The Gallican Catholic Church.
SOME ACCOUNT OF ITS PROGRESS
AND OF ITS
PRESENT CONDITION AND PROSPECTS;
HENRY LASCELLES JENNER, D.D.,
THE following Report ought properly to have been issued in the autumn of last year, or, perhaps, even earlier. It has been kept back for various reasons, principally because it was deemed advisable that it should contain reference to certain proceedings which have only just been concluded, the object of which was the settling of a regular Constitution for the Gallican Church. [“La Constitution religieuse de l’Eglise Catholique Gallicane" has been printed in French, and copies can be obtained of the Church Printing Company, 11, Burleigh Street, Strand. Price 2d. each.] These, as will be seen, have now been happily finished; and we trust that the importance of the step, on the one hand, and the incompleteness which the Report would have exhibited, had it been circulated before the organisation of the Church had been accomplished, on the other, will be accepted as a sufficient excuse for the delay.
The Gallican Catholic Church.
THE work of Catholic Reform in France may be said to have been inaugurated in 1877 by a series of three Conférences given by Père Hyacinthe in the Cirque d'Hiver at Paris. M. Jules Simon, then Minister of the Interior, attempted to hinder the Père from speaking on any religious or political subject, recommending him to confine himself to Morals or Philosophy. The Pere, however, having explained to M. Simon that it was impossible for him to treat even these subjects in any other way than as based on Christianity, delivered his lectures in spite of all difficulties. Four thousand persons were present in the Cirque, and at least as many more were unable to obtain admission. The Government took the precaution of sending a Commissaire de Police, who sat at the elbow of the speaker, to stop him if he used any "objectionable" words. No interference, however, was offered. As Père Hyacinthe remarked afterwards, "With God's help, which I never more needed, I managed to say all I wanted to say." The enthusiasm of the audience was boundless. Indeed, this series of Conférences was for the young Republic, no less than for the orator and for the cause of Catholic Reform, an historical event.
In 1878, Père Hyacinthe delivered another series of Conferences, also in the Cirque d'Hiver. It was at the time of the Universal Exhibition at Paris--by no means a favourable moment. Yet the success was not less remarkable than before; so great indeed was it that the Père determined at once to begin the Catholic Reform movement in as regular a manner as the Republican Government of the period would permit.
Accordingly, in the spring of 1878, the Père left Geneva, where for five years he had been preaching Catholic Reform, and took up his residence at Paris. The occasion was, to all appearance, unpromising in regard to any religious movement. Indeed, for some months there seemed to be no possibility of making any sort of beginning. The Père stood almost alone. He had no means, and but few friends who shared his convictions.
At length an American gentleman, Mr. Cornelius Roosevelt, [5/6] whose family had already accepted the principles of the Catholic Reform, generously provided the funds necessary to procure a building which could be used as a Church. It was then that the first Chapel of the neo-Gallican body was opened--an unchurchlike, though well situated hall, in the Rue Rochechouart. The chapel once opened, and the Altar raised, it became evident that the religious sentiment of many who had long since abandoned the public worship of God, and the use of the Sacraments, was not dead, but only slumbering. So great were the crowds of enquirers who flocked to the services of the new church, that the streets were obstructed, and the police were forced to take charge of the crushing mass to avoid accidents--not, however, before a very lamentable one had occurred. Mons. Saint René Taillandier, a devout Catholic, and a distinguished littérateur, actually died of the injuries he received in trying to gain admittance to the Church. From this multitude a group of faithful communicants was soon gathered, and the Mission was founded.
Before long, there came applications from priests to be admitted to minister at the Gallican-Catholic Altar. And this, indeed, has continued ever since. Several of these applicants have been tried, and been rejected. Yet from the first there has never been wanting a sufficient number of priests, qualified by learning, piety, and soundness in the faith, to carry on the regular services without interruption.
But, as might have been expected, "the world" soon declared against the movement. Special hostility was exhibited by the Press. There were, no doubt, some notable exceptions; but the great majority of Parisian journals had nothing but hard words, or--what is in France still more formidable--ridicule, for this attempt to rally Frenchmen round the banner of their fathers' faith. The revolt against Roman encroachments could be understood by a people in revolt against God; but a return to primitive principles and practices--a reform that was not Protestant, but uncompromisingly Catholic, opposed to all novelties in religion, and firmly resolved to stand or fall by the faith of the undivided Church--this was altogether beyond the comprehension of those whose only notion of reform was the substitution of new-fangled ideas and methods for those consecrated by the authority and experience of the Catholic Church in all ages. And it is only now, after years of preaching, that the people of France are beginning to comprehend what is meant by the reform begun and continued by Père Hyacinthe Loyson.
 Yet, in justice to the French Government, it must be said that since its first attitude of embarrassment and quasi-hostility, it has looked with interest and even approbation upon the work. Nor are these feelings restricted to the ruling powers of the day. Only a few days ago, a member of a family whose head had worn the crown of France, said to Père Hyacinthe, "You will succeed, for your reform is the only thing that can save France."
But to return to the Chapel, Rue Rochechouart. Two years passed away, during which the services and preachings continued without intermission. At the end of that time it became necessary to seek another locality, the means of the little Gallican body not sufficing to guarantee the heavy rent for a long lease insisted upon by the proprietors of the hall. The Altar was accordingly transferred to premises in the Rue d'Arras, where a building was found, more dignified, indeed, and churchlike than the old one; but, as regards position, infinitely less convenient. The street, short, narrow, and obscure, is far from the centre of Paris. It is hardly known, even by name, except to persons dwelling in the immediate vicinity; the very cabdrivers find it with difficulty. In spite, however, of all this, the spiritual life of the Church did not suffer by the change; on the contrary, its growth became more evident. It is true that some were prevented by the distance, and others by age or ill-health, from attending the services at the Rue d'Arras; but the majority of the worshippers followed the transferred Altar, and were soon joined by many others. For some months a Chapel in the old neighbourhood was maintained; but at last it had to be abandoned through want of means.
As has been already observed, out of the large number of Priests who have offered themselves for employment few could be accepted. The impediments were various: the chief being unsoundness in the Faith, unsatisfactory antecedents, and (not seldom) lack of means of support. And even of those who were accepted, and thought worthy of all confidence, some have proved unworthy or unstable. Of these, three, returning to the Roman obedience, have done their utmost to injure the cause of Catholic Reform. One of the three, however, has retraced his steps, and is now occupying an honourable position in the Anglican Church, while remaining a staunch Gallican.
It is known that there are other Priests, some of superior positions, who are only awaiting the assurance of support, to join the Gallican movement. Reference may here be made to [7/8] the first ordination held in the Gallican Catholic Church, on Sunday, November 16th, when Monsieur Gally, a deacon ordained by Bishop Herzog, was raised to the Priesthood by Bishop Jenner.
The present staff of clergy comprises the Bishop, whose visits are, of course, only occasional, the Vicaire Episcopal (Père Hyacinthe) M. Lartigan, the Rector, and five other priests, besides three candidates for Holy Orders. The Sunday services are kept up with perfect regularity. The preaching, which is of the highest order, attracts large congregations. There are several celebrations of the Holy Eucharist every week. On Sunday and Thursday afternoons a Catéchisme is held, great attention being paid to the preparation of the young for their First Communion and Confirmation. A Society of Dames de Charité is charged with the care of the poor and sick. All Sacraments and religious offices are provided gratuitously--not even the chairs used at the public services being charged for.
With regard to the numerical strength of the Church, i.e. of its lay members, it is very evident that, considering the difficulties in the way of joining such a movement--such as the violent opposition of friends and relatives, the remoteness of the present building from the more respectable quarters of Paris, and other obstacles--the number of faithful adherents is by no means insignificant. One encouraging fact is the preponderance of men among the worshippers. The Rue d'Arras Church stands almost alone in this respect. It has often been said that the congregations seen at the services consist merely of those attracted by the marvellous eloquence of Père Hyacinthe, which is to them an intellected treat. To this assertion there is a sufficient answer in the fact that during the absence of the Père in America the regular congregation did not fall off, while the communicants actually increased. And it is noticeable that whereas the number of children who made their First Communion, and were Confirmed by the Bishop, only reached ten in 1883--in 1884 that number was doubled. It is true that persons who came merely for intellectual enjoyment disappeared. Yet, who shall say what salutary impression had been made, even on these, by the earnest exhortations of the great orator on whose lips they hung? The seed has been and is being sown: already the blade is appearing: the harvest will follow in due time.
Many interesting and encouraging facts might be related in connection with the lives of the greater number of the adherents. [8/9] There is hardly a family the members of which are not divided with respect to religious convictions; and the number is not small of those who have to suffer in one way or another for their faith. It is no uncommon case for a careless or irreligious husband to be drawn to our Church by the devotion of his wife; or for an infidel father, who would not for the world allow his children to enter a Roman Church, to consent to their attending our Catéchisme. One instance may be mentioned of a woman, whose religious education had been entirely neglected, who knew absolutely nothing of Christianity, or of another world, who has recently brought her third child to the font, and nine of her family to the Church.
Examples of self-sacrifice are constantly occurring, even among the humblest. A poor labourer walks to and from his daily work a distance of three miles to economise his six sous, in order to raise a gold piece to offer to the Church. A lady in indigent circumstances gives out of her poverty a piece of linen for the Altar. Flowers for the Altar are brought by all classes rich and poor.
Every class of society is represented in the congregation with a preponderance of the bourgeoisie.
Members of the French Clergy, sometimes dressed as laymen, but often in the usual soutane, attend and take part in the service, and contribute at the collection.
We may now speak of a most important step in advance which has been taken within the last few weeks. The Gallican Church, emerging from the preliminary missionary stage, has now become a regularly organised body, with a carefully framed and entirely Catholic constitution. In its inchoate form, the Church had received from the Government a "Decree of Authorisation," dated December 3, 1883. It is hoped and believed that the farther privilege of "Recognition" will be granted when the Government becomes aware that the Church's organisation is a fait accompli. The new Constitution has been printed, and may be purchased at 11, Burleigh Street, Strand. Price 2d. It will repay a careful examination, especially when it is remembered that it is mainly the work of lay members of the Church.
It may here perhaps be well briefly to explain the circumstances which led to the placing of Bishop Jenner at the head of the Gallican body. A committee had been appointed by the Lambeth Conference of 1878 to confer with congregations in France and elsewhere, formed on what is known as the Old [9/10] Catholic model, and to supply such congregations, if necessary, with Episcopal ministrations.
Two Bishops were specially named for the oversight of the French movement; but for reasons which it is needless here to specify, it was found impossible for them to give due attention to the task which had been imposed on them. Practically, therefore, the Gallican congregation found itself without any Episcopal supervision.
In the year 1882, it occurred to Bishop Jenner, who had long taken an interest in the work of Catholic Reform, to offer his services to Père Hyacinthe.
It was the Bishop's idea to supply, if only by occasional visits, the Episcopal ministrations which are indispensable to the life of a Church, and it so happened that he possessed certain qualifications for this particular work.
For example: (1) He believed in Catholic Reform as the only legitimate reform anywhere, and the only possible one in France. (2) He was opposed to any notion of Anglicising what was essentially a Gallican movement. (3) Seeing no doctrinal divergency between the Anglican and Gallican formularies, he could take part in either. (4) He was able to appreciate the French character, and had been familiar with the French language from his childhood. (5) He was, as a "vacant Bishop," free from diocesan ties.
It must be remembered that Bishop Jenner's tenure of office is only provisional and honorary. Although called to his present position by the unanimous vote of the clergy and laity, he has always wished it to be understood that as soon it became evident that it is no longer for the benefit of the work of Catholic Reform that he should preside over it, he would feel it his bounden duty to resign his office.
It is known that Père Hyacinthe has vacated the Rectorship of the Rue d'Arras Church, a position which is at present worthily occupied by M. Lartigau, formerly the Premier Vicaire of the Church. The Père, as Vicaire Episcopal, has, however, still the general supervision of the work. The advantage of this arrangement is that the Père will no longer be, as it were, tied to one place. He will be at liberty to visit other parts of France, and even other countries, to spread in all directions the principles of Catholic Reform.
This, perhaps, is the place to refer to what the Père has already done in this way, especially to his tour in the south of France in 1882 and 1883, when he visited and held Conférences at Marseilles, Lyons, Toulouse, Nice, Cannes, Carcassone, [10/11] Montauban, and other important centres. No one will be surprised to learn that, wherever he went, Père Hyacinthe made his influence felt. In more than one place a regular opposition was organised beforehand, and an attempt was made to drown the orator's voice with unseemly clamour. At Marseilles, a serious disturbance was quelled by the Préfet, M. Sarbelle (now Préfet of Paris), after which the Père's address was enthusiastically received. At Montauban a formidable Ultramontane opposition came to a somewhat singular termination. After endeavouring in vain to silence the speaker, the leader of the clique began to discover that the sentiments enunciated were not, after all, so objectionable as he had been led to expect. Presently he exclaimed, “Why, that is perfectly Catholic;" and he and his band ended by applauding heartily.
At Toulouse the Père was most cordially welcomed. After a Conférence, some of the ladies of the town called on his wife, and said, “Had you come ten years ago we should have stoned you in the streets. Now we know what you mean, and can appreciate you." At Toulouse, much anxiety was expressed that a Gallican Catholic Church should be founded there without delay. But, as in so many other cases, priests, and the means of supporting them, were lacking.
As a rule, the Conférences were held under the auspices of the Mayors or Municipal authorities. They were not successful, financially, since the Pere, after providing for necessary expenses, usually gave the proceeds to the poor of the place. As a remarkable sign of the times, it may be mentioned that Père Hyacinthe is invited by the Dean of the Protestant Faculty at Montauban to address the students, in February, against Atheism. Every year the Père has spoken at some of the larger or smaller French towns, and always with moral, if not material success. He is, while these lines are being written, fulfilling engagements in the North of France. Conférences are being held at Amiens, Abbeville, and Boulogne. He has already given a course of three, under the auspices of the Mayor, at Neuilly, where a mission has since been founded, with every hope of success. [While these pages are passing through the press, Conférences are being held at various places in the southern parts of France. Among the more important towns visited since the beginning of the year may be mentioned Tours, Orleans, Poitiers, Montauban, and Bordeaux. This last series of Conferences (beginning with Amiens, Abbeville and Boulogne) has been remarkably successful, at least as regards the number of persons who have attended the meetings. In fact, the enthusiasm has been greater than ever.] He hopes to revisit the Middle and South in the [11/12] spring, and, subsequently, every part of France. For it is to this kind of work that he now proposes, more than ever, to devote himself.
The tour in the United States in 1883-4 was full of encouragement from beginning to end. The cordial support of the American Bishops and clergy, and the sympathy of other bodies of Christians, was most gratifying and helpful. We have also to refer, with sincere gratitude, to the important assistance tendered by very many of the Bishops, Clergy, and Laity, of the Church of England. Mention has already been made of the action of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 1878. Since that period several Bishops have followed the lead of the Conference. Among others, the late Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln have manifested special sympathy with this cause. From the Anglo-Continental Society, whose sole raison d'être is to encourage such movements as the Réforme Catholique, as well as from individual members of that body, most kind and liberal help has been received. Unfortunately, through a regrettable misunderstanding, originating in misrepresentation, some of those friends have, we trust only temporarily, withdrawn their support. Now that the Gallican-Catholic Church has become a duly organised body, with a constitution which provides all possible safeguards against abuses and mistakes, it may be hoped that societies and individuals who are impressed with the paramount importance of the Catholic element in all movements for the Reform of the Church, will once more lend their countenance and assistance to our struggling cause.
It is no doubt the case that surprise has been felt and expressed, in England and America, that the work has not developed into a thoroughgoing Protestant Reformation. To this it must be replied, not only that the whole aim and purpose of the movement has always been, and always must be, to carry on the work of reform on strictly Catholic lines, but that it is as certain as anything in this world can be that no other kind of reform would have the smallest prospect of success in France. This has been again and again admitted by the best and wisest of the French Protestants in public utterances; and it is a significant fact that among the many hundreds who have brought their doubts and difficulties to the originator of the movement, and have cast in their lot with him, not one has ever desired, not one would ever have accepted the reform, had the programme been a Protestant instead of a Catholic one. In France, Protestantism is the religion of a small minority and has little power. [12/13] The great majority, including even those who have wandered from Christian faith, cling tenaciously to the traditional rites and name of the Catholic Church.
In this connection it may be observed that, while Protestant bodies in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and America have shown remarkable readiness to help on the work of Catholic Reform, as for example, offering their buildings for Père Hyacinthe's Conférences--for the question of locale has been everywhere the most difficult one--the Protestants of France, with but few exceptions (for instance Dr. de Pressensé, the foremost of all), have not till lately manifested so much sympathy with the movement as might have been expected. Latterly, however, a gratifying change has taken place in their attitude. Several pastors, among whom are MM. de Pressensé, Arbousse, Bastide, and Réveillaud, have formed themselves into a committee for the support of Priests who come to us from the Roman Communion, and at the invitation of these gentlemen, Père Hyacinthe, M. Lartigau, and a prominent lay member of the Gallican Church, have joined this Committee. This is a practical illustration of the growth of the feeling among the French Protestants that Catholic Reform is the only possible one in France. We may here observe that the most satisfactory relations are maintained by the Gallican Church, not only with the Anglo-American Church, but with the Old Catholics of Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Friendly communications have passed between Bishop Jenner and Bishops Reinkens and Herzog; and this latter prelate has shown his sympathy by ordaining a priest and a deacon expressly for our work, and also by visiting Paris (in the year 1882) for the purpose of confirming our children at a time when we were without a Bishop of our own.
From what has been said, it will be seen that the Catholic Reform movement, in the face of opposition and of difficulties of all kinds, and, it must be confessed, of more than one mistake, is making good and steady progress. That the progress has been comparatively slow is no doubt true; nor can this be wondered at. The movement is essentially an educational one; and education, more especially where, as has certainly been the case here, much has to be unlearnt, is of necessity a slow and laborious process.
Moreover, the success of a work of this description is by no means to be gauged by the numerical strength of its adherents, or, indeed, by any merely external standard. It is our hope and [13/14] prayer that the great Head of the Church will make use of our humble efforts, to advance His own glory, and hasten the time when the prayer put by Himself into the mouth of His Church, “Thy Kingdom come,” shall be fulfilled. But if we believe that the work of the Gallican-Catholic Church is designed, in the Providence of God, to help on that blessed consummation, we may be patient even under the most serious discouragements, remembering the warning spoken by the lips of Divine Wisdom, “The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” “For the Kingdom of God is within” us.
QUI CREDIDERIT, NON FESTINET.