Project Canterbury

William McGarvey and the Open Pulpit
An Intimate History of a Celibate Movement in the Episcopal Church,
and of Its Collapse, 1870-1908.

By Edward Hawks
Priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1935.

Chapter 9. The New Régime at Nashotah

IN THE SPRING of 1906 the trial of the Rev. Algernon Crapsey took place. He had claimed the right to interpret the Apostles' Creed in such a way that the reality of the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrection of our Lord might be practically denied. It was with difficulty that he was deposed from the Anglican ministry. The support that he received from the Broad or Modernist party, gave the first intimation of the approaching troubles.

Dean Church tells us in his history of the Oxford Movement that the day which saw the condemnation of Ward's book, The Ideal of a Christian Church, saw also the rise to power of the "Broads." They slipped into the gap which the Newmanites had made in the walls of Oxford conservatism. The University was too tired of controversy to wage another war against a new foe. Throughout the development of the Anglo-Catholic movement both in England and America, it served the purpose of the "Broads" to protect it from the attacks of the Protestants. Anything that disturbed the traditions of Anglicanism was favorable to themselves. By securing toleration for others they secured their own. They were willing to let the Anglo-Catholics swing incense, if they themselves might be able to sap the dogmatic structure of established belief. They consistently favored a liberal attitude toward all religious questions. At the Crapsey trial they took offence at the unwillingness of the Anglo-Catholics to return a sympathy which had been received.

This, however, was impossible. It was in opposition to Liberalism that the Oxford Movement had first begun. It was essential to the Anglo-Catholic position that it should be accepted by all as the only true one. The Crapsey trial therefore set the Modernists and the Anglo-Catholics at daggers' points. The former seized the opportunity to join forces with all those elements in the Episcopal Church which were watching the growth of "Catholic" practices with alarm. The Low, or Evangelical party had not forgotten the famous Fond-du-Lac episcopal consecration in 1900, when the Rev. Reginald H. Weller was ordained as coadjutor bishop with a very elaborate ceremony in which many of the Roman customs were used, and when eight or nine bishops wore mitres at a "solemn pontifical mass." The Moderate High Churchmen were also becoming alarmed at the acceptance of Papal Infallibility by some Episcopal clergymen. The time was favorable for the formation of a new alliance which would either drive the Romanizers from the Anglican Church, or reduce them to a state of tolerated subserviency. This new alliance, as will be seen later, chose the Open Pulpit movement as its weapon.

In the summer of 1906 I was able to return to England for the first time in five years. Much had happened during those years. I had left England as a youth and came back as an ordained clergyman with the license of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was possible to mix on friendly terms with the Anglican ministry. The result was very disillusioning. Englishmen are prone to take a critical attitude toward their own institutions. On all sides there were indications of confusion. There seemed to be no standard of practice, and no plan of campaign. No two churches that I visited were alike in their methods of worship. In some the Roman missal was used; in others it was adapted to the Prayer-Book; in none was it treated as an alien rite. Every clergyman was a law to himself; and episcopal authority was openly ignored. I returned in the middle of September with a sense of disappointment, recalling a remark which had been made to me before I left America. That remark had opened up a new line of thinking: "You will find," I was told, "when you get to England that no one over there has any adequate idea of the term 'kingdom of God'; the English idea of kingship is sentimental and imaginative." There appeared to be a good deal of truth in this. How can a kingdom exist without law?

On my way to Nashotah I stopped for a few days with McGarvey in Philadelphia. He spoke to me more confidentially than he had ever done before. We took several walks together through the streets of the older districts. He took pleasure in pointing out the beauty of the colonial architecture and told me much of the history of many of the ancient houses. There was nevertheless a worrisome question in his mind which he could not conceal. It was a relief to him to discuss it. He had been reading a book by the Rev. Spencer Jones, England and the Holy See. The book had been published for some years and it contained a sympathetic preface written by Lord Halifax. I had never read it, though the character of its contents was fairly familiar to me, because it was being popularized by The Lamp (then an Anglican monthly), published by the Rev. Paul James Francis, Superior of the Graymoor community, who afterward made his submission to Rome.

The thesis of the book was this: if there is to be reunion, it cannot take place without the cooperation of Rome; but Rome cannot change without ceasing to be Rome; we, however, can change and do change; therefore let us change. The publication of this book gave rise to a new pro-Roman party in the Anglican Church, which accepted the decrees of the Vatican Council, but which refused to submit to Rome without its acknowledgment of the validity of Anglican orders. It was argued that the fruit of Anglican orders proved them to be valid; and that no one could deny his own spiritual experience. On the other hand it was asserted that the papal condemnation of these orders was not an infallible decision. In this matter Rome could therefore change, and doubtless would change if the pro-Roman party clung together and demanded a reconsideration of the case.

There was much more in the book than the development of this thesis. It contained one of the most intelligible defences of the papal system that has ever been written. It was this defence, rather than the main thesis of the book, that had disturbed McGarvey. He told me that he thought the arguments offered were absolutely unassailable. It is certain that no one had attempted to answer the book. There was something ominous in this. It seemed to suggest that fears were entertained as to the course Lord Halifax might take if the book were directly attacked.

I shall never forget the gravity with which McGarvey discussed the situation. Hitherto I had not supposed that anyone took the book so seriously. Copies of The Lamp lay on the table of the common room at Nashotah, but its arguments found little support. It seemed ridiculous that Anglicans could believe in Papal Infallibility and remain Anglicans. Yet this is precisely what Spencer Jones and Paul James Francis were proposing. When I discovered that McGarvey thought their position possible, perhaps necessary, there came the remembrance of the remark about the kingdom of God. The Papal Church was certainly a kingdom, and the Anglican theory offered a loose confederacy of divided and disagreeing elements. Was The Lamp idea so foolish after all? We had always been taught that the Pope was the chief bishop of Christendom, and that if there was to be reunion, it could only take place with his approval. But we always supposed that the papacy would in some mysterious way become changed. Anglican clergymen were now asserting that an essential change was impossible. From that time on I slowly accepted the new position, without the least thought of disloyalty and certainly without the slightest suspicion of any future renunciation of the Anglican ministry. I now read The Lamp with respect, but not without misgivings.

At the opening of the seminary, Dr. Barry took the place of Bishop Webb. The first intimation that we received of the changed regime was the assumption by him of the title of Dean. Since he still retained a connexion with the diocese of Fond-du-Lac, of whose tiny cathedral he was a canon, he considered that he was entitled to wear the insignia of a Roman Monsignor, and therefore appeared in a cassock with purple trimmings. This seemed inconsistent in one who was so anti-papal.

It did not take me long to know that the new Dean had a very strong New England prejudice for Englishmen, and that I could expect nothing from him but frigid politeness. There was an escape. The Rev. Sigourney Fay returned as professor of Dogma. He was altogether delightful. He, too, found his environment chilly. He had always supposed Dean Barry to be a very close friend. They had both been together at Fond-du-Lac, where Fay fulfilled the mysterious duties of an archdeacon. When asked what these duties were, he would reply in the dictionary manner: "Why, of course, archdiaconal." Actually he spent his time whilst in Fond-du-Lac going all over the country preaching, mostly outside the limits of his diocese. At Nashotah he treated his official duties in much the same way. He was more often absent than present in class; and when he was in class he talked of everything else except theology.

Fay found the Dean changed; and he found the common table unendurable. He was permitted, on the plea of health, to establish a ménage in one of the empty houses known as the Cole House. I was later invited to share this retreat with him; and our life together was most enjoyable. Fay was completely out of his element in the Episcopal Church. Although he had not the least intention of leaving it, he 'felt not the slightest loyalty to it. This was rather painful to me, who had a very strong attachment to the religion of my fathers. I found myself driven to a position of defence, against an adversary who knew the weakness of every argument that I could suggest. He was mercurial. One could pin him down to nothing. When he had exhausted his arguments against the religion which he was ordained to teach, he would wearily admit that he supposed that it was possible to be a "Catholic" and yet remain an Anglican. He fell back on one favorite excuse for his apparent inconsistency. He had recently returned with Bishop Grafton from a visit to Russia. There he had been very much impressed by the mysterious splendor of the Greek Orthodox Church. He used often to say: "I know that the Greeks must be Catholics for they have the Catholic life. If they do not submit to Rome, why should we?" This phase did not last long, for the further question would arise: "How do I know what the Catholic life is?" Fay had no arguments for remaining an Anglican which were not sentimental. This did not satisfy me. I determined to get to the foundation of the question: "Why am I an Anglican?"

This resolution led to a great deal of private reading. I was determined to establish the "Catholicity" of the Anglican Church. By this term was covered our own Nashotah, or, if you will, Percival, opinions of what was Catholic. Ridiculous as this seems to me now, I can see no other explanation. We had an idea of what was Catholic, at least we assumed that we could recognize it in some religious organizations, and fail to recognize it in others. Was our idea confirmed by history? Was there through the continuous development of Christianity an essential element which we possessed as Anglicans? Was it something different from papal Christianity? Was it accepted officially by the Anglican Church, not merely at the moment, but--and this was vital--since the time of the so-called Reformation? It was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with post-Reformation Anglicanism. During the year I read most of the library of the Anglo-Catholic Fathers. My reading brought me little comfort. I began to suspect the catenas of isolated texts often found in controversial manuals. Read in their context the quotations did not bear the construction placed' upon them. Without exception the accepted theologians of the Anglican Church before the time of Newman seemed to me to be what we should now call Protestants.

Canon St. George, professor of Church History, also made difficulties for me. He hated the Reformation because it was English--and he was an Irishman, when he remembered it. He and Fay, who had little else in common, agreed in this. They believed that no argument could be built upon the history of post-Reformation Anglicanism. The Oxford Movement must be regarded as a miracle of grace. There was a gap of three hundred years during which Catholic life lay dormant to break forth in full vigor in the nineteenth century. During that period the most that could be said was that the ministry was validly retained and no fundamental error definitely taught by official Anglicanism. It was useless to look for any Catholic consciousness during this period, for there was none. This was a theory that I could not possibly accept. I tried to satisfy myself that here and there one could find evidences of people believing in the Mass and in priestly absolution. The results of my reading were so meagre as to be alarming. Fay's good humor and apparent satisfaction with conditions smoothed over the difficulties but did not meet them. I was always looking backward and he forward. I was asking for reasons, whilst he was asking for results. His mind was always in a state of redhot activity which contrasted very amusingly with his heavy figure and his difficulty of movement. He would often call for an automobile from a public garage--there were very few in those days--which was two miles away, to take him across the campus, if there was the least sign of dampness. This combination of physical inertia and mental restlessness was characteristic of him.

On 28 October, 1906, Bishop Nicholson died after a lingering illness of over a year. Many of us went to Milwaukee for the funeral, at which Bishops Webb, Grafton, Weller, and Anderson (of Chicago) officiated. The body was accompanied to Nashotah, and lies buried in the cemetery with the early pioneers of Wisconsin Anglicanism.

On the evening of All Saints' Day the annual retreat began. It was our custom to postpone it for a month after the opening of the seminary to give the new students time to accommodate themselves--as many had to do--to the rather unusual environment. The retreat was given by the new dean and it was an almost complete failure. It was a failure from which he never quite recovered. The meditations were of a very high character and most carefully prepared, but they failed to gain the confidence of the listeners. There was a note of sarcasm in them. Dr. Barry had for many years been a professor at the Western Seminary in Chicago and understood the student attitude. He was somewhat hostile to it. It irked him, and he refused to make allowances for immaturity. The students were not slow to note this irritation. None of them went to the dean to confession. He walked with me in the cloister one night during the retreat and complained of this very bitterly. He was unreasonable about it. It is too much to expect subjects to confess to their ecclesiastical superior, in whose hands was the power of discipline. The retreatants sought spiritual consolation from other members of the staff and the new dean felt slighted. One of the things that he did was quite unworthy of him. He gave me orders to tell the Rev. Charles Bowles that he had no longer any permission to act as confessor to the students.

On 28 November we buried Dr. Gardner, the late president of Nashotah, in our cemetery. It was he who had inaugurated the Catholic revival at Nashotah. He had been living in retirement for some years. On 3 December Bishop Webb was enthroned as Bishop of Milwaukee. He chose me for his chaplain, who according to Anglican custom carries the episcopal staff. The Companions of the Holy Saviour were present at the ceremony and after it was over they spoke of me as the warden of the Western Conference. Since "Father" Bowles was practically banished from the seminary it was thought better to have a warden who was resident there, for the seminary was the recruiting ground for new members. The suggestion came, of course, from the Master, William McGarvey. The appointment was made later and was apparently acceptable to the dean, who had a very high regard for the Companions as a body.

On Sunday, 9 December, James M. Bourne, my old friend, with whom I had been associated at college, was ordained an Anglican priest. The ceremony took place in the chapel at Nashotah and was carried out in much the same way as my own. It was the first ordination to the "priesthood" by Bishop Webb as far as I am able to recall. It was a very happy day for us all, since Bourne was a member of the Companions, and had spent a part of his last vacation with the brethren in Philadelphia.

Up to this time, although I spent most of my spare time at the house of Professor Fay, and often spent the night there, my quarters were in the faculty house. In the early part of 1907 Fay asked for permission for my living with him at the Cole House, and this being granted, it was a very happy arrangement for me, and I hope for him. We became inseparables. We had our own chapel. A man servant and his wife and small child made up the members of the family. This man was a French-Canadian and, of course, a Catholic. He seemed to be quite reconciled to the Anglican way of doing things and went to confession to Fay. This was something that did not seem right to me, but Fay thought that it was the only logical application of our principles. Why should not members of different branches of the Church participate in one another's sacraments? The small child wore at least a dozen medals with which Fay had invested him from time to time, to the great joy of his parents. Amongst other ecclesiastical treasures Fay possessed what he assured us was a relic of St. Thomas of Canterbury. He used to dip this relic in water and prescribe the potation as a remedy for sickness. He took a particular pleasure in such things and assured me that it was his Irish atavism. I have many happy remembrances of those days. I can see Fay coming down to breakfast, rubbing his hands with glee and saying: "What a splendid way to begin another day. A cold bath and Mass." There was a childlike naïveté about him that was very delightful. In all the days spent in his house we never had a misunderstanding, although far from agreement in many things. He was only a few years older than myself, and had been ordained about two years before me, yet he always spoke of me as his child, because it was my custom to make my confessions to him. He had a very brilliant mind, though badly hampered by physical weakness and poor eyesight. He was a most interesting conversationalist. Everyone liked him, including Dean Barry. There was, however, a trace of femininity which asked for wooing, and the dean did not propose to woo. The separation between the two men grew and became a difficulty as the days passed. Dr. Barry rarely came to our house; and we were never invited to his. The faculty, indeed, was becoming divided under the new regime, and this had very important results.

Project Canterbury