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.
"SEARCH MADE AMONG THE RECORDS."
A FEW long memories may recall, a few may have seen among souvenirs of the past, a photograph sketch that had a fairly wide circulation in the early eighties. It was entitled?"A modern Daniel" and depicted the tall figure of the Rev. S. F. Green standing erect, calm and fearless, in the "den." The chief lion, with his paw on certain Erastian law-books, had the face of Lord Penzance, while outside the den and opposite each other were the two Primates, looking startled, anxious and bewildered. The genius of a cartoon consists in its ability to summarise a situation that one glance can comprehend. "A modern Daniel," unpretentious as it was, depicted the plight into which bad legislation had brought the English Church.
Mr. Green had been in prison for twenty months before he obtained his release, at the instance of the Bishop of Manchester (Fraser), on November 4th, 1882. Under the provisions of the P.W.R. Act, the benefice of St. John's, Miles Platting, had been declared vacant in September, but more than five weeks had elapsed before any steps were taken to set Mr. Green free; meanwhile, this suffering priest had resigned his benefice into the bishop's hands. A few months earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury had introduced a Bill for Mr. Green's release, but it had been opposed in the House of Commons by the Attorney-General (James) and was finally lost through a count out of the House.
At this time, Lord Penzance and also the Appeal Courts were busily employed with ecclesiastical suits. Through the failure of an appeal to the House of Lords in May, 1882, the Rev. R. W. Enraght became liable to another imprisonment, but three months later, under the P.W.R. Act, the benefice of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, had become vacant, although canonically held by Mr. Enraght. Another clergyman was presented to the benefice. The Prestbury suit against the Rev. J. Baghot de la Bere was dragging its weary way through appeals on technical points which failed. For obvious reasons, the final appeal to the House of Lords was allowed to lapse and Mr. de la Bere resigned the benefice.
In August, 1882, an application was made for the deprivation of the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie. Three months later, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was actually on his deathbed, wrote to Mr. Mackonochie asking him for the sake of the Church's peace to resign the benefice of St. Alban's, Holborn. After a short deliberation, Mr. Mackonochie decided to do what the dying Archbishop asked of him. An arrangement was made, both with the consent and the approval of the Bishop of London (Jackson), by which the Rev. R. A. J. Suckling, Vicar of St, Peter's, London Docks, was appointed to St. Alban's, and the Rev. A. H. Mackonochie was appointed to St. Peter's. The Church Association, however, disregarding Archbishop Tait's last wish, pursued its suit against Mr. Mackonochie, and in July, 1883, Lord Penzance pronounced a sentence of deprivation against him of all his ecclesiastical promotions within the Province of Canterbury. The Bishop of London, two months later, notified the patrons that the benefice of St. Peter's was vacant and sequestrated the emoluments of the office. Mr. Mackonochie, who was still the canonical vicar, "forced," as he said, "by the logic of facts," and unwilling to lay a burden on the parish, resigned his cure in December, 1883.
When St. John's, Miles Platting, had become vacant in November, 1882, by the resignation of Mr. Green, the Bishop of Manchester refused to institute the nominee of Sir Percival Heywood,?the Rev. H. Cowgill,?to the benefice. The latter had refused to surrender the use of the vestments and other things which the Ornaments' Rubric enjoined. The patron set up a defence of his rights by serving a writ on the bishop. The case was argued and judgment was given in January, 1884, in favour of the bishop.
These results of a clumsy and offensive legislation only served to crown the growing opinion of the ignominious failure of the P.W.R. Act "to put down ritualism." A great reaction had set in, in favour of those who had been attacked. It had been realised a few years earlier that the confused and complicated state of ecclesiastical questions, doctrinal and ceremonial, and the debated jurisdiction of the courts that dealt with them, had brought matters to a point of impasse from which some way out had to be found. In 1881, Mr. Gladstone had advised that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the constitution and working of the Ecclesiastical Courts, as created or modified under the Reformation Statutes of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth years of Henry VIII., and any subsequent Acts. The Commission was both representative and strong. The leading guide of it was Dr. William Stubbs, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and afterwards respectively Bishop of Chester and Oxford. To it he brought his wide and accurate knowledge, and his five historical appendices to the Report, when it appeared, have been acknowledged as his best work. He did much to indicate clearly and correctly the historical position in which the Church in England stood to the State. The Report of the Commission was issued in July, 1883, and recommended a scheme of ecclesiastical administration consisting of diocesan, provincial and final courts, and marking a distinction between cases dealing with doctrine and ritual and those of conduct. While the recommendations were subjected to criticism, especially that which referred to the final court, the Report was welcomed by many, its real effect being the discredit it had thrown on the Privy Council and Lord Penzance's Court. It was the justification of those who had resisted the rulings of the courts, and the vindication of the imprisoned priests. It had broken the back of ritual prosecutions and produced for a time what Dean Church described as "the truce of God." The "truce," however, was broken in February, 1885, by proceedings being taken by Mr. James Hakes against the Rev. J. Bell Cox, Vicar of St. Margaret's, Liverpool, which led eventually to the latter's long imprisonment The Bishop of Liverpool (Ryle) refused to exercise His episcopal veto, and replied when asked by the English Church Union to do so, that Lord Penzance's Court was the only one he knew of, but that if the Union could provide him with another he would be happy to use it.
In all these incongruous proceedings, S.S.C. could not help playing an unwilling part, for all the priests that have been mentioned were Members of the Society, with the exception of the Rev. S. F. Green, while the principles for which he stood and the situation created by his prosecution put him on an equal footing with the attacked Brethren and constituted him a confessor of the common cause, for which not only the Society but the whole body of English Catholics contended.
At the May Synod of 1882, the Rev. H. D. Nihill was elected to the Mastership and he held it for the three ensuing years. Mr. Nihill was Vicar of St. Michael's, Shoreditch. He had joined the Society, as far back as 1864, and had always taken a prominent part in the doings of S.S.C., as an uncompromising Catholic. Apart from the actual Founders, he probably knew more of the early history of the Society than any other. He possessed both a classical and historical mind, and spared no pains to make himself thoroughly acquainted with all the scanty information which S.S.C. possessed of its earliest years. He searched among the MSS. of the Society, endeavoured to put them in some sort of order, and almost knew its first minute book by heart. He once, in a graphic way, outlined the life of the Society, from its birth down to the time of his own Mastership, by comparing it to that of a human life, passing through its different stages and exposed to its varying sicknesses and weaknesses. He had taken a chief part in framing the Society's Statutes. Father Mackonochie once said that "it was he who had really made them and that they were his work and his wisdom." His grasp of a subject was lucid and he not unfrequently dealt with it in a style peculiarly his own, which was partly epigrammatic, sometimes caustic, and interspersed with well known saws. In spite of his style, probably by reason of it, his addresses were always arresting and could never be accused of brevity.
It is likely that a personal sensitiveness hindered him from becoming an ideal ruler. He could hardly be described as a wearer of "the velvet glove." He loved S.S.C. however, sincerely and desired that its life and deliberations should be marked by humility, reverence, mutual forbearance and love. When in 1882 the Society had to remove its Headquarters from 5 Greville Street and were faced with the financial difficulty of expending a large sum on rent, he most generously placed at its disposal the use of the Parish Rooms at St. Michael's, Shoreditch. The offer was accepted gratefully and St. Michael's became the home of the Society down to 1886, when it alternated between St. Alban's, Holborn, and St. Peter's, London Docks.
Father Nihill's acumen in solving a delicate situation may be illustrated by the "olive branch," as he termed it, which he offered when a discussion arose concerning certain interpolations in the Office of the Society, which a small majority had wished to be inserted in future editions of the Office Book. He cut the Gordian knot by proposing that the Office as printed should begin with the customary audible sentence, "Deus in adjutorium," and insisted that the Offices and Rites of the Society formed no part of its Statutes. His proposal was carried and the little controversy died down. His ideal of the Society during his Mastership was that of its earliest years, that it should not aim at public action or increase its numbers, but should strive after the cultivation of the Priestly Life in its own members and through them shed an influence on others. He was very strong in upholding the opinion that, if the Society was to grow in spiritual strength, it must "attend to its cords as well as its stakes," and he was therefore a strong advocate of all the activity possible being exercised by the Local Branches. The Society at this time did awaken from the lethargic state into which its past perplexities had thrown it. Earnest interest was shown in working for the Society; the Branches gave evidence of belonging to a healthy tree; matters of routine and official duties received prompt attention and, beyond all else, the Rules of Life, it was reported, were more carefully observed by the individual Brethren.
In his guidance of the Society Father Nihill always laid great stress on its corporate life, as distinguished from the acts and words of individual Brethren. This engendered in him a great jealousy where resignations were concerned, and he strongly deprecated these, especially when they arose from any personal feeling that was contrary to the general pulse of the Society itself. As a consequence he spared no efforts to stay these severances. It was this love and loyalty to S.S.C. that made his own action appear additionally strange and regretful when, a month after his Mastership had expired, he withdrew from the Society.
Errors of judgment occasionally must arise in all human institutions, and a variance, as Father Nihill thought, had arisen between the Society and himself over the handling of a question of discipline. On his side, not altogether without reason, there was a sense of grievance, while, on that of the Society, it had on technical grounds evaded expressing an opinion which it had no desire to give and which it felt did not fall within its province to decide. The matter at issue, while it was one between the Master and a Brother of the Society, was independent of the Society itself. The affair is alluded to, simply because it became the occasion of a severance which was much deplored, but which the art of persuasion in vain did its utmost to hinder. The Society was sorry to lose one for whom it felt much affection and respect, whose genius it admired, and on whom it had bestowed by office the mark of its high esteem and confidence. His name will be remembered as the Founder of the Community of St. Mary of Nazareth, which started its work in his parish, near St. Michael's Church. His book, The Sisters of the Poor and their Work, not only gave an account of the growth of the Community, but also furnished an example of his unique style of expression. When Father Nihill left St. Michael's in 1891, he went to act as Chaplain of the Community, whose chief house was now at Edgware and known as St. Mary at the Cross. He held this office until 1903, when he retired from active work. He died ten years later (1913) and was buried in the Conventual ground at Edgware.
The three years of Father Nihill's Mastership of S.S.C. were concurrent with the events mentioned at the be?ginning of this chapter. It will be found therefore that the transactions and records of the Society at this time were coloured by them.
The weapons of S.S.C. being "not carnal," the special difficulties of the Church led the Society in 1882 to see that the restoration of the Daily Mass was of imperative importance. At that time, there were only twenty-five Churches in London and about seventy in the country in which Mass was said daily. The Brethren of the Society were earnestly invited, therefore, to do all in their power to help on its restoration. That a response was made may be assumed from the gradual rise in the number of churches having a daily Mass.
The general decay of discipline in the English Church and the encouragement it received from recent legislation caused the Society at this time to draw attention to the lax views which prevailed concerning the solemnisation of marriage and the ease with which the Church's benediction was bestowed on unbaptised, schismatical, impenitent and divorced persons. A notorious marriage had recently taken place in a well known London church, in which the one contracting party was professedly a Roman Catholic and the other professedly of the Greek Church. It was the existence of discipline in the Roman and Greek Churches and its abeyance in the English Church that had brought about this remarkable result. Similar laxness was noted as regarded some who admitted to Communion those whom the English Provinces plainly excluded, and still more was it so in the case of the Burial of the Dead. Priests were urged to act in accordance with the powers of discipline provided for their use in the Canons Ecclesiastical and the Book of Common Prayer. It was thought that by thus creating a discipline, or by bringing authority to bear from below, it would render it easier in time for the bishops to exercise the weight of their authority from above.
Another matter arose at this time, in view of the difficulties created from the judgments pronounced in Lord Penzance's court and the action of the Civil Power in depriving priests of their benefices. A request was made to the Canon Law Committee to report on Canonical principles and precedents from Arian times, the Commonwealth in England and the Revolution in France, bearing on the question of how a priest so situated should act. A Report, signed on behalf of the majority of the Committee by the Rev. E. G. Wood, was presented eventually to the Society. It was published in due course.
The Report stated that while there was an analogy, yet not a close one between the present troubles and the periods referred to, there was, apart from these, a certitude on canonical principles that any deprivation pronounced under the provisions, either of the Church Discipline Act or of the Public Worship Regulation Act, was the action of the Civil and not of the Ecclesiastical authority and was, canonically speaking, absolutely null and void. It was so, whether the bishop of the Diocese lent his sanction or not to the proceeding, because the bishop could only act according to the Canons, he could not ally himself with the Civil usurper as against the Church. A beneficed priest, or one possessing ordinary jurisdiction, could not be inhibited by the bishop, or be restrained in the exercise of his functions, save by regular Canonical process. By institution, the bishop had parted with his jurisdiction (save and except his own personal exercise of it) within the bounds of the particular parish and could not resume it except by due process. A bishop proceeding under the provisions of an Act of Parliament was not proceeding canonically but was acting as a State official; he was wielding the authority of the Sceptre of England and not that of the Sceptre of Christ. Hence a priest so deprived remained still the Canonical Parochus. He retained all his jurisdiction intact, and therefore also his obligations. If the bishop should attempt to institute another to a Benefice, the canonical incumbent of which had been deprived under the provisions of an Act of Parliament, both he and the priest so instituted would be alike guilty of schism. The canonical parochus could alone minister to the faithful of the parish. But as he would have been forcibly expelled from his church, he should secure some building in which decent provision could be made for the celebration of the Mysteries. Application should be made to the bishop to license such building, on the ground that the priest was forcibly hindered from using his own altar. The bishop could not lay the parish under an interdict. If the bishop considered the intruder to be the lawful parochus, then a case of supreme necessity would have arisen. A difficulty would ensue over the solemnisation of marriage, which to be valid civilly must take place in the parish church. The only solution of this would be for the civil marriage to take place at the Registrar's office, and then the ecclesiastical ceremony be super-added in the temporary church. As regarded other ministrations, it was the bounden duty of the parish priest to teach, to baptise and to feed his flock, while the faithful had a right to his services. An attitude of passive resistance could not be justified canonically. The priest so situated must either make provision for carrying out his duties or resign. The latter course was a matter of expediency and had to be decided on its individual merits.
It can be conceived very readily that the position laid down in the Report was of the gravest kind and the Society realised the full seriousness of it. There was, however, no middle course open. On canonical grounds, the opinion expressed by the Society was the only true one. In what followed, the prosecuted priests, faced with misunderstandings which would have produced schism, resigned their benefices.
A special Chapter of the Society was summoned in November, 1882, to consider the peculiar circumstances that had arisen at St. Alban's, Holborn. The general feeling was that in the question of Father Mackonochie's withdrawal from St. Alban's there was a commingling of sentiment, policy and principle, and that however much the two first, or at least the second of these, might appear plausible, the last demanded an attitude of standing firm. Looking back, the exceeding difficulty of giving advice at the time can be appreciated. For seventeen years St. Alban's had been the centre of persecution and many priests and parishes looked to it for leadership. It was felt seriously at the time that much of the future of the Catholic Movement would be determined by the action which Father Mackonochie decided to take. It was no matter for wonder, in the face of past experiences, that there were some who doubted if trust, from the Catholic view, could be placed in the Archbishop's letter, and feared that it would prove to be but a temporary peace at the expense of truth, or an act which in the eyes of the Church and the world would be interpreted as one of capitulation.
The story of Father Mackonochie's resignation of St. Alban's is too well known to need any repetition of it here. When it had been carried out, S.S.C. expressed its heartfelt sympathy with him in the great trial that it involved together with deep thankfulness to Almighty God for the peaceful solution of difficulties, which in the course of the Divine Providence had been effected.
The Society's attention at this time was not confined to the vital questions which concerned some of its most valued members. A strong and persistent effort was made in 1882-3 to legalise in England the so-called marriage of a deceased wife's sister. The Bill had been thrown out by a majority of four only. It was felt that something should be done to disturb the prevailing apathy concerning this most important question, affecting as it did the morality of the nation. It was thought that the most effectual means the clergy of the English Church could employ to oppose such a Bill would be by carefully instructing their people in the Law of God in regard to marriage and in the awful guilt incurred by any nation which violated or tampered with such law. It considered that it should be stated plainly alike to Rulers of Church and of State that if such sinful unions were legalised by Parliament then it would become the duty of faithful clergy to refuse to solemnise them with the Rites of the Church and also to refuse Communion to those who contracted them. The strength of such opposition, it was felt, would be effective, as the bishops would need no persuasion to uphold the priesthood in this course of action. Bishop Wordsworth of Lincoln, for one, had declared that a priest not so acting would be "a traitor to God." It was further pressed that as the Rubric forbidding Communion to "an open and notorious evil liver" would apply to such cases, it would also be consistent with the old principle that "those to whom living Communion is denied, ecclesiastical sepulture is denied after death." Great activity against the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill arose in consequence and all legitimate means were used to influence public opinion against the measure. Meetings were held and petitions circulated and forwarded through the bishops to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The English Church Union urged its full influence and it was made clear to those who desired to tamper with the Marriage Law that they would not carry their point without arousing a great scandal, and an opposition that would not tamely submit to such change.
In quite another direction, the attention of the Society became drawn to the case of M. Loyson (Pere Hyacinthe). M. Loyson was much in the eye of the English religious public. A professed religious in Paris who, a few years earlier, had written strongly on the Roman claims and attacked the English Church for not accepting them, but whose conscience could not receive the Vatican Decrees of 1870, he eventually separated himself from the Catholic Church in France. This action which "grieved bitterly" his friend Cardinal Newman, who knew his "generous motives," and "the provocation he had received in the ecclesiastical events which had been passing," had evoked a sympathy and an admiration in the protestant mind of England although, as Dr. Liddon pointed out, "he was not at all in the same boat with the people who took him up in this country." His marriage caused him to be regarded with suspicion by the Old Catholics, M. Loyson was an ecclesiastical anomaly, who wished to work for Catholic Reform of which "the central and decisive part" was the marriage of the clergy. He had sought the help of, and was regarded favourably by, some of the Scotch bishops, the latter arguing that an extern bishop, under circumstances such as existed in Paris, could perform Episcopal functions even without ordinary jurisdiction. It was stated that M. Loyson had announced his desire to gather round him Anglican residents in Paris to give them Catholic privileges. He was unable however to speak English. A former brother of S.S.C., in Episcopal Orders and who had a perfect knowledge of French, it was reported, had taken him up and offered to give him mission. The Cambridge Local Branch of S.S.C. had expressed the distress with which it had heard that a late Brother of the Society had seen fit to fraternise with M. Loyson and thereby it seemed had offended against the discipline of the Catholic Church by intruding into the Archdiocese of Paris. The matter was thus brought before the Society's notice and was referred to the Canon Law Committee. A Report was drawn up and discussed. It was felt generally that the retired bishop who had thus acted was helping a propaganda rather than assisting the faithful in a case of necessity, as no real necessity had arisen. The Society expressed its own mind in deeply regretting a schismatical intrusion of the bishop in question into the Archdiocese of Paris without the con?sent of the Ordinary as unjustifiable. No further action was taken in the matter and, except for a mention made some eighteen months later of services being conducted in Paris by the bishop and M. Loyson, no more notice was taken by the Society of the anomaly.
Just as the First London Mission of 1869 owed its origin to S.S.C., so the Society was found taking an active interest in subsequent missions. It had been proposed that there should be a General London Mission in 1884. The Society therefore, true to its traditions, prepared to take an active part and arranged to co-operate with the clergy in the Diocese and also to invite Brethren in the country to give assistance. The methods of the Salvation Army, so prominent at this time, as also the Temperance Crusade, had led some to look at Missions with a doubtful eye. Carlyle had borne witness to the edification resulting from the work of the "Ritualists? as distinct from mere ranting, and consequently Low and Broad Churchmen feared that such effects in the long run would tend towards Catholicism. The Society had some time before given the Salvation Army a full discussion and it had been suggested, by the Oxford Branch, that communication might be opened with General Booth to see if advantage to his work would not accrue by its being carried out in subordination to the Apostolic organisation of the Catholic Church. In view however of the general excitement about the Salvation Army and other burning questions of the day, it was recommended that S.S.C, should make no move in the matter at that time.
In facing difficulties arising out of the prejudices mentioned above it was pointed out that sight must not be lost of the double character of a Mission. It was essentially for those within, who knew the faith but did not act up to it, and then for those without. The fault of modern missions was that they mostly neglected Church-people for the sake of the godless, whereas the two elements had to be united. While the hearts of those without could be touched, too much was not to be expected of them, the aim was to make them, as it were, catechumens. What really was needed to make a Mission fruitful was much instruction in the faith.
The Society also, at this time, pressed the holding of Parochial Retreats for the spiritual benefit of the faithful generally. It was felt that necessity forced them to be held on a Sunday. They were needed in some parishes more than a Mission, while a day's Retreat was helpful in preparing for a Mission. The Rev. J. L. Lyne (Fr. Ignatius) urged the mingling of Retreats and Missions, a plan which, he stated, he had found successful, the former "to enlarge the Christian's view and raise him up; the latter to bring personal faith in Christ to the many who had it not."
In July, 1883, a resolution was passed by the Society which was the first of its kind and which brought a solemn joy to the hearts of the Brethren. It was as follows:?
"That the Brethren of S.S.C. in Chapter assembled desire to express their great thankfulness to Almighty God for the election of their Brother, the Rev. A. Chinnery-Haldane, as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, accepting it as a mark of the Divine favour that this Society should have been called to give one of its Brethren to the Episcopate, and praying that an abundant measure of the Divine assistance may be vouchsafed to their Right Reverend Brother in the High Office which has been committed to him in a Diocese so eminently suited to the simplicity of his Apostolic life and character."
The Society resolved to keep a Novena for him the nine days before his consecration on St. Bartholomew's Day and that each member should offer a Mass for him.
Before the Primus confirmed the Election of Dr. Chinnery-Haldane, he had suggested to him that he should resign his membership of S.S.C. and also that of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. The Bishop elect replied with deep respect that he had received great spiritual help from his membership of these Societies and that he should despise himself for ever if he left them in order to make sure of an ecclesiastical dignity. The bishop withdrew from the Society in 1886, not by reason of any pressure from without, but only because its membership, as he thought, did not continue to be a spiritual help to him. His many pastoral cares probably prevented him from attending Synods and it was also true that there was at this time a spirit of restlessness in the Society, not unlike that of a person suffering from overstrain.
There were many, especially among the senior Brethren, who feared that the Society at its Chapters and Synods was becoming controversial rather than spiritual, while a rigidity and pedantry, and a clear-cut definitive habit, which had sprung up on the part of some of the more frequent speakers, conveyed the suspicion of pro?curing logical satisfaction and canonical exactitude at the expense of the development of priestly holiness and work. Individual members of the younger body possessed what Dr. Bright termed at this time, "the Latinising condition of mind." It had had an exaggerated effect of uneasiness upon a few of the senior Brethren. It was felt also that much time was wasted over technicalities. The condition of things, moreover, made it impossible, even in S.S.C., to avoid entirely "burning questions" which needed the exercise of much mutual charity.
Father Mackonochie, who in 1885?6, was Master for the last time, was unable to carry out the duties of his office. He had been suffering from a need of mental rest, which left an irrecoverable weakness, the signs of which became apparent. The strong and steady hand, which had grasped the tiller of S.S.C. for so long and well and had guided its barque safely through many storms, had by no fault of its own grown weak and weary; he, too, for a moment, seemed to mistake the movements of a few of the crew for those of the ship.
A deep friendship, as was well known, existed between the bishop and Father Mackonochie. The latter was present at his friend's consecration in 1883 and gave a graphic account of it to the Society in Chapter. The events of December 15th, 1887, connected with the passing of the great priest, are too well known to be repeated. From the spirit of uneasiness which for the moment referred to held many in the Society, it can be understood that an energetic and pastoral bishop like Chinnery-Haldane, who was beyond all else spiritually-minded (pietas), who simply held the Catholic Faith, and owned that "Streaks of Light" had "been his companion and help for many years," and who had been imbued with the early founders' ideal of S.S.C., did find, at the particular time, that his association with the Society did not inspire him as much as once it did.
The Bishop of Argyll lived and carried on his strenuous work for twenty years after his severance from S.S.C. He passed away on February 16th, 1906. His memory remains in the Society as one of the many saintly churchmen who have been associated with S.S.C., and the first of its Brethren to be raised to the Episcopate.
Three months after the consecration of Bishop Chinnery-Haldane, or on St. Andrew's Day, 1883, Charles Alan Smythies, after much pressure made necessary through nolo episcopari, was consecrated Bishop of Central Africa in succession to Bishop Steere. He had been a member of the Society up to the previous year, but had resigned only because he found it to be impossible to attend the Society's Synods and Chapters. On his election, a message from the Society conveyed an assurance of satisfaction, prayers and sympathy to the bishop elect, and expressed the hope that he might see his way to rejoin S.S.C. The bishop, however, did not do so.
During the special period which this chapter narrates the Society had done a great deal of erudite and edifying work, which had involved much research and labour on the Committees that produced it. One such was an inquiry relating to the Sacrament of Unction. As long ago as 1871, Father Lowder had brought before the Society "the special danger of the dying hour" and urged that "the Sacrament of Unction was intended to meet those dangers." Father Enraght had pointed out at the same time that the special service for the visitation of the sick in the Prayer Book was a recognition of the Sacrament, as there would be a strangeness in the enjoining of prayer at such a time without the oil. The Society had then resolved that the Brethren be urged "to teach the blessing of the Sacrament of Unction, in order to its speedy revival." At the May Synod of 1879 the matter was brought up again. The insurmountable difficulty for the restoration of the Sacrament lay in procuring the right matter by inducing the bishops to bless the oil for sacramental uses. The presentation of a Memorial to the bishops was considered inexpedient, a view shared in by Dr. Pusey, Dr. Liddon and the Rev. James Skinner. A Committee was appointed,?"To investigate the history of the practice of the Anointing of the Sick, and of the teaching concerning it, in the primitive and later ages of the Church, and to consider the best means of overcoming the practical difficulties in the way of its restoration." The Committee consisted of the Revs. C. F. Lowder, H. D. Nihill, E. G. Wood, J. W. Kempe, J. Wylde, C. H. Wallace, G. Chapman, F. W. Puller, C. S. Grueber and W. Crouch.
Two years later (May, 1881) the Committee issued a Report in which they stated the difficulties surrounding the subject of their investigation itself and the twofold purpose of such anointing, for bodily healing and an increase of sanctifying grace. The teaching and practice both of West and East were fairly covered. The Committee was desired to go on with its work and in particular to consider how best to overcome the difficulties in the way of restoring the use of the Sacrament.
In February, 1883, the Committee expressed an opinion on the difficulty of obtaining the "proper matter." It considered that the special circumstances in England would warrant a breach of the invariable custom of the West that the oil for the purpose be blessed by a bishop. It became the duty however of parish priests to take advantage of every opportunity that offered itself to call the attention of their diocesans to what was required of them, and to ask them for a supply of oil. The Report was accepted, but not without opposition as regarded the suggested breach of Western discipline. The Rev. E. G. Wood pointed out in emphasising such a grave departure that, as Unction was not of necessity, no case of necessity could arise, and that the only way open was to appeal to the bishops to provide what so many wished to restore. It may be mentioned, in order to clear up any doubts on the question, that in later years when Unction was discussed the Society came to see without dissentient voice that the Western rule concerning the consecration of the oil by the bishop was the only use that was allowable.
This reflects no discredit on the Committee of that day. It had set out on a quest which was comparatively speaking new to the post-reformation Church. The different uses of blessed oil for many centuries, sometimes as a sacrament and sometimes as a sacramental, together with varying customs and certain superstitious views, no less than Eastern practice, made the history of Unction a difficult one to unravel. The Committee did excellent work and, whatever irregular loophole it tried to suggest, this was small in comparison to the impetus given by the Society to this means of grace, which to-day has become accepted among the faithful and to which most of the bishops offer no obstacle.
Another question which had been under consideration for several years, and which had involved much research into Canon Law, was the case of the "Celebration of Mass at Unlicensed Altars." The Canon Law Committee presented its final and revised Report in May, 1885, with appendices added by individual members. The gist of the Report was that conciliar authority, historical documents and ecclesiastical writings were all opposed to a priest saying Mass at an unlicensed Altar. It was resolved that the Report should be published.
A subject which came to the front during these years was the attitude of the Episcopate towards Sisterhoods. In 1875 the question of Sisterhoods was discussed in the Southern Convocation, and the Lower House appointed a committee to consider the matter. A Report was issued in 1878, both favourable to and thankful for the work done by Religious Communities. It desired that these institutions should be placed under Church authority and that principles of a binding character should be laid down for their regulation. Their Lordships in the Upper House were humbly requested to recognise and to regulate these institutions by the synods of the Church. A joint committee of the two Houses was then formed but it did nothing. In 1883 the Upper House had a discussion on the subject, introduced by Bishop Harold Browne (Winchester). A new Committee was formed, which presented a Report recommending an Order of Deaconesses as a primitive practice. The Committee was requested to continue its labours and to draw up a list of resolutions for the bishops to consider. These, however, were not formulated until some years afterwards, when they were approved by the Upper House in 1891.
The important debate of 1883 in the Upper House led S.S.C. to form a strong Committee to consider the principles on which Episcopal or Synodical recognition should be given to Sisterhoods. These were to be considered under two heads. First, Should a Sisterhood have the bishop as its Visitor? Second, Who was to receive the vows? And who was to dispense? At the Church Congress this same year Canon T. T. Carter, who had introduced the subject to S.S.C., made a simple and convincing speech on Sisterhoods which was well received by the members of the Congress.
It was only to be expected that the unsettled state of things which "negligences and ignorances," concerning churchly matters, had produced in various quarters, would also produce work whose aim would be "to illuminate all bishops, priests and deacons, with true knowledge and understanding." S.S.C. was not idle in this charitable work. Questions relating to ceremonial, rubrics and interpretations of the Prayer Book from the historical standpoint, and the practical application of the same, were continually coming before the Society. As one example of this, mention may be made of a valuable paper prepared for S.S.C., which was published and also acted upon in many churches, attracting considerable attention in church circles. It was "The Liturgical Use of the Litany," by the Rev. T. A. Lacey. The paper threw much new light upon the antiquity and traditional use of the Sunday Procession and the introduction of the English Litany as an endeavour to restore attendance at it by setting it in a popular form. It also demonstrated the Litany as the correct Processional before the Mass and criticised processions as normally carried out and fondly called revivals, as being in truth innovations upon the custom of centuries. The paper closed with a plea for improved devotion in the use of the Procession, or Litany, and a Postscript on the position of the Litany in the Order for the Consecration of Bishops.
These years that have been under consideration saw the removal by death of a few of the Society's faithful Brethren. The Rev. F. W. Fryer passed away on May 7th, 1881, and the Rev. S. G. F. Perry on June 22nd. Both these priests had joined the Society in 1865. The former had worked in several different spheres both educational and parochial; his closing ministry was passed at St. Chad's, Haggerston. The latter priest was for many years Vicar of Tottington, Bury. The Rev. W. C. Fox passed away on October 20th, 1883, and the Rev. H. M. J. Bowles, on January 6th, 1884. The latter had joined S.S.C. in 1871, and was Rector of St. Aldate's, Gloucester. His death was greatly lamented in that city and his funeral was the last external Catholic ceremonial it was to witness for many years. His passing away caused the dispersion of a faithful Catholic congregation, which had to be content with what could be provided for them by the Rev. T. Humphris Clark (a senior member of the Society) at St. Lucy's Home, Gloucester. The Rev. G. P. Grantham, who died October 13th, 1885, joined the Society in 1871 and had worked in several well known Catholic churches. His last days were spent at Bedminster. A month later, November 15th, the Rev. W. C. Macfarlane passed away. He was Vicar of Dorchester, Oxon, and had joined the Society in 1870. He was instrumental in the work of founding the SS. Peter and Paul Missionary College, Dorchester, in 1878. The following tribute was paid to his memory by Father Mackonochie, "Humanly speaking, the Society has sustained the loss of our Brother Macfarlane, one so holy, so simple, and so fitted by God for the work which Dorchester demanded, both for organisation and attractiveness in his own life and wisdom. Anyone who looked at our Brother would have seen what he was made for; you could see that he was the very milk of human kindness; but another look would show you that those square shoulders and that strong head meant to make their way in his Master's service. It certainly would not be by violence, though it would with force?with that force which comes from a power planted in the soul of the man. He was made for the work; made for humility, simplicity, devotion, love towards God and man, seeking no man's admiration, but labouring humbly to follow his Saviour and be found in Him. May the sign of the Cross fall as plentifully in all its power on us as it has on him." The Rev. C. D. Goldie, Vicar of St. Ives, Hunts, joined the Society in 1872. He was a courageous priest who when he spoke did so succinctly and on the uncompromising side of Catholic truth. He clung to the daily Mass at a time when difficulties beset it, which yet he simply termed "alleged," being convinced that "the smaller the parish, so much more the need was there of Offering the Sacrifice." Father Mackonochie, in one of those similes in the making of which he possessed the master art, said of him, "His very form and face was like a lighthouse, burning with brilliant and joyful light." He died January 11th, 1886.
The Local Branches of the Society, during these years, were active and by their Reports were doing good work, both among their attached Brethren and in helping to guide the opinions and policy of S.S.C. It would be true to say that an interesting and edifying history could be compiled of each of the Local Branches. There are many who owe the greater part of what they have learned of the spirit of the Society, and a big contribution towards their own progress in the knowledge of things theological and ecclesiastical, to the Local Chapters of the Branches. These Chapters, both by the standards of vitality and attendance, have often compared more than favourably with the Chapters of the Society itself. At the period treated of, there were Local Branches holding regular Chapters at Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Dundee, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds, Llandaff, Manchester, Midland (different centres), Plymouth and Scarborough.