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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.

We pass now to the consideration of certain other illegal practices, the significance of which is as grave as that of any we have already mentioned. The majority of them are not connected with the service of Holy Communion, but concern (i) the relation of the Church in her services towards (a) the Blessed Virgim Mary, (b) the Saints, and (ii) the veneration of images.

Article XXII runs as follows:

“The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as or reliques, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”

(30) The observance of days either excluded from the kalendar in the Prayer Book or introduced since the Reformation into the kalendar of the Roman Church.

We have received evidence of special services and notices of services on the following days belonging to this class:—8 service on All Souls’ Day; 5 services and 19 notices of services on Corpus Christi Day; 1 service on the Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary; 2 services and 2 notices of services on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; 1 service on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. It does not appear from the evidence that any Bishop has sanctioned in any parish church the observance of any days excluded from the Prayer Book kalendar, at least under the name which they bore prior to their exclusion.

It is clear that a far more serious character attaches to the observance of these days than to the observance, irregular as it may be, of the days indicated in classes (i) and (ii) in paragraph 176. For they are, with the exception of the Feast of the Espousals, directly associated with the doctrines or forms of devotion which the Church of England has either excluded from its public services or expressly condemned or never in any way received. We have to notice that in some of the manuals submitted to us a prominent place is given to such days in the order of the Church’s year.

We have dealt with the observance of All Souls’ Day in separate paragraphs of this Report (see paragraph 265, etc.)

The Roman Catholic Festival of Corpus Christi for the special honour and adoration of the consecrated elements is now observed in a considerable number of English churches. A prominent feature of the observance of the days in the roman Church is a procession in which the reserved Sacrament is carried round the church with great ceremony. A similar procession was, some years ago, introduced in a few of the churches where extreme ritual is practised, especially in London. We have no reason to believe that processions with the Reserved Sacrament on Corpus Christi Day are now practised.

The decree for the observance of this festival was first put forth by Pope Urban IV. in 1264, under the influence of alleged revelations and also (it is stated by historians) of the miracle of Bolsena,” with the desire, so it is said, “to stem the heresy of Berengarius, and to promote the doctrine of Transubstantiation.” Owing, however, to the death of Urban, the bull was not promulgated till 1311 by Clement V.; and the procession appears to have been introduced in 1320. The festival was observed in the English Church from the first half of the fourteenth century onwards; but all mention of it was omitted from the Prayer Book of 1549 and all subsequent books. Its observance was abrogated by 5 & 6 Edward VI., cap. 3, and its name was excluded from the table (1662) of “all the feast that are to be observed in the Church of England throughout the year.”

The early history of the observance of the festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is somewhat obscure; but it is clear that it was observed under the name of the falling asleep (dormitio) of the Virgin in or about the seventh century; the legend of the bodily assumption which arose among the gnostic heretics having already at that day obtained acceptance in the Church. Full services for the festival under the title of the Assumption are contained in the ritual books of the West at least from the eighth century. The day is in no way recognised in any of the English Prayer Books; and all mention of it is omitted from the “Table of all the feats that are to observed in the Church of England throughout the year.”

The observance of the festival of the Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary was not formally adopted by the Roman Church till the eighteenth century; and there has never been any sanction for it in the English Church either before or since the Reformation.

The festival of the Sacred Heart is of modern origin in the Roman Church. Its observance rests on the supposed vision of Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun, in the latter part of the seventeenth century. A limited sanction was given to it by Pope Clement XIII. in 1765; but the permission to observe it was not extended to the whole Church of Rome till 1856. It thus takes its place among those purely Roman uses which never had any sanction in the Church of England.

(31) Hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

(32) Intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saints.

In four churches prayer or hymns addressed to the Virgin were reported to have been used. At St. Andrew’s, Worthing, on Sunday, August 21, 1904, which according to the roman Catholic kalendar, is within the octave of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a celebration of High Mass was held with reference to that anniversary. A hymn was sung containing the following verse:—

Though robed and crowned, thou lovely art,
O stainless mother maiden;
And feelest for each human heart
With sin and sorrow laden.
Then to thy Son for sinner pray,
As mother interceding;
Ask on, He will not say thee nay,
But grant thee all thy pleading.

At another church, St. Martin’s, Kingsland road, on November 25, 1903, the service of “Bona Mors” was held, in which a litany was said, containing the following suffrages:—

By the prayers and intercessions of Blessed Mary, Thy Mother.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

By the prayers and intercessions of Holy Abel, Abraham, and all the Patriarchs.

By the prayers and intercessions of Thy Forerunner, St. John the Baptist.

By the prayers and intercessions of the Holy Apostles and Evangelists.

By the prayers and intercessions of all the Holy innocents.

By the prayers and intercessions of St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, and all Holy Deacons and Martyrs.

By the prayers and intercessions of St. Gregory, St. Augustine, and all Holy Bishops and Confessors.

By the prayers and intercessions of St. Antony and all Holy Monks and Hermits.

By the prayers and intercessions of St. Mary Magdalene and all Holy Penitents.

By the prayers and intercessions of all Holy Widows and Virgins.

By the prayers and intercessions of all the Saints.

Appeals to God for help at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and various Saints may not be strictly included under the term of “Invocation of Saints” condemned in Article XXII. Nevertheless all such prayers, as well as direct invocation of Saints, have been excluded from the Book of Common Prayer.

We have received evidence of the use of the “Hail Mary” in a few cases, but no evidence of actual invocation of Saints, as distinguished from the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the services of any church. It would, however, be a mistake to assume that these facts indicate the full extent to which prayers to the Virgin and the Saints and requests for their prayers are prevalent in the Church of England. While we have no reason to believe that such prayers and invocations are at all common, we deem it necessary to point out that the occasions when, if at all, they would be likely to be used are not those which would be apt to come under the observation of witnesses. The services in which prayers and invocations of this kind would be most frequently used are Votive Masses, and semi-private services such as appear to be contemplated in the forms contained in some of the manuals brought before us (see below, paragraphs 281 to 290). Thus if the celebrant begins the Communion Service with the Confiteor and adopts the form given in “Catholic Prayers,” the server will say, “I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Blessed Michael the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault. Wherefore I beg Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Blessed Michael, the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.” The common form of the devotions known as Stations of the Cross and the Rosary involve frequent repetitions of the “Hail Mary . . . Holy Mary. Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

It would be undesirable unduly to restrict the liberty accorded to the clergy in the selection of hymns and anthems, but, in view of the evidence brought before us as to the misuse of hymns, we think it well to point out that doctrine contrary or repugnant to the Articles or formularies of the Church of England inculcated by the words of a hymn stands on the same footing as it would if it were uttered as a prayer: and it is desirable that some supervision should as far as possible be exercised by the Bishops over the use of hymns and anthems. We have, therefore, framed one of our recommendations in accordance with this view.

(33) Veneration of images.

There are thirty-one churches out of the 559 in which witnesses reported the presence of images with lights or flowers or both, placed in front of them, apparently to do them honour. These images represent, for the most part, the Virgin and Child or the Virgin alone, the figure of our Lord known as the Sacred Heart, or St. Joseph; and they are so placed—either behind or at the side of an altar or at the entrance to the chancel—as to make it difficult to regard them as mere architectural decorations. (for the law as to superstitious use of images see paragraph 28.)

At St. Clement’s, City Road, there is stated to be in the north aisle an altar of the Sacred Heart, with a statue of the figure so-called, flowers and candles. A witness described a solemn High Mass on the “Feast of the Sacred Heart.” There had already been two earlier celebrations on the day; and one of these at least had taken place at the altar of the Sacred Heart.

The same witness described the service of “Vespers of the Blessed Virgin,” held at St. Martin’s, North Kensington, on the evening of Candlemass Day, 1904.

“Before the service began, ten candles on the retables of the high altar and two on the altar itself were lighted, also nineteen candles on and about the Mary altar, sic candles on and about the altar of the Sacred Heart, and two before the picture of St. Joseph. I also a young girl wearing a white veil (one of sixteen similarly attired) take a candle out of the candle-box near the Mary altar, put a coin in the box, and, having lighted the taper at the altar candles, place it on the taper stand."

(34) Veneration of roods.

It appears from the evidence that in sixty-seven churches, roods, consisting either of a crucifix alone on the chancel screen or of a crucifix with the figures of the Virgin and St. John on either side, in the same position, have been introduced. The question of the legality of roods has already been dealt with (paragraph 28). Services on the two Black Letter anniversaries specially relating to the rood, namely, the Invention of the Cross (May 3) and the Exaltation of the Cross or Holy Cross Day (September 14), are reported to have been held in three or four churches. No devotions to the rood such as are prescribed in the Sarum Missal for these anniversaries were reported in the evidence; and the only observances at all of this character noted by witnesses were (1) at St. Cyprian’s Marylebone, where an anthem beginning “We venerate thy Cross, O Lord,” was sung at the rood during a procession; and (2) at St. Mary’s, Munster Square, where during the Sunday morning Procession a “station” before the rood was made in accordance with pre-reformation practice.

The service of the “Veneration of the Cross” on Good Friday was reported in one instance only (St. Clement’s, City Road). The Bishop of London stated in his evidence that in this case the clergyman concerned had undertaken not to repeat this observance. A few years ago the introduction of this services and its accompanying ceremonies into certain London churches attracted attention; and Bishop Creighton took steps, which were apparently successful, to repress the innovation.

A ceremony of the veneration of the wood of the Cross on God Friday was in use in Jerusalem before the close of the fourth century. It appears to have been generally adopted in the Western Church about the seventh century. In the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. all mention of it finally disappeared; and even before the publication of that book there had been more than one attempt to suppress it in this country.

In the foregoing notices of practices (1) to (34) we have tried, without entering into unnecessary detail, to show the degree of antiquity which can be claimed for each of the practices which we have had to consider, and the periods at which, in some cases, an important change altered the character or meaning of a practice already in use. It is clear that at one important epoch (the thirteenth century) several of these practices were either introduced for the first time or significantly developed. The epoch is that in which the teaching of the Church was largely determined by the condemnation of the doctrine of Berengarius and the definition of Transubstantiation. A distinct change then passed over the ceremonial accompanying the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in regard of the actions attendant upon the consecration, and especially the acts of outward devotion directed to the consecrated elements—a change plainly significant of that exact belief concerning the effect of consecration which was imposed by the dogma then defined. A special character, therefore, belongs to the practices which at that time and under those conditions came into use or received an altered form. It is probably that this is not fully realised by many of those who have been led to adopt some or all of the practices referred to; but, in view of the close historical connexion between the introduction or development of these practices and the rise of a belief in the doctrine of Transubstantiation, we cannot but believe that they were deliberately omitted from our reformed Communion Office; and that their revival is not only wanting in authority, but is also extremely dangerous, as tending to express and likely to suggest what the Church of England has in unmistakable terms rejected. Thus there appears a clear principle of distinction marking these practices as significant of teaching repugnant to the articles and formularies of the Church of England, and as therefore belonging to the third of the classes which we have distinguished in paragraphs 76 to 78 of this Report.


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