Reservation and Adoration:
A Historical and Devotional Inquiry
Shirley Carter Hughson
Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross
The Holy Cross Press
West Park, New York
transcribed by Dr
Elizabeth G Mellilo
The Pastoral of 1895
The Bishop of Shanghai has lately, in a letter to his clergy, dealing with the issue in the Philippines(1), directed our attention to the Pastoral of the House of Bishops of 1895, in which it is stated that "Reserving the Sacrament is not sanctioned by the law of this Church."
But we have seen that it is not only sanctioned, but commanded, under penalties, by the law of this Church. The Seventh of the Constitutions of Peckham concludes with an address to the authorities of the Church: "Let them," it says, "with the rigour of discipline chastise those whom they find negligent in this respect."
It has never been difficult to show the fallacy underlying the Pastoral. It convicts itself, and in no point more effectually than when it tells us that, although Reservation "is not sanctioned by the law of this Church," yet any bishop has a right to permit it, each on conditions of his own making. Who then made it lawful for the bishops? Our Fathers in God do not claim to be arbitrary rulers, every man a law unto himself. They are, together with their clergy, bound by the Church's law.
The Pastoral of 1895, whether intentionally or not, assumes not only that to omit an authorisation is to prohibit the thing previously authorised, but it proceeds also on the principle that everything not sanctioned by some formal enactment is to be condemned. We have seen that under the former of these principles lay-baptism would, first of all, have to go; and a clergyman who might say Morning and Evening Prayer privately would be lawless and without excuse, for the requirement to do so was formally stricken from the American Prayer-Book over a hundred years ago.
But it is the latter principle that would land us in a state of chaos indeed. The exercise of the ministry of the Church, whether in public or private, would be bound about by a universal negative. No one could move in any matter unless he could present a formal legal sanction for his course. The most cursory examination of this principle reduces it speedily to an absurdity. One is reminded of Mr Chesterton's description of a country where every man who did not have his sanity papers on his person, was liable to immediate arrest and incarceration in a lunatic asylum. It is impossible to believe that the bishops intended to lay down any such principle.
Let two things be remembered: First, That it does not pertain to the office of the individual diocesan bishop to interpret the law of the Church. The Church appoints her own courts for that purpose, and to them both the bishops and their clergy are to look. In the second place, a Pastoral Letter, while it is to be received with profound respect, has no binding force beyond that which may attach to an expression of opinion on the part of the individuals who sign it.
It has created a painful impression to see a bishop of Dr Graves' learning and experience take the position that the House of Bishops can create law by issuing a Pastoral, or passing a mere resolution. Such an attitude lends colour in certain minds to the unhappy charge, not infrequently made against our bishops, of "being lords over God's heritage.
It may be quite true that certain bishops have made unwarranted demands upon their clergy in such matters, just as not a few of the clergy have taken unwarranted liberties with their bishops. But if the history of the Catholic revival has showed one thing more than another it is the fact of the patience and conservatism of our Fathers in God.
The Episcopate itself throughout the ages has borne continual witness that the authority to initiate legislation lies, not with the individual bishop, but with the collective episcopate, "for Christ's commission was given to the Apostles, not individually but as a body."(2) And the Sacred Scriptures themselves testify to the further fact that the bishops cannot, independently of the rest of the Church, enact legislation. The decree of the First Council of Jerusalem runs in the name of the whole body of the faithful: - "The Apostles and Elders, and brethren."(3) The American Church enforces these principles by constitutional provision.
1. i. The following is a summary of the facts of this case which will be a help to those unfamiliar with them: In 1918 Bishop Charles H. Brent was translated from the Missionary District of the Philippines to the see of Western New York. Bishop Graves of Shanghai was appointed to administer the affairs of the Church in the Philippines until Bishop Brent's successor could be chosen. With Bishop Brent's sympathy and sanction the Sacrament had for many years been perpetually reserved on the public altars of several of the mission stations. On his first visitation Bishop Graves forbade such Reservation, citing as the ground of his demand the Pastoral of 1895, and the rubric which says that the Sacrament remaining after the service shall be consumed immediately, and not taken out of the church. The clergy involved have appealed to the Church, and pending the appeal, Reservation continues as before. (October, 1919.)
2. ii. Reichel, The Elements of Canon Law, page 22
3. iii. Acts 15:23.
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