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REPORT OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE.

Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty
1906.

transcribed by Mr Thomas J W Mason
AD 2001


CHAPTER IV.
PRESENT BREACHES AND NEGLECTS OF THE LAW.

breaches having significance.

The second group of illegal practices consists of those which, either from their nature, from historical association, or from some other cause, appear to have a significance beyond that which the practices in themselves possess, that is to say, simply as deviations from the law. It includes most of the complaints before us with regard to ritual and in it are comprised deviations from the legal standard of very different degrees of gravity.

(1) There are deviations from the legal standard which either are not significant of doctrine at all, or may reasonably be regarded as significant of doctrine formally defined and adopted by the Church of England.

(2) There are other deviations which may reasonably be regarded as significant of teaching legally declared not to be contrary or repugnant to the articles or formularies of the Church of England.

(3) There are, again, other deviations from the legal standard which are significant of doctrine or teaching contrary or repugnant to the articles or formularies of the Church of England, and which must therefore be seriously misleading to the faith and devotion of its members. These, in some instances at least, would not be defended by an appeal to the law of the Church of England; but warrant is claimed for them because they are alleged to be part of what is termed the heritage of the whole Catholic Church.

Deviations comprised in the first class are altogether free from objection on the ground of their significance, though in some cases they may offend against the Church of England’s condemnation of excess and obscurity of ceremonial. Deviations comprised in the second class cannot be said to have of necessity a harmful significance. But, as they represent doctrine which Churchmen are neither required to hold nor forbidden to contradict, they claim no sanction under the rule hitherto laid down, both by Episcopal and Judicial authority, that such forms of worship as are prescribed for general use should embody those beliefs only which are assumed to be generally held by members of the Church. The principles underlying this rule ought, in our opinion, to be maintained. Experience has, however, shown that a rigid enforcement of uniformity is apt to hinder the healthy progress of religious life under such conditions as those of our day; and there will probably be cases in which some practices significant of teaching legally declared not to be contrary or repugnant to the articles or formularies of the Church of England may reasonably be allowed. But in no circumstances would this, in our opinion, be right, except under conditions of efficient regulation and wither careful regard for the opinions and feelings of congregations.

It is obvious that irregularities in the third of these classes are far more serious than those comprised in the other two. The only question that can properly arise as to them is not whether they can be sanctioned, but they can most effectively be dealt with so as to be made to cease.

Matters of doctrine are not included in the reference to the Commission, and therefore we will not attempt to define the precise limits of each of these three classes. Nevertheless, we think it right to state that the question whether a practice falls under the third category or not, indicates a principles of paramount importance which ought to govern all action with regard to ritual irregularity. It is hardly necessary to say that there are other considerations which must also be taken into account before a decisions can be reached as to what ought to be done in any particular case. For example, a series of many practices, each of which would separately come in the first or second class, may, in combination, produce a result open to very grave objection.

It will be found that many of the most important matter, as to which complaints of irregularities of ritual have been made, are connected with the service of Holy Communion. In order to judge of the significance of particular practices, it is necessary to bear in mind the distinction already drawn on the preceding page between different classes of deviation from the legal standard. In many cases the articles and formularies of the Church do not show with exactness the limits of the teaching which its ministers may give without liability to censure; but we cannot regard as outside those limits that which the Courts have decided to be within them. The judgment of the Judicial Committee in the Bennett Case laid down certain propositions which may here be fitly considered. They can and must be clearly distinguished form the findings of the Court with regard to the clergyman then under prosecution. His words were held to be “rash and ill-judged,” and “perilously near a violation of the law.” He was acquitted, because the Court, having regard to the penal character of the proceedings, and to the defendant’s right to the benefit of “any reasonable doubt,” thought his words capable of a construction which did not call for judicial condemnation. the real relation of the judgment to Mr. Bennett’s teaching has been frequently misunderstood. His language has been taken in the sense which the Court held that it narrowly avoided; and his acquittal has been treated as establishing the legality of doctrine which this language was held not to express. We therefore quote those passages of the judgment to which we refer: —

I.—As the Presence of Christ in the Holy Communion.—“The Church of England holds and teaches affirmatively that in the Lord’s Supper the Body and Blood of Christ are given to, taken and received by, the faithful Communicant. She implies, therefore, to that extent, a Presence of Christ in the Ordinance to the soul of the worthy recipient. As to the mode of this Presence she affirms nothing, except that the Body of Christ is ‘given, taken, and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner,’ and that ‘the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten is faith.’ Any other Presence than this—any Presence which is not to the soul of the faithful receiver—the Church does not by her Articles and Formularies affirm, or require her ministers to accept, This cannot be stated too plainly. The question is, however, not what the Articles and Formularies affirm, but what they exclude. The respondent maintains a Presence which is (to use his own expression) ‘real, actual, objective,’ a Presence in the Sacrament, a Presence upon the Altar, under the form of bread and wine. He does not appear to have used the expression ‘in the Consecrated Elements,’ in his 3rd edition; this is one of the point on which the language of the 2nd edition was altered. And the question raised by the appeal is, whether his position is contradictory or repugnant to anything in the Articles or Formularies, so as to be properly made the ground of a criminal charge.”

“The statement in the 28th Articles of Religion that the body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Lord’s supper ‘only after an heavenly and spiritual manner,’ excludes undoubtedly any manner of giving, taking, or received which is not heavenly or spiritual. The assertion of a ‘real, actual, objective’ Presence, introduces, indeed, term not found in the Articles or Formularies; but it does not appear to affirm expressly or by necessary implication, a Presence other than spiritual, nor to be necessarily contradictory to the 28th Articles of Religion.”

“Setting aside the Declaration at the end of the Communion Office, which will be presently considered, we find nothing in the Articles and Formularies to which the respondent’s position is contradictory or repugnant.

“Their Lordships could not advise the condemnation of a clergyman for maintaining that the use in 1662 of the word ‘corporal’ instead of the words ‘real and essential’ in the Declaration of Kneeling was an intention substitution, implying that there may be a real and essential Presence as distinguished from a corporal Presence.”

The Church excludes the doctrine of a Presence which is “corporal” or “visible”.

II.—As to sacrifice in the Holy Communion.—After stating that the Church of England has deliberately ceased to teach or affirm that “the Communion Table is an altar of sacrifice,” and citing the case of Westerton v. Liddell, in which it was held that this was the natural result of the change in view taken of the Service of Holy communion at the Reformation, the Judgments continues: “The 31st Article of Religion, after laying down the proposition (which is adopted also, in words nearly the same, in the Prayer of Consecration), that ‘the Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual,’ and that ‘there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone,’ proceeds, on the strength of these propositions, to say that ‘the sacrifice of Masses, in the which it was commonly said that the priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.’”

“It is not lawful for a clergyman to contradict, expressly or by inference, either the proposition which forms the first part of this Article, or ant proposition plainly deductible from the condemnation of propitiatory Masses which forms the second part of it, and is stated as a corollary to the first.

“It is not lawful for a clergyman to teach that the Sacrifice of Offering of Christ upon the Cross, or the redemption, propitiation, or satisfaction wrought by it, is, or can be, repeated in the Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper; not that in that Ordinance there is, or can be, any Sacrifice or Offering of Christ which is efficacious, in the same sense in which Christ'’ death is efficacious, to procure the remission of the guilt or punishment of sins.

“It is well known, however, that by many divines of eminence the word ‘sacrifice’ has been applied to the Lord’s supper, in the sense not of a true propitiatory or atoning Sacrifice, effectual as a satisfaction for sin, but of a rite which calls to remembrance and represents before God that one true Sacrifice. To take one example, Bishop Bull says :—

“‘In the Eucharist, then, Christ is Offered, not hypostatically, as the Trent Fathers have determined, for so He was but once offered, but commemoratively only; and this commemoration is made to God the Father, and is not a bare remembering or putting ourselves in mind of him. For every sacrifice is directed to God; and the oblation therein made, whatsoever it be, hath Him for its object, and not man. In the Holy Eucharist, therefore, we set before God the Bread and Wine “as figures or images on the precious Blood of Christ she for us, and of His precious Body” (they are the very words of the Clementine Liturgy), and plead to God the merit of His Son’s sacrifice once offered on the Cross for us sinners, and in this Sacrament represented, beseeching Him for the sake thereof to bestow His heavenly blessings on us.’—Bull’s Words, vol. ii, p. 22.

“The distinction between an act by which satisfaction for sin is made, and a devotional rite by which the satisfaction so made is represented and pleaded before God, is clear, though it is liable to be obscured, not only in the apprehension of the ignorant, but by the tendency of theologians to exalt the importance of the rite till the distinction itself well high disappears. To apply the word ‘sacrifice’ in the sense in which Bishop Bull has used it to the Ordinance of the Lord’s supper, though it may be liable to abuse and misapprehension, does not appear to be a contravention of any proposition legitimately deducible from the 31st Article.”

III.—As to adoration of Christ present in the Holy communion.—After citing the 25th and 28th Articles, the declaration of Kneeling, Martin v. Mackonochie (2 L.R.P.C., 393), and Westerton v. Liddell (Moore’s Special Report), the judgment continues: “It follows, then, that the church of England has forbidden all acts of adoration to the Sacrament, understanding by that the Consecrated Elements. She has been careful to exclude any act of adoration of the part of the minister at or after the consecration of the Elements, and to explains the posture of kneeling prescribed by the rubric.”

We have quoted these three propositions, because they indicate lines of distinction according to which most of the irregularities with which we have now to deal may be assigned to one or another of the three classes enumerated in paragraphs 76-8 of this Report. The discrimination may not always be easy of precise, but it will be seen that in a considerable number of instances it is fairly clear; and especially that one coherent group of irregularities is thus marked with a distinctive character.

We proceed to deal in detail with the various irregularities having significance, which have been brought before us.


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