OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter X, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 3

Pages: 1 2 <3>

A Lord of notice is called for by some other Parliamentary discussions which took place this year on ecclesiastical matters; but as none led to any practical result, they may be dismissed with a word. Mr. Dillwyn's motion about the Irish Church has been already mentioned; it called forth, as we have said, an emphatic declaration from Mr. Gladstone, and to that declaration is to be traced, in a great measure, his rejection by Oxford University. Mr. Newdegate attempted, but without success, to substitute a rate of twopence in the pound on real property for the existing Church rates. In the House of Lords, Lord Lyttleton, with the approval of most of the Bishops, proposed a resolution in favour of an increase of the Episcopate - a subject always dear to the High Church party, but considered by the Evangelical party to be of less importance than a development of the parochial system. The dioceses of Exeter, Winchester, and London were pointed to as those which ought to be relieved by the creation of new bishoprics. The resolution, however, was not put to the vote, nor had it any legislative result.

This year saw the death of the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. Cardinal Wiseman died on February 15th, and was buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Kensal Green, amid a display of religious pomp and ceremony such as had not, perhaps, been accorded to any Roman Catholic dignitary in England since the Reformation. With one exception, he was the first English Cardinal buried in English soil. The chapel in Moorfields, where the coffin, surrounded with lights, lay upon a bier, covered with velvet and cloth of gold, was filled with a crowded congregation, most of the Roman Catholic nobility, and the French, Spanish, and Belgian Ambassadors, being present. One Archbishop, twelve Bishops, besides many minor dignitaries, and up- wards of two hundred priests took part in the service; and as the procession passed round the bier, chanting softly and slowly the Bequiescat in Pace, the effect was such as only the Roman Catholic Church knows how to produce. Cardinal Wiseman had indeed proved himself her faithful and energetic son. He was born in 1802, of Roman Catholic parents, under the shade of the orange-groves of Seville. His parents sent him to England while still a child, and he was brought up principally at the Roman Catholic College of Ushaw till the age of sixteen, when he was transferred to the English College at Rome, then just founded. Here he became a diligent reader in the Vatican, and laid the foundations of a really wide knowledge of Oriental languages. His zeal and learning attracted notice, and when only a boy of eighteen he was invited to preach before the Pope. In 1827, having taken the degree of Doctor in Divinity, and received holy orders, he was nominated Professor of Oriental Languages in the Roman University, and seven peaceful years followed, employed by him in exploring further the treasures of the Vatican, and in gathering in a quiet harvest of scholarship, of which he was to make ample use in after years. In 1835, he returned to England, and he was soon felt by the Roman Catholics to be a power amongst them. A series of controversial lectures on the doctrines and practices of Rome, delivered by him in St. Mary's, Moorfields, attracted considerable attention, and he followed them up by a theological controversy with Dr. Turton, then Bishop of Ely, which ended, as such controversies generally do, in the hardening of opinion on both sides. In 1840, Dr. Wiseman was made head of St. Mary's College, Oscott, near Birmingham, with the dignity of Vicar-Apostolic. During his stay there what is known as the Oxford movement took place, and English Catholics watched it eagerly, persuading themselves that it meant great things for their cause, and thankful for any break in what they considered the dead Evangelical level of the Establishment. English Churchmen of all parties have good cause to regret the final issues of this movement - the loss of John Henry Newman, Mr. Ward, and other earnest though less brilliant men, to the side of Rome; and the moderate Churchman, in tracing back to it the extravagancies of modern Ritualism, is apt to make a sad comparison between the large-heartedness and candid, sensitive mind of a Newman, and the narrow externalism which too often governs men who have caught his watchwords without inheriting his spirit. Cardinal Wiseman took a warm interest in the wave of thought which finally brought Dr. Newman to his side, of which his " Strictures on the High Church Movement in Oxford," and " Letter to the Rev. J. H. Newman on the Controversy relating to the Oxford Tracts for the Times," may be taken as proofs. In 1848, Wiseman was made Bishop; he might by this time be considered the most prominent of English Roman Catholics, and it was upon his shoulders that the brunt of English wrath fell when Pope Pius IX. took that extraordinary step popularly known as the " Papal Aggression," by which the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England was restored, and Wiseman was made at once Cardinal and Archbishop of Westminster. All the world knows what a storm that step raised in England; how it took shape in that most hasty and absurd of all bills, the Ecclesiastical Titles Act; and how at last, like a ghost story that has been cleared up, people became ashamed of the bugbear which had frightened them - the Act was repealed, and Wiseman came out of the hubbub Archbishop, having published during the uproar " An Appeal to the Reason and Good Sense of the People of England," one of those bits of amiable policy for which he was famous. From that time till his death he was known to the general world as an able controversial writer in various reviews, and as holding that place in London society which was due to one " so wise, fairspoken, and persuading." He gave frequent lectures in the metropolis on popular subjects, and always gathered a large and attentive audience. His aim seemed to be to show that Roman Catholicism against Protestantism must henceforth be an open fight fought with weapons common to both; he took up the cries of the opposite party - the Bible, Free Thought, Natural Science - and worked them so cleverly, that English Protestantism felt rightly that he was a more formidable antagonist than a dozen fanatics could have been. He was elegant, versatile, accomplished; he had begun life on Roman Catholic premises, and this limited him on all sides; but, as far as his creed would allow, he was an educated man and a scholar. In society he was always welcome; and though he had few of the qualities of the prophet, and little of the religious unction and nervous feeling which made men like Frederick Faber famous, he had gifts of manner and powers of conversation, which he well knew how to use, and when he died the Roman Catholics rightly felt that one was gone who had given a powerful impulse to their cause in England. He was succeeded in the Archbishopric of Westminster by a man of rarer fibre than himself - Archdeacon Manning.

This record of important events in the religious world would not be complete without a reference to the judgment delivered by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in the case of the Bishop of Natal, the well-known Dr. Colenso, versus the Bishop of Capetown, Dr. Gray. Dr. Gray, like many other members of the Church of England, having been much scandalised by the publication of certain writings which bore Bishop Colenso's name, and which were thought to contain matter contrary to the doctrines of the Church, took it upon himself, in virtue of the Queen's letters- patent conferring upon him the dignity of Metropolitan Bishop, with coercive authority over the two suffragan Bishops of Grahamstown and Natal, to depose Dr. Colenso from his bishopric, forbidding the clergy to render him any further obedience, and appointing substitutes to do the work of the diocese. Against this judgment Dr. Colenso appealed, and the case was finally referred to the Lords of the Judicial Committee, before whom it was argued by counsel on either side in December, 1864. Their judgment was delivered on the 20th of March in this year, to the effect: -

First: That the royal letters-patent quoted by Bishop Gray, as appointing him Metropolitan Bishop, and creating a metropolitan see or province in South Africa, were null and void in law, because, after the establishment in the colony of the Cape of Good Hope of legislative institutions, the Crown stood in the same relation to the colony as to the rest of the United Kingdom, and had no power by virtue of its prerogative alone, without the intervention of Parliament, to create a bishopric or assign any ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the colony. In other cases of colonial bishoprics, while the Crown had been able to command the consecration of a bishop, an Act of Parliament had always been resorted to to confer upon him ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the power of exercising episcopal functions. The letters-patent, therefore, could not be sustained in the appointment of Dr. Gray as Metropolitan Bishop.

Secondly: Still less would they confer upon him any coercive legal jurisdiction, such as would have given him the power of deposing Bishop Colenso. The Crown cannot create a new court with a new jurisdiction without an Act of Parliament, and the ecclesiastical law of England could not be considered to hold good in a colony which had no Established Church.

Thirdly: Their lordships considered, with regard to the oath of canonical obedience to Dr. Gray taken by Dr. Colenso, that it was not legally competent to the Bishop of Natal to give, or to the Bishop of Capetown to accept, any such jurisdiction as was afterwards claimed by Dr. Gray, and that the oath therefore could not be pleaded in Dr. Gray's behalf. Their decision, therefore, after a careful review of the circumstances of the case, was " that the proceedings taken by the Bishop of Capetown, and the judgment or sentence pronounced by him against the Bishop of Natal, are null and void in law."

This judgment gave rise to much comment and discussion, into which we need not enter. Its importance can hardly be overrated, for it clearly defined, on the authority of the highest tribunal in the country, the legal position of the Church of England in the colonies, and indirectly affected very sensibly the position of the Church of England at home. To those who prefer that ecclesiastical offenders should be subject to the law of the land, and to that only, the judgment was very acceptable, whatever may have been their opinion of Bishop Colenso's teaching. To those, on the other hand, who long for a special organisation of Church tribunals for Church offenders, under which the clergy shall be supreme over the legal status of their erring brethren - in other words, for the High Church Separatists - it was a great stumbling-block.

3620 View of Matterhorn.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 2 <3>

Pictures for Chapter X, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 3

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About