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 15. Nashotah After the Richmond Convention

IT IS NECESSARY to give a somewhat detailed account of my last four months' residence at Nashotah, as the happenings during this period have been misrepresented. I had very little suspicion that our departure was so near until it was inevitable.

The Open Pulpit amendment brought matters to a crisis. We did not understand its full significance until the newspapers announced its widespread use. Throughout the whole country ministers of every Protestant denomination were being invited, with the approval of the local bishop, into Anglican pulpits. It was imperative that its purpose should be demonstrated and its validity tested by those who were its authors. Unitarians and Universalists were amongst those who assumed the role of prophets. The Anglo-Catholic bishops were silent. They were not sure of their ground. Should they defend their action at Richmond in voting for the amendment and assert that it was being abused; or should they try to prove that they had supported the legislation under a misapprehension? As they could not make up their minds which position to take, they allowed events to follow their course.

Fay did not return to residence at Nashotah until well into November. I was no longer a member of his household. A newly ordained student, who was doing missionary work in the immediate neighborhood, was installed in the rooms which I had previously occupied. This is important, because my living in the faculty house, once more, with the unmarried members of the staff, threw me into closer relations with Dr. Barry. By a careful examination of my diary, and notes that I made at the time, I find that Fay was only seven weeks at Nashotah during the four months after the Richmond convention and before the departure of Bourne and myself.

It was during my residence at the faculty house that the "plot" mentioned in Dr. Barry's book must have been developed: and this period of time must again be reduced by the days during which Fay was absent. One may judge the accuracy of Dr. Barry's memory by the facts that I am fortunately able to supply from my diary. It was during these last four months at Nashotah that my most intimate confidences were shared with him, as they had never been hitherto. On 13 November the C. S. S. S. met at Nashotah. Dr. Barry took a very active part in the meeting; for he gave the customary meditation. There were thirteen members present; which was a good representation, as some of them came from a distance. It is hard to explain how Dr. Barry could have continued to associate so intimately with those who were under the influence of McGarvey, if we accept the accuracy of his recorded recollections.

On 15 November, Dr. Barry commenced a series of children's instructions at Hartland at my invitation. These were six in all, lasting as many weeks. They were of high excellence and the little church was filled on each occasion. He explained to the children in language which they could understand the principal doctrines of the Catholic Church, including those concerning the Real Presence and Confession. It was during these repeated journeys from the seminary and back that I was encouraged to tell Dr. Barry of my doubts and difficulties. Moreover, we went together to Milwaukee on 21 November to hear Kubelik. We shared, in fact, a new and unexpected friendliness such as had not been possible before. On no occasion did Dr. Barry give the least hint that he was troubled about the behavior of Fay, or about any suspicions regarding McGarvey.

On 11 December the C. S. S. S. met again. There were ten present. At my request Dr. Barry received two students into membership! Is it possible to believe that he would have done this if he had suspected the C. S. S. S. of being infected with what he called the pro-Roman virus? Is it possible that he would have allowed two of the young men for whom he was responsible to enter an association which was suspect, and actually to receive them into membership in that association himself?

On 13 December a note in my diary records a definite conversation with Dr. Barry in regard to my position as a teacher at Nashotah. The situation was becoming unbearable, not only by reason of the doubts that were in my mind, but also because of the continuous quizzing of my class. The students had heard the rumor of a possible exodus to Rome. Fay had brought it back from Milwaukee after a conversation with the editor of The Living Church, who assured him that McGarvey would soon announce his departure from St. Elizabeth's Church. I remember the circumstances very well because everyone was discussing it. As far as Bourne and myself were concerned the suspicions of the students were justified. We had been reading, for the first time in our lives, the Catholic side of the Roman question. Dom Chapman's reply to Bishop Gore's The Roman Catholic Claims had roused many questionings in our minds which we tried to answer by referring to the Fathers of the Church in Migne's Patrology, and in the English translations of them. In the "Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers" we made a disturbing discovery. We found that Dr. Percival gave a false impression in dealing with the Fourth General Council and the correspondence between Leo the Great and the Patriarch of Constantinople that followed the Council. My confidences to Dr. Barry were very definite. He did not attempt to argue with me, but made light of the whole matter. It was nevertheless determined that I should take advantage of the Christmas holidays to consult McGarvey himself.

During the same week an unpleasantness occurred which confirms what has been said above. During the temporary absence of Dr. Barry, Canon St. George, as senior professor, took upon himself the task of interrogating those who were about to receive the Anglican diaconate with reference to their loyalty to the Anglican Church. He asked them if there was any danger of their "going over to Rome," if Messrs. Fay, Bourne and Hawks did so. They answered in the negative, although one of them admitted that the defection of McGarvey would shake his faith in Anglicanism. This incident increased the uncertainty of our position.

Strange as it may appear, the contact of Bourne and myself with Fay had been much less than usual during the last days of the Advent term. When we went to his house, there was usually a number of visitors or students there and the opportunity for confidences was removed. I have no recollection of hearing any plans for the future being discussed. The work of renovating the chapel was still going on and by the end of the term it was completed. The possibility of Fay's leaving Nashotah at a time when his family was spending a great deal of money there would seem little more than a remote contingency. The part that he played in unsettling the minds of Bourne and myself was quite indirect. It was not to him that we went for definite advice, but rather to Barry and St. George. Neither of us had the slightest suspicion that he would ever leave the Episcopal Church. We regarded all the talk about a future Uniate as a method of postponing a decision. That he distrusted and disliked Anglicanism we never doubted; that he might send for a Catholic priest when in danger of death, we thought probable; that he would renounce the position that he enjoyed, did not really enter our minds. This is not to say that we thought him in any way dishonest. We understood him well enough to know that he was always able to find excuses for his present situation without any suspicion of his own good faith. We knew how to discount his exaggerations. For instance; he would often say something like this: "Ned, I am atavistic. The Episcopal Church is not my home. I am never comfortable in it. When I come to die, I shall call for a priest, as my Irish ancestors did. And yet, how can I do it? How can I leave Bishop Grafton? How can I deny the graces of the Anglican sacraments?" No one regarded such outbursts seriously. We all understood how to take them.

Amidst the confusions of those last months at Nashotah there was one member of the faculty who was undisturbed, and that was Canon St. George. He disliked Fay and suspected him. He was not on genial terms with Dr. Barry. He thought that Dr. Easton was doing harm by his unconcealed Modernism. Yet he was destined to survive all the jangling discords in our seminary life. His tenure of office exceeded that of all the professors of his day. This was due to a placid conservatism which preserved the established traditions of Nashotah. He was, indeed, a perfect example of the steady-going Anglo-Catholic who is willing to endure all the inconsistencies of his position and refuses to be disturbed. Canon St. George had a creed of his own: "Credo in ecclesiam Anglicanam." He was to have the satisfaction of proving that the darkest clouds will blow away, and leave things much as they were. For such men the Open Pulpit had no terrors. If no one interfered with the daily habits of Canon St. George, he would interfere with no one. Fay and Easton jarred him in different ways. He managed to endure them and survive them; and in the case of Fay he was able, as I shall show later, to take his revenge for the jarring.

On Christmas Day Bourne and myself had dinner with Bishop Webb at the house of his sister, Mrs. Leeds, who lived on the grounds in what was called the "Turkey Roost." There was no appearance of any lack of confidence between us, although at the ordination to the diaconate on the previous Saturday, neither of us had been asked to take any part in the ceremonies. The next day, Thursday, Dr. Hixon, our aged Librarian, died in the infirmary, to be followed in death a few days later by one of the students. It was a very severe winter and influenza and pneumonia were prevalent.

On the Sunday following, 28 December, I left Hartland in a blinding snow-storm for Philadelphia.

I arrived at St. Saviour's House the following evening, and to my astonishment Bishop Webb opened the door. I had not known that he would arrive before me. He, too, seemed to be astonished, although he must have known that I was expected. I remained in Philadelphia a week, preaching in the church on the first Sunday in the New Year.

Our difficulties were explained to McGarvey. He strongly advised Bourne and myself to remain at Nashotah until the end of the scholastic year. We could then resign and come to him. That he and the other Companions were under a great strain was evident, but none of them made any confidences, or gave the least suspicion that there were any to be made. The church was well attended. It was quite full on Sunday morning. Everything seemed to be going on as usual. Father Hayward gave his annual Epiphany tableaux in the parish hall the night before I left. My only outstanding remembrance beyond this was my being with McGarvey on the corner of Broad and Mifflin Streets to watch the "Shooters" parade.

Only one thing did McGarvey admit to me. It had reference to the Open Pulpit. He said that it had given him a great shock and that he and his associates had decided to make the matter one of common prayer. They had agreed to let the whole question rest until a certain date in order to see what the will of God might be for them. I was not told the date. By persuading Bourne and myself to remain at Nashotah until the following May, it was clear to me that the rumor of any immediate secession to Rome, one of the reasons for my going to Philadelphia, was without foundation. I returned with little satisfaction from the visit. Any curiosity that may have been in my mind was ungratified. It was abundantly clear that the problem of remaining in the Anglican Church was one that had to be faced alone. Was it possible to go on in this unsettled mind until May? That was the real question and it was still unsolved.

Bourne was not with me at Philadelphia, but he shared my confidences. We agreed that it would not be honorable to remain teachers without a complete understanding with our bishop. We therefore both went to Milwaukee on 27 January to see Bishop Webb and to make a full revelation of conscience to him. He was very kind. He asked us one question: Did we think that we were Catholic priests? The query was illusive. "Yes, we thought that we were priests." But what of that? The schismatic clergy of Russia knew that they were priests and Rome agreed with them. Yet they were out of the Church. Our difficulty was whether we were in the communion of the Catholic Church. The validity of our orders, or rather the opinion of our own as to their validity, had nothing to do with the case. We assured the bishop that we considered our orders to be correct in every way. He was satisfied we must stay at Nashotah until May, at least.

The result of this visit was announced to Dr. Barry. He also was satisfied. Both he and the bishop had a complete misunderstanding of our difficulties. We were regarded as being under a temporary strain which would pass away. They were both wrong.

At the beginning of February conviction came. The Rev. Russell Wilbur, Fay's successor in the archdeaconry of Fond-du-Lac, was at Nashotah for a short visit. On the third of this month he had a confidential conversation with me in my room. He told me that he had been on the point of going to New York to take part in the establishment of the "Anglo-Roman Union" which was to be organized by Father Paul of Graymoor. This Union was afterward confused with the Uniate plot that has been already mentioned. It was the outcome of a desire to bring together a group of Lamp enthusiasts, of which the most distinguished was the well-known architect Dr. Cram. Wilbur had a suspicion that the real purpose of this organization was to prevent individual secessions to Rome. It would be disastrous to the idea of corporate reunion of a large part of the Anglican Church with the Apostolic See, if there were to be many solitary conversions of Anglicans. I had the same suspicion. It had arisen in Fay's house sometime before when one of those present at a casual gathering had stood up hysterically and accused us all of trying to salve our consciences by talking of things which could never be realized. He had said: "You are all afraid to go to Rome and this Uniate business is an excuse for your cowardice." Wilbur told me that he had now decided not to go to New York. He had determined to go to St. Louis and make a thirty days' Ignatian retreat with the Jesuits. He left Nashotah the next day and his conversion was announced some weeks later.

In my disturbance of mind I determined to consult Canon St. George, who, as I have already said, was the professor of Ecclesiastical History. I told him of the study that I had made of various Catholic books, of the questions that they had aroused, and of my own conviction that Rome was the divinely appointed centre of unity. Did he think that such a conviction was defensible by history? To my astonishment he admitted that it was defensible, although the contrary was also defensible. History did not give a definite answer. One must judge the matter by one's faith. He believed in the Anglican Church. I did not. That was the difference between us. On asking what I ought to do, he replied: "Go to Rome; it is the only honest thing you can do." This was unexpected.

As no attempt is now being made to write a personal confession, the story of the intervening days may be omitted. Bourne and myself resigned our duties on 12 February. We left Nashotah after heart-rending farewells. Bishop Webb gave us his blessing with tears in his eyes, and promised that we should not be unfrocked until he was forced to take action by canon law. Dr. Barry hastened our departure, and, rather dramatically, referred us to the Judgment Day, when it would be discovered who was right. A few incidents remain in my mind. The night before our departure we were present at Evensong in chapel, sitting far back where we thought no one could see us. Our presence must nevertheless have been known, for the reader of the first lesson stumbled as he read the words, "I am the Lord Thy God who has led thee out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage." This was a strange coincidence, as the lessons in the service are read according to an established lectionary, and the term "land of Egypt" was in frequent use in the seminary at that time to describe the condition of the Episcopal Church. This was not all. At the second lesson from the New Testament, the prescribed portion of Scripture was the last chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Here again the reader hesitated when he came to the words that referred to St. Paul's journey to Rome, and especially at the verse which contains the phrase "and so we went toward Rome." Those who doubt the incident may refer to the Anglican lectionary for 14 February, 1908. There is also a remembrance of the pale face of Benjamin Musser, who asked us to say good-bye to him, as he lay in bed in the infirmary suffering from a severe illness. Fay was taken by surprise at our intention to leave, for we had not consulted him in any way. He came with us as far as Milwaukee on our journey East. We had determined to enter the Church as far away from Nashotah as possible. At Chicago we called on Bowles and found him reading a defence of the Anglican Church. He said nothing to deter us. We spent one night with McGarvey in Philadelphia who also had nothing to say to us. We realized then that we were quite alone. The Paulists received us into the Church on 20 February. Without any suspicion on our part of what was about to happen, the exodus from the Episcopal Church began. During the next few months nearly twenty ministers were to become Catholics.

After our departure from Nashotah the increasing unrest manifested itself openly. A victim was sought for sacrifice. It was natural that this should be Fay. Neither by council nor connivance had he done anything to cause our defection. The bishop thought otherwise because Fay was regarded as uncertain in his attachment to the Episcopal Church. He was therefore given an indefinite leave of absence. This precipitated a movement on the part of those students who had been his close friends. Five of them left the seminary and were received into the Church. Amongst these was Musser who is now well-known by his poetry and his devotion to Franciscana. Another was Frederic P. James, who died a few years later in a Catholic seminary. There were to be other conversions amongst the student body in the succeeding years.

After Fay's departure, Canon St. George, in the name of sober Anglo-Catholicism, attempted to explain the incident. He did so in the pages of the press.8 It was Fay alone who was to blame for the whole situation at Nashotah and not the Open Pulpit. It was he who had brought from the East (McGarvey's name was not mentioned because he was still an Anglican who might yet be restrained from Rome) a plan which was already mature in June, 1907. At the head of fifty clergymen (Barry was later to increase this number to five hundred) Fay was to "march on Merry del Val in Rome and make terms." The plan failed by reason of premature conversions, and the vanishing of the fifty clergymen. Fay was young, very visionary, and very easily swayed. He had been in turn a Russophile, an "apostle of Modernism," and a "champion of Higher Criticism." He had made "several gulps at the Pope's recent encyclical on Modernism before he swallowed it." His "stable position in the future may well be doubted."

Fay replied at once from Deal Beach, N. J., where he was rusticating. He offered an emphatic denial:

The story of the fifty priests was originally two bishops and fifty priests and it started from there being that number present at Holy Cross (on the Hudson) at Father Waggett's Retreat. I was not there . . . the picture of me attacking the Vatican at the head of fifty priests is pure fable.

Here the matter may rest. Canon St. George had the satisfaction of thinking that if Fay did became a Catholic he would do so under the disqualification of being considered a man of vacillating purpose, and one who might be a dangerous Modernist. His anticipations were only realized in one respect. Fay, weakened by serious illness, became a Catholic on 5 June of the same year, and received all the sacraments in extremis. To everyone's surprise he recovered his health, was ordained a priest in the diocese of Baltimore, became a close friend of Cardinal Gibbons and eventually a Domestic Prelate. He died during the war.

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