A number of friends have asked me about my relations to the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and it has seemed to me that they might better understand my position if they were to read what I wrote to the Superior of the Society in the spring of 1883. To those who read these letters I ought to say by way of preface:
The Society was never meant to be American or English, though in fact the first impulse towards its forming came from Father Grafton's visit to England about the year 1866, and in its earlier days a number of priests of American birth were associated with it.
At first the Society had no Constitution. When the number of professed members of it increased to four, there was a distinct verbal agreement between the Superior, whom they had elected, and the other three, that, while the Constitution should be left in the mean time to develop itself by a process of natural growth, still, when the number of professed fathers should reach twelve, a chapter should be convened and the Constitution should be formulated, and put into written words. This proposition of delay was made by the Superior, and was accepted by the three fathers. The agreement from time to time was spoken of in the Society, and discussed with the Father Superior by the two original American members, and after the number twelve was complete the Superior was asked to fulfil his promise. This he refused to do, saying that he preferred to postpone indefinitely the formation of a Constitution. In a further and somewhat extended correspondence, which Father Grafton had with the Superior, in which Father Grafton expressed the necessity he was under, because of his experience of the Society's work, of modifying some earlier opinions as to the way in which the Society could best operate in America, Father Benson refused definitely to give any Constitution; refused to call any chapter to consider one; and refused to refer the questions to the older members of the Society who knew of the agreement. While it was still supposed by Father Grafton, Father Prescott, and myself, because of the good-will and personal affection continually expressed in Father Benson's letters to Father Grafton, that a fair discussion of the pressing difficulty was going on, and while we were hoping that a way would be found to settle the difficulty through such fair discussion, a letter from him addressed, in writing not his own [3/4] to one of the English fathers, was received at the house in Boston, and was opened by Father Grafton, in strict accordance with the Society's rule. [See note page 12] This letter revealed the fact that while the Father Superior was apparently engaged in a fair interchange of letters with Father Grafton, he was also busy with plans for settling the difficulty, which he wished to conceal, until they were accomplished, from Father Grafton, Father Prescott, and myself. This letter disclosed a method of carrying on the Society in which I felt there should be for me neither part nor lot. If I were to continue working with the Society, it would seem to be a public approval of such methods as this. In consequence, though with great regret, I have been for some time virtually separated from the Society, and have now become actually so. I was sorry to be forced to do this, but I cannot see what else was left me to do. W. R. G.
COPY OF A LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE SUPERIOR OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AT COWLEY, OXFORD, ENG.
BOSTON, March 15, 1883.
DEAR FATHER BENSON,--I have been quietly waiting and looking on since I received your last letter to see what could be done here. First, let me thank you for writing answers to my questions. I find a certain difficulty in writing to you again, inasmuch as I fear what I am about to say may seem to you to indicate that our relations have become somewhat strained, and perhaps peculiar. It seems to me necessary to that frankness and cordial freedom which has been said to be characteristic of Religious that one should not conceal the things he cannot help thinking, even though the courtesies of ordinary intercourse might seem to require such concealment. It also seems to me not right that you should imagine my thoughts to be different from what they really are. Some things you speak of in your letters I do not yet understand as you seem to understand them. You tell me, for example, that the relations of Father Grafton to the parish ought to be the same as those of any other rector. Certainly in his canonical relations he cannot represent in the parish any one but himself; and he can be called to account justly for his methods in carrying on parish work, only by the "Ecclesiastical Authority" which gave him jurisdiction. Having become a rector, he is morally bound to assume the direction of all things in the parish; to act according to his own judgment; and to give way to the opinions of his subordinates, clerical or lay, only when these are considered by him judicious. No rector can possibly assume and do less, and at the same time do his bounden duty. It could only be by a fiction that Father Grafton, or any one else, could assert that he held a parish in the United States for any society, no matter what the intention or wish of the vestry that elected might have been. For a corporation, or part of it, to try to slip the control of their parish into the hands of a society, either actually or virtually, would be a breach of trust in the eyes of our Church. [A number of years ago Father Grafton, anticipating a different form of the Society of the S. S. J. E. in the United States from that it has taken, expressed an opinion to the corporation that it would be a good thing to make the relations of the parish to the Society permanent. Nothing, however, came of it; and afterwards he saw the impossibility, as well as the impropriety, of uniting the parish with the Society, and therefore opposed such a plan.] It is not impossible, indeed, if it were done gradually and quietly, without attracting attention, that no stir might be excited in the Church at large.
 You say that I am to expect Father Hall to act as "assistant Rector." But there is no defined way in law or custom for an "assistant Rector" to act. Indeed there is no such thing as "assistant Rector." I think one cause of trouble here has been a misapprehension in regard of this office. I do not know whether you are aware that it was mentioned in connection with a canon during our last diocesan convention. The title was disallowed by the Bishop on the ground that there is no such office as that of "assistant Rector" recognized in the Church. To confirm his decision, the Bishop called upon the secretary of General Convention, who is a priest of this diocese, and he stated that General Convention had decided there could be no such office. He also said that the same decision had been made lately by the Supreme Court of the State of. New York. Father Hall's true position was that of assistant. Minister elected by the corporation. It was exactly the same as that held by Dr. Stewart in St. Clements, Philadelphia, when Father Prescott became rector of that parish. There is only one other kind of assistant known in our Church: such assistants as Father Osborne was, and as I am. Assistants appointed as he and I were hold their place subject entirely to the will of the Rector. I may be discharged to-morrow, and. so may any like assistant, either by telegram or post-card from the Rector. Except under extraordinary circumstances, a Rector would not be likely so to discharge an assistant; but his right to do so is unquestionable. [In the summer of 1881 Father Osborne was in England. Late that summer, so near the time he was expected to return that a letter could not reach him before his departure from England, Father Grafton saw that it was best for the parish that Father Osborne should not return to it. Father Grafton therefore sent a telegram to England to stop his return to the parish. Father Osborne, however, returned to Boston, told Father Grafton he had been sent back by Father Benson to Boston, and that if he was. not received by Father Grafton it would be considered a break on Father Grafton's part with the Society, and then Father Hall and all the workers might be withdrawn by Father Benson; that he intended to remain there, and would not go anywhere at Father Grafton's request; but would hold himself in readiness to go anywhere Father Benson might send him. In order to prevent the sudden suspension of all work in the parish, Father Grafton then gave permission to Father Osborne to go on working in the parish.] Father Hall, as assistant, had this advantage, that he could not be discharged by the Rector or corporation; and the peculiar privilege that, in the absence of the Rector, he could preside at corporation meetings, and, when so presiding, have a casting vote. As assistant, his duties in the parish were the same as mine. He was not at all a joint Rector, but was in the parish to work only as the Rector might direct. This consideration makes it difficult for me to understand what you can have meant by saying in one of your earlier letters to me, "I did not expect: you to hold up Father Grafton's hands against Father Hall."
My own duty as assistant has seemed to me perfectly plain; to that I have never been disloyal. I have always tried, with such capacity as [6/7] I have, to fulfil it. If I were assistant as a secular priest in any parish, I should consider not only what the Rector ordered, but also what I knew to be his wish. I do not see how I have been relieved from this obligation by becoming a member of a voluntary religious society to which no especial privileges have been granted by the Church,--a Church to the spirit of whose system, as well as to the letter of whose laws, I am bound to show respect. I cannot think this view of my duty is prejudiced by any special attachment to this place or parish, as the very thought of coming here was from the first unpleasant to me, and the stay here has been distasteful.
A prominence relatively much too great has been given, by some who have been busy to explain things in your behalf, to rumors of what Father Grafton intends in regard of an independent American society. I am sure that I know he has not said one word because he desires to be the Superior of any such society. I also know that he did not desire to leave the Society of St. John, and continually hoped that you would have the matter brought before the Society in chapter. This hope I know, from Father O'Neill's last letter to him, Father O'Neill shared. Father Grafton saw at last, with grief, that his voice was not regarded at Cowley, although to use Father Hall's words, printed seven or eight years ago, "He [Father Grafton] in America long cherished the idea of founding a religious fraternity, and in the course of a visit to England opened the subject to [you], so that a compact was made leading to the foundation of the Society of St. John the Evangelist." He also felt that there was hardly any longer a place for him in the Society when Fathers Maturin and Osborne (apparently speaking your mind), asked him last June, "Why he did not leave it?" Such pressure was perhaps the chief reason which led him to ask for release at the time he did,--a release which he had been led to suppose would be given him, not as to an individual who had found his position in the Society difficult, but as to one of three or four who were in the same position. The formation of a new or independent society has had so small place in all our minds that I have not talked about it seriously with Father Grafton for fifteen minutes. What may come to us in the future I cannot tell; but it is most unhappily true that at present the Society of St. John the Evangelist is in America a failure. That three out of the four professed American Fathers are unable to work with the Society, and the fourth is in the position indicated by this letter, almost, if not entirely, demonstrates that something is fatally wrong with it.
In speaking in your last letter of the relations of the Society here to the Church, you throw in the parenthetical remark, that it "is not a Board of Missions." If this was written seriously, it is to be said that it would be impossible for the Society to become a Board of Missions, even if it should get entire recognition from the Bishops. A Board of Missions is a representative body. If the Society were recognized, it would [7/8] be recognized as a Society of Religious, and nothing more, just as the University of the South might be recognized as a university, and nothing more.
Now, to speak of myself. You say, in your letter to me, that you hope I will continue on in Bowdoin Street with Fathers Hall and Osborne. I wish to tell you some of the reasons why I cannot do so. Fathers Hall and Osborne have taken a line in which it is impossible for me to follow them. One thing the Church in New England has to contend with is the Congregationalism which has been brought into it by converts. Now, one of the less-pleasing features of Congregationalism has been encouraged by their taking sides with people, who have seen fit to criticise and carp at Father Grafton. There are persons in almost every parish in New England who are discontented with their Rector. And it seems to me one of the special duties of a loyal assistant, to say nothing of the instincts of an honorable gentleman, not to permit one's self to be used by such persons. It is unhappily true, however, that parties have been formed here, with at least the tacit consent of some of Father Grafton's assistants, which have been fruitful sources of annoyance to him, and of disturbance in the parish. I cannot think that I have done more than my bare duty in refusing to side with a handful of people who have made every effort to upset Father Grafton. There are those in the corporation, I fear, of whom it would be too great charity to say that they look with satisfaction upon the Rector's refusal to submit to their dictation; and who, in consequence, have been inclined to magnify everything they are pleased to consider an offence. If, when Father Grafton found himself outside the Society, Fathers Hall and Osborne had quietly withdrawn from all connection with the parish,--following the good example of Father Prescott when he left St. Clements, and told the people not to write to him, since they were no longer committed to his spiritual care,--a mere handful of people might have left the parish, perhaps, but the rest would have settled down quietly where they were, and the parish would long have been at peace. [This was what they had expressly agreed to do in June, 1882. It was the understanding on which Father Grafton accepted his release from the Society. The proposition was made in writing by Father Hall, accepted by Father Grafton, and sent to Father Benson, who agreed to it, and was as follows:--"That we should grant him, and any in like position with him, an honorable release from obligations to the Society, on the ground that we are not able to agree to or carry out at present the conditions which he conscientiously insists upon, and on which he originally joined the Society. If, as he says, these conditions were included in the original understanding, we have seen reasons to modify our opinions and plans; he has not changed his mind about their necessity. No Constitution having been formed and agreed upon, we set him free without any slur, and leave him in possession of the parish, questions of property being amicably adjusted, and Father Osborne and myself withdrawing, putting him in as good condition as we can with the people." [Father Hall's letter of June 13, 1882, to Father Benson, which he submitted to Father Grafton before it was sent.] Some of the corporation, to be sure, [8/9] might still be a lamenting their inability to boast any longer of their getting a number of imported priests for the same money other parishes are obliged to pay for one native. Of course, you know what Father Grafton's consent to the present arrangement really amounts to, and is worth. [This means that Father Grafton, in order to get Father Hall to resign, and leave him in sole possession of the parish, as Father Hall had agreed to do; had finally to buy Father Hall's resignation with a written consent to Father Hall's doing mission work in the old building in Bowdoin Street.] I consider Fathers Hall and Osborne as doing what is morally wrong in coming back to set up rival services in the old Church. If such things can be approved in the Church, and assistants can be upheld in taking away a following of parishioners which they have gained by means of their connection with a parish, then rectors may bid farewell to all confidence in subordinates.-I have heard it said that Fathers Osborne and Hall are coming back to Bowdoin Street, because the Bishop, as well as "their people," wish them to continue their work here. I asked the Bishop [Just before I wrote this letter] if this were so, and he said that he did not wish them to return. "They cannot be prevented," said he, "because they keep within the letter of the law; but they are doing a wrong." Do you not ask too much when you ask me to go with them in a course of action which I myself consider dishonorable, and which besides has the disapproval of my Bishop? If I should find myself working with them, I do not see how I could defend my position, either to myself or to others. If, for the sake of comfort and peace, I could bring myself to act with them without being inwardly convinced that they were right, I should feel that I might in future commit myself to any dishonest act of apparent expediency, without compunction. That is exactly where I have found a difficulty from the beginning of these troubles. I have feared the consequences to my own soul of entering on any course not open, straightforward, and absolutely sincere. I have, therefore, sought the opinions of disinterested and most competent advisors, bishops as well as priests, as to the simple right and wrong of things that have been done. And in accordance with their opinions, and not, so far as I am conscious, from the least self-will or self-conceit, I have declined quietly to do anything that would injure Father Grafton, or hurt the parish.
This seems as proper a place as any to tell you that the Bishop wrote to the wardens of the parish before the corporation voted the present settlement; but his letter, which advised against the return of Fathers Hall and Osborne, and was meant for the consideration of the whole corporation, was not allowed to reach it. [If I were re-writing this letter, I should substitute here for the words, "was not allowed to reach it," the words, "did not reach it till after the present settlement was made."] Should you wish to know the Bishop's opinion, you can obtain from him a copy of the letter he intended the corporation should hear. This puts another bar in my [9/10] way, as I still quite agree with what you yourself have often said, "that no, work should be undertaken by members of the Society in any diocese against the will of the Bishop."
There is another matter of which it may be proper that I should say one word, though it is not in itself worthy of serious consideration. You are, it is not unlikely, already aware that some rash persons have made charges of the use of ambiguous and misleading language by Father Grafton, or even of untruth. I am unable to answer this patiently. To you, who know Father Grafton's uprightness and transparency of character, such a charge must surely seem as monstrous as it does to me. I only wish that all who speak such falsehoods of him might be Divinely led to prophesy of him as one did who accused hire of spreading false reports about the Society, on the ground that he [Father Grafton] only possessed the knowledge that the things reported were facts. The nationality of the speaker may be inferred from his remark. It was a member of our Society who said it, but he was not of English birth.
In your letter of October 24, 1882, you say, "I suppose the Religious of the present day stand to the clergy much as the prophets of the' old dispensation did to the priesthood." I know when at Cowley that this was one of your views. I was always ready to respect it, but I never quite thought I was under obligation to adopt it. In speaking of it in my earlier days at Cowley to one of the older Fathers, and saying that it troubled me, I was advised not to discuss it with you, as Fathers Grafton, Prescott, O'Neill, and other older members of the Society, did not entertain it, and that it would pass out of sight with you. If such an opinion were enforced, I could understand Father Torbert's objection to vows as taken in the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. When he raised them to me, somewhat more than two years ago, I thought the answer very simple. It seems to me now that his fears with regard to being bound to the opinions of a Superior may after all not be groundless.
But there are still more serious things which perplex me very much. I have read all your later letters to Father Grafton and Father Prescott, and some that you have written to Dr. Shattuck. Some things in these letters read very strangely to me; I think if you yourself could read some of them, placed side by side, you would be surprised.
For instance, you wrote to Dr. Shattuck, in a letter dated September 10, 1882, the whole of which I have read, these words: "Father Prescott attended a vestry meeting, and laid the case before them. Father Grafton went with him. The result was, they requested him still to resign." It seems strange you should so write when I wrote to you, November 21, 1881, "We [Father Grafton and I] arrived in Philadelphia, took tea with the brethren, and occupied the library of the Mission House while Father Prescott was engaged in the church with the vestry. None of the parishioners while there." Had you doubted my [10/11] narrative, or considered my language ambiguous, and thought that Father Grafton did attend that meeting, and did attempt to use his personal influence in the vestry of a parish where he had no business to interfere in the least, you had time to learn before writing to Dr. Shattuck whether he had done so or not. You could have found out that I spoke the truth exactly, by writing to one, two, or three of the vestry of St. Clement's. I may say in passing that it was commonly reported in Philadelphia that a letter from you, intended to influence the vestry against Father Prescott and to prevent his return, was read at that same vestry meeting. Is it possible that this is true?
It is also surprising to read, in a letter from you to Father Hall, that Father Benedict left the Society and its work in Philadelphia on account of Father Prescott; and to compare this statement with a letter of Father Benedict's, in which he says that it was not at all on account of Father Prescott that he left there, but that, on the other hand, Father Prescott's presence in the house was a strong reason for his staying. If Father Prescott had not written to Father Benedict to ask an explanation of your statement, it is possible that a misunderstanding might have grown out of it.
It is proper in this connection to state, that since the troubles in the Society have become thicker, the warning word "Confidential" in your letters has been liberally interpreted. I am most sorry to say that both Fathers Grafton and Prescott have found, to their great surprise and grief, that your letters to each of them have been of the same character,--to each lavish expressions of affection, and suggested distrust of the other. Your letters caused a temporary estrangement between two men who had been close friends for thirty years. You must remember that your letters to me have been of the same character, except that the distrust suggested was of both these fathers. In the letter to Dr. Shattuck which I have already mentioned suggestions of the same distrust were a marked feature.
Another difficulty has been raised by some who say that a rule of the Society was violated when Father Grafton opened the letter, which you sent under cover of his mother's hand-writing, to Father Hall. [The letter came in an envelope addressed on the outside in a lady's handwriting: "REV. F. HALL, 22 Staniford Street, Boston, U. S. A." It was contained in a second envelope which had written on it the words: "PRIVATE. Rev. Father Hall, addressed by your mother externally," in the hand-writing of Father Benson. The whole letter was in Father Benson's hand-writing, and there was nothing else enclosed. It will be observed that Father Benson implies that his letters were not privileged by his having this letter addressed by a relative of Father Hall so as to bring it under Rule 3 of Correspondence. It is also evident that Rule 6 does not bear upon Father Grafton's action with regard to this letter, since the letter was not about "affairs of the house," but was about affairs of that parish for which Father Grafton as rector was solely responsible. Father Grafton as soon as he had read this letter sent word to Father Benson that he had done so, and also read the letter to Father Hall.] I [11/12] do not see that this is so. Father Grafton did not recognize the handwriting on the cover as being that of Father Hall's relative, and opened it as provided for in the Rule No. 4 (as numbered in my copy of the Rule) of Correspondence. As soon as he saw your hand-writing within, self-defence made it imperative that he should read the instructions you were secretly conveying td his assistant. Had he known the true state of the case, and the rule been even more strict than it is, it may be doubted if he would not have been bound to read it. It is a maxim of the common law that "Fraud vitiates everything." I think one can see, that if that maxim had been put in the canon law as a rule, and acted on, the Catholic Church and her Religious societies would have been spared some scandals. It is very puzzling too to me to see how you can maintain that the letter which Father Grafton opened was a privileged one, when really it was not a letter from Father Hall's relative at all, but one from you. The mere outside address was all that Father Hall's mother wrote. All the rest was yours. It confuses all my notions of honesty in speech to hear it called a privileged letter, when it was such only by its outside appearance. Our rule says, indeed (Rule 3 of Correspondence), "Correspondence with relatives shall be entirely unrestricted;" but the letter in question surely did not belong to the excepted class; since it was from you, and not from any relative of Father Hall's. Father Hall himself, when the letter was read to him, said (as I have told you before) that he would not discuss the morality of a letter that came in that way. I have no wish to do so either, and gladly turn away from it.
[THE RULE OF CORRESPONDENCE OF THE SOCIETY OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AS FOLLOWS:
[1. All letters shall be brought to the Father Superior, or the Father in charge of the House when he is absent, both when they come from the post and when they are to be sent out. Those to relations sealed, others opened.
[2. The Father Superior will give the letters out after Sext and at such other times in the day as may be convenient; but, unless there be some emergency, the morning shall not be disturbed by the reading of letters.
[3. Correspondence with relations shall be entirely unrestricted.
[4. The Father Superior will exercise his discretion as to the opening and transmission of other letters; or, if he be absent, the Father in charge will do the same.
[5. The brethren must be careful to avoid merely secular correspondence; but with immediate relations it is desirable to maintain habits of intimacy and affection.
[6. It is very important that the affairs of the House should never be discussed in letters, except with the Superior alone.
[7. The Father Superior should be kept constantly informed of what is being done at a distance, and each brother when away from home should take care to let him know, as nearly as possible, where he will be staying from day to day in the follow. i4rg week, if he be not stationary.
[These rules are quoted because Father Grafton acted upon them in dealing with Father Benson's letter when Father Grafton was still a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and also Father Superior of the House in Boston.]
 What I have to speak of next is not more pleasant. It is of a suggestion made to me last summer. It caused me much trouble and mental disquiet. I do not yet understand how you could have made it, or how you came to write me that letter. Speaking of some things which you said Father Grafton had done, you say, "It is often, I am sure, no moral fault, but just a result of his brain trouble." This seems to me to be a suggestion by you that Father Grafton is losing his mind, or has partly lost it. Such an insinuation is one that ought to be made with caution, and only upon the most solid grounds. The odium of it is easily cast upon any one. Dr. Forbes Winslow says that most of us are a little insane, you know; and no less a person than Prince Metternich, I believe, maintained that no man can understand Englishmen till he has firmly settled it in his mind that they are all mad. It is hard for any man, I repeat, to repel these charges, and it is an especially cruel charge to make against a priest, since hardly any other would so quickly and easily ruin his influence. It is not from you alone that I have heard such reports about Father Grafton. Once I tried to follow the reports up and check them at their source; but I found that they ran back, converging, towards our houses, and I ceased to try to track them for fear that I might find that they had been set on foot by some whom I wished still to honor as brethren.
The truth as to Father Grafton's health is this: He never at any time suffered from brain trouble. The opinion of Dr. Willard Parker, given eleven years ago, to which you refer me as indicating this, had no reference to any trouble of that sort. It was simply that Father Grafton was suffering from a temporary debility and prostration of the whole system, such as any overworked man might have, and get entirely over by rest. Dr. Parker said distinctly that there was not the slightest symptom of any mental disease. This opinion of Dr. Parker's was concurred in by Dr. Acosta, an eminent French physician, whom Father Grafton consulted in Paris. But all this is no news to you. Father Grafton has already told it to you several times. I do not see how, in the face of this, your suggestion to me was based upon Dr. Willard Parker's opinion. I was not aware of these opinions when I first heard the reports that were in circulation two years ago. When they came to me for the first time by way of New York, I confess I felt some anxiety. For the last two years I have carefully watched Father Grafton, and I have seen nothing by which the report that he was losing his mind could be justified; The Bishop has told me he had heard the same thing; and for a year and a half he had looked most carefully into the matter on his own account, and had entirely satisfied himself that the reports were the work of designing people hostile to Father Grafton. An eminent Doctor of Divinity of this diocese also felt much personal concern with regard to this matter. He told me he had carefully examined into the reports, and had given himself many opportunities for [13/14] testing Father Grafton's mental soundness. He said, that after a year and a half of careful observation he had failed to discover the least thing that would justify the stories which had gone around about him. An eminent physician of this city, who has made brain disease a specialty, thinks the report ridiculous. But, on the other hand, Father Osborne one day last year pressed me to say that I agreed with him that Father Grafton was not responsible for his actions and was diseased in his brain, I answered him by saying that it was shameful to encourage reports like these, and that the way in which they were being used against Father Grafton, so as to bring his opinions into disrepute, was not only unkind and cruel, but, if done deliberately, was devilish. Up to that time I had not thought it possible that any one could believe it of advantage to the Society not to deny and denounce every false report.
But I must draw to an end. And the question presses upon me, What shall be the conclusion and upshot of the whole matter? At present I cannot tell, nor do I clearly see my way. I do not think I have done anything yet to forfeit the regard and affection which, far beyond my deserts, you so abundantly express for me, and I am still ready to forgive you all the pain you have caused me. I have said what I have said, and done what I have done, in the fear of God and in the love of the truth. I cannot and will not join with anybody, in or out of the Society, in following any course that is indirect or false, or that cannot bear the fullest and broadest light of day. Must I then leave the Society, because I refuse to use some of its present methods? Perhaps not. Sometimes I have thought that I had a duty to the whole Church of God that forbids me to withdraw.
I am, my dear Father Benson,
Yours in Him,
W. R. GARDNER.
Father Benson acknowledged the receipt of this letter, but declined to consider the questions raised in it. Under the circumstances the only possible course which seemed left to me was to announce my withdrawal from the Society which I did in the letter which follows:--
BOSTON, Oct. 10, 1883.
DEAR FATHER BENSON,--Your letter, acknowledging mine of March 15th, but refusing to consider its contents, came to me while I was abroad this last summer. I have been waiting for you to reconsider your refusal to answer my letter, and I think that now a sufficient time has passed to assure me that you will not do so. Of course, I can draw only one inference from your refusal. There was really no ground for confident hope that you would regard that letter more than other letters of mine in which I have expressed to you my perplexities. In [14/15] your judgment it has seemed best to you to trifle with me whenever I have written to you seriously about the dilemma in which I began to find myself soon after I came to Boston in 1880. You told me in answer to my letter of November 21st, 1881, that there was so much to say, you would say nothing. To a letter in which I asked you four direct questions, you returned four answers which meant nothing. In answer to my letter of March 15, you write you will not say anything until I acknowledge I have been wilfully doing wrong in refusing to co-operate with Father Osborne and Father Hall in their plans with regard to this parish, and in some other things.
There is much I am very sorry to have seen and to know, but I could not appear to be working with them until you and they should make a public declaration in detail, of sorrow for the wrong done, for the sake of your interests, to Father Grafton, Father Prescott, and myself. It would be impossible for me to return to England to live there. I prefer to remain a priest of the American Church, and the privilege to make this choice was understood to remain mine when I joined the Society. The position you have taken leaves me only one course. You compel me to accept the release offered little more than a year ago, and to withdraw from the Society. I have looked in vain, through a period of two years, to see whether any other solution of the difficulty would offer itself; but, as you have not seen fit to change your methods, I must enter the only protest against them which is possible for me. I cannot take any part in them, and since refusal to approve your way involves a virtual separation from the Society, it is useless for me to do anything else but to make that separation actual.
Believe me, it is not without many regrets that I thus cut myself off from some who have been to me dear friends and whom I still love. Yours sincerely,
W. R. GARDNER.