present state or under the law as amended by this Bill, to treat their right of presentation in any way as a trust. I am aware that under a later clause in the Bill patrons are prevented from presenting presentees who are bankrupt in either means, health, or intellect, and that to this extent the powers of the patrons are restricted. But it will still remain in the power of the patron who does not present a presentee who is thus ear-marked by bodily or mental infirmity, or pecuniary embarrassment, to force upon the parishioners anyone whom he may please, however unacceptable the presentee may be to the parishioners who are to be committed to his charge. This is the evil which lies at the root of the scandal with which we have to deal, and which, unless my Amendment or some similar Amendment is accepted, this Bill does nothing to remove. I confess it appears to me to be little short of monstrous that whereas elaborate care is taken to secure the professions and every branch of the Civil Service against the admission of unsuitable men, the cure of souls, one of the most responsible positions in the whole scheme of our local administration, is open to anyone who can obtain a friend to buy an advowson and present him to the benefice. It is this uncontrolled power which the owner of the advowson possesses, of being able to present to a living the stupid member of his family, who is unable to earn a livelihood in any other direction, which gives to patronage its value. It is this power which gives rise to the evils which make legislation necessary, and if we can remove this power, or safeguard this power, I question much if legislation would be necessary at all; but so long as this power of presenting anyone the patron pleases, without having regard to the interests of the parishioners, continues to exist, it is my opinion that any legis- 1165 lation which you may put upon the Statute Book will not attain the object you have in view. I am totally unable to find any solace or consolation in that part of the Bill which deals with next presentations. It is a common and notorious practice for men to buy advowsons, present, and then sell again. In a volume published recently by Canon Gore it is stated that as many as 600 benefices where the incumbent is his own patron have been subject during recent years to transactions of this character. So long as the patron has the right to present anyone he pleases, without any regard to the parish, without taking into consideration the interests of the parishioners, then this practice of purchasing advowsons, presenting, and then selling again will be followed, and this Bill, which affects to sweep away the sale of next presentations, will not achieve its object. It may be asked, why does not this Bill, as sent up by the House of Commons, provide that the patron should be compelled to administer his patronage as a trust in the interests of the parish? I have heard it stated in the House of Commons that this House, which is a House of patrons, would never give its consent to any provisions which would make it necessary for the patron to consider the interests of the parishioners when he makes his presentation. My Lords, that seems to me to be a reflection upon this House, and if the only patrons we had to consider were the patrons who are connected with the land, and this House, I daresay it might be urged, after the most satisfactory statement by the most reverend prelate as to the way in which the landowners administer their rights of patronage, that there would be no necessity for this Bill at all. But there are other patrons who have to be considered, and whose malpractices bring great discredit upon the Church of England—namely, the 600 men to whom I have already referred, who buy advowsons, present themselves, and sell the advowsons again. These are the men with whom we have to deal, and if no Amendment is incorporated in this Bill of the character I am proposing, then I say that this evil will not be stopped. If, on the contrary, an Amendment—not necessarily mine, but a similar one—is proposed in this House, and incor- 1166 porated in this Bill, then the great evils connected with the scandals of the present system of patronage will be stopped altogether. In considering this Amendment, I trust that greater regard will be had to the principle of the Amendment than to the way in which that principle is carried out by the Amendment. My object in moving the Amendment is to obtain an expression of opinion that bishops should be empowered, under certain circumstances, to reject the presentee on the ground of his unsuitability to the parish. That is the principle. It may be urged that it confers too much power upon the bishops. Very well; I am perfectly willing to withdraw my Amendment in favour of any other which makes it necessary that a Commission such as is appointed in the further clauses of this Bill should report to the bishop that the presentee is not suitable before the bishop has any power to refuse to institute him. That might be advisable in the interests of the patron, in the interests of the presentee, and in the interests of the parish, and also in the interests of the bishop. In making this suggestion that this Amendment should be incorporated in this Bill, I have the precedent of the clause which was in the Bill of the late Archbishop of Canterbury. In his Bill of 1886 it was provided that the bishop should have power to reject the presentee, on the ground that in the opinion of two-thirds of his diocesan council of patronage the presentee was not a fit or proper person to be instituted to the benefice in question. I regret that a clause of that character was not included in the Bill and sent up to your Lordships to pass. The rights of the parishioners appear to me to be too much overlooked in this Bill. The noble Earl said it was a great step forward that the law should give notice to the churchwardens of the intention of the parish to institute a presentee, and that the churchwardens should have one month within which to make their objections. It is no very great advantage to the parishioners that they should know who is going to be appointed to the parish unless they have the power of making representations on the ground of the unsuitability of the presentee to their own parish, which will enable the bishop, on proper inquiries having been made, to 1167 refuse to institute him. That is the object of my Amendment, and I trust that the House will see its way to adopt this particular Amendment, or hold out some assurance that one of some such a nature shall be included in the Bill, so as to safeguard the interests of the parishioners and make it absolutely necessary that a patron, in exercising his patronage, should consider the interests of the parishioners and regard his right of patronage as a trust and not as a property.
THE BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
I am sure that all your Lordships must agree with the fundamental principle underlying the Amendment proposed by my noble Friend, although, as it stands, its wording seems to me to run counter to the other provisions in the Bill. We cannot, unfortunately, vote for a principle, however excellent. We must vote for or against a specific Amendment couched in specific words. Now the Amendment of my noble Friend appears to me to amount practically to this: that the churchwardens, controlled by the bishop's discretion, are to decide, finally as to the suitableness or unsuitableness of the person presented to the living. Personally, I have great confidence in episcopal discretion, but I can hardly expect that the country at large will express quite so much confidence in that discretion, and I confess, as I said before, that it does seem to me that, the proposal, as it stands, goes almost contrary to the rest of the Bill from first to last. Indeed, we should hardly require any of the other clauses safeguarding the conditions under which a man should be appointed if this clause were now to be inserted. Practically, the churchwardens controlled by the bishops would have power given them to decide on undefined general grounds as to what my noble Friend calls the "suitableness" or "unsuitableness" of any man presented to a living, and I can hardly believe that the country is prepared to transfer responsibility so largely from the patron, and to place such unreserved confidence in the controlling power of the bishops and the churchwardens. I am glad, however, to be allowed to give expression from the Bishop's Bench to our warm recognition of the principle which underlies what the noble Earl has 1168 proposed. We all desire that the unsuitable man should be kept out, and that the suitable man should be put in; and that is what this Bill has endeavoured to do. We are all desirous, too, that the legitimate wishes of parishioners should be, so far as possible, ascertained and respected. As to the definition of what suitableness and unsuitableness should practically consist of, those are matters upon which an immense difference and variety of opinions would be found to exist, and what we have to consider is, what we can at the present moment reasonably enact and secure with reference to the restrictions to be exercised on the rights of patronage. While I cordially agree with the noble Earl in principle, I cannot agree that what he has suggested will be consistent with the rest of the Bill, and I must therefore, though with very great reluctance, vote against the Amendment.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
I am prepared, my Lords, to go somewhat further than my right reverend brother. I think we are all only desirous that the suitable man should be appointed, and that the unsuitable man should be excluded; but, for myself, I am extremely desirous that in one way or another the opinion of the parishioners should be taken. It may be that the noble Earl's Amendment may not be the best possible way of granting this power, but I think it would be a great blot on the Bill if there was not a definite recognition of the interests of the parishioners in the appointment of their own clergy, and of their right to be heard, at all events before he is appointed by the bishop. I should be very glad to support any Amendment of this kind consistent with the general principles of the Bill.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I really welcome with great pleasure that which we have just heard from the most reverend prelate, the Archbishop of York. He has, I think, exactly touched what I regard as the principle of the Amendment of the noble Earl. The principle is this: that the parishioners should have a voice, and it seems to me that you will never have any contentment in the parish unless that is so. With regard to the objection that it 1169 puts too much power in the hands of the bishops, I am not going to express either confidence or lack of confidence in them. The bishop is not of his own motion to do this; it is only when the parishioners make a representation to him that he has to determine whether or not that representation is such as he should act upon; therefore, that is something very different from giving the bishop an initiative power of putting a veto upon the nomination of the clergy to benefices. All he has to do is to consider those objections with any other objections which arise under the Bill. I am far from saying that the Amendment is complete in itself, and I am also very sensible of the real difficulty which there would be in framing a satisfactory law by which so vital and important a change should be introduced into the Church as that the parishioners should have a voice. I do not think any more important reform could be made, and I think it a matter of the greatest satisfaction that a bishop so highly placed as the one who has just spoken has made a declaration in favour of that principle. I cordially agree with the principle contained in the Amendment, and if the noble Earl goes to a Division I shall record my vote in favour of it.
§ THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
I desire to join myself with the noble Lord in subscribing to the admirable sentiments which have been expressed upon the subject; but it is not admirable sentiments with which your Lordships have to deal—we have to deal with the Amendment that it is desired to put into the Bill, Which, in my opinion, is a very odd one. The bishop has to be satisfied that the representations made by the churchwardens, on behalf of the parishioners, that the presentee is unsuitable for the benefice in question are well founded. The noble Earl opposite is enthusiastic for the voice of the parishioners, which I suppose means election by the parishioners.
§ THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Very well, then, being heard; but I do not suppose they would thank you very much if they were only heard; but 1170 nobody has ever argued that the churchwardens should be heard on this subject, and yet this Amendment would place this power entirely in their hands. It would be for them to decide whether or not a man was unsuitable, and I observe from this Debate that none of us are able to say what suitable or unsuitable means. If that is so, is it likely that the churchwardens should know any better? Supposing you were to give this power to churchwardens in a parish where there were a great many publicans, they would say that a teetotal clergyman was entirely unsuitable to the parish, and vice versâ in a very teetotal parish, I have no doubt that a clergyman who took a liberal view in these matters would be very unsuitable to the parish. I will not enter into the thorny questions of doctrine, but it is obvious how far every churchwarden would erect himself into a temporary Pope, in order to determine what doctrines should and should not exclude from the tenure of a particular parish, and I would represent that the position that is essential to the churchwardens is one that could not possibly be vindicated. You may, for the sake of large and generous principles, vote for an Amendment in which you do not believe, but when that Amendment comes to be put into an Act of Parliament people would say that the churchwardens were intolerable, and it would result in a vote of the parishioners, and the unfortunate presentee would occupy the month, during which his name is nailed upon the church door, by canvassing everybody in the parish, and assuring them of his entire agreement with the sentiments which they, entertained as to his suitability or unsuitability. You are raising a very large question indeed—a question, I venture to say, on which there has been, in the Church of England, a tolerable preponderance of opinion for the last two or three hundred years, and that is that election is not a good mode of supplying the incumbent of a parish, and until you have made up your minds to turn back from that opinion, and to adopt the other doctrine, I think you had better not meddle with the question by ambiguous and not very perspicuous language, lest you should find that you had surrendered a principle which was thought valuable, and introduced maxims which would be 1171 most pernicious for the election of fitting persons for the service of the Church.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I cannot agree that this Amendment in the slightest degree involves the question of election of the clergy by the parish. If you give an absolute power to the parishioners, then it would involve the question of election of the clergy by the parish; but even if you gave an absolute power there would be nothing inconsistent with the present mode of institution if the veto does not itself go so far as to give a veto to the parishioners. It merely requires that the parishioners' representations should be considered by the bishop, who may or may not act upon them, according as he thinks they are well founded or not. There is no obligation on the bishop to refuse to institute because of the objections taken by the parishioners; the Amendment only provides for their being heard. In one respect I agree with the noble Marquess. I think the Amendment treats the churchwardens as too much representing in all cases the parishioners. I should like the representations of the parishioners attended to in the sense of being considered. I apprehend that that was in the mind of the promoters of the Bill, because the Bill itself provides that the notice is to be given to the churchwardens; they are treated for this purpose as representing the parish, and I imagine that that admitted to some extent the principle of my noble Friend's Amendment.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
It would be quite easy to make that clear that the representations of the parishioners should be made through the churchwardens. I do not suppose for a moment that the churchwardens would act of their own accord and ask a bishop not to appoint any particular man. I apprehend that the principle is the voice of the parishioners, spoken through the churchwardens. Whether the Amendment is suitable for carrying its purpose or not, I am very strongly in favour of making some provision for the voice of the parishioners being heard, and I shall be very sorry indeed if the Bill goes forth to the world without that being done.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I will only add one word to what the noble Marquess 1172 has said. This Debate has proceeded rather on the grounds that this Bill does nothing in the direction which my noble Friend advocates. For the first time this Bill proposes that the bishop shall be obliged to give a statutory notice to the churchwardens of every parish of the name of the man proposed to be instituted as incumbent of the parish. The churchwardens are mentioned because they are the lay authorities who represent the parishioners. What is the object of notice being given in the manner provided? It is not merely a private courtesy to the churchwardens; it is to enable the parishioners, who have seen the notice published in the prescribed manner, if they have any objections to the proposed incumbent, to bring them to the notice of the bishop. There is absolute security, if this enactment becomes law, that in every parish every parishioner who chooses to use his eyes and read the notice shall have an opportunity of bringing to the attention of the bishop any objections he knows of against the institution of the proposed incumbent, and then the responsibility is thrown upon the bishop. But is there any ground of unsuitableness in the reasonable acceptation of that term which is not included in clause 2, sub-section b? By that clause the bishops may refuse institution on the ground that at the date of presentation not more than three years have elapsed since the presentee was ordained deacon. He may refuse institution on the ground that the presentee is unfit for the discharge of the duties of the benefice by reason of physical or mental infirmity or incapacity. He may refuse institution on the ground that the proposed presentee is in a state of pecuniary embarrassment of a serious character, or that he has been guilty of grave misconduct or neglect of duty in an ecclesiastical office, or on the ground of evil life, and of having by his conduct caused great scandal concerning his moral character since his ordination. On each one of those grounds any parishioner may, who reads the notice, have an opportunity of bringing his objections to the notice of the bishop. Therefore, I maintain it is quite impossible to provide machinery which will more fully give every parishioner that opportunity which your Lordships may consider he ought 1173 to have. The question is whether the responsibility of acting on this information is to be vested in the bishops or in the churchwardens, or in a combination of the two. I maintain that the proper authority to deal with this matter is the bishop, and can only be the bishop. I think we have done all that is possible if we provide that there should be ample opportunity to the parishioners to bring to the notice of the bishops any objections that they may know of to the character of the man that is to be appointed.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The noble Earl has entirely misunderstood the object of this Amendment. We all know that for certain specific objections the bishop may refuse to institute, and that the churchwardens may bring before the bishop the candidate who is not fit, but there are many other reasons for which a man may be unsuitable to serve in a parish, and we do not think it is right that the parishioners, with regard to those other objections, should not have the power of going to the bishop, and we think that that power should be included in this Bill. We do not ask by this Amendment that the churchwardens should decide the matter. They are only the mouthpiece of the parishioners—they are the channel through which the voice of the parishioners reaches the bishop, and it is the bishop who decides whether the man is unsuitable or not.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
The House hardly realises the extreme difficulty of this question, for it really involves a reconstruction of our whole system of patronage. At the present time there is, I believe, nothing which limits the churchwardens to being members of the Church of England. Surely it is a very grave matter to suggest that the whole of the parishioners, irrespective of their religious belief, are to be given power to represent to the bishop who is a fit and proper person to be the clergyman of the parish. It is within the knowledge of everyone who has the least acquaintance with these matters that of all the modes of appointment which prevail in the Church of England, none are so bad as those in which the incumbent is elected by the parishioners. There 1174 have been one or two cases within my knowledge where the elections under such circumstances have been a perfect scandal. There is no one in this House who does not sympathise with what fell from the noble Earl who has moved this Amendment—that patronage is a trust, and that it is to be exercised for the benefit of the parishioners. That we must all cordially endorse; but my objection to the Amendment is, that if it is carried out, it will not conduce to the appointment of the best men in the parish, but might, in many cases, prevent the appointment of just the man who in the real interests of the parish ought to be appointed.
THE BISHOP OF RIPON
I am quite sure that there is not one of us who does not entirely endorse what has fallen from the noble Lord. We are all of us alive to the great danger and the great scandals which arise from election to a benefice. Everyone who has looked at these things must be perfectly well aware of that, but I do not think that the question concerning such scandals or such elections is in any sense relevant to our considerations to-day. In the first place, there is no suggestion whatever that there should be even an opportunity for going round a parish and gathering up the suffrages and opinions of the parishioners. All that is suggested is that there should be an opportunity of representation of the views of the parishioners to the bishop. It has been said that this opportunity is provided for. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill has reminded us that a notice should be put upon the church door, and no doubt it is primarily true that that notice enables the parishioners, if they please, to give notice of objection to the proposed incumbent, but I maintain with every deference that that is hardly sufficient to meet the point which has been raised by the noble Earl opposite. The suggestion which he makes is that there should be not merely a tacit opportunity, which is only put in in a kind of silent fashion, but that the Bill should suggest that such an opportunity should exist, because by virtue of its existence in the Bill it will call the attention of everybody to the fact that the parishioners are expected to lodge the grounds of their objection before the bishop. That is a very 1175 valuable provision, and I do hope that something will be done to enable something, at any rate, analogous to this Amendment to be introduced into the Bill, because, as it is, it almost looks as if we were giving something to the parishioners with one hand and taking it away with the other; or perhaps rather more like the Irishman who gave his son a bottle of whisky, and then locked it up in a cupboard, and when he came home he found his son rubbing a piece of bread on the outside of the cupboard door in order to get so far as he could the flavour of the whisky on his bread. You say, indeed, in some silent fashion in the Bill that there may be objections made, but you never suggest to the parishioner, as such, that he has a right to raise these objections. My Lords, we stand at the parting of the ways in the present day. Everywhere, in Convocation and in public meetings, all who are interested in the cause of the Church, all who speak concerning the value of the Church as an institution, all who say that her position is so highly popular because her work is so earnest, are telling us that the one thing we need to do is to give the lay people some opportunity, some voice, in the government of the Church. My Lords, is this the time for us to hesitate? Is this the time to refuse to do that in any case whatever? It is not simply a question of what may be done or what may be possible to do. The day may come when further legislation may take place, and the position of the parishioners may be much more clearly defined; and then, in such a day as that, this clause will be of extreme value; and I do hope that something will be done to show, at any rate, that the parishioners are expected to have some sense of their responsibility, and to make them feel that a door has been opened to enable them to give expression to their views.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I cannot help thinking that the right reverend prelate has misunderstood the purpose and the meaning of the Amendment suggested. I gather from what he says now that what he thinks ought to be done is to enable parishioners to make such objections as are already provided for in the Bill. That is not the meaning of the Amendment at all. I do not understand 1176 that the noble Earl simply means that the person who is supposed to be unsuitable is to be considered unsuitable merely by reason of his being guilty of any of the matters mentioned in the Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is the whole point; and what I would point out is this: that upon some vague ground—upon any ground whatever, as the noble Earl says—the parish, or some members of the parish, think proper to suggest to the bishop, the bishop is to refuse institution to the presentee. Just imagine what the bishop has to do He has to find out whether the representations of the parishioners are well founded and that he is unsuitable to the benefice. Has anybody the least opinion as to what that means? In what respect is he unsuitable? Is he to be unsuitable in regard to doctrine, in regard to ritual? Is that point to be raised? Is he to be considered unsuitable in any political point of view—is that point to be raised? If it is a very Conservative parish—I will give that view preference—and the clergyman is a Liberal, is he to be considered an unsuitable person? As a matter of fact no one knows; no one can define exactly what unsuitability means, and that is the main objection to such an Amendment as this—that, although nobody knows what is suitable and what is unsuitable, the parish, which may not consist necessarily of members of the Church of England, are to decide whether he is suitable or not. The objection to legislation of this sort is that, whereas a presentee, who, by hypothesis, must be ordained, is entitled to some definite charge against him, or some definite proposition, which can be formulated and which people can understand, that charge can be made against him before he has received institution, so that the clergyman, of all people in the world, is to be the only person against whom a vague charge of unsuitability is to be made, and which might deprive him of the position in his profession to which I think he is entitled if no objection can be made against his physical, mental, moral, or religious capacity. All of those suggestions can be 1177 very properly inserted, and on a representation by the churchwardens, as representing the parish, any one of those objections may prevail if the bishop thinks proper. But this Amendment is only put forward as a sort of means to elicit an expression of opinion, and my objection to the Amendment itself is its utterly impracticable nature. Is there to be any machinery—any security—as to how parishioners are to express their views to the churchwardens? All of this sort of thing, if there were any reality in the Amendment, would have to be considered, but it is unnecessary to criticise now, because no one supposes that an Amendment of this sort will be pressed. It is only to elicit opinions on this subject that the Amendment has been brought forward, and I hope that your Lordships will not adopt a view which I think would imperil the position of any clergyman that he can be objected to as to his suitability without defining in the Bill what suitability is.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
It seems to me that the noble and learned Lord quite fails to understand the meaning of the Amendment. The noble and learned Lord seems to think that it is a kind of injury to a clergyman who has been delayed ordination, and may be a perfectly moral man, that he should be objected to. He seemed to think that the suitability of the clergyman is a thing which no person can determine. But what has the patron to do? Surely the duty of the patron is, not merely to determine whether the man he is recommending is a man of upright life, but whether he will be acceptable to the parishioners over whom he is to be placed. Everyone knows that there are parishes in which clergymen—excellent and conscientious men—will, after their appointment, invariably be the cause of injury to the Church. I have always thought that it was in the highest degree desirable that the parishioners should be heard. Then the noble and learned Lord says, Is there to be a vote by simply sending a representation to the bishop? If I were a parishioner, I should send mine through the churchwardens, and request that it might be forwarded to the bishop; and it seems to me that it is highly for the advantage of the Church that such a 1178 general power should exist, and if you stick to the old ways, and try to limit that power merely to certain legal objections, and do not give the laity a real voice as to the suitability of the clergyman to the parish, you are losing an opportunity of introducing a reform into the Church which might tend to lessen a great many of the difficulties which now exist. What are these difficulties? They are difficulties with regard to differences of opinion and practices of the clergy of the Church, and who is there who will not say that if a man holding extreme views—and who may be quite acceptable to certain congregations—is thrust upon a parish which does not care for those extreme views, he will not do harm to the Church, and to the religion to which he belongs? I think, therefore, in principle, there is a most valuable suggestion in the Amendment which my noble Friend has suggested. I do not believe that it is so very easy to make all kinds of objections, but I do believe that if you were to introduce this Amendment into the Bill, possibly in some other form, there would be no difficulty in obtaining the real views of the parish, and I do not believe that a conscientious bishop would have any difficulty in determining what course he ought to adopt.
I do not know whether the noble Earl has given his attention to a few of the difficulties which surround this Amendment. There are many in the same position that I am—many who would agree with the idea that the parishioners should be able to give their opinion, but who think the result of dealing with it in the manner that the noble Earl proposes to deal with it would result in great confusion. If this power were to be given to the communicants of a parish, or if it were to be given to those who worshipped in the parish church, it would be a different matter; but I take it that under this Amendment every person living in the parish—whether living there for a short or for a long time—would have a right of attending this proposed meeting whenever the benefice should become vacant. We have had for some time something analogous to this in Scotland, and there seems to be a difference of opinion as to whether it has worked well or ill. In my experience 1179 it is very questionable. In some cases it may have worked well, but where it has led to a great deal of controversy it has led to bad results; and in some cases, after many differences of opinion, and an attempt made to secure an able and good clergyman, each one has been objected to, and finally a very indifferent person is not objected to, because no one has ever heard anything about him, and it is thought that such a man as that will bring peace, whereas, as a matter of fact, he does nothing. I think we should pause before we rush into a great experiment which we may now, on the spur of the moment, consider to be advisable. I agree with the principle of the Amendment, and should like it if it could be put in a workable form, but I think in its present form it is utterly unreasonable and utterly unworkable. Lately there has been, in the north of London, the election of a clergyman going on for a certain number of days. I visited the place and saw placards all about, and I understand that the result of that election is that it has not left a very satisfactory feeling in the parish, and that there has been a great deal of heart-burning and personalities going on, and that, I take it, would be the case in many parishes if this Amendment is carried. I should like to know whether this Amendment is to apply to the enormous parishes in London and the other large centres of population. Take a parish containing 500,000 or 600,000 people. Are they to be canvassed, and is everybody belonging to every denomination to attend the meeting and, under some circumstances, try to do the Church as much harm as they can? The result of that would be that religious questions would be raked up, and you will open the door to questions of doctrine and questions of ritual which are expressly barred by this Bill. While I think the Amendment contains an excellent principle under proper safeguards, I, at the same time think that to accept it in its present form would be nothing short of disastrous.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
We all quite understand each other now. The object of this Amendment is really to enable the parishioners of a parish which 1180 is mainly evangelical to object to the presentee who is ritualistic, or vice versâ.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am within the recollection of the House that that has been the point taken by many of the noble Lords who have spoken. If the Government were to accept an Amendment that could be worked in that way—and whatever the intentions of my noble Friend were, it could be worked in that way—their position would be perfectly indefensible, because, notwithstanding Amendment after Amendment, and Division after Division in the House of Commons, the Government resolutely refuse to introduce into this Bill any considerations of doctrine or of ritual, and the Bill goes so far as this, that in clause 3 questions of doctrine and of ritual are expressly excluded from the purview of the Appeal Court; therefore, if this Amendment were carried, there would be absolutely no power under the Bill to appeal from a refusal to institute under it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Contents 22, Not-Contents 77.
|York, L. Abp.||Ripon, L. Bp.|
|Westminster, D.||Aberdare, L.|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery)|
|Cowper, E.||Davey, L.|
|Grey, E. [Teller]||Herschell, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Lingen, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden)|
|Northbrook, E. [Teller]||Reay, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Grafton, D.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn)|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President)|
|Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal)||Hertford, M.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward)||Aldenham, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.|
|Lathom, E. (L. Chamberlain)||Ashbourne, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Belper, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Calthorpe, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Churchill, L. [Teller]|
|Coventry, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Craven, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry)||Colville of Culross, L.|
|De Saumarez, L.|
|Egerton, E.||Harris, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Hood of Avalon, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||James, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore)|
|Powis, E.||Lawrence, L.|
|Romney, E.||Ludlow, L.|
|Rosse, E.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Stamford, E.||Muncaster, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Newton, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller]||Norton, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Gloucester, L. Bp.||Torphichen, L.|
|London, L. Bp.||Wantage, L.|
|St. Albans, L. Bp.||Wenlock, L.|
|Salisbury, L. Bp.||Windsor, L.|
|Winchester, L. Bp.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ LORD HERSCHELL
Before this clause is put I should like to call attention to the fact that here again something is ordered to be done, and there is no sanction in respect of the doing. Of course, if my noble Friends are content that it is to be left to the care of the churchwardens, it must be so, but that is the result; and here, if they fail to give the notice which is provided for by the Statute, then the bishop will be liable to indictment, and the same will be the fate of the churchwardens if they fail to publish the notice in the prescribed manner.
§ THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Will the institution be valid if the presentation is invalid?
§ THE PREMIER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
But is it so?
§ LORD HERSCHELL
No. This is a case where the churchwardens have to publish a notice in the prescribed manner. If they fail to do so it would be an indictment at common law, which I think probably is what was intended.
That clause 2 as amended stand part of the Bill.
§ Agreed to.