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.
"PERPLEXED, BUT NOT IN DESPAIR."
A MOMENTOUS crisis like that through which the Society, had passed could hardly fail to have important issues in the future. The panic which had raged so fiercely for a while had exposed the Brethren to the violence of popular odium and the adverse action of the bishops. During the years of 187778, the Society had been tossed, beaten and driven by the storm. The full force of the hurricane, however, had to a great extent subsided by the time of the May Synod of 1879. What had been dreaded by many as the gravest effect of the panic, namely, the formal condemnation of the Society by the Upper House of Convocation, happily by an overruling of the Divine Providence had been averted. The Society, nevertheless, found itself faced with divers perplexities. The pressure arising from adverse prejudice and suspicion, whether on the part of layfolk, or individual bishops, though less violent was still widely and keenly felt. This affected the numerical strength of the Society. While the attack on S.S.C. was in progress, a great many of the members withdrew from the Society, so that within these two years the 397 names on the pre-revised Roll of 1877 were reduced by 1879 to 227, or a net loss of 170, taking into account a few removals by death and a small number of fresh admissions.
It must ever be a subject of legitimate satisfaction, considering the wearisome antagonism with which the Society was faced, that even so large a number held their ground and bore witness undauntedly to the faith that was in them. Of those stalwarts of half a century ago, nine are still alive and in the Society. Of those who withdrew at that time, much may in fairness be allowed to difference of judgment, as to the best way of meeting such an emergency, and in not a few cases to the extreme difficulty and even impossibility of reconciling adhesion to the Society with ministerial work.
Amongst other perplexities which the Society had to face at this troubled time were some internal differences of opinion which had arisen between the Brethren themselves. These were not questions of any disputed doctrine or of Catholic principles, but merely questions of practical discretion, of policy, of method, and bearing only on the best means of furthering the great cause which all had in common and touching the greater usefulness of the Society itself. When the vote was taken on the proposals for changing the phraseology of the Statutes the sides were almost equal. Those who believed that any change would be misinterpreted, while it would not either mitigate the pressure of public opinion or of Episcopal displeasure had only carried their point by a narrow majority. Those on the other hand who had deemed the use of less definite but more familiar terms, as measured by the ordinary standard of that time, desirable, were much exercised in their minds at what they considered to be a lack of discretion on the part of the small majority. As one immediate result of this vote, no less than seventy-two of the Brethren withdrew from the Society. A later attempt to reverse the vote was negatived, while a referendum on the question, sent to all the Brethren of the Society, received but a poor reply.
The internal squall quieted down chiefly by the remembrance of the strong bonds of past associations and of the common Faith, and not least by the realisation that the aim of the Society was not to debate over Statutes but to promote the priestly life.
The Society at first was not unlike a fulfilment of the familiar meteorological inference of a large depression from Iceland causing mild, unsettled conditions, with moderate visibility. It was felt by many that the Society presented at this time a twofold difficulty, which made its status an unsettled one. There was the spiritual side. Recent events had demonstrated somewhat widely that the Society was entirely outside that which was commonly regarded as the ordinary tone of "the Church of England." There was also the ecclesiastical difficulty which had arisen with regard to the bishops. The position of being in opposition to them had been forced upon the Society. The future of the Society, moreover, was not too clearly visible. A certain lassitude, not to be wondered at, followed as a reaction from the nature of the attacks that had been made. The energy and life which previously had characterised so forcibly every action of the Society now appeared to be exhausted. Many priests, who had hoped to find a support from S.S.C. in their ecclesiastical troubles and, in not a few cases, their country isolation, failed to find what they wanted.
It was realised that if, as the only entirely Catholic Society in the English Church, it was to revive, then greater cohesion was needed in order to make it a real bond of union and a true Brotherhood. Those who remained in the Society were convinced that S.S.C. was an outgrowth of the Church's supernatural life in England and the true exponent of Catholic principles in her communion. They were encouraged by the facts of the unbroken Catholic tradition which had lived on in the Church of England, of which Keble in particular had claimed the succession; and the clear continuation of the Episcopate during the most critical period of her history; and so they saw that it was of vital necessity to keep to the old paths and in the fellowship of the Cross to maintain a genuine bond of Catholic union in the service of Christ and His Church. The Brethren reminded themselves that all great revivals and reforms had been effected by minorities; it became their policy therefore to hold on and not to be anxious for any increase of numbers speedily, or to be depressed at their shrinkage, and if, for the moment, the Society stood in need of zeal, no one could deny how God had blessed it and enabled it, as Father Lowder had once said, "to leave its mark on the Church of England."
At the beginning of this perplexing period in the Society's life, or at the May Synod, 1878, the Master chosen was the Rev. Canon T. T. Carter, Rector of Clewer, and Founder of the Community of St. John the Baptist. It was a wise choice, for he was beyond all else both spiritually and practically minded, possessed of sound judgment and a sense of proportion. The general respect in which he was held, as well as his devoted priestly character and unusual personality, tended to inspire the confidence that needed re-establishing. His gentle firmness and strong convictions of Catholic principles, coupled with an unshaken optimism where truth was concerned, acted as a steadying force when some hearts were tempted to falter. He possessed, moreover, an accurate knowledge of the Caroline Divines and was steeped in Tractarian teaching. This gave the temper of his unquestionable loyalty to the English Church and his full recognition of her as a true part of the Catholic Church. He was on terms of acquaintance with the archbishop and many of the bishops and, although his humility would have repudiated it, was altogether a great man. All these qualities fitted him pre-eminently to give the sober balance and reassurance which the moment demanded.
In looking back to this time, some five years later in 1883, the Master (Rev. H. D. Nihill), who had used the analogy of human birth and youth when outlining the Society's life, compared The Priest in Absolution to scarlet fever. When continuing the comparison, he stated that the patient arose from it much reduced in bulk, though not injured in health or constitution. It had left the Society, however, as fevers did, quickened probably in tenacity of life, but shorn of much vigour and activity, at least for the time. It had been found necessary to be very careful. He concluded the comparison by saying,"It has been the time of that happy, dreamy period of convalescence, when one's pain is over and weakness mending, and the one thing one has to do is to live and keep alive, in order that at some future undefined time one may be able to work again." In looking back, some fifty years later, and continuing the analogy, it may be said that Canon Carter was the nurse who tended the patient during the critical period of the fever, and Father Mackonochie the one who watched over its convalescence and cheered it back to health.
It is no matter for surprise, therefore, that after the question of the Statutes had been set at rest, we find little of great moment stirring within the Society itself. Its primary business was to "keep alive." At the same time, however, it would have to listen to the dismal dirge of the old controversies. The chief church event of 1878 was the Second Pan-Anglican Conference, at which one hundred bishops assembled. It was the expressed wish of several of these prelates that no reference should be made in the discussions and reports either to confession or ritual. "But the Archbishop," it is stated, Life of Archbishop Tait, ii. 414, Ed. 1891, "was determined that, come what might, these subjects should find a place in the bishops' joint utterance. He himself introduced them, first in the Committee over which he presided, and then in the Conference itself." When the Report of the Bishops was issued, its statement on Confession was similar in substance to that which the Upper House of Convocation had presented in 1873. On the Ritual Question, the principle the Report adopted was that "no alteration from long-accustomed ritual should be made, contrary to the admonition of the bishop of the Diocese."
As the ceremonial of the Catholic Church was described as "Obsolete Forms of Ritual," and one of her Sacraments as "Erroneous Teaching on the subject of Confession," it was impossible for S.S.C., as indeed for all Catholics, to allow such language to pass in silence. It was to be expected, therefore, that the Lambeth Conference would form the chief topic of the Society's deliberations at its ensuing Synod. It did, and the tone it adopted was marked by a dignity and restraint which, even after these many years, when the questions that then inflamed have become accepted, cannot fail to command respect and admiration. The enemies of the Society were never tired of defaming it as "secret," with all the sinister insinuation of the term, whereas in truth there was not a syllable enunciated in these private deliberations of S.S.C. at this time which could not have been proclaimed upon the housetops. In fact, there was a strong feeling, on the part of many within the Society itself, that it would be well and conducive to the Catholic cause, if publicity could be given to its proceedings. As it was, the substance of what passed at these private proceedings of representative Catholic clergy, by the very nature of the case, became extended to the wider circle of those who defended Catholic truth and practice.
It cannot be forgotten that while this time was one of great awakening to the sense of Anglican responsibility, both from the revival of church life at home and from the formation and growth of the Colonial Episcopate during the previous half century, and that while a new grandeur was engendered, by the right magnifying of office, in prelates from far and wide being addressed "from the chair of St. Augustine" in his metropolitan Cathedral; yet, at the same time, it was also ecclesiastically one of the worst periods of the Victorian epoch, seeing that the Erastian powers of the Church Courts were being exerted with all force to suppress Catholic practice and to badger Catholic priests from their cures. There was indeed a vision of the City of God, but it was befogged and distorted, and so bound to become dimmed and unsatisfying, because it consisted largely of an undervaluing or non-seeing of the dogma of the Whole Church, and the translation of the conception of the Catholic Church into an Anglican Communion. While, even as regarded this, there was a tendency to think of the Colonial Churches as being in some way bound by Establishment and the decisions of the Privy Council in matters ceremonial. In the general Report of the Conference, while there was a great deal that could be and was thankfully acknowledged by Catholics, and which up to a point marked a decided Church progress, yet it could also be seen that it endangered Catholicism in the Church of England. Just as when "listening in," the wave sound of some powerful station is often intruded upon and for the moment mastered by or commingled with another, so the powerful "call" of the whole Catholic Church was, as it were, deadened locally by the "broadcasting" of the Lambeth Station.
Canon Carter in his address to the September Synod, 1878, spoke with sincere thankfulness of the Lambeth Conference, as an exhibition of mutual action and cooperation, and a binding together of the different centres of the English Communion, and noted with satisfaction that it spoke of itself as a body "united under one Divine Head in the fellowship of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church, holding the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, defined in the Creeds and maintained by the Primitive Church." The principles of organisation and rules of common action laid down, which it was hoped would conduce to greater order and peace among the Colonial Churches, were entirely consistent with the law and traditionary usages of the Catholic Church. It was also satisfactory to note that in respect of the answers given to some critical questions touching the relation towards certain separatist bodies existing on the continent, such as the Armenian Churches and the Old Catholics, care had been shown not to compromise the true Catholic position by saying anything unorthodox or inconsistent. With this glad recognition of grounds for thankfulness, Canon Carter went on, of necessity, to expose the wrong that had been done to the Catholic cause and the advantage taken of the Conference to prejudice what Catholics were bound to uphold. It had expressed decided opinions on "Difficulties arising in the Church of England from the Revival of Obsolete Forms of Ritual, and from Erroneous Teaching on the subject of Confession." In dealing with the first, Canon Carter drew attention to the incongruity of bringing a question which had given rise to a conflict with the State Courts rather than with the bishops before a Conference of bishops, the far greater number of whom had no concern whatever with the State Courts. The difficulty that had arisen came largely from the action of Courts unconstitutionally constituted, and which ignored altogether both ancient precedent and the proper action of Church Legislature. This had been passed over by the Conference. The matter had been viewed as if the Church alone were concerned and proper Church authority only were in force. The principle that "no alteration from long-accustomed ritual should be made, contrary to the admonition of the bishop of the Diocese," was of course true, if the bishop's authority were constitutionally exercised, but when viewed under the existing circumstances, the statement could only be regarded as an attempt to support the claim made by certain bishops in England to enforce obedience to their injunctions, when their injunctions were founded not on any synodical decision, nor even on their own judgment, but on the decision of State Courts, which their position in relation to the State obliged them, as they supposed, to carry out. The admonition of a bishop when a Synod was in full action and judgment, and in accord with the Church,this was one thing. The admonition of a bishop, bound by the judgment of Civil Courts, having no sanction from the Church, was quite another thing. Yet the principle was advanced by the Conference, without any distinction being made between the two cases.
In dealing with the "deliberate opinion " asserted by the Conference on Confession, the Master pointed out that if it meant that a priest confessing a penitent was to avoid wearying or harassing the soul by a mere enumeration of details, when the case was clear and the penitence was unquestioned, that was well. But if it meant, as it appeared to do, that in hearing confessions a priest was not to enter into details, or if necessary ask questions in order, at his own discretion, to be satisfied of the state of the penitent and the extent of his guilt, or to instruct the penitent, or quicken his conscience as to sins which had been unconfessed, knowingly or ignorantly, then it was impossible that the statement could be accepted. Freedom to act in such a matter had to be asserted. It was also impossible to accept the statement that no priest was authorised "to enjoin or even encourage the practice of habitual confession." It could not be admitted that to advise what was for the benefit of the soul, and what the penitent freely accepted as the rule, was considered as being beyond the liberty of the priest. To "encourage" it when desired, and when thought advisable, was but a simple matter of duty, if confession was to be practised at all. Canon Carter concluded by reminding the Brethren that, while earnestly contending for the faith, and being ever ready to resist or expose doctrine contrary to the faith and prejudicial to the spiritual life, it was of the first moment to bear with those who differed from them in all charity.
The Society in arriving at a conclusion caught at the loophole left by the Committee of the Lambeth Conference, that they were " not to be understood as desiring to limit in any way the provision made in the Book of Common Prayer for the relief of troubled consciences." In the matter being thus reduced to one of interpretation, it was felt by some that the sting was taken out. And so the Synod expressed much thankfulness for the Lambeth Conference, seeing that the presence of so many bishops tended to break down feelings of separation which had grown between the Episcopate and many of the clergy and laity, that it had given a strong impulse to Missionary enthusiasm and had brought to bear a healthy influence on the Home Episcopate, but it could not express the same satisfaction with the Letter which had been issued by the bishops, in consequence of the doubtful or misleading meaning of some of its statements.
The night of this difficult discussion seemed about to break, at this time, before the faint light of a new hope. Attention was drawn to the interest that was being taken in the question of the "Reunion of Christendom," which would be the great panacea for the difficulties of the Church.
The Association for the Promotion of the Union of Christendom, which was founded in 1857, included members of the Roman Catholic, Greek and Anglican Communions, associated together to pray daily for Reunion. In 1864, Cardinal Manning procured its condemnation at Rome, and Roman Catholics were commanded to withdraw. He also, the same year, in a published letter to Dr. Pusey, made an attack on the English Church. This became the occasion of Dr. Pusey's Eirenicons. Many French bishops, including Mgr. Dupanloup, took an interest in Dr. Pusey's efforts, but the Vatican Council in 1870 shattered the hopes of those who were trying to break down barriers, The accession of Leo XIII. to the Papal throne in 1878 caused hopefulness to revive, as it was believed that, in spite of the difficulties by which he was surrounded, he was in heart desirous to re-open communication between the Roman See and the Anglican and other Churches separated from it. The A.P.U.C. put forth a revived vigour and held that although hitherto its Association had been one for prayer only, the time had now come for more practical action. The S.S.C., it was thought, would desire to help in the renewal of the Association and to co-operate with it in any practical endeavour to obtain the sanction of the Catholic Patriarchs of Western and Eastern Christendom for freedom to English Catholics to communicate at Catholic altars in foreign countries. The Society nem. con. expressed its interest in the attempts to revive the life and action of the A.P.U.C., and was prepared to co-operate with it. The Master (Canon Carter), in measuring the difficulties which presented themselves and the almost insuperable obstacle to success which had arisen throughout the Roman Obedience by the general acceptance of the recent Papal Infallibility decree, still felt that some material change on this momentous point could not be regarded as hopeless, even when looking at mere human possibilities. He insisted that the question of probabilities, or of visible means, could not be regarded as determining the interest or the hope as to the effect of the Association's work. The Association gave expression to a deep-seated yearning of all Catholic-minded men, and the gathering up of their intercessions into a combined and systematic action was of vital import to the great cause they had specially at heart.
Of the hopes, ideals and grasp of the difficulties of this "yearning of all Catholic-minded men" who, as the heirs and not the authors of disunion, were prepared to work for unity, distinct indications were forthcoming. There were not lacking the inevitable tendencies to give that exaggerated importance to acts of courtesy, or informal conversations, which so often mark the minds of those who are possessed with a great idea, and who are wont to imagine that like meets like. One priest, who had gone to the East with others some years before, bearing letters of commendation from their own bishop to some of the Oriental prelates, related that their Mission was most favourably received, and they were admitted to the Churches by the priests' door. A well known priest of that day, who knew Cardinal Manning and had met him in Rome a few months before, stated that in a conversation with him over these matters, the Cardinal had said that it was the Rule of the Roman Church to hold no communion in sacris with those beyond the pale of that communion. The Rev. T. W. Mossman gave an account of an interview he had had with Cardinal Manning, to whom he had mentioned four points which, he believed, would be urged by the Catholic party in any negotiations with the Holy See. (1.) The recognition of Anglican Orders; (2.) the marriage of priests; (3.) the giving of the chalice to the laity; (4.) the Liturgy in the vernacular. The answers of his Eminence, Mr. Mossman said, " had been satisfactory, though he would not commit himself to speak authoritatively on the matter. Reunion must, he held, be on a dogmatic basis." Mr. Mossman's own contribution was that in any practical movement towards reunion a guarantee of faith would naturally be required, and that the best standpoint would be the Seven General Councils of the Church, which were recognised by both East and West. He claimed that the Order of Corporate Reunion was founded on this very basis, and maintained that the O.C.R. was nothing more than the Association for the Promotion of the Union of Christendom in action.
Under the aspect of home difficulties in the way of the question of reunion, it was pointed out that so many needed to be instructed on the relation of the English Church to the rest of the Western Church, and how very few really understood what it was. Not the least ignorance on the point was the failure to grasp that the Sacraments were the same everywhere, and the non-recognition, through lack of explanation, of the similarity between the Roman and English rites. As regarded the great number of our fellow countrymen who belonged to the bodies outside the Church, the most important points to be dealt with to draw them to the Church, must be : (1.) How man was to avail himself of the Incarnation; (2.) the meaning of Conversion; (3.) the position of Faith in the scheme of Redemption.
The Order of Corporate Reunion mentioned in one of the preceding paragraphs gave rise to a matter of grave enquiry and of much discussion within the Society, which lasted all through the time of Canon Carter's Mastership, and for many months afterwards. It eventually became the duty of S.S.C., as a Catholic Society, to take up a strong attitude against it. The question was, on the personal side, a very painful one. The Rev. T. W. Mossman, who was one of the chief movers in the O.C.R., was also a member of S.S.C. He had joined the Society in its second year, or as far back as 1856, and in 1878 came next in seniority after the three original founders of S.S.C. The pain and difficulty were enhanced by the fact that, in the matter of the O.C.R., Mr. Mossman was obdurate and convinced in his own mind, that the policy and action of the Order were both legitimate and necessary in the prevailing state of Christendom.
The O.C.R. was founded in 1877. Its history, shrouded as it was with much mystery, does not come within the range of this compilation. It had to be mentioned in order to show the line of action which S.S.C. followed regarding it. The original aim of the founders of the Order seemed to have been a desire to resuscitate an idea which a small and defunct Society called "The Congregation of Venerable Bede" had formed. This idea was to try to gather into one organic, corporate whole all members of the English Church who held the Catholic Faith in its entirety and integrity. The ultimate end of this was to supply an authoritative guarantee of Faith for those, whether priests or laity, who were desirous of inter-communion with other parts of Eastern and Western Christendom. They recognised that the diverse opinions and "schools of thought" that found a home within the Church of England created the difficulty of a grave doubt, when any claim of catholicity was made which rested only on a self-declaration. They believed that a solution of this anomalous position could be reached through the formation of an Order, whose orthodoxy would be accepted by all parts of the Church. The Order claimed to be based on the Catholic Faith, as defined by the Seven General Councils, acknowledged as such by the whole of the Church and as commonly received in the three Creeds, and until such time as the whole Church should have spoken on the subject, an acceptance of those dogmatic statements on the Sacraments set forth in common by the Council of Trent and the Synod of Bethlehem respectively. Those who joined the Order would have secured for themselves a pledge and guarantee of orthodoxy which no Catholic could rightfully impeach.
This first aim of the O.C.R. gave evidence of a desire not to relegate the question of reunion to the utterance of platitudes, or even of proposals, nor to confine it simply to intercessions without some direct human co-operation to help forward the intercessions. It also emphasised the conviction that the path to reunion was not paved with a minimising of Faith, nor an amiable agreement to differ. They threw themselves upon the doctrines of the Church before the Schism between East and West, and upon the agreements of the Church both East and West after the Schism. In this they were Catholic, but when the Order in an esoteric kind of way spoke from another side, it became a different matter entirely. The Order threw a doubt, and at the same time made a clandestine attack, upon the spiritual position of the Church of England. It held that the Erastian procedure of the sixteenth century had wrecked the mission and the jurisdiction of the Church in England, while a general laxity in the administration of Baptism had cast a doubt upon the validity of Anglican Orders. In order to rectify these defects and to act in a corporate way, the O.C.R. claimed to have introduced "a new Episcopal succession," but maintained secrecy as to the names of the bishops consecrated and their consecrators. It was stated that on September 8th, 1877, a Pastoral put out by the Rulers of the Order was promulgated, and had been read on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral and in other places. The Pastoral was published in The Reunion Magazine and produced at the time no small stir in Church circles together with a mass of correspondence in the press. The Society appointed a Committee to enquire into the O.C.R. with a view of ascertaining what steps (if any) should be taken with reference to it. This Committee, nine months after its appointment, or at the May Synod, 1878, stated that the difficulty of obtaining information about the O.C.R. had prevented the presentation of a report. It had, however, been proved that the new Order and its strange claims were facts. Alive to the importance of the affair and the compromising position in which it might place Catholics, the Committee was instructed to present a report at the next Chapter, and at each subsequent Chapter, until the question was disposed of.
The Committee lost no time in doing what was required of it and in the Report on the O.C.R., which it issued, it was stated that the document called the "First Pastoral," as also the serial organ of the Order, known as the Reunion Magazine, had been examined, but that all other information than that gleaned from these publications had been extremely meagre. The Report first pointed out that spiritual jurisdiction could not be laid down, any more than it could be assumed by the voluntary act of the person exercising it. The English bishops had claimed and still claimed to exercise spiritual authority, therefore it could not be said that it had been laid down. It explained that spiritual jurisdiction was of two kinds, viz. (1.) "Voluntary," or that which was concerned with the spiritual life, which rendered valid, or licit, the ministration of the Sacraments and all the acts of the priesthood. (2.) "Contentious" or that which had to do with the enforcement of penalties. The latter could be hindered and so be dormant, but the former was always active and could in no way be touched by the inactivity of the latter, or even by such matters as the P.W.R. Act. The jurisdiction of the Episcopate of the Provinces of Canterbury and York was still alive, and to that jurisdiction it was the duty of all Catholics within the Realm of England conterminous with these Provinces to submit themselves.
The O.C.R., the Report next pointed out, rested its claim to jurisdiction over its members on the ground of submission and mutual association and depended thus on the mere free will or the assent of the governed. Such a self-originated association could not confer either ecclesiastical or spiritual jurisdiction. It possessed the radical evil of protestantism in originating with man rather than with God.
The Report proceeded to show that the powers of ecclesiastics belonged either to the hierarchy of order, or the hierarchy of jurisdiction, and that both came from one sacred source or origin. The bishop belonged to the See to which he was chosen, and by which he had been accepted as also by his comprovincials. Acquiring thus the lawful occupation of his chair, from and out of his chair proceeded his jurisdiction. A new jurisdiction, such as that claimed by the O.C.R. was impossible. Equally with a new order, it would be "a preaching of another Gospel." The Committee observed a parallelism by pointing out "that while Irvingites invented a new order, the O.C.R. had invented a new jurisdiction."
The Report proceeded to draw attention to the lack of evidence both of the reality and of the regularity of the supposed Consecration of bishops for the Order. The silence O.C.R. maintained on this point was in itself suspicious. Further, having been clandestinely performed, and not in facie ecclesiae, it was unrecognised by the hierarchy of the Church, and virtually repudiated by the Communion of the Consecrators. It concluded by warning Catholics not to be associated with O.C.R. lest they should be involved in the guilt of schism and probably of sacrilege. An appendix was attached to the Report, in fairness to the Rev. T. W. Mossman, containing extracts from letters of his, in which he stated that from his personal knowledge a Consecration had undoubtedly taken place, and that the bishop or bishops had only claimed jurisdiction over the members of the Order, and had promised moreover viva voce not to do anything which would "injure or weaken the Church of England."
The Report was received and adopted by the Society, and the Committee was requested to draw up a paper on the O.C.R. suitable for general circulation, while at the same time a motion was carried which repudiated the opinions expressed in the statement drawn up by the Rev. T. W. Mossman.
Eventually a resolution was passed that it was considered that membership of O.C.R. was inconsistent with membership of S.S.C. and the desire was expressed that the subject should be fully and finally disposed of. This was done at the May Synod, 1879, when the above resolution was confirmed and the matter was discussed both freely and fully. It was made clear that not only was the action of the O.C.R. unprecedented but that it attacked the fundamental principle of submission to the Divine authority and mission of the English Church, on which the S.S.C. took its stand. An able paper was read by the Rev. T. W. Mossman, in which he endeavoured to defend the position of the O.C.R. from the principle of the Primitive Church, rather than from that of Canon Law, while he passed some criticisms on the mode of Archbishop Parker's Confirmation, which in his own opinion was an illicit procedure.
The inevitable and Catholic position taken up by S.S.C. at this juncture led to both a painful and an edifying issue. The painful side was, on that of the Society alone. After much persuasion and long patience had been exercised in vain, it became the duty of the Master to remove the name of the Rev. T. W. Mossman from the Society's Roll. On the edifying side, it became the occasion of the Society publishing a short but helpful and learned statement concerning the position of the O.C.R. together with a concise postscript, which set forth the historical facts as they bore witness to the lawful mission and jurisdiction of the bishops of England. The statement received a wide circulation at the time, while a copy of it was sent to all the Home Episcopate.
Canon Carter during his Mastership had been anxious to get this matter of the O.C.R. finally settled. He felt that it was incumbent upon the Society to clear itself of complicity in it. In his endeavours he was strongly supported by the Brethren who formed the Committee of enquiry and notably by the Revs. C. F. Lowder, A. H. Mackonochie, J. N. Smith, J. W. Kempe, C. J. E. Smith, J. Fish and E. G. Wood. Catholics at this time, and S.S.C. in particular, could not afford to run the risk of being placed in any compromising position. They were encountering difficulties, anxieties and prosecutions from without, and therefore within they were forced in self-defence, quite apart from the principle involved, to take up a decisive attitude towards a movement which was fraught with the greatest possible evil to the Catholic party in England.
The many votes of sympathy passed during these two or three years bore witness to what certain of the Brethren of the Society and other faithful Catholics were undergoing at the hands of the Erastian party. At the Chapter at which the Master (Canon Carter) had pressed for definite action to be taken regarding the O.C.R., a vote of sympathy was accorded him, in the difficulties arising out of the " Clewer case," which seriously affected him owing to the persistent efforts made to force upon him compliance with the recent decisions of the Judicial Committee touching the ceremonial of Divine Worship. During these, years we find equal sympathy tendered to the Rev. J. Baghot de la Bere, Prestbury, the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie, the Rev. R. W. Enraght, Bordesley, the Rev. S. F. Green (not a member of S.S.C.), Miles Platting and to many others, who if not in the first line of the battle as were those mentioned, were nevertheless suffering in a lesser degree from petty acts of injustice and persecution. Encircled by these perplexities, in their fight for Catholic principles, ordinary prudence demanded that the Society should demonstrate its unshaken loyalty to those principles, and therefore it did not hesitate to take up the firm attitude it did towards the O.C.R. The after events of the Order gave a full justification to the Society's drastic action.
At the end of one year of office Canon Carter, while pressed to continue in it for the customary three years, asked to be relieved. His wish was granted by the Society, and Father Mackonochie was once again elected to the Mastership. He held the office from May, 1879, to May, 1882. They were for Catholics years of special difficulty and perplexity, and for the Society, while feeling all this to the uttermost, they were years of recovery, quiet and confidence. As when some active and prominent person has been laid low by a severe illness it is always interesting to note his employment during convalescence, and to mark his reawakening attention to public affairs, so, in much the same way, it is of interest to watch the Society quietly recovering from its wounds, or rather it might be said from its overstrain and nervous exhaustion. What the Society had really suffered from was the result of its over-eagerness and almost rashness, in being so much in advance of the opinions and practices of its day. As the consequence of this, if it was to regain a practical Catholic influence, it must for a while lie fallow, and at the same time neither compromise nor surrender any one of the Catholic principles which had occasioned its overstrain. In the process of recovery, the Society realised that in some of its recent proceedings and the conduct of them it had departed somewhat from the original aim and spirit of its Founders. To emerge spiritually unscathed from heated controversy pertains to the science of the saints, and so the Society learned by experience that it had been forced, as the result of its own premature-ness, to become entangled in bitter and far-reaching controversies, which tended to weaken its primary object. It had to be reminded, by the attacks from without, that its real aim, like that of its title, was that of the Holy Cross.
We find the Society, therefore, at this juncture, with its depleted numbers, becoming less controversial and more fraternal. It took notice, as needs it must, of the church events that were passing, but it was in the spirit of the convalescent watching and commenting, rather than in that of one who was actively taking part in the events themselves.
After the affair of the O.C.R. the matters which came before the Society were of the ordinary kind, relating to such subjects as Missions, Sunday Schools, the importance of the Children's Mass and Catechism, and other practical subjects which belonged to the work of a priest.
Except the votes of sympathy referred to above, the transactions of the Society revealed no traces of the working of the P.W.R. Act, at this time. There can be no doubt, however, that it furnished the occasion for the many discussions on Disestablishment which, while temperate in tone, were marked by no unanimous or decided opinion of the Society as a whole. Great as was the storm power of the Act and great as must have been the temptation to criticise dignitaries, what did exist was a reverence for the Episcopal Office which placed a finger to the lips in what related to the actions of the individuals who held the office. On the other hand, ready recognition was given to any sign of "the great deep" changing into a "spring." The Bishop of Oxford (Mackarness) had expressed his willingness to ordain one a priest who for many years had been kept in the Diaconate on account of his connection with the Society. The Bishop of Ely (Woodford) was "dutifully thanked" for drawing attention to the crisis which had been precipitated in the Church by the action of the Civil Power "in violation of the constitutional status of this Church and Realm," and thanked in particular for his cordial recognition of the loyalty of those clergy who felt themselves constrained, in obedience to their Ordination Vow, to withstand the encroachments of the State upon the inalienable rights of the Church.
The litigation which was rife in connection with the ecclesiastical suits of necessity caused attention to be focussed upon the doctrine and administration of the Sacraments, as it also brought to the front the question of Ceremonial. It was not surprising, therefore, that during these years the discussions in the Society were largely taken up with such matters. It produced much ecclesiological research of an interesting kind. The three modes of Baptismimmersion, pouring, sprinkling,together with the different practices of administration followed in Western and other parts of Christendom as regarded the Sacraments of Unction and Confirmation, received full consideration. Much attention too was directed to the Marriage question. This had arisen out of the Sheffield Church Congress, where notice had been drawn to certain grievances which were felt. In consequence, representation had been made that relief should be granted to the clergy of the English Church from the statutory obligation imposed upon them by the Divorce Act of 1857 in regard to the re-marriage of divorced persons, and that the humiliating restrictions imposed upon Roman Catholics and protestant Nonconformists by the Marriage Laws of the land should be removed, and such marriages, so far as the presence of the Registrar was concerned, be placed on the same footing as those of the Church. Mr. Blennerhasset, M.P., had given notice that he would introduce in Parliament " The Marriage Laws Bill, "which would embody the relief from these restrictions and also extend the area where it would be lawful for the parties to be married after the publication of banns. The proposed Bill received the wholehearted support of the Society, as it did that of many others of varying shades of opinion, both within and without the Church. The Bill was read a first time on February 7th, 1880, but before it reached a second reading Parliament was dissolved.
Commonplace as these discussions may seem in the experience of fifty years later, it has to be recalled that the anomalous spirit of that day made the defence of the Sacraments and an accurate knowledge of them a necessary equipment, not simply for their due administration, but in order to correct abuses which arose. One sacramental question which caused grave shock to sober and churchly minds will illustrate this necessity, and especially as it drew from S.S.C. one of those exhibitions of expert knowledge which it had so frequently and so quietly shown. The late seventies and early eighties saw a great temperance crusade, in which the fanatically-minded were inclined to discern an incomplete Gospel, if there were not added to it a pledge of total abstinence. This extremist section did not hesitate to attack the valid matter of the Blessed Sacrament. They advocated for sacramental purposes the use of what was called "unfermented wine." Bishop Wordsworth of Lincoln, with his theological acumen and ecclesiastical knowledge, had declared that pledges of total abstinence, except for special discipline, were contrary to Holy Scripture, and that priests who took such, according to the "Apostolical Constitutions," were in the early church subjects for degradation from Sacred Orders. He had insisted that it was certain that the wine used at the Institution of the Eucharist "was such wine as might intoxicate." (Miscellanies, ii. 163ff.)
The question became one of the foolish yet serious debates of the hour, and there were some who feared that it might lead to such lengths as a schism. After the manner of a certain hackneyed quotation from Shakespeare, there were a few who had endeavoured to prove that the use of "unfermented wine" was not contrary to what St. Thomas Aquinas had allowed. S.S.C. was well-fitted to deal with the latter, for it had amongst its members several who were no tyros in scholastic theology. It was pointed out that the must or unfermented grape juice mentioned by St. Thomas, as valid matter for the Eucharist in case of necessity, was not the same as the "unfermented wine" of the total abstainers' advocacy. The latter had its power of fermentation destroyed by an artificial process and as a consequence was invalid matter, because it never could become wine, whereas the former, as it was in its natural state, was incipient wine, because it contained the process of fermentation and was therefore in case of necessity valid matter for the Sacrament. The Letter of St. Cyprian to Caecilius, against the Aquarians, which turned upon the intoxicating nature of the wine used in the Eucharist, was quoted. It was also stated that a learned Jewish Rabbi at Cambridge had, in a long conversation on the subject, laughed to scorn the idea that the wine used at the Passover was unfermented. The Society's attitude in the controversy was,"That the use of the liquid called Unfermented Wine (in which a natural principle had been destroyed), was contrary to Primitive and Catholic custom, and, as at least risking the validity of the Sacrament, would on Catholic principles be an act of sacrilege."
Another question of the hour arose within the Society, in the September of 1881, which stood apart from either the doctrine of the Sacraments or of ceremonial. It was one which eventually through misunderstanding and probably a stratum of political bias, further depleted the ranks of the Society and cost it the loss of a few of its most valued Brethren. The previous year had given birth to one of those burning questions and controversies which now and then burst out in England. It had centred around Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, the elected Member of Parliament for Northampton. He was a freethinker of a bold and dramatic kind, whose openly expressed opinions against religion and other serious subjects created a general feeling not to his advantage. His refusal to take the oath of allegiance, coupled with an attempt to supply its place with an affirmation, brought him into conflict with the House of Commons. His later attempt to take the oath, when he was known to have no religious belief, brought him into still greater conflict. The Bradlaugh case became a topic of the hour, which was followed hotly for a while and then dropped, although the situation it created lingered on for a few years, until the Affirmation Act, which set it at rest, became law in 1888.
Many who knew Mr. Bradlaugh, while they repudiated utterly any sympathy with his prominent opinions, testified to his integrity of purpose, the morality of his private life, and the social reforms he was endeavouring to carry out in East London. Amongst those who were on terms of intimate acquaintance with him was the Rev. S. D. Headlam.
Mr. Headlam was a Catholic whose work in the Christian Socialistic Movement came from his religion and not from the scientific study of the subject. An early disciple of the social teaching of Maurice and Kingsley, he had founded the Guild of St. Matthew, the aim of which was to make war against bad social conditions by bringing the Faith and Teaching of the Church before the people, and so to influence them by that supernatural power, as no secularist movement could ever do. He had worked at St. Matthew's, Bethnal Green, and in 1881 was at St. Michael's, Shoreditch.
Socialism as it is understood to-day was in 1881 but in its germinal state in England. The Fabian Society was not founded until 1883. S.S.C. felt that the whole question of the movement called "Christian Socialism" should be earnestly and candidly discussed, and for this reason that while the name of Socialism bore a bad mark upon it, those who had examined "Christian Socialism" had found in it only those precepts which our Lord and His immediate followers adopted to the letter. It was thought that in order to have full opportunity to hear what claim it might, or might not, have on the attention of the Society, it would be well to have one to speak upon the subject who had made it his great enthusiasm. The Rev. S. D. Headlam was accordingly asked to address the Society. Those, however, who were responsible for the agenda were severely taken to task for inviting him. The objection arose from Mr. Headlam's association with Mr. Bradlaugh and the public interchange of cordial messages between them. When this had been threshed out, the Synod decided that its invitation should hold good and Mr. Headlam gave his paper. To-day it reads as quite moderate. The speaker did little more than state that Socialistic schemes were human attempts to do what the Church had been founded to do, but had not done, and that such attempts would continue until the Church and her priests made them unnecessary. He pleaded for sympathy and not antagonism towards Socialism, on the ground that the Church was a righteous Socialistic Society on earth and therefore was called to an active warfare against social wrong. After hearing Mr. Headlam and others, the Society expressed an opinion that the attitude of the Catholic Church towards Socialistic schemes, while acknowledging a basis of truth as their source, must in the main be antagonistic. The Society, however, in this opinion had not in mind the Christian principles enunciated by Mr. Headlam, but the inconsistent theories associated with Socialism as commonly understood.
This particular episode, taken as one of the many transactions of the Society, would not have merited any special mention but for the fact that its result gave it an exaggerated importance. To the great wonder of many it created a misunderstanding which became the occasion of several of the Brethren leaving the Society. Amongst such were some who in particular could be ill-spared, and what increased the wonder was that they were some who had openly braved and weathered the "Priest in Absolution" storm. In the past the Society was often criticised by those who knew its workings for the large amount of time it expended in framing its constitution and in discussing its statutes. The moral of the above incident was that, if the Society had adhered strictly to its statutes, this particular difficulty would not have arisen. The Society, however, was always one of active thought and ever felt that it could not afford, as Father Mackonochie had once expressed it, "to shut itself up in its own nutshell." It had paid the penalty of this before, and had to do so again.
While the public mind was becoming agitated over Socialism as a too forward movement charged with danger to the sacred rights of custom and possession, it was also alarmed over what it supposed to be a too backward movement into pre-reformation days. Unaware both of an "Ornaments' Rubric" and of the fact that the Prayer Book took very much for granted, it saw "dark ages" and ceremonial law-breaking, where churchmen saw decency and order. The question of ceremonial was one of the topics of the hour. Imprisoned priests and ecclesiastical suits kept it in the foreground. It was also true that certain diversities of uses prevailed in many of the churches that were nick-named "ritualistic." It therefore seemed good to a certain representative body of clergy, under the chairmanship of the Rev. B. Compton (All Saints', Margaret Street, W.), to hold a Conference. The Conference was to give expression to what its representatives considered to be the true interpretation of the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, and to agree to a conformity of use in keeping with this interpretation. It was thought that such a course would tend to diminish both misunderstanding and opposition, and at the same time set up a "high church" uniformity, beyond which in the matter of ceremonial it was not desirable to go, or from which it was not expedient to swerve. The Conference met no less than forty-eight times. As the result of the meetings a Report was issued, which was entitled "Ritual Conformity."
S.S.C. gave the Report a careful consideration, which was illuminated with much expert acquaintance of the ancient English Uses and the modern Roman Rite. Time has proved that the opinion expressed by S.S.C. on the finding of the Conference was the truer and the wiser one. It thought that the time was not the right time to promote a rigid uniformity of Ritual, while it earnestly recommended adherence to the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer as of primary importance.
Before closing this chapter, it is necessary to go back to the previous year, 1880. The unseemly attacks made on Catholic Churches and the right rendering of Divine Service resulted in a few instances in the direct profanation of the Blessed Sacrament. It seemed that certain protestant zealots would stop short at nothing. The priest being the guardian of the altar no less than the minister of the Sacrament, it appeared desirable at this juncture that some disciplinary precautions should be followed, in order to prevent any future risks of the Sacrament being profaned. A painful case had happened in a London church where the vicar was a prominent member of the Society. This led to the Rev. T. Humphris Clark and the Rev. C. F. Lowder being asked to bring the subject before the September Synod, in the form of a motion calling upon the Society to do all in its power "to revive the force and general observation of the first Rubric in the Order for the administration of the Lord's Supper." The motion was carried and this unique sacramental discipline of the English Provinces came much to the fore. The result appeared in the notices which were found at this time in many churches declaring that no one could be communicated at the late Mass unless he had fulfilled the requirement of this Rubric.
An air of special solemnity must have been felt during the restrained discussion over this matter, not only from the inherent nature of the subject itself and the necessity which had occasioned such discussion, but also from internal circumstances which accompanied the discussion. The Rev. H. D. Nihill took the part which had been assigned to Father Lowder, while the standing orders were suspended in order to allow the following motion being proposed:"That this Synod desires to record its solemn sense of gratitude to Almighty God for the long and earnest services and bright example of the holy life of their deceased brother, V. Br. Lowder, Senior Brother of S.S.C., and first Master; and hereby offers an expression of sincere sympathy to the surviving members of his family, fellow-workers and parishioners, and hopes that the Society of the Holy Cross may be allowed to be represented at his funeral."
Father Lowder had left St. Peter's on August 2nd for his annual holiday, the greater part of which was to be spent in the Austrian Tyrol. He called at Ober-Ammergau on the way, where he witnessed the Passion Play of 1880. He then passed on by stages, interspersed with walks and mountain climbing, until he reached Zell-am-See. Here he exhibited signs of over-fatigue which rapidly assumed alarming symptoms, and after a few days' illness he passed away on September 9th.
A written life of Charles Lowder was published very shortly after his death, and its wide circulation caused St. Peter's, London Docks, to figure as a familiar household word in church circles, while for some time to come it was read as almost a text book of home mission work, and Father Lowder was held up as the inspiring, stimulating and encouraging example of what could be done in the most unlikely places if the Catholic Faith were taught and practised.
As one of the three original founders, probably the actual founder, of S.S.C., his memory has been justly revered in the Society. It was his spirit, as the first Master and the pioneer of Mission Work in the Church of England, that infected the Society at its birth, and his influence upon its spiritual standards and its deliberations had always remained great. His joyous, hopeful and calm temperament was an asset of no small weight when the Society passed through its years of storm and perplexity. And he was spared long enough to see the Society emerging from its cloud, possessed with a hopeful future which was a reflex of his own love, courage and patience.
Of St. Peter's, London Docks, itself, there is little need to write, except for the fact that no record of S.S.C would be complete or just, if it omitted any mention of what after all everyone in the Society is supposed to know. To S.S.C. St. Peter's must be "a joy for ever," not only because it was "a thing of beauty" set up amid surroundings which were sordid and noxious and very different from what they are to-day, but because it became the very limina of S.S.C. If it proclaimed the sanctification of poverty growing out of a wholesome detestation of poverty, it was as a memorial, both of the Society's special gift and of its early experiments in mission work on definite Catholic lines, and blessed by God with such signal success. The old names of the district's streets bear witness to the changed conditions that have prevailed. A gift and works of sacrifice carry with them no claims, and consecration destroys proprietorship. Beyond affection, S.S.C. has no corporate claim upon St. Peter's. It makes the debt, therefore, which it owes to it, a very big one.
Years of hospitality, welcome and brotherhood were extended to the Society. It became almost a fixed part of the agenda to move votes of thanks to the clergy, sisters and workers of St. Peter's for the home they gave and the arrangements they made for the two yearly Synods. It was with reluctance that a bad and tedious itinerant service forced the Society later to hold its Synods at more convenient centres, but it never forsook entirely, much less broke away from, St. Peter's.
Yet this, after all, was but on the material side. A greater debt remained. A lover of art once expressed the opinion that gold had been given us, among other things, that we might put beautiful work into its imperishable splendour. To S.S.C., St. Peter's, London Docks, is such gold. It has embossed upon it memories of the Society's earlier zeal, activities and devotions,of many great priests, of Catholic giants, of difficulties faced and conquered, of spiritual experiences, aspirations and encouragements, and in not a few instances of lives dedicated to the service of the Holy Cross. More than this need not be written.