THE IRISH-CHURCH FINANCE.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."]
have perused in the Spectator of the 6th Mr. Murphy s reply to my letter in your previous print, and whilst even in its start he seems to give up his case—it ends with the admission that "the inadequacy of the proposed clerical incomes and the pro- spects of the poorer parishes are such as to cause much anxiety "- yet he says, "It is obvious, however, that they have not been pro- duced by commutation, and will be best met by the best financial system." Now, Sir, it was in the interest of arriving at the best financial system that I ventured to doubt if we had been upon the right tack, and begged of Mr. Murphy to afford us some evidence. I had not asked him to " prove by figures," but only to show by any facts how commutation has helped the work of re-endowment. He falls back on the decided opinion in its favour " of nearly all those who have paid attention to this intricate question." Now, that it should ever have become an intricate question is itself an evil. We were deprived of an old means of support, and it was evident, for a time, at any rate, that with increasing rapidity parishes would in natural course fall vacant without the means to fill them, unless in some way we opened our pockets. Did it facilitate the appeal to make the question a more intricate one than it need to have been ? In fact, was there an advantage in building Sustentation upon Commuta- tion? On some evident principles most people would have said no,—there should be no expectation of an advantage. if you want to enforce a good and charitable cause, make your appeal directly for the purpose, show that the money will be applied to it and to no other purpose, upon as simple a programme and with as little expense as may be possible. All this has, I fear, been reversed in the efforts we have yet made for re-endowment of the Church in this country.
When the problem might have been only how to fill parishes as they should in natural course fall vacant, we have, in pursuit of a visionary gain, secured general commutation, by means of the superadded inducements of composition and advances, tempting the clergy to desert their posts, and vacating parishes before we were in a position to fill them. We might have been pressed even by death vacancies,—was it wise to create them artificially? During the summer of last year many parishes were deserted, churches closed, others poorly served, and everywhere parochial work in a large degree neglected. If the gaps pave been in a manner filled, in what way? Union of parishes; rapid promotions of curates to poor stipends badly secured ; a lowered status of the clergy ; and already, under some Bishops, by an ease of ordina- tion, so as in any way to procure a supply of raw and uneducated clerical material! I have asked, by your favour, of a most intelligent gentleman, holding within his grasp the experiences of one large and most important united diocese, for any evidence that commutation has helped the work of re-endowment, and he has none to offer ! Am I not entitled to raise the question how far it may have discouraged it ? But that I fear to trespass on your space, I think I could adduce evidence pointing that way. There have been many influences at work, and I admit the apathy of some portion of the laity ; but that what I have faintly described as an outcome from commutation has seriously checked any ardour in liberality, I cannot doubt.
By the advances under Table III. the clergy sold to the Repre- sentative Body for money in band portions of their life annuities ; composition is truly described by Mr. Murphy, who alludes to a rule by which in his diocese the finances are protected from disastrous consequences. But what of the dioceses which are not thus protected, and what of the cases in which escape to England, the colonies, or abroad has deprived them of the power to amerce the clergy? What of the emigrant clergy that are off with advances greater than they could receive on compounding ? And what, too, of the bad lives, which the Representative Body, in its character of insurance agent, has so freely accepted ? Is there "no source of danger or uncertainty" in all this ?
Finally, turning to pages 17 and 21 of the Representative Body's Report, I do not find that what Mr. Murphy therein refers to bears out his view, but rather, that on comparison of these with page 19, the accuracy of my own statement is confirmed, the figures being what I already gave. And the effect, that the much larger portion of the commutation moneys had not up 'to
the end of last year been paid over, seems to me to imply that the outstanding amount bears only to the Body si per cent., whilst they, " having agreed to allow £4 per cent." on the entire, are " for the present under a disadvantage." I cannot understand how Mr. Murphy can doubt that actuarial calculations are the groundwork of the diocesan schemes. Why, these schemes have every one been approved by an actuary on behalf of the Church Body ; and on turning to that of his own diocese, I find that Mr. Hancock, writing under date the 24th May, 1872, to the Secretary R. C. B., observes that "no provi- sion has been made for inability to discharge duty, further compounding, or advances under Table III., which may reduce the capital left in any case to an amount less than the sum calculated in the schedule for that case." And lower down in his report he alludes to this as one of the risks which, not being provided for, should be watched until its effect on the scheme be ascertained. I will only add that if I take rather a gloomy view of our finances and present state, it is with the sincere desire that I may be corrected where wrong, and that what from the first I sought should still be supplied, for the benefit of myself and your readers,—any instructive results of experience in Down, Connor, and Dromore especially tending to show in what way commutation has helped re-endowment,—I am,