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 10. The Spring of 1907

IT WAS in the spring of 1907 that the first intimation of the coming storm was manifested. The works of George Tyrrell, especially his Lex Credendi, were being read by many Anglicans, who were disposed to regard him as a new prophet. He was thought to be popularizing the Catholic faith. A novel by Fogazzaro, Il Santo, was circulated amongst the students at Nashotah. It expressed the same point of view. The impression gained ground that the Pope's imprisonment was intellectual as well as physical. He was separated from the world by a traditional obscurantism, called Vaticanism. If he were freed from this he would once more become the leader of a united Christendom. The condemnation of Tyrrell was regarded as a demonstration of the Pope's inability to move with the times. The very word "Modernism" was attractive. Nashotah on the whole judged that Tyrrell had been unfairly treated. This made the situation rather complicated in view of the increasing influence of The Lamp. It divided the Anglo-Catholics into pro-Romans and anti-Romans. The division still exists and has become more marked.

Meanwhile the alliance between the Broad and Evangelical parties in the Episcopal Church was gathering strength. It attracted to it many who were ranked as High Churchmen. The hope that Modernism would destroy Papal authority and leave Christendom to the direction of a Protestant federation, swayed by Anglican influence, cemented the alliance. The writings of Bishop Gore played a great part in this inclination of High Churchmen toward Liberalism.

It is important to make the situation clear. The Evangelicals, in common with all out-and-out Protestants, had suffered a great loss of dogmatic belief. They had also lost their prejudice, mostly of a social and "tea-party" character, for what they still called "Sectarianism," i. e. the other Protestant denominations. They had never considered episcopacy essential to the existence of the Church; they were now willing to regard it as a mere ecclesiastical heirloom.

The Broad Churchmen shared the opinions of the Evangelicals, but also desired that certain doctrines such as the Virgin Birth and the Bodily Resurrection should be regarded as pious opinions rather than essential parts of the Christian creed. In the pages of The Churchman, these two parties exchanged their views and evolved what was known as the "Priest and Prophet Theory ". It was asserted that a vital religion is always the result of the interplay of two forces. There is the force of tradition preserved by a priesthood; and there is the gathering of new life from the inspiration of the less trammelled preacher or prophet. Both were necessary for a living Christianity. Those who, like the non-Anglican ministers, made no pretence to any hierarchic standing, might nevertheless be true prophets. Reunion between the sects might not yet be possible, but an exchange of prophets was possible, and desirable. If the Anglican pulpits were opened to ministers of other denominations, it would inflict no injury to the position of the "priests," whose liturgical functions would remain undisturbed, but it would encourage a friendship, and a mutual enlightenment, that might lead to a universal acceptance of both priests and prophets. In a word, the "Historic Episcopate" might be made acceptable to those who had hitherto rejected it, to their own loss. There was another attraction to the theory; it would tend to destroy pro-Roman tendencies in the Episcopal Church.

Although Bishop Gore was not attracted to this theory, for he was a strong sacerdotalist, his followers, with an instinctive understanding of his mind, went beyond him. Unconsciously, he had prepared the way for the Open Pulpit by his rejection of ecclesiastical infallibility. Christian truth was, to his thinking, to be found in the ecclesia discens rather than in the ecclesia docens. He was a Modernist at heart in that he placed the criterion of truth in its acceptability.

The development of the Prophet and Priest Theory was a preparation for the General Convention to be held in Richmond in the fall of the same year. Great hopes were set upon the strength of the Protestant South, which would be able to secure a strong representation. Rome was tottering and Protestants must unite. How absurd all this seems now. It was very real then. Unfortunately the Anglo-Catholics had no strong leadership. Bishop Graf ton, who was regarded as their most prominent representative on the episcopal bench, was old, and so hopelessly prejudiced against Rome that he was revered rather than followed. There was also no strong journalistic support. The Living Church, always published at a loss, could not take the risk of being too outspoken. The Anglo-Catholics, outside the circle associated with McGarvey, were like sheep without a shepherd. Ritualism had reduced them to a parochialism that was lacking in cohesion and leadership.

It was inevitable that the confused apprehension that prevailed everywhere should make itself felt at Nashotah. The twofold issue, of Modernism (more or less identified with Higher Criticism) and of the pro-Roman position, tended to divide the faculty and the student body into factions. Hitherto there had been a growing confidence that Anglo-Catholicism would gradually extend itself throughout the Anglican Church. This easy-going assurance was now faced with two momentous questions. Is this Anglo-Catholicity to accept Modernism, Liberalism and the authority of learned Higher Critics, or is it to defend ecclesiastical definition? From this arose the further question: Does ecclesiastical definition mean papal definition, or at least papal acceptance of definition? There were three answers. The first, an unqualified acceptance of scholarship and religious experience, as the only possible criteria of truth; the second, a limitation of Christian experience to those who possessed a valid hierarchy, which was the anti-Roman Anglo-Catholic position; or third, the position of The Lamp, i. e. the acceptance of all papal teachings with the hope of ultimate corporate reunion with Rome, at some indefinite future date. To the last answer was added a more or less vague idea of an Anglican Uniate in which the clergy might marry and the services be said in English.

Nashotah tended to divide on these issues. Dr. Barry was a strong anti-Roman and believed in what he called "Catholicism." It is difficult to say what the content of this Catholicism was, since he was not in the least sympathetic with the Greek Orthodox Churches. He had an eclecticism of his own, which he never tried to formulate. Professor Fosbroke was a conservative Broad Churchman, with certain Anglo-Catholic sympathies. He was hardly interested in the questions that were disturbing us. He worked incessantly; was most conscientious as a teacher; and had the happy faculty of relaxing in the evening without any desire to talk shop. Some of us met once a week in his house for a game of cards, but I cannot remember that he ever referred to current topics. Dr. Easton, professor of New Testament Exegesis, a sincere and painstaking student, whose German training inclined him strongly toward radical Higher Criticism, was definitely anti-Roman. He took a very strong attitude against the papal condemnation of the Modernists. Remarks that he made in his class and elsewhere roused a good deal of antagonism not only at Nashotah but also in the diocese. Canon St. George maintained a neutral position in regard to discussions concerning the Pope, but a very strong one against Higher Criticism, and also against The Lamp.

If my readers cannot untangle this confusion, which is what might be expected, they can at least see that the remainder of the teaching staff, which was inclined to be pro-Roman, was not likely to meet with much sympathy from its colleagues. It was only natural that we should be thrown a great deal together and the most convenient and most agreeable place of meeting was the house of Professor Fay. Our meetings aroused the suspicions of the dean. He felt that something was going on behind his back.

In truth our meetings at Professor Fay's house were of the most innocuous character. They were an anodyne to high-strung nerves. Not an uncharitable or disloyal word ever passed anyone's lips. Fay was the centre of attraction and this delighted him. He would sing Russian hymns to his own accompaniment; he would discuss the latest books, which arrived in hundreds; he would tell us of his travels; sometimes he would mimic the voice and actions of people he had known, for he was a very clever actor. Everything was done good-naturedly. Not a word against the dean, commonly called Uncle Joe, would have been tolerated for a moment. I am sure that Fay, and indeed all of us, had the greatest reverence for other members of the faculty. It is true that the main subject of conversation was the religious situation. We were all more or less agreed.

The only hope for Anglo-Catholics was an ultimate reunion with the Holy See. There was nothing disloyal in this; indeed, it was the natural end of the Oxford Movement. In this matter Fay loved to romance. He was willing to believe that Rome would take us to her arms and give us everything we asked for. We knew how to accept such ramblings. He loved also to be whimsical and defend positions that he did not really occupy. To say, as Dean Barry says, that he was unstable is to misunderstand him. He was essentially a tease, and he loved to tease "Uncle Joe" more than anyone else. He had not the slightest intention of going to Rome, either alone or with others. No such thought ever entered his head in any serious way until long afterward. Remember that I was living in his house and shared his most intimate confidences. It was Fay's merry laugh and his simple trust in God that helped to make life bearable at that time.

In January of 1907 I was duly appointed Warden of the Western Conference of the C. S. S. S. I received the following letter from the Master:

My dear Fr. Hawks:

I had intended writing to you when I received your letter. I was very thankful to hear of your election to be the Western Warden. I think it is important that the Warden should be near Nashotah. Moreover the Companions have a real regard for you personally, and I have no doubt you will be able to be of real help to them.

The work of the Warden is not at all to enforce Rule, but to lead those in his Conference by manifesting the living spirit of Christ Jesus. If you have the hearts of the Companions, and I think you have, you will be able to do very much by a word of brotherly sympathy. We are all led by our hearts more than by our heads. So does Christ Jesus lead us, and so also must we lead others if we would really be a help to them in their struggles.

My love to all.
Affectionately yours in Xt.

In May McGarvey came West. We had been looking forward to seeing him because we were anxious to know what he thought of the situation. Dr. Barry received him very cordially. In spite of the acid remarks that he saw fit to put in his book, written when he was old and forgetful, he had always shown interest in the C. S. S. S. He had already approved of my appointment as warden and encouraged me to extend its influence amongst the students. He now did a very unexpected thing. He applied for admission to the Congregation himself. So willing was he to cooperate with McGarvey that he persuaded Fay and Delany, Dean of Milwaukee Cathedral, to resign from membership in the Oblates of Holy Cross, and join the C. S. S. S., with him. [The Rev. Seldon Delany became a Catholic in 1930; was ordained 1934. He died 1931.] All three of them had once been colleagues under Bishop Grafton. They were received into the Congregation together during McGarvey's visit. The ceremony took place at the time of Commencement and we all went away for the holidays with the best of feelings, thinking that the clouds of suspicion had been blown away.

I did not have to go far, for Hartland is only five miles from Nashotah. Bourne left for the West Indies; Fay went East. McGarvey came to Hartland to stay with me for a few days. My situation here had been changed. My dear friend Mrs. Nourse had died suddenly a few days before and my pleasant association with her husband and brother was at an end. McGarvey preached for me on the next Sunday three times. I remember how easily he attracted the attention of a country congregation. It was the only time I ever heard him preach as an Anglican. To the children he told the story of the Forty Crowned Martyrs as one would tell a fairy tale, and I could not help thinking of the ministry of Dr. Neale in his little chapel at East Grinstead, and his collection of similar stories told so simply to the children he gathered round him. During the next week we visited Fond-du-Lac together. Bishop Grafton had invited him to be present at his diocesan convention and he wished me to go with him. Those were memorable days. During them McGarvey spoke to me from his heart, and I in turn told him of my own difficulties without any reserve.

The convention was soon over. It consisted of a "High Mass" and a few hours of routine work. There were very few lay delegates present, and I formed the opinion, which I have since been able to confirm, that the laity of the diocese was quite apathetic to the Ritualism which Bishop Grafton had thrust upon it. There was a banquet after the proceedings and McGarvey sat at the Bishop's right in the place of honor. I was not far away and was able to hear their conversation. There was one incident in it when I felt that McGarvey was "pulling the Bishop's leg". They were speaking of the elaborate ceremonial that Bishop Grafton loved. McGarvey pointed out that one of the general rubrics of the American Book of Common Prayer permitted the bishop to authorize additional services, provided they were in the words of the Bible or the Prayer-Book. "Now, my lord," said McGarvey, "what is there to prevent you from authorizing the whole Roman Missal? It is in the words of Scripture, as far as it is said aloud, and what is not said aloud you say already." "You could let the Prayer-Book Communion service be said once a month." "This seems to me to be perfectly legal." And as I read the rubrics again it really does seem as though McGarvey were right.

McGarvey was not impressed with Fond-du-Lac, and he told me so. He thought things had been started at the wrong end. Why introduce ceremonies before the people understood what they meant? However, Fond-du-Lac was not the subject of his thoughts, which were rather of the coming struggle with the Modernists in the Episcopal Church. He told me a thing that astonished me. He admitted that he would not have the least difficulty in submitting to reordin-ation by a Catholic bishop, if the Anglican Church ceased to be habitable to him. He explained. The validity of any ordination is not to be discovered by its apparent results, but by the decision of the Church. "I think I am a priest now because I think the Episcopal Church is part of the Catholic Church and it tells me that I am a priest. If I were convinced that the Episcopal Church were not a part of the Catholic Church, I should have no reasons for believing in my ordination. To say that I have proofs of my ministry is a Protestant argument; for my spiritual experiences may all be the result of uncovenanted rather than sacramental graces." It was a new light to me. Nevertheless the question was only a theoretical one, since he had recently written a defence of Anglican Orders in The Lamp. But it cleared one confusion. It disposed of the argument used by some that it was impossible for any Anglican to deny the validity of his ministry. I do not think that either McGarvey or myself then saw the implication of this.

I asked him how one who believed in Papal Infallibility could remain outside the communion of the Pope. I took it for granted that this was his own case. He gave me what I felt was a very unsatisfactory reply. He told me that there had been times when parts of the Church were cut off from Rome by political interference. In such a case the bishops must assume the Pope's approval for what they did. The Anglican bishops had been cut off from Rome by a political interference which had unfortunately become, in the course of centuries, an insurmountable misunderstanding. The misunderstanding was mutual. The Pope was not properly aware of the Anglican situation; the Anglicans were invincibly ignorant of their duties to him. There was a moral break between the two which was not vital. A Pope properly informed and an Anglican Church fully Catholicized would at once recognize themselves as being in communion. I may have misunderstood his argument, perhaps I did, but I lived on the strength of it for several months longer. I see now that I might have become a Catholic at any time. It only needed one clear demonstration of the schismatic condition of the Anglican Church to complete my conversion. As to McGarvey's position then, I did not like to ask him about it, and he volunteered no information. Of one thing I am certain, he was incapable of deceiving me, or wilfully deceiving himself.

The difficulties that he did speak about were internal to Anglicanism. The first was the interference of laymen in the government of the Church. In every convention, general or diocesan, they could vote the clergy down, even in the interpretation of the faith. This was something quite intolerable. The second was the marriage of the clergy, which prevented them from recovering their rights. The two difficulties seemed to be unsurmountable; they worked together and hampered progress at every turn. He felt that it was almost impossible to spread Anglo-Catholic principles in face of these hindrances. I objected that this was not the case in England, where the position of the rector of a parish was entrenched. I was told that the laity of England asserted their control in Parliament, and that if the Church were ever disestablished, it would be organized on the American plan or else stripped of all its endowments. No Parliament would hand over the cathedrals and churches of England, and a sufficient sum to maintain them, to a clerically controlled body. Disestablishment in England would mean the immediate instead of the indirect control of the church by laymen. This seems likely to be true. It has been the case in Ireland and Wales. Even in the Scotch Episcopal Church which for many years had been governed by the hierarchy, the bishops were forced to surrender to the laity or suffer the consequence of lack of monetary support. It was news for me to hear from McGarvey that even the Anglo-Catholic churches in large American cities were lay-ridden, some of them had self-perpetuating corporations which appointed the ministers, and dismissed them without the least reference to the wishes of the bishop or anyone else but themselves. In a word, there was a lack of faith in clerical leadership and the weapon of physical support was in the hands of the pews. Episcopal ministers were hired in the same way as all Protestant ministers were hired, and their family burdens left them helpless. Increasing age was also a continual spectre. An old minister was lucky if he was able to find work. Of these difficulties the C. S. S. S. was entirely relieved. St. Elizabeth's Church was organized as a Catholic parish. Its clergy could live on a very small pension and their detached lives had gained the respect of the people. McGarvey was not thinking of his personal situation, but of the problem of the growth of the Anglo-Catholic cause. In each city there was an opportunity for the existence of one or two "Catholic" parishes; in the country there was none. From a large population it was possible to draw enough devoted laymen willing to support a church in which they obeyed their pastors rather than made their pastors obey them. He was able to point to Fond-du-Lac as an example. Bishop Grafton had so far been able to have his own way by getting support from his admirers in the East. He could depend upon very little from his own people. They did not like his religious opinions and despised his ritualistic innovations. Unless they had their way in these matters he could get nothing from them to finance his undertakings. The diocese could exist as long as it was lay-ridden; it would cease to exist after Bishop Grafton's death unless his successor bowed to the inevitable. If all the clergy were unmarried, the case would be different. The congregation cannot rule unmarried men, for enough people will respect their sacrifices to make it possible for them to exist under the most difficult circumstances. No married priesthood ever established its freedom. It has always been the tool of the civil powers or the front pews. This was the burden of our talks in Fond-du-Lac as we strolled through its uninteresting streets.

Project Canterbury