Project Canterbury

The Catholic Movement and the Society of the Holy Cross.
By J. Embry, M.A.,
Vicar of St. Bartholomew’s, Dover.

London: The Faith Press, 1931.


THE years under consideration (1886-91) marked the Society's great earnestness of purpose in endeavouring to counteract, wherever it could, the varying tendencies of the day, by strengthening the faithful in the Faith and applying it by devotion to their lives. These were really strong years for the rank and file of the Church, who were pushing the Catholic Movement. The "advanced" churches were filled and their ministrations were appreciated. London, Plymouth, Brighton, Cardiff, not to mention other places, were centres of a strong and zealous Catholicism. It looked as if the ideals and visions of the past were fast being translated into realities. The Movement had laid its grip on many, through those forces of directness, conviction and attraction, which Catholicism had inevitably commanded, wherever it had had a fair field, an unfettered tongue, and an unprejudiced hearing. The Society itself was also realising once more the meaning of its own existence. It was developing the ecclesiastical spirit and the ecclesiastical life. In its thoughts and methods, it looked only to the Catholic Church. The abeyance of discipline and of real spiritual government by the rulers in the Church, together with the torpor of the canonical assemblies, had produced the virtue of necessity, which in turn produced the clearer eye and brain both to see the Catholic Church and to think with her mind. These were the faculties which S.S.C. had always possessed and consequently cultivated, and where they lay dormant it was the Society's aim to train and educate them.

In the common object of spreading the faith and discipline of the Church, the Society particularly recognised at this time the need of deepening the fraternal spirit amongst the members themselves. It happened, however, by reason of the scattered nature of the Society that many of the Brethren were almost unknown to each other. As one help towards the removal of this barrier, a new policy was inaugurated in the year 1888. From the year of its foundation down to this date, all the Synods, as well as all the Chapters of the Society, had been held in London. It was now resolved that the experiment should be tried of holding some of the Chapters in the Provinces. The first Chapter of the Society to meet outside London was held at St Lucy's Home, Gloucester, July 10th, 1888. The Cheltenham (St Wulstan) Branch undertook to give the Society a hospitable welcome. The Warden (T. Humphris Clark) and the Sisters of St Lucy's Home, allowed the use of the House and Chapel. The Chapter turned out to be a great encouragement, and consequently it was followed, with four months interval between, by meetings held with equally good results at Salisbury and Sheffield.

The various subjects of the Agenda, no less than the manner of their treatment, raised the Gloucester Chapter almost to the level of a Synod. An able paper was read by the Rev. H. P. Russell, on "The Way of Saying Mass," in which stress was laid on the truth of the Mass being a great action, in which both priest and people took their part, and not a mere form of words. He emphasised the means which were necessary to carry out the end of this action,—words as the instruments of consecration, and ritual accessories as the proclamations of the doctrines of Real Presence and the offering of the tremendous Sacrifice. He deplored the fact that while many priests were scrupulously particular over the words, and used them as though the action depended on slowness and dragging out a service almost to wearisomeness, yet they were not particular about the other means. Could it be right, it was asked, except in cases of absolute necessity, to say Mass without these proper ritual accessories? The reaction which had set in after years of neglect towards the Blessed Sacrament, had caused an increase of Celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in all directions, and this in turn gave rise to a danger of dishonour being done to our Lord at the hands of those who, by the neglect of the ablutions, did not discern the Lord's Body and who did not celebrate in the Church's way. The necessity of the priest approaching the Altar with definite intentions, to obtain for himself and others abundant fruit, would prove the safeguard against the listlessness, formality and matter of custom to which human nature was so liable. The Speaker went on to show that the realisation of the Mass as regarded the ends for which it was offered, was of the highest importance, first, as Worship, Eucharist, Propitiation and Impetration; and next, as to its fruits, first, on the part of the Offerer,—Christ and His priest; and second, on the part of the Divine Victim as being general for the whole Church, special for the persons or objects to which it was applied, and personal, or the special fruit belonging to the priest who offered the Mass. This realisation would, in the pressing needs of the Church and his own parish, make the priest's intentions not difficult to form, but rather it would raise a difficulty in making all the applications which he desired to make.

This particular doctrine of the Mass, as suggested by the paper, was an exposition much needed in order to preserve the true proportion of Eucharistic teaching. There were in the English Church, speaking generally, two tendencies which were likely to distort it. The one was the appreciation of more frequent Celebrations and Communions, but laying aside the idea of Sacrifice altogether; and the other, a laborious attention to the words, almost amounting to an amiable fallacy, whereby the letter killed. It needed to be impressed that the Mass was an action, in which all were concerned, before it could be understood that the words of the Liturgy were given life by the Spirit, or the Divine Service be assisted at with intelligent eagerness and luminous joy.

The Gloucester Chapter had before it two other subjects, both of importance and of interest. The Lambeth Conference of 1888 had assembled on July 3rd for business. Among the subjects which had been allotted for consideration was one dealing with the Anglican Communion in relation to the Eastern Churches, to the Scandinavian and other Churches, to the Old Catholics and others, S.S.C. in its watch-dog attitude of doing what it could to maintain Catholic Faith and Discipline, some months before the Lambeth Conference met, had prepared a protest to be presented to the assembled bishops, against Inter-Communion with the Old Catholics. The text of the protest was as follows:—

"To the Most Reverend the Archbishops and Metropolitans, and the Right Reverend the Bishops assembled in Conference at Lambeth.

"Most Reverend and Right Reverend Fathers in God.

"We, the undersigned priests, desire most humbly to express our earnest hope that no step may be taken to promote formal inter-communion with the Religious Body or Bodies commonly called Old Catholics

"And we pray your Lordships not to sanction any efforts tending to promote any recognition or intercommunion with them.

"At the same time we beg leave to say that this our most respectful petition is not intended as an expression of judgment upon such acts of theirs, as individuals, which they may believe to be dictated by the law of conscience or of necessity."

At the Gloucester Chapter a report was made concerning the matter of this Memorial. The report revealed the gigantic amount of work the Master (E. G. Wood) had done in bringing the Memorial to a successful issue. The Memorial itself, together with a Paper of Reasons, and a Letter of Invitation inviting signatures, were sent in proof to a number of leading priests, requesting them to allow their names to be affixed to the letter. When this was settled, after much correspondence and a considerable occupation of time, the papers were sent to all the clerical members of the E.C.U. and the Priest Associates of the C.B.S. who were not members of the E.C.U., while all the Brethren of S.S.C. were duly supplied with copies. The Rev. E. G. Wood sent copies also to a large number of priests who belonged to none of these Societies. He, moreover, wrote private letters, some of them of a lengthy and argumentative character, to many dignitaries and priests in leading positions. He had considerable correspondence with the Dean of Durham (Dr. Lake), who was most anxious for the success of the Memorial, and who did all he could to aid it. It was reported that one good result of the Society's action was that it induced Dr. Liddon, who had been holding back, to propose in conjunction with Dr. Bright a Memorial similar to that of S.S.C. This Memorial was influentially signed. Amongst others who wrote to the Master most sympathetically and who had signed Dr. Liddon's Memorial, were the Dean of St. Paul's (Church), the Dean of Exeter (Cowie), and the Pusey Librarian. Upon the whole the Memorial was a decided success, both as regarded the numbers signing without any pressure or canvassing (upwards of 1,100) and also as regarded the character of the names. The Bishop of Ely undertook, at the Master's request, to present the Memorial. He was also supplied with copies of the printed Memorial and printed signatures, which were laid on the table at the Conference and distributed amongst the bishops.

The question of the Scandinavian Churches was also brought up at the Gloucester Chapter. The Rev. E. G. Wood, in a few leading points, gave an outline of the investigations which had taken place since 1834, when a controversy had arisen concerning the alleged claims of the Swedish succession. Dr. Routh, the venerable President of Magdalene College, Oxford, had at that time supplied the result of much research on the negative side. In 1863, the Diocesan Synod of Aberdeen took the matter up, and the Rev. John Pratt printed a series of letters on the subject. He incorporated in these some he had received from the Hon. George Gordon, then the British Minister at Stuttgart, who had gone very thoroughly into the matter. Both he and Mr. Pratt were convinced of the invalidity of the Swedish Succession. Dr. Pusey, in 1867, in his Introductory Essay to the volume Essays on Reunion, had come to the most decided conclusion against the Swedish Church, both on the grounds of the nullity of her Orders and Sacraments and also of her doctrine, and had prayed God to "bring utterly to nought all attempts to connect us with the Scandinavian bodies," while they retained the "faith destroying confession of Augsburg." The Rev. E. G. Wood then mentioned the further literature bearing on the subject, and also quoted the form of Consecration then in use, as follows:— "According to that commission which, in God's Name, by His congregation is given unto me for this business, I deliver to you His Majesty's (i.e. the King's) appointment and the Bishopric of the Diocese of X." He, in conclusion, outlined the historical question and declared the whole matter to be "honeycombed even historically with doubt and suspicion." It was pointed out in further discussion that the Scandinavian Bodies had no pretence of Apostolical Succession, since the ministerial power was received from the congregation. They differed from all other protestant bodies in retaining Catholic externals, and the reason why many had espoused their cause was simply on account of Ritualism, the wearing the chasuble, and the use of lighted candles. [1]

The following Resolution, passed at the Gloucester Chapter, possessed an interest, although the Society had no intuitive knowledge at the time what the matter would lead to, or of the way in which, later on, it would have to issue its dignified protest, on canonical grounds, to certain irregularities which ensued.—"That the Society of the Holy Cross in Chapter assembled hereby most respectfully tenders to the Right Reverend Father in God, the Lord Bishop of Lincoln, its warmest sympathy with his Lordship under the circumstances of his threatened prosecution by the Church Association, and assures him of the earnest prayers of its members that God will overrule any proceedings which may be taken to the glory of His Name and the good of His Church."

There is no necessity to recapitulate "the Lincoln Case." It is now a matter of history. It forms a part of this work, however, to relate the attitude which S.S.C adopted towards it The chief question at issue concerned the jurisdiction of the Archbishop. At first, Archbishop Benson himself refused to hear the case, "without some instruction being produced from a competent court " that he could do so. The Church Association appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which decided that the Archbishop had jurisdiction in the case. When cited to appear, the Bishop of Lincoln did so but read a protest against the Jurisdiction of the Court and claimed to be tried before the Metropolitan with the Comprovincial Bishops. Then ensued long arguments of Counsel as to the Archbishop's sole jurisdiction and eventually the Archbishop gave judgment, but as his own opinion only, in favour of his sole jurisdiction. When the case opened in July, 1889, the Bishop of Lincoln consented to appear by counsel, but maintained his attitude of protest against the jurisdiction of the Court.

From the very first, S.S.C. took up the only attitude which was open for Catholics to take, and which was at one with that of the Bishop of Lincoln himself and the English Church Union, viz.—the importance of opposing the claim to jurisdiction made by the Archbishop. Following the example of what had taken place at Cambridge, it was urged that a protest should be made in every Diocese of the Province, to induce some of the bishops to move in the matter in Convocation. It was felt that the Archbishop's claim, in spite of the many powers and privileges which accrued to the Throne of Canterbury, was opposed to the Primitive and Catholic discipline of the Church and alien to her Divine Constitution. It was absolutely impossible to create a new jurisdiction.

During the time which elapsed between the hearing of the case in July, 1889, and the delivery of the Archbishop's judgment on November 21st, 1890, S.S.C. prepared and eventually published two pamphlets. The one was addressed essentially ad clerum, and the other ad populum. The first was entitled Metropolitical Jurisdiction, so far as it related to the Trial of Bishops; and the other was inscribed, The Authority of the Archbishop in the Lincoln Case. The first pamphlet dealt at some length with the authority and obligation of the Canon Law, and its Ecclesiastical and Civil authority in England. It gave the Canons (in the original) which provided for the trial of bishops in Synod alone, together with the testimony of Canonists and Anglican Divines. There was a review of the chief features of the Archbishop's Judgment on the Jurisdiction, and the argument derived from the Divine Constitution of the Church and the idea of Hierarchy. The pamphlet was well received by certain representatives of the Press, and one Church newspaper commended it "as stating clearly and concisely the chief grounds upon which we refuse to accept an Anglican Pope." It was printed in full in the Guardian.

The purpose of the second pamphlet was to answer the questions asked by several lay persons, who did not understand the matter of jurisdiction, and who, because the case had been heard before the Archbishop and not before the Privy Council, were inclined to accuse those of "lawlessness," who refused to obey his Grace's opinions. In concise form, the pamphlet gave ten reasons against accepting the Archbishop's judgment as authoritative. 1. Because a Metropolitan, apart from his Provincial Synod, could not try a bishop. 2. The Court, if a spiritual one, was Papal in origin, and, therefore, of no authority. 3. It was, however, really Erastian both in origin and revival and was subservient to the Privy Council. 4. It was not spiritual because it was presided over by an Ecclesiastic. The superiority of the Privy Council having been recognised by the Archbishop, the jurisdiction exercised by the Court was derived from the State and not from the Church. 5. There was no appeal except to a secular tribunal. 6. The Bishop of Lincoln only was affected by the decision. It was not a Court of Interpretation. The formal citation had summoned him to answer "touching and concerning his soul's health, and the lawful correction of his manners and excesses." 7. Even if it were a valid spiritual decree, it could not be binding until it had been canonically promulgated. 8. No question of canonical obedience on the part of the bishop was involved in the matter. 9. There had existed an uncertainty in the Archbishop's own mind as to his jurisdiction. 10. Many bishops (including Ely, Winchester, Oxford, Chichester, Southwell, and Gloucester and Bristol) had spoken against the Archbishop's claims, and many protests had been made formally, by priests of all schools of thought in various Dioceses.

As regarded the Catholic Movement generally, in spite of the above valid reasons against accepting either the jurisdiction or the opinions, it had to be admitted that the decision had made for peace. Some things for which Brethren of the Society had suffered acutely in the past could never again be questioned. At the very beginning of the trial an influential correspondent had written to the newspapers, drawing attention to the seriousness of the affair, because the charges brought against the bishop were substantially the same as those which had been made in the Mackonochie suit. An example of the wider vision it brought may be drawn from the attitude of Bishop Thorold (Rochester) who in the earlier days of his Episcopate had not been favourable to the Catholic cause but at the close of the trial owned that it had been the means of teaching him much, while he was forced to confess that the Movement could no more be prevented than could the water of "Erie from going down Niagara Falls by shaking a walking-stick at it."

The chief danger arising out of the judgment lay in the influence it would exercise among a large body of clergy who were not sure of their ground. If Catholics kept silent respecting it, there were others who would act upon it The points disallowed would be given up, if those which had been allowed were restored. It was felt very strongly at the time that this might lead quite easily to the establishment of certain liturgical blunders, especially in the manner of mixing the chalice and the abstention from making the sign of the cross in blessing. It was feared that some, by a freak of imagination, might be led to the conclusion that the ruling of a bishop on a piece of ceremonial was of an equal authority with a Congregation of Rites. On the sign of the cross in benediction, the Rev. E. G. Wood was asked to publish a fact that he had laid before the Society of an examination made by him in the Cambridge University Library of the Manuscript Pontifical of John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln, 1480—1496. In the Solemn Benediction given at Mass by the bishop, on every Sunday throughout the year, he was directed in this Pontifical to make the sign of the cross at the mention of each Person of the Holy Trinity. The crosses were marked in gold in the manuscript. It was difficult to see, on Archbishop Benson's own principles, why Bishop King, in the nineteenth century, might not do what Bishop Russell did in the same Cathedral in the fifteenth century.

The space allotted to the Lincoln Case in order to show the attitude which S.S.C. took up towards it might lead to the supposition that its consideration occupied a large portion of the Society's time during its nearly three years' course. This, however, was not so. Secure in the consciousness of the meaning of jurisdiction and the knowledge of what the Catholic Church was and what its Divine Constitution meant, the charge had been levelled against the Society of having treated the affair with too much indifference. Nothing less than the latter could be expected, seeing that the Erastian principle against which Catholics had always fought was still there. When examined it could be seen that it was only a matter of changed clothes. The judge's wig and gown had been exchanged for the Episcopal rochet and chimere, while added thereto was a corrupt following of Papalism which, had it been admitted as lawful, would with one stroke of the pen have cancelled the Anglican Apologia and rendered it both illogical and futile. Apart from the question of no jurisdiction per se, in the clear vision of S.S.C., there always lay behind the Archbishop's Court the outstretched hand of the superior court of the Privy Council, to whose direction the Primate had submitted. And, therefore, as far as prudence and charity had permitted, the Society had stood aloof. It simply made its protest and by the presentation of its convictions, in the two pamphlets already referred to, endeavoured to convince others of the reasonableness of its attitude and so induce them to follow suit.

During this particular period, the Society never lost sight of its primary object of "promoting holiness of life among the clergy," and humbly felt that to a certain extent it had succeeded in doing this, at least by setting an example of strictness in the performance of priestly duties. If sometimes it was mistaken as a controversial society by those who had not grasped its aims, or imbibed 1 its spirit, this was due not to any love of controversy but because occasions arose when it became a sacred duty which could not be shirked to stand up in defence of the eternal principles of righteous truth. It was an uncontradicted fact also that those who were associated with S.S.C. were those who were always to be found in the vanguard of the Catholic Movement. The defence of Catholic faith and discipline not infrequently brought the Members of the Society into the unevied position of what, on the surface, appeared to be one of defiance. Yet all the time they were in fact rendering the highest obedience, and by their jealousy for the authority of the whole Catholic Church of Christ, were in degree, to the utmost of their power, saving the Church in England from at least an unanimous commitment to what was sometimes anomalous. The fault of S.S.C.—if it be a fault—was that of always being in front of its own day. Just as in the story of "Harmer John," Johanson was restless over Polchester, by reason of its state as compared with its possibilities, and was possessed with efforts for its cleansing and improvement, yet experienced only coldness and suffering because he saw what others had not yet come to see, so was it with S.S.C. And as the consequence of this, and true to its title, the Society often had dishonours thrust upon it.

When outward circumstances permitted the Society to be at peace it pursued its aims quietly and when one channel for these gave token of being spent, it sought another. In its early days it had been the promoter and the inaugurator of parochial missions. St. Peter's, London Docks, the real home of the Society, was the standing memorial of this. It was to be regretted that a great deal of this kind of work had passed out of its hands, but much remained for it to do in urging the importance of using every opportunity available of teaching dogmatic truth and the issuing and circulating of tracts. It could also urge its Members to revert to the earlier practice of making use of Church Congresses in order to counteract much misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

It is a truism that if priestly zeal and the Catholic spirit are to be effective they must be combined with correct dogmatic principles. The foundation of all religious instruction must be laid on dogma. The theology, liturgy, history and constitution of the Church have to be possessions of the priest, before he can adapt them to the capacity of the people. He has, moreover, to teach, by his own example, by the sanctity of his priesthood and by his devotion to duty. S.S.C. had always had this truism before it. As an evidence of its mental equipment, it would be true to assert that no spiritual society has produced a more varied or unique and, in many instances, scholarly presentation of subjects than has S.S.C. Its papers would run into volumes. These papers always possessed an educating virtue which helped to create a wave of sound Catholic thought They were not merely read and then laid aside to pass into oblivion, like many papers, but emerged in a more permanent form either in extenso or in pr³cis, in the printed and circulated Acta of the Society. In the production of the papers there was never anything shallow. The greatest care was always taken for the securing of the best, so that those who were asked or who volunteered to speak on particular subjects were those who were known to possess a special knowledge of them. The papers, moreover, were wonderfully augmented in their helpfulness by the subsequent discussions to which they gave rise and by the various queries which they produced. [2]

A few of the papers read before the Society, during these years under review, gave assurance of a scientific and accurate theological knowledge of the most unique kind. Such, for example, was a paper read by the Rev. R. D. Russell Cowan, then at Christ Church, Clapham, now and for many years past Vicar of Bushley, on "The Science of the Soul of Christ," at a time when the Kenotic theory of a certain school of thought was being much pressed. As the first part undertaken by him in the transactions of the Society, it was a happy presage of the great services which in the years that followed he would render to S.S.C. by the unstinted offering of his clear thinking and metaphysical knowledge.

At a time when lucidity of thought and expression concerning the use of the term "transubstantiation " was, through a controversy, made particularly necessary, the Rev. T. A. Lacey (January, 1890) read a philosophical paper on "The Effect of Nominalism with reference to the Blessed Sacrament" He demonstrated the way in which Nominalism lay at the root of the Reformation revolt against transubstantiation, and that consequently the controversies of the sixteenth and following centuries had no reference whatsoever to the true sense of the term, which in the Lateran definition was conceived in that of the Realist Philosophy.

When the younger generation of Oxford Churchmen were accepting many of the results of the Higher Criticism and the "Lux Mundi" controversy was to the fore, a scholarly paper was read by the Rev. E. G. Wood on "The Catholic Doctrine of the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures." This was published, some years later, in Some Transactions of the Society of the Holy Cross. (Edited by T. A. Lacey and F. C. Kempson.) A careful and restrained paper, on "The Attitude of Catholics towards Modern Criticism," came also at this time from the Rev. F. F. Irving, then working at St. Saviour's, Leeds, and for many years later Vicar of All Saints', Clevedon.

The few years which have formed the background of this chapter were in many ways momentous ones. They enclosed many events which forced the Society to be on its guard no less than to be very faithful to its tenets and ideals. It had throughout the time endeavoured, as the Master (C. R. Chase) expressed it, to consider in a loving and fraternal spirit the deepest questions which affected the Church. These questions were often occasions of no small anxiety to those who were placed in the fighting lines, nevertheless, in spite of anxiety, it was felt that it was a time to thank God and take courage. In many places the Catholic Movement was both influential and popular. By throwing off or at least being impatient of the anomalous and exclusive order of things it had appealed to the people. The Catholic clergy of this period were second to none as teachers, organisers, pastors and spiritual guides. They had completely changed the style of the pulpit. The dull exposition of "how many notes a sackbut hath and whether shawms have strings" was equally tabooed with "the blessed word Mesopotamia." Such artificial platitudes were supplanted by a homeliness of expression which conveyed clearly dogmatic and authoritative teaching which made its appeal to the imagination, heart and will. Such teaching, neither vague nor merely emotional, but made practical by a regular administration of the Sacraments and an ardent love for the people's welfare, made the power of the Catholic Movement a very real one, and so it made great headway, not only among the poorer classes, but among the tradesmen, business men and better educated artisans, who had so often in the past regarded the Church only as an aristocratic institution.


[1] As regarded the further literature on the subject of the Swedish Church, the following works were recommended:—Rhyzelius, Chronicles of the Swedo-Gothic Bishops. Linkoping, 1752. (This is in the British Museum.) Benzelius on The Swedish Succession. Prof. Fant, De Successione Canonici et Consecratione Episcoporum Eueciae. Geijer's History of Sweden. The fullest information as to documents may be found in the Official Report, prepared in 1821, by command of the Prussians, by Herr von Schubert, after two years' careful investigation in Sweden on the Ecclesiastical Constitution of that country. (Schwedens Kirchenverfassung. Grifswold, 1821.) The Swedish Ordinal and Liturgy will be found in Volume III. of Daniel's Codex Liturgicus. Gam's Series Episcoporum may also be consulted both for the names of the last Catholic Bishops of the various Sees, and for references to his sources of information.

[2] This is also true to-day. Most Ecclesiastical subjects that aroused interest have been dealt with in the transactions of S.S.C. During very recent years, for example, the present day questions concerning such matters as the Government of the Church, the Growth and Practice of Devotions to the Blessed Sacrament, the Proposed New Prayer Book, etc., have received the Society's most careful attention. Many of the points suggested by the Society have filtered through and given help to those who if not, to their loss, of S.S.C. are engaged in the same cause of Catholic truth. The dangerous elements summarised by the term "Modernism," have received their meet consideration. Very recently some papers on "Work among Children" were of so high a standard that the question of their publication for a wider use was referred to a Committee to decide.

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