Project Canterbury

The Life of Father Dolling

By Charles E. Osborne

London: Edward Arnold, 1903.

Chapter XV.

Father Dolling and the Bishops of Winchester--The 'Extra Services'--Petition of Protestant Alliance to Bishop Harold Browne--Letter from Bishop Sumner, of Guildford--Dr. Thorold, Bishop of Winchester (1891-1895)--Father Dolling's relations with him--Bishop Thorold's love of the poor--'The S. Agatha's Children's Book'--Bishop Thorold's letter to the Protestant Alliance (1892)--The 'Children's Book 'revised and reissued (1893).

'And, worst of all, the good with good
Is at cross-purposes.'

BECAUSE we have been occupied up to this solely with the opposition to Dolling's social and political action, it does not follow that the Ultra-Protestants of Portsmouth (which used to be a stronghold of Orangeism) regarded with silence the extension of Catholic doctrines and practices of which S. Agatha's was one of the centres. Dolling hated controversy for its own sake, but the calumnies circulated about S. Agatha's and similar churches were so gross and numerous, the charge of treachery to the Church of England and of taking her pay on false pretences being one of the mildest of them, that he invited his old friend, Dr. Belcher (a medical man before he was a priest), the Rector of Frampton Cotterell, Bristol, to give a lecture in the Victoria Hall, Southsea, on the subject 'Why Catholics ought to remain in the Church of England.' The hall was packed with people, for Dolling was to be chairman, and whatever there might be at a meeting over which the Vicar-Designate of S. Agatha's presided, people knew, at least, that there would not be dulness if the chairman could prevent it.

The meeting was certainly not a dull one. Dr. Belcher was uncompromising as a representative of Anglo-Catholicism, and repudiated Protestantism as a true representation of the position of the Church of England.

Shortly after, Dr. Potter, Rector of Hollescroft, Sheffield, a well-known Protestant champion, asked to be allowed to address theĀ«meeting, and this having been granted, he ascended the platform with an armful of books. Dr. Potter met the statement of the lecturer that the word 'Protestant' is not to be found in the Bible or the Prayer-Book by appealing to the Latin version of 2 Chron. xxiv. 19, where 'protestantes' occurs in the Vulgate. 'Show me that book,' said Dr. Belcher sternly. The other handed it to the lecturer, who, showing the audience that on its title-page were prominently emblazoned the papal arms, triple tiara, etc., said:

'Why, gentlemen and ladies, this is the Popish Bible! Look at the Pope's arms on it. The Rev. Doctor is a Jesuit in disguise.'

The laughter was too much for Dr. Potter, who collapsed.

Dolling, however, as a rule, avoided controversy in religious matters; he thought it did little good. Vice and indifference, not Ultra-Protestantism, he believed to be the real enemies he had to fight. For 'High Churchism 'of the high and dry ecclesiastical variety he had little regard. The Oxford Movement he believed to have been true in regard to its principles, but he used constantly to say that it suffered from its initial peculiarity 'that it was made up out of books.' He held that it was unfortunate it had not more immediately taken root in the hearts of the people, as Methodism did.

His evangelistic zeal for Christianity and for the Catholic presentation of it as the fullest and most adequate is the real explanation of Dolling's apparent contempt for the Book of Common Prayer. His language about that book was not intended to apply to it as a storehouse of regulated devotion for instructing Church people, but in regard to its missionary capacities. He did not mean that the Prayer-Book was un-Catholie in itself--had he done so he would have certainly been disloyal---but that it was not by itself an adequate missionary vehicle for popularising and extending the Faith among a nation the majority of which has practically lapsed from it--lapsed, that is, not through wilful apostasy, but through ignorance and neglect. If this seemed a pessimistic criticism Dolling would attempt to prove it by bidding those who denied it face the facts as to the attendance of the population at Christian worship of any description.

It was this sense he had of the non-missionary character of the Prayer-Book (as being for a people already instructed in the faith) which induced Dolling to introduce at S. Agatha's those 'extra services 'which led, even more than the ritual, or dressing up of the more liturgical offices, to those remonstrances from bishops and dignitaries which formed a constant undercurrent to what the Vicar-Designate of S. Agatha's used to call his 'big rows' (as, i.e., that already described with the Mayor of Portsmouth).

It is only fair to admit that it must have been very trying for Bishop Harold Browne, or Bishop Thorold, or for the present Primate, then Bishop Davidson, to be continually the recipients of complaints about Dolling and S. Agatha's.

The 'extra services' which Dolling introduced were (with the exception of certain devotions in connection with the reserved Sacrament, practised towards the end of his stay in Landport) not really of as 'extreme' a nature as might at first be imagined by outsiders. There was certainly nothing distinctively or essentially Romanist about them, and they were introduced, not with any view of imitating Rome, but from their adaptability to popular and missionary needs.

Most, or all, of these services took place on the week-nights at S. Agatha's, when on most evenings (generally on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays) there was a short address or instruction, after the evening devotion, by one of the clergy. The following was the usual routine of the famous, or notorious, 'extra services ':

Mondays, a Prayer-meeting, 'our Dissenting service' Dolling often called it. Bishop, clergy, soldiers, sailors, emigrants, sick, sinners, all were prayed for at this service, 'our dear dead' being remembered at the end. Sometimes an office of intercession from the Cowley Manual was used, but if Dolling took the service himself he preferred to offer extempore prayer of a homely and simple character.

On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings the Prayer-Book alone was used.

On Thursdays there was 'Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament.' This service, which has no connection with Reservation, is simply the Vesper Service consisting of some fixed psalms, short sacramental lesson from 1 Corinthians, hymn, Magnificat, and collects.

As the office for the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament and for many communicants' guilds it has, in several dioceses, we believe, been allowed by the Bishop to be used, and it is of a thoroughly Scriptural character.

We ought to add that at S. Agatha's it was sung solemnly--i.e., with a certain amount of ritual, the officiant wearing a cope, and incense being used at the Magnificat.

The censer used on this and other occasions was a gift which had been made to the mission by some students of the Divinity School of Trinity College, Dublin. It bears an inscription to this effect, and is still used at S. Agatha's whenever incense forms one of the external features of the worship.

On Friday evenings there was the 'Stations of the Cross,' or 'Way of the Cross.' Each feature of the Passion formed a subject of special devotion, as the priest who took the services moved with his assistants from one to another of the pictures on the walls, which at intervals represented the stages of the sufferings of the Saviour. The legend of S. Veronica was not included. Dolling said, 'It is not in the Bible.' Nor were there the pictures of the two legendary falls. Dolling generally gave the address on the Friday evenings himself. His power of drawing Christian lessons from the Passion was well-nigh inexhaustible.

On Saturday nights Compline was generally said. This, of course, needs no explanation or defence. It is said, we believe, nightly in the crypt of S. Paul's Cathedral, and is one of the most beautiful and Scriptural of all the older offices of the Church, as well as one very widely used in Christian households, and by guilds and religious associations in the Church of England to-day.

The above, which is an accurate statement as to the nature of these 'services extra to the Prayer-Book' as used at S. Agatha's, shows that the titles were to old-fashioned people more frightening than the words of the services in themselves. But Dolling considered that such objectors could easily find other churches to go to, and that he was sent, not to them, but to his own people, whose special needs required special and missionary methods.

The week-day services of the early mornings at S. Agatha's were invariably Matins and the Daily Eucharist. All the permanent resident workers, clerical and lay, were expected to attend church every morning, but in the evenings only the priest who took the service, the others being engaged each at some special work. Although Evensong was not publicly said daily, yet Dolling always recognised that at least the private recital of it as well as of Matins was required of the clergy by the Prayer-Book and the law of the Church. Besides which it must be remembered that S. Agatha's was not a consecrated parish church, in which the daily choir offices might claim to be rendered with regular publicity, but rather a mission chapel amid almost a practically heathen population.

At any degree, it was a conviction of Dolling's, unshaken to the end, and the result of almost unique experience of religious work among those below the church- or chapel-going stratum, that the Prayer-Book language is uncomprehended by the multitude, and that missionary work among them demands a flexibility and elasticity as to methods of worship wider than that which the letter of the Prayer-Book can afford. This conviction is shared by an increasing number of persons in no sense disloyal to the Prayer-Book, but yet not making it a fetich; although they are by no means in exact agreement among themselves as to the best way of supplementing it.

All these questions Dolling looked at from the point of view of an evangelist and a missionary, rather than of a liturgical scholar, which he never professed to be, and certainly was not. However, he could scarcely have expected that the Bishops would not make some demands for alteration in his services, or in the mode of conducting them. Such demands, it is only right to say, were always made in a conciliatory spirit, and with no desire to ignore Father Dolling's devoted labours. It was as inevitable that the demands should be made, from one point of view, as it was inevitable from the other that compromise should be found difficult or impossible. In 1889 Bishop Sumner, of Guildford, Suffragan to the Bishop of Winchester, requested or suggested that, in order to meet Bishop Harold Browne's objections, the following changes should be made at S. Agatha's: Giving up (1) incense; (2) Compline, 'in which the choir absolve the priest'; (3) extempore prayer; (4) Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament, with cope; (5) Vespers of the Dead. Bishop Sumner went on to add that this would mean only the removal of certain excrescences, and the gaining to the work of episcopal approval. The Bishop of the diocese himself had previously written, some time before, to Dolling as follows:

'to suggest that you should be satisfied with, what is purely Anglican as sufficient for all purposes of devotion, and not likely to create suspicion or to stir up strife. Stations of the Cross, acolytes in crimson cassocks, incensing the Magnificat, and the like, certainly excite bitter animosity in an eminently Protestant town like Portsmouth.'

The petition which caused Bishop Harold Browne to write as above was got up at a large meeting mainly composed of Orangemen, with some Nonconformists of the strongly Puritan type. This meeting was held at a building called the 'Protestant Hall' of Portsmouth, the exterior of which is adorned with the busts of eminent Sixteenth-Century Pieformers. Of the persons who attended to denounce S. Agatha's, we should think there was hardly one who was a resident in the Winchester College Mission district. Most of the audience were of the lower middle class from other and more respectable parts of Portsmouth. Bishop Browne himself wrote of the petition in question: 'I do not think that the persons appealing to me have any locus standi.' Nevertheless, the result of the petition was a request from the Bishop to Dolling 'to confine his services and mode of worship within the confessedly legal ritual of the Church of England.' Dr. Browne made no attempt, however, to exactly define what those precise limits were. He said that no complaints had reached him from S. Agatha's district itself, but that he believed 'with good reason that those clergy in Portsea who are doing great work in formerly neglected regions feel that the scare produced by advanced ritual is seriously detrimental to them.'

At the meeting in the Protestant Hall an address was delivered by a gentleman from London, who made a violent attack on Dolling, ending with 'If we had a clergyman like Mr. Dolling in our neighbourhood, we would soon take him by the back of the neck and kick him out of the parish.' A voice from the gallery was heard to shout, 'He weighs fifteen stone, and you might find it difficult.' Solvuntur tabula; risu.

Through all this it is only right to state that Bishops Harold Browne and Sumner wrote to Dolling in terms of affectionate regard, fully recognising his special gifts as an evange-liser. The desire, however, to avoid disturbance at all costs, and the wish to steer the Church's ship through peaceful waters, dominated in their minds almost all other considerations. Dolling himself also was the first to recognise the high character and deep piety of Bishop Harold Browne, nor did he at any time actually defy the Bishops, as he was always ready to resign should episcopal remonstrances with which he disagreed become episcopal demands which he could not conscientiously obey. He was also, as a rule, on excellent personal terms with the prelates whose public line of action was not that of complete approval of the doings at S. Agatha's. Such a state of affairs, both politically and even ecclesiastically, is common enough in English life, but practically unknown in other countries where differences on public matters generally or often involves strong personal antipathies or estrangements.

The translation of Bishop Anthony Thorold from the See of Rochester to that of Winchester, after Dr. Harold Browne's death, brought Dolling into contact with a Bishop more conversant with the views and the proceedings of that section of the younger clergy with which the staff of S. Agatha's on the whole might be classed, than Dr. Browne ever had been. Bishop Thorold had preached for that Guild of S. Matthew by which Bishop Browne had been so troubled; he had been head of a diocese--Eochester--which, as it contains South London, was one in which Kitualism was at its strongest, including some of its best-worked centres, and he had gradually abandoned his policy of 'isolating' such churches, in favour of a more tolerant line of action. Originally an Evangelical of a somewhat narrow, though always deeply devotional type, his mind had broadened under the teaching and influence of his friend, the famous Bishop Phillips Brooks of Massachusetts, but without losing any of the intensity of its earnestness and piety. He was emphatically a good man, unworldly and disinterested, yet shrewd and sensible, and his somewhat stiff and precise manner concealed a heart of unselfishness and affection. We think he had a very warm feeling for Dolling; certainly the latter felt towards him in a similar way.

Considering that Bishop Thorold was in no sense a High Churchman even of moderate type, the extent to which he went in his comprehensiveness was very remarkable. This was especially so, as he soon began to receive complaints from many quarters about 'the notorious Mission Church in Landport,' and this was soon after the time that the secession of one of his own family to the Church of Rome might have been likely to make him more prejudiced against the entire Ritualistic party than before.

Two things, however, made Bishop Thorold feel warmly towards Dolling and S. Agatha's, in spite of so much with which he could not be expected to be in agreement. Firstly, both he and Dolling were evangelical in the truest sense. The Bishop's theology, though originally evangelical in a narrower interpretation of that word, had become so much more generous than in his earlier days that he could afford to recognise in this extreme Ritualist whom party Protestantism denounced a sincere lover of the same Lord and Master to whom his own heart was devoted. What men like Bishop Thorold dislike in so-called Ritualistic clergy is the tendency of some of the latter to be formalists, but he knew that Dolling was as great an enemy of formalism as he was himself. Secondly, Bishop Thorold had a deep love of the poor. His mind had been much occupied when he was in South London with the question of their condition, and with the need of religious evangelisation and social improvement going hand in hand in the slums. He forgave Dolling a great deal of his Ritualism because of his devotion to those ignorant ones 'out of the way' over whom his own heart also yearned. It seemed hard to realise that this somewhat prim-looking and reserved Church dignitary was continually exercised by the desire to bring into conscious communion with Christ the masses upon whom religion has lost hold.

One singularly touching story will always be associated with the pastoral zeal of Bishop Thorold's heart. It is that of his close association with the case of a young soldier who was condemned to death for shooting, in a fit of passion, one of his comrades at Hillsea Fort, near Portsmouth. The Bishop himself attended the lad in the condemned cell, found him ignorant of even the rudiments of religion, brought him to a sincere repentance, instructed him and had him baptised, and himself confirmed him, and gave him his first Communion under circumstances of unspeakable pathos. It was a story worthy of the Bishop in 'Les Miserables.' Bishop Thorold wrote in his diary (quoted in his 'Life') in reference to the last Communion on the morning of the execution:

'Captain Hill (the captain of the gaol) communicated, kneeling, as before, at the condemned man's side. Poor fellow! he put out his hands so eagerly for the Elements. When the service was over he came and knelt before me, and I whispered into his ear some words of kindly farewell, assuring him that he was going back, like the Prodigal, to his Father's house, and that soon he would see more than we saw, and know more than we know.'

No wonder that Bishop Thorold and Father Dolling were drawn to one another.

The accession of Dr. Thorold to the See of Winchester took place in October, 1890. He recorded in his diary that three places in Portsmouth especially interested him. These were the great Church of S. Mary's, Kingston, built by Canon Jacob, with its daughter missions; S. Andrew's Deaconesses' House, Southsea, under its Superior, Sister Emma; and S. Agatha's Mission, Landport. He visited the latter for the first time on April 22, 1891, when he met Dolling, with whom he had never before been in personal contact.

'This mission,' writes the Bishop's biographer, the Rev. C. H. Simpkinson, referring to S. Agatha's, 'was destined to cause the Bishop grave anxiety. But its origin, tho character of its chief, the daring and successful assault which its clergy and lay-workers had made upon vice and sin in the wickedest quarter of the great town of Portsmouth, called out all his impulsive enthusiasm. He might differ widely in opinion from many of its ritual practices, but how could he dare not to encourage a work so zealously done for Christ V

'"Dolling was very nice in consulting me," wrote the Bishop in his diary, "about his scarlet acolytes, with whom I dispensed. The confirmees were most attentive. This is a remarkable place. The next day I had breakfast with Dolling and his curates and the miscellaneous residents, some of them just out of prison. In the chapel, over the lists of the names of the Departed, there is nothing said to imply prayer for their souls, but Dolling very straightforwardly told me it was his habit. I told him he should not do so--it was contrary to the practice of the English Church."'

A few weeks later Dolling was with Dr. Thorold in London. The latter wrote of this interview:

'We had a good, honest, friendly talk. We had prayer, and I gave him my benediction.'

In the Bishop's diary occurs under April 28, 1892: At the Diocesan Conference

'Dolling spoke well, perhaps shocking a few by telling us of his dancing parties. I amused the Conference by saying I had visited Dolling's gymnasium, but had never seen him dance.'

The Bishop also said, glancing at the robust proportions of the Vicar of S. Agatha's:

'Though I am sure he does that as well as he does everything else.'

Later on, as we learn from his biographer, Bishop Thorolcl continued to cultivate

'most friendly relations with S. Agatha's Mission; and, indeed,' adds Mr. Simpkinson, 'he had come to attach an almost dangerous importance to the one criterion of "faithful work" which, as the years advanced, appeared to him the supreme proof of love for Christ. He repeated over and over again that he would not "throw Dolling to the lions."'

In June, 1891, Bishop Thorold wrote to Dolling:

'You are always honest with me. It is in your face as well as nature.'


'When you commemorate the dead, it should be in the way of thanking God for their rest and peace, and of praying that God will hasten His kingdom, and accomplish the number of the elect. This is Scriptural and beautiful and pathetic.'

Again he writes, in 1892:

'Your practice of habitual confession, prayers for the dead, vestments, are as alien as possible from my own ways and likings. But I pass this over, as if they did not exist, for your work's sake, and give you ampler toleration than any other clergyman in the diocese.'

To the end, although more strained relations arose and continued for a time, Dr. Thorold, we believe, never allowed any difference of opinion to destroy his admiration for Dolling's goodness and self-sacrifice. Even the difficulties in question were only of temporary duration, not constituting any permanent breach of mutual affection and respect.

The differences referred to arose as to the employment by S. Agatha's Sunday-school children of a little book (adapted from one in use at S. Alban's, Holborn) called 'The S. Agatha's Sunday Scholar's Book.' This book contained an 'Instruction on the Blessed Sacrament,' and certain 'Prayers and Hymns 'which involved Eucharistic and other teaching of what would popularly be called an 'advanced' type. The children generally attended a sung Celebration of the Holy Eucharist at 10 a.m., usually known at S. Agatha's as the Children's Mass, though adults were also present at it.

At one of these services on a Sunday in November, 1892, a gentleman, sent from London as an emissary of the Protestant Alliance, was present as a critic, with the aid of an opera-glass and note-book. He published a very inflammatory account of the service. The entrance of the celebrant was thus described: 'Last came Father Dolling, a biretta perched on his most disloyal head.' The Protestant Alliance having received the report of their employe and a copy of one of the children's service-books which this gentleman had 'conveyed,' wrote to the Bishop to tell him of the book, and of the service, and to implore him to withdraw the licenses of the clergy of S. Agatha's, or else to compel them to act as 'ministers of the Protestant Reformed Religion of this country.'

Bishop Thorold wrote (early in 1893) to the Alliance through its secretary, Mr. A. H. Guinness, a long letter, not intended for publication, in which he said that he had procured the book referred to, and adds: 'I have referred the book to one of my examining chaplains, in whose learning and judgment I have great confidence.' The Bishop gave as his opinion and that of the chaplain in question that 'the general substance of the book is quite irreconcilable with the Eucharistic teaching of the Church of England.' He went on to highly praise Dolling's labours in Portsmouth, but added: 'Though his work is disfigured by errors and eccentricities which I, in common with not a few of his truest friends, sincerely deprecate.' He concluded as follows:

' In my opinion, the substantial good ho is enabled to effect by his self-denying and Christian activities far outweighs by its usefulness any distress that may be caused to those who are gravely alarmed by doctrines and practices which they consider to be quite inconsistent with the standards of the Reformed Church.'

He added that he hoped for a solution in Dolling's acceptance of his (the Bishop's) 'fatherly direction.'

The Protestant Alliance at once sent this letter for publication to the Portsmouth and London papers, without the Bishop's consent, and to his decided annoyance. He had telegraphed to Father Dolling and the present writer to 'dine and sleep 'at Farnham Castle, so as to talk over the situation. His kindness was extreme, but the unforeseen publication of his letter made matters more difficult than they need have been had not the public been taken into confidence. The impasse was that the Bishop held that the teaching of the little book was outside the comprehensive limits of the Church of England in regard to Eucharistic doctrine. Dolling admitted it went beyond the positions maintained inWaterland's 'Treatise 'or in Harold Browne 'On the Thirty-Nine Articles,' but he refused to accept these writers as representing the farthest limits of legitimate Anglican teaching on the subject.

The incriminated passages were referred to one who knew the writings of the older Anglican divines better than most clergy--i.e., the late Rev. H. E. Baker, then Vicar of S. Michael's, Woolwich. Having carefully read the book, he gave it as his opinion that not one word in it went beyond the teaching of Pusey, Bishop Forbes, or Keble (' On Eucharistic Adoration'), and he urged Dolling to ask the Bishop and his chaplain, if they intended to include these eminent theologians in their condemnation of S. Agatha's book, as they certainly were logically bound to do so. Mr. Baker also compiled a catena of passages from our older divines of the Laudian period and subsequently down to the late Bishop Hamilton of Salisbury, and including John "Wesley, all teaching doctrine far beyond the Waterland limit to which the 'safe 'Anglican party at this time attempted to confine the teaching of the Church of England on this mysterious subject. In fact, as the late Archbishop Temple said in his recent charge on the Holy Eucharist, and as Bishop Thirlwall (a Broad Churchman) had said before him, short of the scholastic definition of Transubstantiation, there is no Eucharistic doctrine BO advanced as to be outside Anglican comprehension.

Mr. Baker's tractate (the more valuable as he was rather a follower of Dr. Pusey than of the more recent type of Ritualism) was drawn up by him and by the present writer, and was presented by Dolling to Bishop Thorold. The latter expressed himself as much gratified that Anglican writers had been appealed to, as if he had expected Koman Catholic authorities to be produced by S. Agatha's clergy. Dolling consented that the parts of the book objected to--i.e., principally the preface--should be revised by using statements taken exclusively from Anglican authorities. The result, however, was not calculated to satisfy the Protestant Alliance, and, as a matter of fact, when the book so revised was presented to the Bishop he still objected to passages which were proved to be actually taken from writers legitimate as references in the Anglican Church.

We think that Dolling and Bishop Thorold were both glad of some modus vivendi. They were each of them men of that type of mind to which controversy for the sake of victory over theological antagonists presents no attraction. Though they both had strong convictions, they really wanted, from mutual respect, to be at peace with one another.

Bishop Thorold was called from this world in 1895, but he lived long enough to see and approve of the plans for the new S. Agatha's, of the basilican type of the architecture of which he was strongly in favour. His relations with Father Dolling had before his death resumed all their old cordiality, which, indeed, had only been temporarily interrupted, and that solely in regard to strong disagreement of theological opinion.

Project Canterbury