The Catholic Movement and the Society of the Holy Cross.
By J. Embry, M.A.,
Vicar of St. Bartholomews, Dover.
London: The Faith Press, 1931.
"THE PRIEST'S LIPS SHOULD KEEP KNOWLEDGE."
"THERE are those who desire to know that they may edify others, and this is charity. There are those also who desire to know that they may be edified themselves, and this is prudence."These words of St. Bernard may be applied as expressing the tone of the second sexennial of S.S.C., under the guidance in succession of the Reverends E. G. Wood and C. R. Chase. In the history of the Catholic Movement there have always been cycles of polemic and cycles of peace, which have succeeded each other at regular intervals of almost astronomical accuracy. The years 189298 were those of peace, preceding the vulgar attacks against the Faith at the close of the nineteenth century and the opening of the twentieth.
With the exception of a statement issued by the Upper House of Convocation on Fasting Communion; the ever present questions of Education, and Divorce; and later the Papal enquiry into English Ordinations; there were no happenings of a kind which were likely to distract the Society from pursuing its primary aims. Consequently, it was able to devote nearly the whole of its attention to those matters which led to a more effective sense of the priestly office. It obtained freedom thereby to use its knowledge, gained by scientific study and experience, in order to influence many of the younger members by the methods of the Catholic Church.
There were several priests within the Society who were unrivalled as Catholic missioners and catechetical teachers, and who, as pioneers, had sown the seed of Catholic faith and practice in new fields. The Rev. G. D. Nicholas, who was the first, and for forty-four years, Vicar of St. Stephen's, Clewer, might without question have been elected a Professor of Homiletics in any ecclesiastical seminary. As one who valued preaching as a "mighty instrument for the conversion of souls and the edification of the faithful," and who believed that "every sermon should follow the example of St. Paul's Epistles, and bedogmatic, ethical and affective," he was able to offer clear and definite help, expressed in terse phraseology, on this important clerical subject. The Rev. A. G. Stallard, a theologian and steeped in a knowledge of the Fathers, was a mission preacher of no mean order. He was especially well known in the West of England for his work amongst the Brixham fisher-folk. To him, the sea was neither a poem, nor the traverse of it the romance of a St. Brandon's Voyage. It was a parish round which he went in his well-arranged and specially fitted "Church" boat, as he accompanied his men and their trawlers upon their longer fishing expeditions, which sometimes lasted for weeks at a stretch. His trawler men, as the result of his definite teaching, so often given amid "their business in great waters," had a grasp of Church truths, which they used with such unique advantage against non-church arguers that they were sometimes called "Stallard's theologians." Haunted as Father Stallard was with the warning of Avisenet, "Preach the word; preach it constantly," it seemed strange to him to meet sometimes those who called themselves Catholics, who undervalued preaching, and so he spared no pains to advise and encourage younger priests to equip themselves by devotion, theological study and application for the preaching office. His own esteem of it could be gauged by the number of his engagements and the indefatigable way in which, at the greatest personal inconvenience, he fulfilled them. The Rev. C. R. Chase had preached missions in England and America. He placed the very highest value on preaching and for many years practised it nightly at All Saints', Plymouth. Yet he emphasised still more, after the example of his patron saint, St. Charles Borromeo, the necessity of catechetical instruction. He once said, with that peculiar ring in his voice which none who heard could forget, "a boy can preach, but only a man can catechise." The Rev. G. C. Ommanney had taught the faith clearly at Bristol, and from 1882 at St. Matthew's, Sheffield, where his courage, faith and perseverance had worn down the strongest and unfairest opposition that any priest could encounter. His wide experience of social work in poor town parishes and the safeguards by which it should be surrounded enabled him to throw much light on a confessedly difficult subject.
The priests mentioned in the above paragraph were doing what they could to draw the attention of the Society to the special subjects associated with Mission work. It must be understood that their names have not been used in an exclusive sense, but rather as indications of the mind of S.S.C., illustrated by the names of a few of those who were found in the Honours' List, as it were, of those who had graduated in the School of Mission Work.
In guiding the art of Mission Work among its members, it must not be supposed that the Society pandered in any way to what had become associated vulgarly with the term. As the inaugurator of Parochial Missions in the English Church, it had lived to see its idea, which had been suspected at first, both accepted and popularised, until to a great extent it had devolved into a corrupt following, in which revivals, excitement and feeling played parts which resulted in no lasting good. The mission work of S.S.C. had always been carried out in a Catholic way, with the definite teaching of Repentance and an uncompromising presentation of the Sacrament of Penance, as the appointed way for the forgiveness of post-baptismal mortal sin. Yet this never meant the teaching of penance, important as it was, as an isolated truth, but the teaching of the whole of the Faith, and the teaching of it as a whole in which one part depended upon the rest. The Society was quite sure that if the whole of dogmatic teaching were put before people there would be many helped who had difficulties about religion. A great ignorance of truth did exist, while those who professed religious views were usually educated in them by reading books and newspapers, and of these the most popular were often the most misleading. In many churches, because dogmatic teaching was supposed to be unattractive, the rage for statistics, high averages, success and popularity caused it to be neglected. S.S.C. realised that present success counted for nothing in the aim for lasting results, and that these depended upon the true grasp of the dogmas of the Church. Numbers acted from impulse, fancy and liking, because they lacked the training that would have steadied them. Those, on the other hand, who had real power of mind knew that there must be some reason for action. The very work of the Church was to give men some true reason for action. Religion put before the mind supernatural reasons. The certainty of the Church's teaching was the help offered to those who desired truth, and S.S.C. was in earnest about constantly teaching the truth and therefore left no stone unturned to impress the importance of dogmatic teaching. It will be realised, therefore, that during these years of peace the Society had a free opportunity to bring a knowledge of such things before the minds of its Brethren. All the different branches of theology came up as subjects for consideration, and were treated not merely in an academic way, or after the manner of an anatomist laying bare bones and muscles, but as "doctrine adorned" for the use of men who had to face practical difficulties and carry the faith where it was often misunderstood, more frequently disregarded, and sometimes yearned after to be known more perfectly. Much consideration was given to the subject of Penance and pressure laid on the necessity of studying Moral Theology. Experienced priests, like the Rev. A. Poolethe doyen of the Society and of suffering for teaching Penance,the Rev. J. E. Swallow, the Rev. A. J. Micklethwaite (Vicar of St. Luke's, Cambridge, formerly of St. Michael's, Shoreditch, and for many years Sub-Warden of the House of Mercy, Horbury), the Rev. T. Humphris Clark (a senior member of the first decade, Rector of Chilfrome, Dorset, for many years Warden of St. Lucy's, Gloucester, and well acquainted with ascetic theology), the Rev. C. F. G. Turner, whose special training for the priesthood enabled him to speak authoritatively, no less than the erudite Master (E. G. Wood) all offered of their best.
Dogmatic subjects received a full share of attention. These sometimes were of unusual interest. Such, for example, was a thesis put forth by the Rev. E. G. Wood, on a subject which afterwards received a great deal of attention, viz. that,"The outpouring of Water and Blood, when our Lord's Sacred Body was wounded after death by the soldier's spear, was a natural and not a supernatural phenomenon." He showed how, consistently alike with physiological principles and with the general traditions of the Church, this was possible, and argued that the importance of the event so strongly insisted upon in St. John's Gospel depended upon the phenomenon being a natural one, and its being so enhanced our conception of our Lord's moral and spiritual sufferings for us, and was a physical witness to the intensity of His love as manifested in its exceeding energy in His Passion. Many most important theological propositions received fresh light, from this view of the phenomenon. Following tradition as exemplified in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, in the poetry of Prudentius, and in the Revelations of St. Bridget, as well as generally in Christian Literature and Art, he maintained that the right side of the Sacred Body was pierced and lacerated by the spear, which being further pressed forward towards the left side, ultimately ruptured the pericardium. Thus the Blood would have first flowed from the laceration of the right side, a laceration which evidently was very considerable, as appeared from our Lord's words to St. Thomas, and also from consideration of the character of the broadened spear-head; the water would, as Prudentius thought, have flowed in a separate stream through a smaller punctured wound on the left side, made from within outwards, this being fluid, not aqua pura, which had been effused into the pericardium when rupture of the heart took place immediately before death, of which it was the immediate physical cause; such rupture having been itself the result of the intensity of our Blessed Lord's moral, spiritual and emotional suffering.
The Society was not one whit behind, at this time, in keeping before its Brethren the remoter requirements for teaching the Faith. Beyond all else, it was necessary to possess the deep-rooted conviction of the Authority of the Church. This had always been (as it still continues to be), the crux of real difficulty in the way of the Catholic Movement. The Church in England had always been encompassed with the general failure to recognise that there was a Catholic Authority, independent of the nation and universal in its action, and that there was a Canon Law, although it had been so frequently passed over and neglected. It had come to pass that thinking with the Church, or speaking with the Church's voice, nearly always carried with it an insular meaning, while loyalty to the Church was interpreted, not infrequently, as being an admiration for a certain individual, or an adherence to the opinions of a particular school of thought. S.S.C., on the other hand, had always pointed out that the Church was an organised community, and not a national institution, or a mere aggregate of individuals.
A paper given before the Society by the Rev. A. M. Y. Baylay, at the September Synod, 1892, was a clear definition of the Church, in which a Catholic professed to believe every time that he recited his Creed.
He spoke of the Church's organised life, from its commencement on the Day of Pentecost, under the rule of the Apostles, and then went on to show that it mattered but little by what title the chief pastors were designated originally since it was sufficient that for the last seventeen and more centuries they were called bishops. He outlined the life of the Church with Christ as the Head, and under Him the Episcopate, each unit of the whole of which exercised full authority over a certain limited range, commonly called the diocese. There was only one order of bishops, but for the convenience of Church administration, some bishops received from the Synods of the Church titles of special dignity, as Patriarch, Exarch, Pope, Metropolitan, Archbishop. And such dignity involved the exercise of a certain disciplinary authority over the bishops of some particular province, and the privilege of taking part in the consecration of every bishop appointed to a see within that province, which rendered necessary the consent of the prelate so dignified to every such appointment. This was in accord with the Canons of Nicsea and of Chalcedon. It had happened at Rome, as a matter of history, that the special privilege had been exaggerated into a Divinely-ordained prerogative. Under the bishops, there were the other degrees of Holy Order, of which the chief was priesthood, the members of which received from the bishop authority to rule the faithful within a smaller area, commonly called a parish.
The chief functions of this organised life of the Church were stated to be as follows:
"(1.) To declare what is Divine truth. (2.) To teach that truth when defined. (3.) To administer the grace of God through the Sacraments. (4.) To lay down rules for the discipline of the faithful, the mode of worshipping God, of administering and receiving the Sacraments, and so forth.
"With regard to the first of these functions, it is clear that only the entire Church can infallibly declare Divine Truth. The Church in its entirety is the Body of Him Who is the Truth, and the voice of the whole Church is the voice of Christ."
The reader then went on to show that as the Apostles were the mouthpiece of the Church at the beginning, so the Episcopate, collectively, have been since that time. They spoke in the name of the Church. The medium of this voice was a General Council of the Episcopate of the whole Church speaking collectively. But as a Council was not the Church but only represented it, the decrees had to be recognised by the Church, before they attained to oecumenical acceptance. Many decrees made by small local councils, not convened as oecumenical, had by their universal acceptance been recognised as the infallible voice of the whole Church. The Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381, was an instance of this. Conversely, if any doctrine was found to have attained oecumenical acceptance, and had never encountered any contradiction from the collective Episcopate, it was the declared belief of the whole Church, though never definitely promulgated in a General Council. Such, for example, was the doctrine of the Real Objective Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
This made clear what was meant, when it was said of any doctrine, that it was "the teaching of the Church," viz.That it had been declared by a Council of the whole Episcopate, and accepted by the entire Church, or that it could be proved to have been universally believed by Christians throughout the world. It stood to reason that no dogma once universally approved and accepted by the Church could afterwards be contradicted by any Church authority whatever. Being Divine Truth, it remained eternally and unchangeably true.
With regard to the Church laying down rules and enjoining customs, it was remarked, that such, in the nature of things, had not the same inherent character of permanence which pertained to dogmas. They could be changed with changing circumstances, as had happened with two of the rules laid down by the Apostles themselves at the first General Council which had fallen into desuetude. But any rule that had been made by conciliar authority and accepted by the whole Church, or was found to have been at any period universally enjoined and, obeyed, carried with it the greatest weight, and could only be regarded with the deepest reverence, nor was it easy to see what authority could have the right to set it aside. When, therefore, it was said of any custom that "it was the rule of the Church," it was meant that it had been enjoined by oecumenically conciliar authority, or had been at some period universally commanded and practised throughout the Church. Of such we had examples in the abstinence from flesh meat on Fridays, the reception of Holy Communion fasting, etc.
It can be seen from the above precis that to S.S.C. the Catholic Church was not imbedded in fog. It was this clearness of vision which so often brought the Members of the Society into collision with others. The former always used the term "Church" in the Creeds' sense; whereas many of the latter only meant by its use the Anglican Communion. It was probably true, as it was certainly true in language, that the old-fashioned clergy of a past generation, who had used the "bidding prayer," had a more correct notion of the meaning of the "Church" than many of those who came after them.
While it inculcated in its members an accurate knowledge of the dogma and nature of the Church, the Society was, at the same time, fully alive to the necessity of other equipments, beyond those of mental acquirement, which the priest must possess. It consequently never ceased, either by rule or by word, to use its influence to foster the attainment of the highest priestly ideals. The priest, as the Rev. R. A. J. Suckling insisted at the May Synod, 1893, stood in need of personal faith to fulfil his personal office. He also needed faith in the exercise of his office towards the Church. Lack of unity made it a duty for the priest to work together with others as far possible and, both in his parochial work and in Ruridecanal chapters and diocesan gatherings, strive for unity by grappling with the protestantism which he found there. He could only do this by faith in his mission and authority.
This, moreover, demanded another virtue. In his book The Eternal Priesthood, Cardinal Manning wrote,"When once posted by our Lord in the array of the battle no priest need fear." Yet fear and shrinking may be necessary elements for the greatest display of courage. Faced by religious opinions composed of strong negatives, or of popular and hazy alternatives, the Catholic found himself in many places the preacher of an unpopular religion, because it was that of the Cross, and because it was both dogmatic and exclusive. Sometimes he was the occasion of sneers and contempt and was thus exposed to much subtle temptation. No priestly virtue was more essential than courage. It was fitting that the Rev. G. C. Ommanney, whose early experience at Sheffield gave a power and value to what he said, should have been requested to remind the Society of the supernatural courage that could make shrinking daring and which, combined with gentleness, guided by discretion, and free from presumption, could be attained by devotion to the will of God and to the Sacred Passion.
The Rev. W. B. Trevelyan, St. Matthew's, Westminster, with his depth of spiritual reading, his serious and recollected deportment, no less than his tall, slender and ascetic appearance, imparted to others the conviction of what he feared, namely, that the modern weakness of the Church lay in the absence of self-sacrifice, and that the priestly life for busy town work must at all costs be deeply combined with the spirit of almsgiving, fasting and prayer. As the successors of the Tractarians, he saw a real danger, without a constant "screwing up" of aim, of priests degenerating, "like painters, who caught only the technique of a great master without his inner spirit."
These needs and the aim of the Society to foster their satisfaction and spread the Catholic ethos which alone could do so, were well summed up in the words uttered by the Rev. E. G. Wood at the September Synod, 1893. He said:
"The purpose of S.S.C. is to be a power for God and His Church. The Society exists in order that the leaven of Catholicism may be more intensely and widely active. But how does leaven work? It works by means of the principle of life. The process of fermentation is a vital process. But that principle is dynamical rather than statical. It is the little and not the great which is most essential in natural life. The huge tree could not possibly live without certain minute forms of life to minister to its necessities in supplying it with food. Everywhere we shall find, especially when we are face to face with problems of life, evidence of the vast importance and wonderful effect of dynamic as distinguished from mere static energy. The mighty avalanche may impress while it terrifies us with the effects wrought by its huge massthey are destructive rather than constructive; but the silent action of microscopic life is far more wonderful and more extended in its results, results whose constructive magnificence seem out of all proportion to the silent, hidden working causes. And if spiritual work is to be represented to us, as the inspired Divine teaching represents it, by the working principle of leaven, then surely it must follow that if our work is to be true work, work such as the Divine Master designed for God and His Church, it must in this analogy be the result of dynamic energy silently but surely and irresistibly working. I venture to say that this is the very fundamental idea of S.S.C. I am sure that this was what was in the minds of our founders. And thus it might very well be that the very power for good of S.S.C. would be in an inverse ratio to its numerical quantity. Mere expansion of our Society by number will not make it a greater power. Indeed, I am not sure but that, small as we are, a certain degree of shrinkage would not be good for us. . . There are three particular directions in which we may seek the forces that will bring about healthful and energising consolidation. These are, first, the Spirit of Self-Sacrifice; secondly, Homogeneousness; and thirdly, a more distinct and firm grasp of the Discipline of the Church."
F.Y.E.G. Wood expanded what he had in his mind by applying these "directions" to the self-sacrifice which of necessity was involved in being faithful to the rules of the Society itself; to the unanimity which had to be practised by being faithful to the mind of the Church, illustrated by the absolute obligation of the indispensable law of Fasting Communion; and lastly, the discipline of the Church as regarded the marriage of ecclesiastics, and in particular the irregularity of digamy, and the barriers it set up ex jure divino. 1 Timothy iii. 2.
One result of the above address was that it reawakened the discussion on the question of the marriage of the clergy. A great deal of misunderstanding had prevailed concerning the Society's attitude towards this moot point. An eccentric priest, who if not quite a misogamist, yet deserving the rebuke Pius IX. gave one who held inauspicious views of marriage,"You think that our Lord instituted six sacraments and a trap,"had once satisfied the curiosity of a lady, who asked him,"What is S.S.C.?" by replying,"It is, madam, a society of married men." This was no true description, even if it were in the speaker's mind a cynical idea of what S.S.C. should not be. A subscriber to the fifth thong of the "six-stringed whip" S.S.C. had never been. In the interests of truth, it had to state that, as a matter of discipline, the Catholic Church had never sanctioned marriage after ordination to the priesthood. It had, in practice, kept to the side of concession rather than to the matter of course. It thus had been consistent with the older Anglican tradition expressed in the Marriage Service and in the Thirty-second Article of Religion, of the "gift" of a higher state than marriage, while it also recognised as a vocation the permission whose end was "to serve better to godliness." Its possession, from the very first, of a Celibate Roll, which was purely voluntary, was an indication that it drew a clear distinction between a celibate priest and a bachelor or a married one. Whenever the matter came up, S.S.C. had always, as in duty bound, expressed as a Society, without reference to individuals, the fact that the law of the universal Church was against the marriage after ordination of those in Sacred Orders, yet that amongst the English clergy there was much that could be pleaded righteously to constitute a summa necessitas. With the ideal before it of a Society of the future confined to celibate priests alone, it had never in the meanwhile taken any steps to close its association to the married. The Society had always been ready to acknowledge with gratitude what it owed to these latter Brethren, while all its official positions had always been open equally both to celibate and married priests. While, when occasion offered, it never hesitated to remind the Brethren of the letter of the Church's law, it also emphasised the spirit of its underlying intention, which was one of consecration, to save from the vanity or sentiment which the peculiar circumstances prevailing in England rendered possible. What the Society did set its face against absolutely, was the impediment of digamy. No priest who had contracted such an union could be admitted to S.S.C., and if there were any within the Society who at any time contemplated taking such a step, they were in honour expected to withdraw from the Society. It is interesting to note that, as far back as 1866, it was a member of the Society (Rev. J. E. Vaux) who had written the Essay on "Clerical Celibacy " which had appeared in The Church and the World.
Those responsible for the guidance of the Society were alive to the fact that in regard to the question of clerical celibacy, as in other questions affecting the priestly life, the aim was to employ every means that would help towards a better exercise of the priesthood and a more pronounced realisation of its eternal and universal character. The chief end of S.S.C. was to build up the priestly character. It dealt with such matters as early rising, Mass, prayer, self-examination, regular confession, intercession and retreat. It was aware that the Church needed indeed able men,organisers, social, controversial,but beyond all, what she needed most was an order of men who cultivated the inner life"full of eyes within"those who were "set apart" (sanctified). And so the Society fostered the ecclesiastical spirit; not indeed the unreal, so often mistaken for it, of a stiffness towards laymen and the things of the world, but the desire in the soul of the priest to live up to his vocation, not avoiding what interested laymen, but always bearing in mind the recollection of his priesthood and its eternal character.
If it is true that "greatness is the aggregate of minuteness" and "the affectionate watching of what is least," then S.S.C. could claim greatness. Its voluntary obligations and discipline, which per se involved a spirit of obedience and carefulness, found in these details its bond of union and its life, and consequently its help. Individual efforts to keep certain rules, as in a Guild, become in a sense minute, but obeyed in the spirit and following the method of, for example, the rule of a Religious Order, then they partake at once of the corporate spirit and make for the Catholic ethos. The founders of S.S.C. brought into existence a Society of secular priests whose chief ideal was that of promoting holiness of life among the clergy as the fruit of the cultivation of the ecclesiastical spirit in its truest sense. They designed something more than an ordinary guild or confraternity. Their idea was that of a definite Brotherhood which, by an obedience in the lesser discipline, as it were, exercised towards the Society, would as a fruit in important matters seek the advice of the Society, and as far as possible follow its mind, even when individual opinion might not be quite in accord therewith. In this lay the safety, strength and greatness of S.S.C.
It became a certain thing that a Society, whose corporate life and experience came from a complete and orderly adherence to the intensity of life found in the Catholic Church and which desired also to infect those who possessed it not with the same spirit, would be jealous of anything which tended to sap that ordered life in the Church at large. And so, while S.S.C. was neither a Society for external warfare in defence of the rights and discipline of the Church, nor a clerical assembly for mere discussion or debate on topics of theological or ecclesiastical interest, it had, for the furtherance of its primary aim, often to engage itself in the turmoil of the latter. It could not be a leaven for the sanctifying of the Catholic Movement, without taking cognisance of what tended to adulterate it. An illustration of this came in these years of peace, while the Society was striving after a deeper realisation of its true aim. Lax opinions were springing up on the discipline of the Fast before Communion. The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament was infected by them, although but slightly. A tiny atom of S.S.C. was disposed to break away from tradition, not for any relaxation for itself, but to become allied, as it were, with weaker substances. The press had opened its columns for correspondents to discuss the matter. A Committee of the Upper House of Convocation was appointed to consider it and in June, 1893, issued a report which exhibited very defective views of Church Authority. It seemed to be assumed that nothing was bound to be believed or practised, except what was laid down at the Reformation in so many words, and that this sixteenth century movement had made a new starting-point by which the stream of tradition had been interrupted, an assumption which, if taken seriously, would have negatived the continuity claim of the Church of England. Article XXXIV. was quoted in an unfortunate way, seeing that it had nothing to do with "Fasting Communion," which was a question of morals, whereas the Article dealt with "rites and ceremonies." No one proof was offered, either from her Synods or her formularies, that the English Church (even had she possessed the authority which she had not) had ever ceased to require the Holy Communion to be received fasting. The attitude assumed by the authorities towards this question gave ground to many to suspect the sincerity of the English Church in making her appeal to antiquity. While she wished for the restoration of the "godly discipline" of the Primitive Church, it seemed strange to many that her bishops should try to nullify almost the only shred left of the discipline with which the ancient Church guarded the approach to the altar. To belittle the practice was nothing less than to belittle and irreverence Christian antiquity, to say nothing of the flouting of present day Christian practice.
S.S.C. proposed that a Remonstrance should be drawn up protesting against certain clauses of the Resolutions arrived at by the bishops of the Convocation of Canterbury, and also against their line of argument, and that a statement on the subject should be drawn up and sent to the bishops individually, and afterwards be made public. The Society also made its influence felt in the C.B.S., by helping towards a stricter expression of discipline for its Associates. In 1894, after due notice, the Society felt that it was desirable that its mind should be clearly expressed and put on record, once for all, concerning the obligation of the Fast before Communion, as a law of the Catholic Church, and that therefore no tolerance could be given to any advocacy, either in speech or writing, of any laxity, or the advocacy of any opinion which tended to call in question this indispensable law of the whole Catholic Church of Christ. It passed a resolution to the effect, and further declared that, as the Statutes of the Society maintained the law of Fasting Communion, any practice or opinion which impugned the fact, on the part of any Brother, was inconsistent with membership in the Society.
At the outset of the controversy, the Master (E. G. Wood), at the request of Canon Carter, drew up a statement concerning Fasting Communion, which was sent through the Bishop of Lincoln to the Committee of the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury. It was as follows:
"A Statement concerning Fasting Communion.
"A request having reached me that a statement should be made as to what is meant by those who say that it is a sin to break the fast before Communion. I beg leave to say as follows:
"1. It is not meant that there is in any sense any inherent, natural, spiritual, or even possible or contingent irreverence in the Holy Sacrament coming into contact with ordinary food previously taken. Such an idea we should repudiate as savouring of Manichaeism.
"2. Neither is it meant that, considered per se and apart from any question of Church authority or ecclesiastical law, canon, or custom, there could possibly be any sin in communicating after taking ordinary food.
"3. Neither is it meant that there is any Divine command in the matter.
"4. But it is meant:
"(a.) That to receive Holy Communion fasting is the ancient Catholic rule, established by lawful oecumenical custom and witnessed to by numerous conciliar decrees.
"(b.) That the Synods of the English Provinces (even if they had the power to do so, which they certainly have not, for Provincial Synods cannot abrogate oecumenical law or custom) have never abrogated this law; but rather have declared that they reject all changes 'which secretly strike at some established doctrine or laudable practice of the whole Catholic Church of Christ' (Preface to Book of Common Prayer), and the said practice of fasting Communion being such 'a laudable practice of the whole Catholic Church of Christ,' it follows by necessary implication that the English Synods in 1662 reaffirmed the obligation of that custom.
"(c.) That knowingly and willingly to break any such law or custom of the Church is sin, inasmuch as the Divine Founder of the Church gave her power to make laws binding on the conscience of her members. Such laws originate in custom as well as in canons or councils. To despise such laws by wilfully and knowingly disregarding them is to despise the Church, and to despise the Church is to despise Christwhich is sin. St. Luke x. 16, and cf. St. Cyprian Ad. Papian, Ep. 68.
"(d.) The sin that is meant is the sin of disobedience, and that alone; not any sin of irreverence, but disobedience to the law of the Church.
"(e.) The ground of the law, its final cause, the motive of the Church in originating and maintaining it, is reverence to the Holy Sacrament; but such reverence is not material but a symbolic reverence, as stated in the well known passage, 'For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost that in honour of so great a Sacrament the Body of the Lord should enter the Christian's mouth previous to other food; on account of this, therefore, such custom is kept throughout the whole world.' That such reverence is meant to be symbolic only is shown by the fact that it is held that no breach of the law would be committed by communicating (say) an hour after midnight though food had been taken shortly before midnight.
"(f.) That by saying that non-fasting communion is sin is meant no more and no less than by saying that not to communicate at Easter is sin,both resting on the same authority and ground, namely, obedience to the Church.
"5. It is not meant that any guilt attaches to those who are in ignorance of the law, or who conscientiously, though we believe mistakenly, do not believe themselves bound by any law on the subject, as not believing the existence of such law. A casuist would say that they sinned 'materially,' i.e., committed the matter of the sin of disobedience, but not 'formally,' and therefore did not incur guilt by disobedience."
Turning away from the one controversial subject which crossed these years of peace to a few other matters of interest, we find that in 1893 the old proposal was resuscitated of a house for S.S.C. The suggestion however on this occasion was not for a London establishment, but for one in Cambridge, to mark the Society's permanence and to be for Cambridge what the Pusey House was for Oxford. The proposal unfortunately did not mature, although it gave evidence of practical Catholic earnestness for propaganda in the mind of the Society.
A Chapter held at St. Michael's, Edinburgh, in November, 1893, afforded the Rev. S. G. Beal the opportunity to give a short historical retrospect of the fortunes of S.S.C. in Scotland. At first, there was one Chapter only in Scotland, which met at Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, etc. In November, 1868, a temporary division was made into two Local Branches at Aberdeen and Dundee, but meetings consisting of all the Scottish Members still continued to be held. In 1869 an Edinburgh Branch was organised. But all these seemed to have failed, until in November, 1870, Fr. Mackonochie held a Provincial Synod in Aberdeen, at which several new members were admitted, and in March, 1871, Local Branches were definitely formed, and met regularly for some time. The ten years 1872 to 1882 were the most vigorous years of S.S.C. in Scotland, notwithstanding the temporary check caused by The Priest in Absolution troubles. The great distances, however, which separated members were a chronic difficulty from the beginning. Between 1882 and 1887 difficulties arose among many of the Scottish Brethren, owing to the resentment they felt at being compromised by the difficulties which had arisen in England. The independence of the Scottish Church, the superiority of the Scottish Liturgy and other points were insisted on ad nauseam, and the conclusion was drawn that an English Society could not possibly meet the wants of a Scottish priest. An attempt to dissolve the Society in Scotland was defeated by the efforts of the Rev. S. G. Beal. A new Society, purely Scottish in its aims and membership, was launched, and those dissatisfied with S.S.C. gave their adherence to the new organisation. The number of members of S.S.C. in Scotland dwindled down, and never recovered from the blow. The spirit of insularity prevailed so strongly in Scotland that it made it impossible for the Society to spread there.
This particular Chapter held in Edinburgh was entirely a Scottish one. Its Agenda consequently provided ample information concerning the history and use of the Scottish Liturgy and the canonical status of the Church in Scotland. It emphasised the fact, so often overlooked and misunderstood, that the present hierarchy in Scotland was not that, as so often regarded, of the "English Church," but that of the old Church of Scotland which, although widowed and orphaned, had not ceased to exist, while the Presbyterian body had no continuity with John Knox, or with Elizabethan times, but dated from the Revolution. After the Chapter a Conference of priests was held, at which the objects of the Society were explained and which it was hoped would lead to some accessions to the Society.
Nine days before this Chapter, or on November 5th, 1893, the Right Reverend W. E. Smyth, at that time and for some years afterwards a member of S.S.C., was consecrated Lord Bishop of Lebombo, in Grahamstown Cathedral, by the Bishop of Capetown and the South African Bishops.
Much grievous scandal was given to English Catholics in 1894 by the unwarranted and uncanonical action of the Archbishop of Dublin (Plunkett) in going to Madrid to consecrate a certain schismatic named Cabrera to the Episcopate. Both the English Church Union and S.S.C. did what they could in the matter, but unfortunately their efforts came to nothing and the mischievous proceeding went on. Both the Societies deplored the action and sent Addresses to the Archbishop of Toledo, in whose Province it had happened, disclaiming as members of the Anglican Communion any share in the matter. The apparent effect of this churchly action was to draw forth a letter from Cardinal Vaughan to the Archbishop of Toledo, in which the former denied absolutely the validity of Anglican Orders and spoke of the Catholic Church in England as a protestant " sect " subject to the civil power.
The following was the text of the letter sent by the Society to the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo:
"Ementissimo ac Reverendissimo Domino et Principi Cardinali Monescillo, Archiepiscopo Toletano totius Hispaniae Primati.
"Cum nuper audivimus, Eminentissime Princeps, quemdam Johannem Cabrera consecrationem Episcopalem ab Archiepiscopo Dubliniensi schismaticam et sacrilegam Matriti suscepisse, fratres Societatis Sanctae Crucis quae est sacerdotum secularium infra provincias Anglicanas, Cantuariensem scilicet et Eboracensem potissimum degentium Congregatio, ementiam vestram humillime aggredi voluerunt quo apertius testarentur quanto animae maerore ab ista Sacrorum Canonum violatione atque Eminentiae vestrae totiusque Ecclesiae Hispaniae injuria abhorrerent Qua propter in Capitulo Societatis juxta Constitutiones nostras Londinii habito Statutum est ut litterae ad Eminentiam vestram scriberentur quae ut benevole recipiantur humillime rogat.
Orator vester devotissimus,
Edmundus G. Wood,
Magister Societatis Sanctae Crucis."
Towards the end of 1894 a rumour arose that some of the bishops were combining to put down specific ceremonial practices. This led the Society to a discussion on the question of ceremonial. It considered the allegation of an increasing tendency to excess and imprudence in the use of ceremonial, and the necessity of recognising principles of authority in respect thereof. As "excess" was difficult to define, it was taken to mean that which was unsuitable under given circumstances, such as where the people were not prepared for it. Ceremonial was to be desired for three reasons, the glory of God; its teaching power; but always as an act of obedience to authority, the latter being the main reason. It was the fancy ritual of those who were not Catholics which lay at the root of the complaint. It was insisted that ceremonies ought never to be merely a show, and that it was true that certain mediaeval rites were dead and buried and that there was no authority to revive them. The discussion was useful as a reiteration of what S.S.C. had always expressed, viz., the necessity of securing a solid foundation of the Faith before advancing the ceremonial. The outcome of the discussion was that certain principles of authority should be recognised. The Master (E. G. Wood), as guiding the Society, considered that a basis might be found by the recognition of the fact that being a part of Western Christendom and therefore inheritors of Western customs and traditions, such usages should be followed, except where they were clearly contrary to local rubrics or constitutions. Broadly speaking, all usages which had the warrant of antiquity and general observance throughout the Church should be accepted.
The principle of Canon XXX. of 1603 should be looked to, while the attempt at rigid uniformity should be avoided. It should also be recognised that some ceremonies had been abolished, or at least, until the Provincial Synods took further order, were suspended.
It may be remarked that it was very seldom that the subject of ceremonial was discussed within the Society. When it did spring up, it was usually to meet aggressions from without and not to act as a Congregation of Sacred Rites for those within.
As a medium for supplying ecclesiastical knowledge of the expert kind and often of a recondite nature, S.S.C. was a real help to many. In the information which it furnished, it could never be suspected of being either slipshod or superficial. If the question brought forward was such as, the "Revalidation of Marriage," or, what constituted "Reserved Cases," or, what was the true theory of "Ecclesiastical Endowments," or, what were the "Functions of the Laity in respect of Church Patronage," not only was the question met from every point of view, but it was also supplied with the necessary and authoritative quotations of proof.
S.S.C. most certainly promoted amongst its members the preserving of knowledge for the better discharge of the priestly office. So unique was the Society's adaptability for imparting churchly knowledge and discussing it that many who joined the Society, without grasping its real spiritual purpose and the discipline of the Cross which lay behind, left it, because they did not remain long enough to inhale its exhilarating atmosphere, but mistook for eccentricities and academic wrangles what after all were but accidentals for the furtherance of corporate action. They left, because during their short stay they scrutinised the pattern of the frame and failed to see the picture. On the other hand, many priests' lips have kept knowledge from what they learned within the Society, and at the same time they would confess that they had learned still more of the meaning and the sanctifying of their priesthood, because S.S.C. gave them a rule of life to keep, and furnished them with ideals of priestly work and progress to which they should press forward.
During the years just reviewed, the Society lost several of its valued Members through death. The Rev. G. S. Moor, who in his early years worked at Chislehurst, Dundee and Kilburn, and later at St. Andrew's, Worthing, died June llth, 1892. On September 19th following, the Rev. L. Alison, who had succeeded Dr. Neale at East Grinstead, and was for many years the Foreign Secretary of the Society, passed away. The Rev. A. Buttress, for some years Rector of Grove, Retford, died February 15th, 1893. The Rev. W. Teale, who was described as "a typical brother and officer of S.S.C.," whose last work at St. Cuthbert's, Philbeach Gardens, had been preceded by many years of labour in N.E. and E. London, died June 8th, 1893. His name and work were not of the kind to bring him into prominence, but it was of the best, truest and deepest. The same year, the Rev. W. H. Leeds died at Haverfordwest, as the result of an accident, just after he had said Mass. His interest and care for S.S.C. was always true and keen. He was deeply sympathetic to all social questions and never feared to be outspoken concerning them. As far back as 1886, he had gained the gratitude of the Welsh members, by procuring Episcopal sanction for the use of Collects, Epistles and Gospels for Feast Days without provision in the Prayer Book. The Rev. T. Lees, who died the same year on August 27th, was Vicar of Wreay, Carlisle, and a senior brother of S.S.C., he having joined it in 1872. He had been very active in his earlier days and was one of those who had taken a prominent part in the establishment of the Carlisle Oratory. Another senior member, the Rev. Dr. J. E. Sedgwick, passed away on October 31st. He had joined the Society as far back as 1864, when working at St. Alban's, Cheetwood, Manchester. He was Rector of Stanford-le-Hope for many years.
Four members of the Society died in 1894. The Rev. J. Kitcat, Rector of St. Benedict's, Ardwick, Manchester (March 6th); the Rev. L. U. Jones, Rector of Llandulph, Cardiff (June 14th); the Rev. J. B. Pattison, Vicar of Stockingford, Nuneaton (July 22nd); and the Rev. E. D. Cleaver (November 26th). The last two named were very senior members. Mr. Cleaver had joined S.S.C. in 1858 when working at St. Barnabas', Pimlico, and Mr. Pattison had been associated with it since 1864.
On January 30th, 1895, the name of Bryan King, which had been placed on the short Roll of ten at the first Synod of the Society in 1856, was transferred to the Roll of those whose work was done. His Life has been written by the Rev. W. Crouch and published by Methuen. This biography has revealed not only the nobility of his character and the unparalleled opposition and injustice to which he was subjected, but has also removed some aspersions from which his memory would have suffered at the pens of prejudiced writers. To the Catholic Movement, and to S.S.C. in particular, the recollection of Bryan King must always be an inspiration and an encouragement. His name is a memorial that suffering and endurance must bear fruit, and that patience will always triumph, even though the progress may seem slow.
Two other remarkable priests passed away in 1895. The Rev. H. R. Howard, who was in the American Church and worked at Potsdam, N.Y., died March 19th. He had joined the Society about the time of The Priest in Absolution prejudice and was admitted by the Rev. J. R. L. Nisbett (not of the Society), Grace Church, Laurence Co., by special dispensation. The Rev. R. H. Fison, Vicar of the Annunciation, Brighton, died of influenza on December 26th. Of him, it could be said that, "he, being made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long time." He was comparatively young, having been in Holy Orders thirteen years only, yet he had crowded into them much lasting work, both in Plymouth and in Brighton.
The Rev. H. H. Oldaker, a young priest who had worked at Gamlingay, in Bloemfontein, with Bishop Hicks, and in Leicester, died July 27th, 1897. Three months later, on October 29th, the Rev. N. W. North, who had worked for more than a decade of years in Roath, also passed away.
The Rev. F. Gurney, who had joined S.S.C. in 1869, and was sometime Vicar of St. James-the-Less, Plymouth, in succession to the scholarly James Bliss of the younger generation of the Tractarians and a pupil of Newman; and also sometime Vicar of Prestbury, in succession to the Rev. J. Baghot de la Bere, died at Bovey Tracey on March 30th, 1898.