Project Canterbury

An Address to Catholics from the Brethren of the Society of the Holy Cross. May, 1869.

London: W. Knott; Joseph Masters, [1869]

“THE Cross stands firm while the world rolls onward to its end." Confident of this fact, the Church of CHRIST can afford to look out upon the strife of parties and the clashing of various interests, with earnest attention, but without fear. She knows that “the LORD sitteth above the waterfloods," and she knows also that He rules, for the most part, their tumultous waves through the action of His Spirit in the Visible Church. Hence it follows that a heavy responsibility rests upon us, so to observe the times as to be ready always to use all things for our LORD'S Glory, in conformity with His Will.

It was this conviction which induced the Society of the Holy Cross to issue in the year 1867, at the time of the Church Congress at Wolverhampton, a very short "Address to Catholics." Great changes have since taken place in the present state and future prospects both of the Church and of political society: and these changes seem to call for some words inviting to still more earnest consideration. The gravity, indeed, of the crisis through which the Church of England is now passing, and the rapidity with which events which cannot fail to affect her seriously are following one another, seem to make it desirable to review in brief the position which is now occupied by her members, and the duties which consequently devolve upon them. There is little doubt that many of the opportunities for good, and much of the social dignity, which the Church of England has enjoyed for centuries past, have been mainly due to her alliance with the State, and as the termination of that alliance appears to be swiftly approaching, it becomes necessary to consider what her claims and prospects will be when civil dignity and, perhaps, accumulated wealth shall be hers no longer.

A very powerful body of unfriends—including the great majority of Roman Catholics, a considerable section of Protestant Nonconformists, and a compact array of Latitudinarians of all shades—agree in declaring that the Church of England is merely a creation of the State, with no powers or titles save those derived from Parliamentary enactment, and that disestablishment and dissolution will prove to be convertible terms, because no tie will then prove strong enough to unite in one communion three schools so diverse from each other as those which together make up the aggregate of the Established [3/4] Church of England. It will then be manifest, observe our Roman Catholic opponents, that the toleration of error and the subjection to the civil power, which have been excused as involuntary sufferings of the English Church, are, in fact, of the very essence of her system, and that with the withdrawal of the precarious aid of the State, the school which endeavours to uphold a semblance of Catholic teaching must secede or collapse.

There is very much to make this view a highly plausible one. But one historical fact, too important to be ignored, supplies an ample refutation. A daughter Church of the Anglican Communion is before our eyes, disestablished at a time far more unfavourable than the present, and when Catholic sentiment was everywhere at its very lowest ebb. When the American Church was cut away by political changes from the Church of England, she did not possess a single bishop; she had no traditional school of divines, tracing their spiritual descent from the great medieval Churchmen through such links as Bull, Taylor, Andrewes, and Hooker. There were no cathedrals, to maintain, however imperfectly, a standard of costliness and pomp in Divine worship. No ancient churches and colleges, no great theological libraries, no dignified social prestige, existed across the Atlantic to guide the current of opinion; and political hostility made any deliberate imitation of English ways not much easier than the introduction of Spanish usages in this country after the sailing of the Armada, Even the one bond which might have seemed effectual was tampered with, and several unwise alterations marred the beauty and soundness of the Common Prayer. If disintegration and collapse ever appeared inevitable, it was in this case. Now, the American Church is a communion of great extent, and considerable, while rapidly increasing, social power. She is officered by nearly fifty Bishops, and attracts to herself minds of the most various orders, drawn from sects of the most dissimilar kind, so that a very large fraction of her clergy as well as her laity consists of converts from many forms of Protestant opinion. She has, as we have, High, Broad, and Low Churchmen within her pale, and the first of these sections has slowly grown, by sheer inherent power, to be the most influential of the three, though without any such support from unbroken precedent and traditional memories as that enjoyed by the same school in this country, which has therefore still more favourable prospects of ultimate triumph.

In like manner, there is no reason to doubt that the great mass of the English clergy and laity belong, more or less consciously, to the moderate High Church party, which ramifies sufficiently to have many ties with all the wisest and most useful men of the remaining schools. A few extreme members of other sections probably would find the centrifugal force of disestablishment too strong for them; but there is no reason to suppose that the main body would continue otherwise than at rest, so far as disintegration is concerned, though the process of internal reformation and reconstruction would continue to operate.

[5] When this ground is cut away, another post of attack is promptly taken up. It may be, remark our adversaries, that the English Communion will continue to exist in some fashion, but it will be, as now, separate from both East and West, rejected and rejecting, and isolating itself in Donatist heresy and arrogance.

As it happens, no position can be more unlike Donatism than the Anglican. The Donatist unchurched every part of the Catholic world save his own corner of Africa; denied their Orders, insulted their Sacraments, and refused to entertain any proposals for reconciliation. There is a Church at the present day which does the same, but it is certainly not that of England, which, so far from clinging to isolation, is committed by the voice of more than seventy prelates, as definitely as a Church well can be, to the great principle of Reunion, and freely acknowledges the Orders and Sacraments of Greece and Rome, while rejecting those of the sects.

Thirdly, it is alleged against the Church of England that she must of necessity be herself in deadly error, because she has been the parent of so many heretical sects. No weapon could be so dangerous for a Roman controversialist to wield as this argument, for it is precisely that which is conclusive to the Eastern mind against the claims of the Vatican. England has indeed produced the Independents, the Quakers, and the Methodists. The second of these sects is nearly extinct, the last-named is, in the main, orthodox on all the cardinal dogmas of the Faith. But who is the parent of Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Socinians, Hussites, Lutherans, Calvinists, Zuinglians, Positivists, and the like? If it be lawful for Rome to reply, "They went out from us because they were not of us," why is not the same answer admissible on our part?

There is not wanting a ready rejoinder to this objection. It is urged that, after all, there is one clear and striking note of difference between Rome and England—that religious error is steadily proscribed by the one, and as persistently encouraged by the other, whether from total lack of all discipline and zeal, or from wilful complicity and sympathy with unbelief.

There is no doubt whatever that the internal discipline of the Roman Church is incomparably more effective in securing external uniformity than anything we can show. But two questions remain to be answered before this fact can be accepted as conclusive. They are: How far is such external uniformity a mark of the True Church? How far is it really found in Rome? A Christian body perfectly free from heresy and all other defects would be a very wonderful and beautiful phenomenon, but it would not be the Church Militant here in earth as revealed in Holy Writ,--the wheat-field mingled with tares, the net of good and bad fish, the fellowship whereof the Apostle saith, "There must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (1 Cor. xi. 19). And such was actually the mingled character of the Primitive Church in those early ages to which all schools appeal. If then it were true in fact that heresy [5/6] has no footing within the Church of Rome, the boast, instead of establishing her claim to be the one Ark of Christians, would disprove it. But the boast is not true. It is certain enough that a particular cycle of theological opinions is rigidly suppressed in all external manifestation amongst the clergy throughout the Roman obedience, which is quite as likely to denote weakness and fear of open discussion as any better thing. But without pursuing the very important inquiry of how far compulsory silence connotes inward assent, there are two weighty circumstances to be pointed out. One is the almost universal alienation of the educated Catholic laity of the Continent from the clerical party, alienation which often discloses itself on questions involving doctrinal issues. The revolt of France, Italy, Portugal, Austria, and, just now, Spain, from the social system urged on them by ecclesiastics, and formally asserted in the Pontifical Syllabus, cannot be passed over on any plea, except that the Church means only the hierarchy—a view as yet unaccredited, nay, unasserted by any theologian. If the propositions of the Syllabus be true and necessary, then the aggregate of the Roman laity everywhere is involved in material heresy, as it actively and consciously upholds the contradictories of very many of the propositions in that document. Nor can the clergy escape the same charge, though on other grounds. It is true, as remarked above, that a certain class of theological errors—roughly speaking, those maintained by the Protestant sects—is rigidly suppressed within the Roman obedience. But many extravagances of belief and practice, however contrary to the opinions of great Saints and to the usages of the past, are connived at or encouraged so long as they fall in with the current of popular religionism, and do not appear to militate against the temporal interests of the Roman Court. These are the things which Dr. Newman has described as being "like a bad dream," but which unimpeachable testimony will show to be common and unchecked in every Roman Catholic country of Europe. It will be enough to cite one,—the formation, not long ago, in France of a confraternity to supplicate the Holy Child JESUS for His intercession on our behalf with--S. Joseph! And whereas errors of unbelief, as in the cases of Dr. Colenso and the Essayists, are steadily and firmly resisted amongst us, these errors of superstition are so protected by authority in the Roman Church, that all public protest is forcibly silenced.

Next follows an argument which has been pressed with much ingenuity and persistence of late: It is, that the HOLY SPIRIT being the indwelling Guide and Teacher of the Church Universal, her utterance must be His, and that the only Christian body on earth which claims to speak in His name, or by His authority, is the Roman, which, therefore, must be the One Church. The main fallacy in this argument is, that it assumes that claiming a thing and possessing it, in fact or right, are identical. Moreover, this was precisely the position of the Donatists at the time of their schism. They did claim to be the whole Church, and were pronounced to be heretics for their pains. Further, the [6/7] statement is historically incorrect on two grounds,—first, that the Oriental Church and the English Church both do claim to speak with the full authority of the HOLY SPIRIT on all points of faith which have been ruled by General Councils and the consent of the Catholic world. That they do not profess to speak in the same manner on questions which have arisen since the unhappy schism of Christendom, is not a proof that they have lost their Guide, but is a proof that they are not Donatist in spirit. Secondly, it may be added, the Roman Church in practice acts as though not guided in the way she claims. For the chief use of such guidance must needs be that controversies of faith may be pronounced upon at once as they arise, to prevent heresy or schism. But the question on Justification which Luther put was not solved till too late, when the German schism had been consummated; and the tenet of the Immaculate Conception was left open for seven hundred years after being formally mooted, and decided at last on grounds which will not bear examination, As a fact, the Roman Church has never since her separation from the East attempted to speak as the mouthpiece of all Christendom, but only of its largest portion, and has, by the formal adoption and recognition of the distinctive title "Roman Catholic," implicitly admitted the existence of other Catholic bodies, without whose assent and co-operation no utterance of hers can be universally binding.

To this part of the main question belongs the question of Branch Churches. It is frequently urged that the Anglican theory on the subject is devoid of any basis—that there is but one stem, that of Peter, and that any Communion not visibly growing out of it is no part of the Church. It is enough to reply, that no other view save the Branch theory so much as plausibly accounts for many of the ecclesiastical facts present to all eyes in the three great Communions which agree in retaining the transmissive episcopate and the Catholic name, and, besides, that it alone accords with that Divine saying, "I am the Vine, and ye"—Peter as well as the rest—"are the branches." Yet again, the argument with which Henry IV. of France was plied is sometimes used still against English Churchmen. That argument then stood as follows: "Protestants admit that salvation is possible in the Church of Rome, Romans do not admit that salvation is possible in Protestantism, and therefore, as a matter of ordinary prudence, it is better to be on the safe side." It may well be doubted whether a stern determination to limit GOD'S mercy be a proof of superiority, but it is enough, to point out how easily the argument can be retorted, thus: "Roman Catholics admit that Holy Scripture is the inspired revelation of Gm:), and that it is not lawful to contradict its teaching, but they add that it is to be supplemented by Tradition. Protestants agree in admitting the claims of Scripture, but declare that Tradition is a dangerous and delusive guide. Therefore, as a matter of ordinary prudence, it is better to reject Tradition, and hold to the Bible only." So far as the question of personal safety is concerned, moreover, it is difficult to reconcile the assertions on this head now made, as to the extreme peril of dying out of the Roman [7/8] Communion, with the names which stand on the Roman muster-roll of saints. Not to cite any save those which are given especial prominence by appearing in the Kalendar of the Missal and Breviary, it is enough to say that S. Cyprian died actually excommunicated by the Pope, and that S. Catharine of Siena and S. Vincent Ferrer, both commemorated in April, took opposite sides when two lines of anti-Popes disputed the Papal Chair, so that one of the two must have died in schism. If separation from the visible unity of the Roman See does not exclude from canonization, it can hardly be held to be fatal to salvability.

When these general pleas against us have failed to stand the test of analysis, it is common to allege special ones against the existing status of the Church of England. The favourite one (though resting on no formal decision of Roman authorities) is the denial of the validity of Anglican Orders. The weakness of this count is clearly exhibited by the fact that no two generations of Roman controversialists—scarcely even any two contemporaneous disputants—take up the same ground on the subject. Thus, the oldest plea was the "Nag's Head" fable, denying that anything which could be called consecration took place in Archbishop Parker's case at all. When this was exploded, by pointing out that the tale was not produced till forty years after the occurrence, in the hope that all witnesses had died, and was then immediately contradicted by an unimpeachable Roman Catholic witness and authority, the aged Earl of Nottingham, and that the true facts are established by contemporary documents, public and private, it was necessary to shift a little. The next plea was that Barlow, one of Parker's consecrators, was never himself consecrated, because his record, is lost. The same is true of Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and, to those who know the temper of Henry VIII., it is enough to remark that he issued his mandate for Barlow's consecration, and that it would have been a matter of no little peril to have neglected it, and besides, the king was one of the very last persons likely to have tolerated irregularity in such a matter, because he carried to the extreme pitch the Tudor peculiarity of observing most strictly all the external forms of law, even when he set most at nought the principles of religion and justice. Further, Barlow was only one of four consecrating prelates, each of whom, as it appears, not only laid hands on Parker, but recited the formula of consecration. Even one of these would have been enough for validity (and the records of Scory, Coverdale, and Hodgkin are all extant), while three made the rite fully canonical; and the See of Canterbury was fairly void by the death of Cardinal Pole, so that no question on that head arises. Besides, even if Parker had not been consecrated, yet four days after he assumed the station of Primate he held a consecration of four other bishops, wherein he was aided, not only by Barlow, but by Scory and Hodgkin, and the succession derives through them, and not from him alone. Moreover, the line has since been strengthened by the Italian succession, through De Dominic, Archbishop of Spalato, who aided (in 1617) [8/9] in the consecration of two of Laud's consecrators, and every Anglican bishop traces his succession from Laud; and also by the Irish line, two or three times introduced (in 1616, 1619, and 1626). The argument then fallen back upon is, to deny the validity of the Edwardine formula, by which all bishops, from 1559 till 1662, were consecrated. This breaks down, not merely on examination of the ancient Ordinals printed by Martene and Morinus, from which it appears that if Anglicans have had no bishops since 1559, no Church ever had them till about 1200, but from the historical fact that Bonner, in Queen Mary's reign, inquires in his Visitation Articles as to the reconciling, not the re-ordaining, of priests made under the English book; and, more important still, that similar instructions were given by Pope Julius III. to Cardinal Pole, in dealing not only with priests, but with bishops. The objection next adduced is that of Jurisdiction. Here it is enough to say that the local jurisdiction of suffragans over particular dioceses comes from the Metropolitan, and that of Metropolitans, according to the most ancient law of the Church (the African Canons) from the joint act of their comprovincials, with no reference to any external authority, however exalted, whether the primacy be assigned to a particular see, as usually is the case, or to the senior prelate, as has sometimes happened; while spiritual jurisdiction, or the power of validly performing episcopal functions, inheres in all bishops by virtue of their consecration. Jurisdiction over all England was the admitted privilege of Canterbury when Parker was canonically elected and consecrated, and he succeeded to all the primatial rights of his predecessors, inclusive of that of giving jurisdiction to his suffragans. If Pole had been thrust out as Sancroft was later, a question might arise as to the legitimacy of Parker's claim, but the Cardinal's death left the see vacant, and the ecclesiastical laws of England for many centuries had recognized the primacy and jurisdiction of any successor chosen by the Chapter of Canterbury and confirmed by the State. That being Parker's case, he had full canonical jurisdiction. If Rome had chosen to deny his powers, it was her business to put forward another person as rival claimant of the see. She did nothing of the kind for three hundred years, and even then did not venture on precisely that step. The mushroom throne of Westminster has no rights or claims as against Canterbury, lurking as it does itself in the corner of a suffragan diocese. For present examples of nominal rank with no claim, human or Divine, to jurisdiction, we must go to the titular Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, retained about the Papal Court to give a false notion of lawful authority; exactly as a couple of theatrical walking gentlemen, richly clad, and decked for the day with the titles of Dukes of Aquitaine and Normandy, formed part of the coronation show of the Kings of Great Britain centuries after every rood of French land had been lost to the Crown of this country.

From sweeping charges against the whole English Church, a descent is usually made to particular depreciation of the Catholic [9/10] Revival. This takes two forms—that of qualified admission of its results, and that of complete denial of them, In the former case, it is either urged that all the improvement visible is due to Roman intercessory prayer, or to deliberate imitation of Roman tenets and usages, or else that the phenomenon is identical in kind, and but little superior in degree, to marks of spiritual life evident in the ranks of Protestant Dissent. In respect to the first of these modes of accounting for the remarkable movement still in full career, it is enough to reply that the really marvellous part of it, the first stirring of the dry bones, the first waking of the lethargic Church, was visible before the Roman intercession for England was organized, and before the earliest promoters of the Revival even dreamed that they could learn anything from Rome. Anything since borrowed from Latin Christianity is, at best, but the food given to the wakened slumberer. It was no Roman voice that said to her, “Maid, arise!" There is more ingenuity in the plea that manifestations of equal religious improvements are observable in Protestant sects. But the reply is twofold. First, there is no example on record of any such recurrence to first principles and to Catholic tradition as that seen amongst us to be found in the history of any sect. There have been seasons of much personal improvement amongst individuals, of a far higher spiritual level arrived at by large bodies, of new sects formed with a larger element of truth in them than those out of which they grew, but there is no other example in all time like this, except the new birth of the Jewish Church under Ezra and Nehemiah. Moreover, the claims put forward by the Church of England are totally unlike those propounded by even the most orthodox of sects. Assuming that devout sectaries do get what they ask for in faith, as seems likely enough, that they are really the better for their religious exercises, communions, and the rest, that fact does not cover all the ground. For the English Church claims to do what the Roman does, to give more than those ordinary means of grace which are open to all professing Christians, and whereby many of them are aided in leading religious lives; to give besides these, supernatural and sacramental aids in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and in the tribunal of penance. If this claim be false, instead of her ranking in spiritual matters on a level with Dissenters, she must needs fall conspicuously and irretrievably below them, meeting with the punishment of Korah, instead of the reward of Cornelius. Precisely the same spiritual effects are seen to be worked in the souls and lives of devout Anglicans by their communions and confessions as in those of devout Romans; and thus there are only two tenable views,—that the Sacraments are of equal validity in each Church, which is the Catholic view; or that they are equally unreal, and the results due merely to the power of imagination, which is the infidel solution.

There is, however, another method of dealing with the Revival, which is simply to deny that it has effected anything. This is heroic, but hardly convincing, and requires too much credulity [10/11] to be widely successful. The usual form it takes is to minimize the power of the reforming school in this wise:--

The English Church is only half of the English nation, itself not a very large item in the Christian population of the world. The High Church party, all told, is certainly not more than half of the Establishment. And the Catholic school is a mere fragment of this party, to be counted by units, and thus liable to be absorbed or expelled at any moment, with no prospect of ultimate success in leavening the whole country. Those who are indiscreet enough to employ this objection fail to see that it is, in truth, one of the most powerful arguments in behalf of the Revival. If the movement had been that of a body numerically large, like the Free Kirk disruption in Scotland, or if it had been, like the Laudian reformation two centuries ago, urged on by the joint action of the highest authorities in Church and State, there would be some ground for attributing its steady progress to merely human causes; but the more stress is laid on the fewness and obscurity, the discouragement and disorganization of its promoters, the stronger become its claims to be viewed as a providential and supernatural working of grace.

A purely sectarian or partizan energy must needs have collapsed on being twice, in 1844-5 and 1850-1, abandoned, as this was, by its chief leaders and most distinguished followers, some to join another Communion, others to fall back, disheartened, into the rear-guard, never to strike another blow for the cause. That even this peril, added to the systematic misrepresentation and oppression under which the reforming party had, and still has, to bow, never checked the movement for a day, is too noteworthy a circumstance to be omitted from any fair investigation.

But, it is sometimes alleged, there is no real depth, no spiritual progress in the matter at all. It is but one form of the wealth and luxury of the age, turned into an ecclesiastical channel, dealing with externals alone, and denoting no true action in souls. This is urged by opponents of all shades, and derives its main plausibility from that part of the movement which has dealt with church building and restoration, and increased beauty in public worship. But this is to ignore a far more important aspect, sufficiently manifest in three obvious facts,—the spread of Sisterhoods, the wide lay demand for confession, and the multiplication of devotional and ascetic treatises, which pour almost daily from the press. The steady advance of Home Missions, and the reviving power of synodal action, from its rudimentary form in Church Congresses, up to such meetings as the Lambeth Conference, point in precisely the same direction. Any one, or even any two, of these events, might perhaps be plausibly accounted for on purely human grounds. But their cumulative weight is too powerful to be. resisted. And, whereas the defection of many of the eminent men who originated the movement is often cited by Roman Catholics as an argument against its durability on the one hand, or its legitimate position within the Established Church on the other: (an argument, by the by, which, if logically [11/12] carried out, goes far to defend the Reformation, during which many men of undoubted eminence, piety, and learning abandoned the Roman Church and joined the Protestant ranks), it is usually forgotten that in exact proportion as the Revival has become more incisive and more developed, as tenets and usages in previous abeyance are brought more and more into relief, the seceders from the Church of England have been fewer in number and less distinguished for intelligence or learning. No man whose withdrawal could be reckoned as a definite loss, whose secession provoked more than a passing notice, has gone from us now for nearly fifteen years, whereas, before that time, such events came thick and fast.

Next, it is maintained, and this by all classes of enemies, that the Catholic revival is chaotic, anarchic, the mere outbreak of self-will, disowned by authority, and having no higher source than mere private judgment. That is merely another way, and a misleading one, of saying that it is a spontaneous movement of reform. Every valuable and permanent energy of the kind, whether political, religious, scientific, social, or literary, has begun in obscurity, has broken out unsystematically in various quarters at the same time, has run counter to popular prejudice and to the more organized resistance of conservative authority, and has at last made its way, step by step, to full recognition and superiority. Whatever have been the errors, shortcomings, and inconsistencies of the leaders of the Revival (and they have been neither few nor light) at any rate their general aim has been the same—the restoration of the belief and practice of the undivided Church; their standard of appeal, to existing canon law and formularies on the one hand, to Catholic consent on the other, has been unvaried. Human ignorance and fallibility may indeed cause isolated deflections as well as shortcomings from this aim and standard, but the gradual approximation to them is evident, and may be observed even amidst the most embittered opponents of our avowed principles. No one will question that the spiritual and moral condition of the Roman Church was raised to a much higher level by the reforms of Trent, which swept away countless abuses which were eating into the very heart of Christianity, and had brought about the German schism. But those reforms were not first suggested nor carried out by the constitutional authorities of the Church. It needed a struggle of a century and a half to win them, during which obscurity, obloquy, and often sharp punishment, were the lot of the advocates of reform, and the last opponent to give way was precisely that which should have initiated the whole proceeding,—to wit, the Roman Curia. Any condemnation by Roman lips of the process now going on in England is implicitly a condemnation of the great Synod which finally established, as essential to the very existence of the Church of Rome, the very principles and methods which had been steadily decried for centuries by every obscurantist.

With regard to the question of schism, it must be steadily borne in mind that no one Communion now on earth has a right to call itself the whole Catholic Church, (if for no other reason than that [12/13] no one Communion contains all the baptized, who have certainly, as all divines agree, been admitted into the Catholic Church at the font,) and that, in a matter of the kind, mere superiority of numbers is no proof. Otherwise, the Arians, fifteen hundred years ago, would have been the Catholic Church, and, if wide diffusion were the standard, the Nestorians, eight centuries later, would have taken the place of honour, as holding a greater territory than Greece and Rome together. That the Christian Church is actually divided, though strenuously denied by Ultramontanes now, has been formally asserted by the Popes who convened the Councils of Lyons and Florence; and it is therefore impossible for any logical reasoner to maintain at the same moment that the Roman Church is the whole Church, and that the Popes are infallible. And as the Council of Nicaea recognised the Pope as only first in honour amongst the Patriarchs, there is no little force in the Oriental argument that when, out of the five patriarchates acknowledged by the undivided voice of Christendom, four, which have never altered their position, are on one side, and the fifth, which has manifestly shifted ground, is on the other, the charge of schism lies against the innovator, not against his four brethren.

It may well be—nay, it is—a very grievous drawback to the Church of England that she is not now in visible communion with the Western Patriarchate, but seeing that the sin of the division of East and West, and its result, the schism of northern and southern Europe, lies at the door of the Vatican, it cannot be justly alleged that a separation of the kind cuts us off from the Catholic Church, unless it can be shown that we have, in consequence, either abandoned the threefold hierarchy, tampered with the Creeds, or so conspicuously fallen away in practical religion as to present a startling and discreditable contrast to Continental devotion.

The position of the Church of England, standing as she does between the living and the dead, between the ancient Churches, with their Divine vitality, and the sects of moribund Protestantism, pledged to no anathemas against either side, and including in her own pale and practice the possessions most dearly prized by both parties, seems destined, in the providence of God, as even great Roman Catholic thinkers have admitted, to lee the common link which is to reunite divided Christendom. No more glorious task, no more magnificent career, has ever been allotted since the Pentecostal Church went out to convert the world.

Ultramontanism, the only school which is allowed to have a voice now in the councils of the Vatican, can never win back the Protestant nations to the one fold. Nay, it does not even make the effort, for there is little missionary enterprise against Lutheranism and Calvinism, in their German, Swiss, Dutch, and French homes. It can never conciliate the East; it has, as remarked already, alienated the educated classes in every European land. Its boasted hold over the poor becomes more precarious every day, else why so powerless against Italian Garibaldiauism and Irish Fenianism? Why, too, [13/14] does it lose in America so many thousands from those immigrants who, at their first arrival, are its most enthusiastic champions? Its one resource in 1854 was to attempt to propitiate the Mother of Go]) with a new title, in the hope of winning her support for the Temporal Power,—just as Isabella II. tried to make the Spanish army loyal by creating its generals marquises and dukes, and within a few years the Legations were swept away by Piedmont, Naples had disappeared from the roll of kingdoms, the Austrian Concordat was repealed, and the last recipient of the Golden Rose driven in disgrace and exile from her throne. To submit to Rome now, while such influences are in the ascendent, would be suicidal folly. It would not only arrest the progress of healthful reform here, but it would cut away the last chance of salutary amendment there. The gains in England would be taken as a set-off against the losses everywhere else, and repentance would be delayed until too late, and until another schism, more formidable than that of Luther, as being in probable opposition to Christianity itself, had been precipitated.

Thus far we have considered the main objections brought by opponents against the existing position of the Church of England, and have not thought it necessary to discriminate accurately the quartets in which each such plea has originated, because, as a fact, the Anglo-Roman body has not been unwilling to use any shaft from Erastian or Puritan quivers against us, and it is more convenient to group the charges than to divide them.

But there is one very material difference between the hostility of those external to the Established Church and those within its pale. The Ultramontane is obliged, from the small amount of political power wielded by his party in this country, to content himself with the agencies of the press and the pulpit. The Erastian and Puritan, on the other hand, not content with asserting that the Church of England is created and empowered by Parliament alone—as if Australia should claim to have colonized Great Britain—endeavour to make their assertion good by bringing the Church more and more under the iron heel of the State; and not content with forcing the name Protestant upon a Communion which has steadily refused it, they strive by every means in their power to obtain the recognition of error and the denial of truth. The former end they have attained, so far as the temporal side of the Established Church is concerned, by securing partisan and iniquitous decisions from the Final Court of Appeal; the latter they propose to compass by Liturgical Revision in a heretical sense, and by penal legislation against the doctrines and usages of primitive Christendom.

It was not to be expected that the evil spirit of schism and unbelief could be driven out of the Church of England without loud cries and rending of the body whence it is being exorcised: and it behoves Catholics to remember that "this kind cometh not forth but by prayer and fasting." In the face of such opposition as that now referred to, the duty of Churchmen is plain enough. They have [14/15] before them the fourfold duty of promoting the Reunion of Christendom, inclusive of the re-absorption of English Dissent within the Church; of preparing for the coming day of Disestablishment, that it may not dawn on a disorganized and unstable Communion, but on one fully armed at all points to fight its way unaided; of counteracting the erroneous teaching of the disaffected clergy by full and vigorous Catholic pronouncements; and, above all, by unwearied patience in well-doing, and by steady reform of all spiritual abuses, to win the respect and confidence of man, as well as Divine approval.

The first and last of these tasks are intimately connected with each other, for there are many obstacles presented to Reunion on our side, from laxities of teaching and practice, which are repellent to the members of the vast Oriental and Latin Communions. A far higher standard of clerical training, life, self-denial, and responsibility than as yet exists amongst us, a more unfaltering voice on all matters defined by the undivided Church, and a stricter discipline, are all needs of primary importance.

It is also necessary, against the time when the State withdraws its support, that the Church of England should have legislative Synods and executive Courts, which may challenge and command public confidence, as adequate and trustworthy institutions. Nothing but the bare skeleton of such machinery exists as yet, and the first step to be taken is to agitate steadily and firmly for such a reform of Convocation in both Provinces as shall make it a genuine representative body, instead of a mere congeries of placemen. The Diocesan Synod, already tentatively reviving, must again be put on a working level, and some bills be drafted and laid before Parliament, as soon as may be, to lessen the serious obstacles now in the way of ridding the Church of the scandal of criminous and unfaithful bishops and clergy, who find at present their surest protection in the hostility of political lawyers to spiritual claims; so that the facilities which lawyers themselves, as well as physicians and soldiers, enjoy for ridding their societies of discreditable members, are either entirely withheld, or made ruinously expensive.

The Court of Final Appeal has so fatally discredited itself by the gross ignorance and grosser injustice it has exhibited more than once in recent ecclesiastical causes—wherein the boasted impartiality of lawyers has proved as unreal as that of the most embittered clerical fanatics—that no one any longer can trust or respect it, or believe that law, morals, and faith are safe in its hands. But it is self-evident that Churchmen are not at present ready with a more trustworthy substitute, and therefore the task of organizing Courts whose knowledge and integrity shall be unimpeachable is one which cannot be safely pretermitted. It is desirable to be prepared with a simple and lucid code of canons, and with a scheme of courts to interpret and enforce that code, against the time of disruption of Church and State, that there may be as little delay as possible in settling down into the new order of things.

[16] In the same way it is imperative to meet the Puritan scheme of Liturgical Revision, not by passive resistance alone, but by active steps for amendment of the formularies in a Catholic direction. The religious houses, the guilds and confraternities, and other institutions which have arisen amongst us of late years, furnish ample means and opportunities for testing most of the desired reforms, and the working of Lord Shaftesbury's Act for the freedom of religious worship gives great additional power into the hands of those who are willing to use it. Besides this, every effort should be made to spread the Faith by means of tracts, sermons, lectures, and, above all, practical works of mercy. Private crotchets, viewiness, and extravagance, must be carefully avoided; everything which is likely to be misconstrued must, if its retention be important, be carefully and patiently explained, and, if not of real consequence, omitted. All approach to setting any usage or tenet on merely personal grounds must be rigidly avoided, and each cleric and layman understand that he is contending, not for his own private pleasure, but for the safety and victory of the whole body to which he belongs, which might, be imperilled by the negligence or injudiciousness of a single sentry. The long career of spiritual triumphs won by the Catholic school at the cost of temporal obloquy and loss does not seem to be even near its close. Never was a fairer field or a better cause, and it needs but faith and steadiness to turn battle into victory, and victory into peaceful and undisputed occupation of the conquered territory.

Project Canterbury